25th December 2014 – Christmas Day

Theme: GLORY TO GOD WHO HAS FAVORED MEN WITH HIS PEACE

 

  • Luke 2: l -14
  • Hebrews l:l-6
  • John 111-18

A Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Before we look at the gospel reading of today from St. John, let us first look again at the gospel reading from St. Luke, i.e. the gospel reading for last night’s midnight mass. The two gospels are very different and they complement one another!

To look at the gospel of St. Luke from last night’s midnight mass, we have to look at the Christmas crib! The Christmas crib tells us that Jesus was born in a stable in a cave in Bethlehem. This was because Bethlehem was David’s town and Jesus was a descendent of David, but more than that, it was also because of the census of Caesar Augustus.

 

In this short gospel, St. Luke has a lot of good news to tell us! St. Luke wants to tell us that Caesar Augustus is not the God, Savior, and Bringer of peace, but Jesus Christ is the God, Savior, and Bringer of peace! Caesar Augustus was a very powerful Roman emperor who ruled from 27 B.C. to 14 A.D. He brought about peace — in the sense of no war — during his reign, because he was powerful politically and militarily, and rich and wealthy, and famous.

 

But peace is not just the absence of war! The word peace comes from the Hebrew word

“Shalom” which means completeness, perfection, and wholeness! In the O.T. it means security, well-being, prosperity and righteousness, and more importantly, it is from God!

In the N.T. it means reconciliation, harmony, salvation, communion, love, joy, and again, more importantly, it is from God!

 

St. Luke has something very important to tell us today, and that is, peace cannot be achieved by political power, economic wealth, and military might. Peace does not come from man. Peace comes from God. And Jesus Christ, the Son of God is the Bringer of peace!

 

St. Luke also tells us in last night’s gospel that when Joseph and Mary registered themselves at Bethlehem, the time came for Mary to give birth and Mary gave birth to a son whom she wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger, because there was no room in the inn!

In these three details ~ swaddling clothes, manger, and no room in the inn — St. Luke tells us that God has become man (swaddling clothes) and more than that, he has become food for man (manger) and he is here to stay (no room in the inn). He is not a traveller who stays in a traveller’s lodge or inn (John F. Craghan, Herman Hendrix) for a few days only, nor is he a tourist who stays in the hotel (inn) for a few days only, but he is here to stay for good and forever! That is why instead of staying in the inn, he is laid in a manger — feeding place for the ox and ass! He becomes food for us so that he stays in us, within us, with us and among us forever, and so that he becomes us and we become him!

 

And more than that, St. Luke tells us that he becomes food not for the priests and kings, but for the shepherds and sinners. The shepherds were mangy, bathless, and stinking. They were poor and destitute and they steal. They were classified with the tax collectors and prostitutes as a despised trade.

 

The gospel of Luke tells us that the angel of the Lord appeared t0 the shepherds and the glory of God shone upon them and they were terrified, but the angel said t0 them, ‘Do not be afraid, I have news of great joy for the whole people. Today in the town of David a savior has been born to you. He is Christ the Lord. And this is the sign. You will find an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger!

 

And suddenly with the angel there was a throng of heavenly host singing and praising God: ‘Glory to God in the highest heaven, and peace to men who are favoured by Him’! In other words, we must give glory to God and not to ourselves. We must not steal the glory from God because it is all God’s work and grace! It is not our work! God has graced and favored men with his peace, his reconciliation, his forgiveness, his harmony, his salvation, his love, and his joy!

A Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Amen!

 

Theme: GOD REVEALED HIMSELF IN CREATION, IN HUMAN BEINGS, IN OTHER RELIGIONS, AND IN JESUS CHRIST

 

If we only read the gospel of St. Luke on the birth of Jesus Christ, we may get the impression that God first revealed himself in Jesus Christ! But today’s gospel reading from St. John and today’s second reading from the letter to the Hebrews, for today, Christmas day, tell us that God did not first reveal himself in Jesus Christ, but on the contrary, God last revealed himself in Jesus Christ in all his perfection, fullness, and completeness!

 

Today’s gospel reading from St. John and today’s second reading from Hebrews tell us that God first revealed himself partially in creation, then he revealed himself partially in human beings, then he revealed himself partially in the other religions, and finally in the fullness of time he revealed himself perfectly, fully and completely in Jesus Christ!

