29th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) – 20th Oct 2019

Theme: PRAY CONTINUALLY AND PERSISTENTLY THAT YOU MAY NOT LOSE YOUR FAITH AND LOSE YOUR GOD

  • Exodus 17:8-13;
  • Psalm 120. R/ cf. v. 2;
  • 2 Timothy 3:14-4:2
  • Luke 18:1-8

Today is the 29th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year C. The readings today tell us about prayer. The gospel today tells us to pray persistently that we may not lose our faith! (CSB; IBC) Thus the first and the last sentence of the gospel:

“Jesus told his disciples a parable about the need to pray continually and never lose heart. …. And the Lord said, ‘But when the Son of Man comes, will he find any faith on earth?’” (Lk 18: 1 & 8b; SM)

The question is: “will he find any faith on earth?” The answer is: “he will find faith on earth if we pray continually and persistently!” Not only pray, but pray persistently!

The gospel tells us about the parable of the unjust judge and the persistent widow. The gospel tells us that the unjust judge had no fear of God or respect for man; but more importantly, the gospel tells us that the persistent widow kept on demanding justice from the unjust judge until he gave her justice!

The emphasis of the gospel is not on the unjust judge, nor even on God who answers our prayers; but the emphasis is on the persistent widow! In short, the gospel today tells us to pray continually and persistently that we may not lose our faith!

If we lose our faith, we lose God, and if we lose God, we lose everything, including the most important things, that is, love, life and happiness! We lose the God of Jesus Christ, that is, love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation!

Thus the gospel tells us to pray continually, persistently and perseveringly, so that we will not lose our faith, so that we will not lose the God of Jesus Christ, and so that we will find love, mercy, forgiveness and salvation! So that we will find love, life and happiness!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading also tells us to pray persistently! (CCB) The first reading tells us that Joshua was fighting the Amalekites, but more importantly, the first reading tells us that Moses was praying for Joshua! And as long as Moses arms were raised in prayer, Joshua was at an advantage, but as soon as Moses lowered his arms out of tiredness, Joshua was at a disadvantage! Moses’ arms had to be supported by Aaron and Hur until Joshua defeated the Amalekites! Thus we read:

“As long as Moses kept his arms raised, Israel had the advantage; when he let his arms fall, the advantage went to Amalek.” (Ex 17: 11; SM)  

The first reading tells us to pray persistently and continually so that we will win the fight even against the Devil himself!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us that God is our guard and guardian! (CSB) Thus the response:

“Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth.” (Ps 120: 2; SM)

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first stanza tells us that the Lord is our guard and guardian (vv. 1-2)! The second stanza tells us that the Lord will guard our every step (vv. 3-4)! The third stanza tells us that the Lord will guard us day and night (vv. 5-6)! The fourth stanza tells us that the Lord will guard our every movement (vv.7-8)!

The second reading does not follow the theme of the Sunday, but today is also “Mission Sunday” or “World Mission Day”! The second reading follows the theme of “Mission Sunday”! Thus we read in the second reading:

“Before God and before Christ Jesus who is to be judge of the living and the dead, I put this duty to you, in the name of his Appearing and of his kingdom: proclaim the message and, welcome or unwelcome, insist on it.” (2 Tm 4:1-2; SM)

Pope Francis also has a message for us for “World Mission Day 2013”! Excerpts:

“The proclamation of the Gospel is part of being disciples of Christ and it is a constant commitment that animates the whole life of the Church. Missionary outreach is a clear sign of the maturity of an ecclesial community.” (No. 1)

“Each community is therefore challenged, and invited to make its own, the mandate entrusted by Jesus to the Apostles, to be his ‘witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth’ (Acts 1:8) and this, not as a secondary aspect of Christian life, but as its essential aspect: we are all invited to walk the streets of the world with our brothers and sisters, proclaiming and witnessing to our faith in Christ and making ourselves heralds of his Gospel.” (No. 2)

“I would like to encourage everyone to be a bearer of the good news of Christ and I am grateful especially to missionaries, to the priests, men and women religious and lay faithful – more and more numerous – who by accepting the Lord’s call, leave their homeland to serve the Gospel in different lands and cultures.” (No. 5)    

Today we thank God for the gift of faith and we ask God to help us pray persistently so that we will not lose our faith! We also ask God to help us share our faith with others by proclaiming the Good News, so that all may have faith and so that all may be saved! God bless you! Amen!

 

28th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) – 13th October 2019

Theme: GIVE THANKS TO GOD

  • 2 Kings 5:14-17;
  • Psalm 97:1- 4. R/ cf. v. 2;
  • 2 Timothy 2:8-13
  • Luke 17:11-19

Today is the 28th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Liturgical Year C. The readings today tell us to give thanks to God! Our God is a gracious, giving, blessing and favoring God! The proper response to our God is therefore one of thanksgiving!

The gospel today tells us that ten lepers were cured, but only one came back to thank the Lord. More importantly, the gospel today tells us that ten lepers were cured, but only one had faith and was saved! That is the one who came back to thank the Lord!

Indeed, our Sunday Eucharist is a thanksgiving! The word Eucharist in Greek means thanksgiving! Indeed our Eucharistic Prayer which begins at the Preface and ends at the Doxology is a thanksgiving! Thus all the eight “Prefaces of the Sundays in Ordinary Time” begin thus:

“It is truly right and just, our duty and our salvation, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Lord, holy Father, almighty and eternal God, (through Christ our Lord)”. 

Note that it is our salvation to give thanks to God! In short, those who come to Mass every Sunday to give thanks to God have faith and are saved, but those who do not come to Mass every Sunday to give thanks to God have no faith and are not saved! That is why it is a Mortal Sin not to come to Mass every Sunday!

The Gospel Acclamation today tells us:

“For all things give thanks, because this is what God expects you to do in Christ Jesus”. (1 Thessalonians 5:18; SM)

The fourteenth century German Dominican theologian and mystic Meister Eckhart wrote:

“The most important prayer in the world is just two words long: thank you”. (Gilhooley)

In our own century an American Dominican theologian said that if the only prayer we know is “thank you”, that is good enough!

If we start thanking God right here and now, we will not be able to finish thanking him even at the end of the world! We thank God for the sun and moon, for the sea and land, for the fish and animals, etc.! We thank God for creation, for salvation and for sanctification!

We thank God for the good things as well as the “bad” things, because we believe that God is love and that God can draw good out of evil (Gn 50:20), draw life from death (NT), draw grace from sin, etc.! Thus the Easter Proclamation:

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” (SM) 

Thus we begin our Sunday Mass with this greeting:

“The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all”.

Indeed, God is love and God can draw grace from sin in Jesus Christ!

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us to thank God and not to thank the prophet, or priest, or minister; because they are not God, they are only servants of God!

The first reading tells us that Naaman after being cured of his leprosy wanted to give the prophet Elisha a present to thank him, but Elisha refused the present, because he was not God. He was only a servant of God! Consequently, Namaan asked for some of the soil of Israel so that he can erect an altar on the soil of Israel in Damascus, Syria, to worship the God of Israel, that is, to praise and thank the God of Israel!

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us to praise God for salvation! Thus the response:

“The Lord has shown his salvation to the nations”. (Ps 97:2; SM)

And thus the first and last sentences of the responsorial psalm:

“Sing a new song to the Lord for he has worked wonders” (Ps 97:1; SM)

“Shout to the Lord all the earth, ring out your joy”. (97:4; SM)

The second reading tells us to proclaim the good news even in the face of persecution, suffering and death, so that all may believe and be saved and give praise to God! Thus we read in the second reading:

“Remember the Good News that I carry, ‘Jesus Christ risen from the dead, sprung from the race of David’; it is on account of this that I have my own hardships to bear, even to being chained like a criminal – but they cannot chain up God’s news. So I bear it all for the sake of those who are chosen, so that in the end they may have the salvation that is in Christ Jesus and the eternal glory that comes with it.” (2 Tm 2:8-10; SM)

Today we thank God for our salvation, and we ask God to continue to give us the Holy Spirit, so that we may proclaim the Good News, even in the face of persecution, suffering and death, and so that all may believe and be saved and give thanks to God! God bless you! Amen!