 

The gospel of John tells us that, ‘In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God, the Word was God. Everything was created through him; nothing was created without him. Everything that came to be had life in him.

Then the gospel continues, ‘he was the light of men. He came into the world which has its being through him, but the world did not recognize him’.

Again, the gospel continues, He came into his own domain (Jewish religion), but his own people received him not’.

Again, the gospel continues, ‘but to those who received him, he made them children of God the Father. The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. We have seen his glory. lt was the glory of the Father, full of grace and truth. Grace and truth here means love and faithfulness, faithful love (NJB), enduring love. lt means mercy and loving-kindness (NJBC). In other words, even when we are not faithful to God, he is faithful to us and even when we do not love him, he still loves us!

 

Finally the gospel ends by saying, ‘Indeed, from his fullness we have all received grace upon grace. Though the law was given through Moses, grace and truth was given through him. No one has ever seen God. It is the only Son who is nearest to the Father’s heart who has revealed him to us!

 

If God reveals himself in creation then we have to respect creation. We have to love and care for the environment. More than that, Pope John Paul II in his message for the world day of tourism on “Eco-tourism” this year tells us that we have to contemplate creation because creation reveals the Creator God to us!

 

If God reveals himself in human beings then we have to respect and love each and every human being. We have to respect and love every human being of every race, every culture and every nationality. And in times of need, we have to offer humanitarian aid to every human being of every race, religion, culture and nationality.

 

If God reveals himself in other religions then we have to respect other religions. We have to understand other religions. We have to dialogue with other religions. And we have to work together with other religions for the good of humanity and for the good of the world! We have to work together with other religions for peace among men and for harmony between men and the environment!

 

If Jesus Christ is the fullness of God’s revelation then we have to proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ to the whole world! Notice when I said that God reveals himself in other religions, I did not say as some people say that all religions are the same. On the contrary I emphasized that God reveals himself partially in other religions, but he reveals himself fully in Jesus Christ. Again, I did not say that God reveals himself fully in the Christian or in Christianity, but in Jesus Christ! This is because Christians and Christianity are not always like Jesus Christ! In short we have to proclaim Jesus Christ to the whole world! We have to proclaim the love, mercy and forgiveness of Jesus Christ to the whole world! We have to proclaim the good news of Christmas to the whole world!

 

This is our Christmas present to the whole world!

 

Again, a very Merry, Happy and Blessed Christmas to all of you! Amen!

21st December 2014 – 4th Sunday of Advent

Theme: JESUS CHRIST WILL COME THIS CHRISTMAS, WITH US OR WITHOUT US

  • 2 Samuel 7:1-5. 8-12. 14. 16
  • Psalm 88:2-5. 27. 29.
  • Romans 16:25-27
  • Luke 1:26-38

 

Today we celebrate the 4th and last Sunday of Advent. In a few days’ time we will celebrate Christmas! Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas! As we come close to Christmas, the Church has chosen the readings of today to tell us that the promise God made to David in the first reading is fulfilled in the Gospel reading!

 

In other words, the readings today tell us of the faithful love 0f God! We may not be faithful to God, but God is always faithful to us! In the first reading today God promised King David a dynasty that will last forever! And God fulfilled his promise after one thousand years in Jesus Christ! The time between David and Jesus Christ is about a thousand years! The kings of Israel including David were not always faithful to God, but God was always faithful to them and God fulfilled his promise to Israel in Jesus Christ!

 

In fact the responsorial psalm today was written after the exile. When the kings of Israel were unfaithful to God, Israel was exiled. And when they returned from exile there were no kings for Israel. How then can God fulfill his promise? But the hymn and prayer of the psalm today is to “God the faithful”! In other words, God is faithful and God will fulfill his promise in spite of the unfaithfulness of the kings of Israel and in spite of the exile!

 

The first reading and the responsorial psalm have something very important to tell us, i.e. Jesus Christ will come this Christmas, with us or without us! If we prepare ourselves for Christmas, Jesus Christ will come, with us, but if we do not prepare ourselves for Christmas, Jesus Christ will still come, but without us!

 

The gospel reading today tells us that the promise God made to David in the first reading is fulfilled in Jesus Christ in the gospel reading. The angel Gabriel said to Mary that she will give birth to Jesus the Son of God and a descendent of David and his kingdom will last forever! Mary asked the angel how this was to come about since she was a virgin and the angel replied that the Holy Spirit will do it! And Mary responded with the famous saying ‘Behold the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to your word’. And the angle let her.

 

Again, it is important to know that not everyone said ‘yes’! Not everyone believed in the promise of God! Today’s gospel reading was read on last Friday, the 20″‘ of December and together with it was the first reading from Isaiah. The first reading from Isaiah contrasted the ‘No’ of king Ahaz with the ‘Yes’ of Mary. The first reading last Friday tells us that the Lord wanted to give a sign to king Ahaz, but Ahaz said ‘no’. He did not want a sign. And the Lord through the prophet Isaiah said to Ahaz, ‘I myself will give you a sign. A maiden is with child and she will soon give birth t0 a son whom she

will call Emmanuel, which means “God-is-with-us”.

 

Another person who did not believe in the promise of God is Zechariah the father of John the Baptist. We read about him in the gospel of last Thursday, the 19th of December.

 

Again, his unbelief contrasted with the belief of Mary in the gospel of the following Friday, the 20th of December, which was the same as today’s gospel. The angel Gabriel said to Zechariah that he was to be the father of John the Baptist, but he did not believe the angel. This was because Zechariah and Elizabeth his wife were both very old, too old to have a child. Zechariah was struck dumb because of his unbelief.

 

The important thing to note here is that in both Ahaz who said ‘no’ to God and Zechariah who did not believe the angel, God fulfilled his promises in spite of their unfaithfulness! God was faithful in spite of their unfaithfulness and both John the Baptist and Jesus Christ were born!

Again, the important message for us today is that Jesus Christ will come this Christmas, with us or without us! lf we prepare ourselves this Advent for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas then Jesus Christ will come, with us, but if we do not prepare ourselves this Advent for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas then he will come, without us!

 

That is why during this time of Advent, the Church asks us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas by prayer, by attending Sunday masses regularly, by attending weekday masses, by going to confession, by penance (though Advent is not a penitential season), by acts of mercy and charity, by becoming Santa Claus to the poor, the marginalized, the aged, the sick, the children, the weak, etc.!

 

A Happy Advent to all of you! Amen!

7th December 2014 – 2nd Sunday of Advent

Theme: LET US PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST AT CHRISTMAS

  • Isaiah 40:l-5, 9-11
  • Psalm 84-9-14. R. v. 8
  • 2 Peter 3:8-14
  • Mark 1:1-8

 

Today is the second Sunday of Advent. Advent as we know means “arrival” or “coming”. We also know that at his first coming Jesus Christ died and rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us his grace, his love, his peace and his joy. In philosophy we know that these non-material spiritual qualities belonging only to God and humans who can think and love cannot die. They continue eternally in heaven. Like God, they have no beginning and end because they come from God! When these spiritual qualities of love, peace and joy which comes from God the Holy Spirit and from God’s grace, become full, fulfilled, complete and perfect in us, Jesus Christ will come a second time to take us to heaven!

But between Jesus Christ’s first and second coming there are thousands of years! Jesus Christ will not forget or abandon us during this time of thousands of years! He will continue to come and help us. He will continue to give us his Holy Spirit, his grace, his love and his joy. He will continue to help us grow in his grace, his love and his joy, until they become complete and perfect in us. And when his grace and love become perfect in us, he will come a second time to take us to heaven!

That is why we celebrate Christmas every year and at the beginning of every liturgical year. This is because Jesus Christ continues to come every year, every month, every week and every day! And Advent is a time to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!

The first reading tells us that when the Lord comes at Christmas, he will come with power, subduing all things to him and he will come victorious with all his trophies before him! But more importantly, his power and victory are power and victory of love and mercy! That is why the same last paragraph of the first reading today tells us that he is the shepherd who feeds his flock, who carries the lambs in his arms close to his breast, and he leads the mother sheep to their rest!

The historical context of this first reading was the Israelites in exile in Babylon in the 6th century, waiting to return home to the Promised Land.