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year B) – 4th February 2018

Theme: THE LORD HEALS US PHYSICALLY, MENTALLY AND SPIRITUALLY

  • Job 7:1-4. 6-7;
  • Psalm 146 (147): 1-6. R/ v. 3;
  • 1 Corinthians 9:16-19. 22-23
  • Mark 1:29-39

Today is the 5th Sunday in Ordinary time, Liturgical Year B. The readings today tell us that the Lord heals us physically (body), mentally (mind) and spiritually (spirit)!

The gospel today tells us that Jesus healed the mother-in-law of Simon Peter physically by curing her of her fever. She recovered fuller. That is why she could serve Jesus and his companions.

The second paragraph of the gospel tells us that Jesus also healed a lot of people physically, mentally and spiritually by curing them of their many diseases and casting out devils!

Finally, the third paragraph of the gospel tells us that Jesus got up early in the morning, even before sunrise, to pray in a lonely place by himself. Peter and his companions went to look for him. In fact everybody was looking for him.

But Jesus left with his disciples to the other towns in Galilee to preach the good news, for that is what he came for! Jesus preached the good news and cast out devils in the other towns of Galilee.

It is important to note that after casting out the devils, Jesus forbade them to reveal that he was the Messiah; for fear that the people may think that he was a nationalistic, military, and political Messiah, or a wonder-worker, miracle-worker Messiah.

Jesus was more than all that! Jesus was a suffering Messiah, a crucified Messiah. This will only be revealed after his death, resurrection, and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the world! This is the “Messianic Secret” of St. Mark’s gospel! (NJB; NJBC; Fuller)

The first reading follows the theme of the gospel. The first reading tells us that Job was suffering physically, mentally and spiritually. Job lost all his property and children and Job himself was suffering from a painful skin disease.

In the first reading Job compared himself to a soldier, a laborer and a slave who in those days led very hard lives. Job could not sleep. When night came Job waited for morning and when morning came Job waited for night. Job’s life passed quickly away without any hope and without any happiness.

There are two important things to note about Job. The first is that in Job’s time the Jews did not quite yet believe in an afterlife or an eternal life. The second is that Job was innocent. The question is why do good people suffer? Why do innocent people suffer?

The answer is, to test their faith, not in the sense of seeing how strong their faith is, but in the sense of making their faith stronger! And with a stronger faith, God will reward them even more as Job was rewarded twice over in the end! (Jb 42: 10-17; CSB, Introduction)

The responsorial psalm follows the theme of the first reading. The responsorial psalm tells us that the Lord heals the broken-hearted. Thus the response of the responsorial psalm:

“Praise the Lord who heals the broken-heart.” (Ps 146 (147): 3; SM)

The responsorial psalm is an “invitation to praise God, the creator who cares for the afflicted”. (NJBC) Thus verse 3 of the responsorial psalm from which the response is taken:

“He heals the broken-hearted, he binds up all their wounds.” (Ps 146 (147): 3; SM)

The second reading does not follow the theme of the Sunday. The second reading tells us that St. Paul was called by God to preach the good news and that is why he does it free of charge! St. Paul did not choose to preach the good news himself. Had St. Paul chosen to preach the good news himself he would have charged for preaching the good news.

Like Jesus in the gospel today, the first duty of St. Paul was to preach the good news and to preach it free of charge! Today too, the first duty of bishops, priests and the whole people of God is to preach the good news and to preach it free of charge! It is a vocation, not a profession! That is why it is free of charge!

Today in the Eucharist we celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and we eat his body and drink his blood and the Risen Lord will give us the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit will heal us physically (body), mentally (mind) and spiritually (spirit); and the Holy Spirit will help us heal others physically, mentally and spiritually. The Holy Spirit will help us preach the good news and to preach it free of charge! A happy Sunday and a happy week to all of you! Amen!