This theme of God’s coming love and mercy is taken up in the responsorial psalm. Thus the responsorial psalm tells us that when the Lord comes there will be peace, justice and mercy! The whole world today is looking for justice and peace, but the Pope (John Paul II) in his New Year’s message this year tells us that there can be no peace without justice, and more importantly, there can be no justice without forgiveness! In fact this is the very theme of his message! The Pope had in mind the present conflict between the Israelites and the Palestinians in the Holy Land today!

Indeed the psalm today tells us that when the Lord comes there will not only be peace and justice, but most importantly, there will also be mercy and forgiveness! More than that, the responsorial psalm also tells us that when the Lord comes, there will also be prosperity and the earth will yield its fruits!

The last stanza of the responsorial psalm tells us that the Lord will provide not only for our spiritual needs, but our material needs as well! “The Lord will make us prosper and our earth shall yield its fruit.” Today we cannot and must not take our earth ~ mother earth – for granted! With all the environmental pollution, destruction of the rainforest, poisoning of the earth, pollution of the air and sea, ete., the earth may not yield its fruit!

 

In his New Year’s Day message in 1990 on the environment, the Pope reminded us of Genesis 3:l7ff & 4:11, where it is written that after the fall of Adam and Eve, the earth will not yield its fruit, but it will yield thorns and thistles instead!

 

Our sins today do not only offend God and neighbour, but it also offends the earth and the environment! It is what we call environmental sins!

 

The Gospel today tells us that when Jesus Christ comes at Christmas he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is God the Holy Spirit. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same God!

 

A Catholic who was a former student of a teacher who belonged to another religion told me that the teacher ridiculed Christianity for believing in three Gods and eating God! My reaction was to thank God for the faith to believe in a God of love and mercy! Our God loved us and created us, loved us and saved us, and today continues to love us and continues to sanctify us! We do not believe in three Gods, but we believe in three persons in one God, because God is love. The mystery of the Trinity is the mystery of God’s love! Again, we believe in a God who loves us and became man, became a criminal, a thief, became death, and became Food for sinners, so that he becomes us and we become him! Salvation is 100% – not 99% – God’s love and God’s grace!

 

Again, the gospel today tells us that when Jesus Christ comes at Christmas he will baptize us with God the Holy Spirit! The Holy Spirit is the fire of God’s love that burns away our sins and saves us! Fr. John Reilly, an Australian theologian who gave a retreat to our priests many years ago tells us that the Holy Spirit is the Holy Love of God! He also conducted a penitential service with our priests where we wrote our sins on pieces of paper, showed them to our confessors and burned them with the fire of God’s love from the Paschal candle!

 

The second reading from the second letter of Peter tells us that when the Lord comes there will be a new heavens and a new earth, i.e. not only we and our earth will be renewed, but the whole universe will be renewed! The stars and planets and galaxies will all be renewed! The heavens refer to the stars and planets! And if there are aliens and E.T.s, they will all be renewed! Tonight if we go out at about l0 p.m. we should be able to see the biggest star, the brightest star, the planet Saturn, and a little later, the planet Jupiter, and a little earlier, the Andromeda Galaxy, etc.. All these and the whole universe will be made new! The second reading employs very rich imageries of stars and planets burning up — which are not scientific – t0 tell us that the whole cosmos and universe will be made new by Jesus Christ’s coming!

 

The second reading also tells us that as we wait for the coming of Jesus Christ, we have to prepare ourselves by living good, godly, saintly and holy lives. We must not commit sins!

 

The gospel also tells us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ. In the gospel, John the Baptist prepares the people for the coming of Jesus Christ by asking them to repent, to confess their sins and to be baptized with water. John the Baptist himself led a penitential life. He wore a garment of camel-skin and he ate locusts and wild honey and he lived in the wilderness!

 

The Church today asks us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas by praying, attending masses on Sundays (some people do not come to mass every Sunday) and weekdays, by going to confession (penitential services in the parishes), by penance (no parties, except on Sundays, e.g. no marriages during Advent), by doing good works, by doing works of mercy, by becoming Santa Claus to the poor, the weak, the aged, the children, the sick, the marginalized, etc., by proclaiming the good news to others through Christmas carolling, etc.!

 

A Happy Advent to all of you! Amen!