3rd Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Theme: IN FAITH WE ARE BAPTIZED AND IN BAPTISM WE RECEIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD’S LOVE

  • Exodus 17:3-7;
  • Psalm 94:1-2. 6-9. R/ v. 8;
  • Romans 5:1-2. 5-8
  • John 4:5-42 (Shorter Form, 4:5-16. 19-26. 39-42)

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter; when we prepare to celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ; and when we prepare to celebrate our death and resurrection with Jesus Christ in the sacrament of baptism!

Lent is therefore a time when our catechumens prepare for their baptism and when we who are baptized prepare to renew our baptism on Easter Vigil Night, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the New Life of Easter! Lent is therefore a time of repentance! Lent is therefore a time when we grow in faith!

 

Indeed the gospel today tells us that the Samaritan woman grew in faith! At first she believed Jesus to be a man, then she believed Jesus to be a prophet, then she believed Jesus to be the Messiah, then she became the first missionary and the first apostle of Jesus to evangelize the other Samaritans, then finally the other Samaritans believed Jesus to be the Savior of the world!

More importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus gives her living water that will turn into a spring inside her welling up to eternal life and she will never be thirsty again!

The gospel today symbolizes our baptism! In this time of Lent we grow in faith like the Samaritan woman. On Easter Vigil Night we will be baptized with the waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit, the Holy water! The Holy water is the living water that will turn into a spring inside us welling up to eternal life and we will not be thirsty again!

 

The first reading tells us that the people of Israel had no faith in God! They complained against Moses for taking them out of Egypt into the desert to die of thirst! They, their children and their cattle will all die of thirst! They tested God by doubting if God was with them or not! The place was called Meribah (quarreling) and Massah (test) because the people of Israel quarreled with God and tested God!

 

The responsorial psalm tells us to have faith in God! Thus we responded three times:

“O that today you would listen to his voice: ‘Harden not your hearts.’” (Ps 94:8; SM)

The responsorial psalm has three stanzas. The first stanza tells us that God is our Savior (vv. 1-2)! The second stanza tells us that God is our Creator and Savior (vv. 6-7; NJBC)! The third stanza tells us to have faith in God and not to be like the people of Israel who had no faith in God! Thus the third stanza:

“O that today you would listen to his voice! ‘Harden not your hearts as at Meribah, as on that day at Massah in the desert when your fathers put me to the test; when they tried me, though they saw my work.’” (Ps 94:7c-9; SM)

 

The second reading tells us that it is in faith that we are baptized in Jesus Christ and it is in baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit of God’s love; the love of God that loves sinners, the love of God that is merciful towards sinners, the love of God that forgives sinners, the love of God that saves sinners!

 

During this time of Lent, the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not as a punishment for our sins; but to help us to repent; to help us to grow in faith, so that on Easter Vigil Night in the sacrament of baptism and in the renewal of our baptism, we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

1st Sunday of Lent (Year A)

Theme: JESUS CHRIST THE NEW AND SECOND ADAM 

  • Genesis 2:7-9. 3:1-7;
  • Psalm 50:3-6. 12-14. 17. R/ cf. v.3;
  • Romans 5:12. 14d-19
  • Matthew 4:1-11

Today is the First Sunday of Lent, Liturgical Year A. Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter, that is, the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ and our dying and rising with him in the sacrament of baptism! Lent is therefore a time when our catechumens prepare for baptism and we who are baptized prepare to renew our Baptism on Easter Vigil Night, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! Lent is therefore a time of repentance!

The first reading tells us that Adam and Eve sinned against God by eating the forbidden fruit. By eating the forbidden fruit, Adam and Eve committed the Original Sin of Pride. Adam and Eve wanted to be gods and to decide for themselves what is good and what is evil. As a result sin and death entered the world. As a result they lost their innocence and were ashamed that they were naked.

 

More importantly, the gospel today tells us that Jesus Christ the new and second Adam turned back to God! The gospel today tells us that the devil did not only tempt Adam and Eve, but the devil also tempted Jesus Christ! The devil tempted Jesus Christ with three temptations.

In the first temptation the devil tells Jesus to turn stones into bread; in the second temptation the devil tells Jesus to jump from the highest point of the Temple to test God; and in the third temptation, the devil tells Jesus to worship him and he will give Jesus all the kingdoms of the world!

More importantly, are the three responses of Jesus. To the first temptation Jesus responded:

“Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4; SM)

To the second temptation Jesus responded:

“You must not put the Lord your God to the test.” (Mt 4:7; SM) 

To the third temptation Jesus responded:

“You must worship the Lord your God, and serve him alone.” (Mt 4:10; SM)

 

Most importantly, the second reading tells us that sin and death entered the world through one man, Adam; and more importantly, the second reading tells us that grace and life entered the world through one man, Jesus Christ!

Most importantly, the second reading tells us that the grace and life of Jesus Christ far outweighed the sin and death of Adam, so much so that the new life of Easter and Baptism is even better than the life before sin and death! Thus we sing in the Easter Proclamation:

“O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!” (SM)

And thus the caption of the second reading:

“However great the number of sins committed, grace was even greater.” (Rm 5:20; SM)

 

The responsorial psalm is a “Prayer of Repentance”. (CSB) Thus we responded four times:

    “Have mercy on us, O Lord, for we have sinned.” (Ps 50:3; SM)

The responsorial psalm has four stanzas. The first and second stanzas ask God to forgive our sins. Thus we read:

“Have mercy on me, God, in your kindness. In your compassion blot out my offence. O wash me more and more from my guilt and cleanse me from my sin.

    My offences truly I know them; my sin is always before me. Against you, you alone, have I sinned; what is evil in your sight I have done.” (vv. 3-6; SM)

The third and fourth stanzas ask God to give us the Holy Spirit so that we will not sin anymore. Thus we read:

“A pure heart create for me, O God, put a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from your presence, nor deprive me of your holy spirit.

Give me again the joy of your help; with a spirit of fervor sustain me.” (vv. 12-14; SM)

 

During this time of Lent the Church asks us to pray, to fast and to give alms to the poor, not as a punishment for our sins; but to help us to repent and to prepare for the celebration of Easter, so that we will die and rise with Jesus Christ to the new life of Easter! A Blessed Lent to all of you! Amen!

SOLEMNITY OF MARY, MOTHER OF GOD – A, B, C

Theme: WE THANK GOD FOR HIS BLESSINGS FOR THE PAST YEAR AND WE ASK GOD TO BLESS OUR NEW YEAR 

  • Numbers 6:22-27
  • Psalm 66: 2-3. 5. 6. 8. R. v. 2
  • Galatians 4:4-7
  • Luke 2:16-21

A Happy New Year to all of you! Today we celebrate the solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God! Today we also celebrate the Octave Day (8th Day) of Christmas! On Christmas day our focus was on Jesus! On the 8th day of Christmas our focus is on Mary his mother! Today we also celebrate the World Day of Peace. But today we also celebrate New Year’s Day! A Happy New Year to all of you! For us Christians this is not just an empty greeting, but this is a prayer to God, calling God’s blessings on you for a Happy New Year! But before we ask for God’s blessings, let us thank God for all the blessings of this year!

When we thank God for his blessings and ask God for more blessings, let us not forget in the first place, God’s blessings in creation! The blessings of creation, life, nature, the trees, the rainforests, the fresh air, the sun, moon and the stars, the earth and its fruits, the waters and its fishes, etc.! We always remember the blessings of Salvation, love forgiveness, mercy, joy, peace, freedom, etc., that came after Original Sin, but we tend to forget the Original Blessings of Creation that came before Original Sin!

 

The first reading today from the Book of Numbers tells us that God blesses Israel through Moses and the Law! ‘May the Lord bless you and keep you! May the Lord let his face shine (smile) on you and be gracious to you! May the Lord uncover his face to you and bless you with his peace!’ Peace here can mean peace, prosperity and happiness, wholeness and well-being, and peace with God and peace with men!

 

The responsorial palm is a response to the first reading and is a prayer for God’s blessings! ‘O God, be gracious and bless us! Let the light of your face shine upon us! O God continue to bless us until the ends of the earth revere you!’

 

The gospel today tells us that through Mary, God has blessed us with His Son Jesus Christ! The gospel today tells that through Mary, God has become food (manger) for sinful men (shepherds) for their salvation (“Jesus” means “God saves”)! God has not only become man, but has become food for sinful man for their salvation! What blessings! What grace! What favor! How can we thank God enough for His blessings of Salvation, a blessing far surpasses his blessings of the Law, and his blessings of Creation!

 

Again, the second reading from Paul’s letter to the Galatians tells us that through Mary, God blesses us with His Son Jesus Christ, so that we can be the sons and daughters of God, so that we can be the children of God! The second reading tells us that through Mary the Son of God has become the son of a woman, so that we sinners enslaved by the Law may become the sons and daughters of God!

 

God does this by giving us the Holy Spirit of his Son Jesus Christ so that we can cry “Abba (Dad), Father” to God! And as sons and daughters of God we are also heirs of God, inheriting his life, love and happiness! Again, what blessings, what graces, what favors! How can we thank God enough for his blessings graces, and favors!

 

Today in this Eucharist, we celebrate the Death and Resurrection of His Son Jesus Christ, and the Risen Lord will continue to give us His Holy Spirit and bless us with his “sonship” and “salvation”! He will bless us with his peace, his love and his joy!

 

So once again, we thank God for all His blessings for the past year and we ask God to bless our New Year 2017! A Happy New Year to all of you and God bless you!

 

Amen!

2nd Sunday of Advent (Year A) – 4th December 2016

Theme: ADVENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE FOR THE COMING OF JESUS CHRIST

  • Isaiah 11:1-10
  • Psalm 71:1-2. 7-8. 12-13. 17. R. v. 7
  • Romans 15:4-9
  • Matthew 3:1-12

Today is the Second Sunday of Advent. The word “Advent” comes from the Latin word “Adventus” meaning “Coming”! Advent is a time when we prepare for the Coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time!

The two comings are similar in the sense that when Jesus Christ comes, whether at Christmas or at the end of time, he will bring us his love, his mercy, his forgiveness, his peace, and his joy!

The preparation for the two comings are also the same, whether we prepare for his coming at Christmas or at the end of time, we have to pray, to do good works, to practice justice, to make peace, to practice charity towards the poor, to go to confession, etc.!

The difference between the two comings is that the Second Coming completes and perfects the First Coming, which we celebrate at Christmas! In the Second Coming he will complete and perfect the love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, and joy of his First Coming, so that his love, mercy, forgiveness, peace and joy will be complete and perfect in us!

Advent is therefore a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas and at the end of time!

 

The first reading from the prophet Isaiah tells us that when Jesus Christ comes, he will be filled with the Holy Spirit and the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit: Wisdom, Counsel, Insight, Power, Knowledge, Piety, and Fear of the Lord!

But more importantly, the first reading tells us that when he comes he will bring justice to the earth. Unlike the corrupted kings of Israel, he will judge the poor with integrity and honesty. He will judge the weak with justice. He will strike down the ruthless and the merciless, and he will destroy the wicked!

But most importantly, the first reading tells us that he will bring peace to the earth! There will be peace between God and man, between man and man, and between man and the animal kingdom! It will be a restoration of the peace of Paradise!

In Genesis 3, man rebelled against God, and consequently man was not at peace with God, not at peace with other man, and not at peace with the earth.

In his 1990 World Day of Peace Message, Pope John Paul II quoted Genesis 3:17-19 to tell us that man was not at peace with the earth, so much so that man had to get his food from the earth painfully, and the earth yielded him thorns! The Pope also quoted Genesis 4:12 to tell us that when man tilled the earth, the earth would not yield its fruit to man!

Indeed today with the destruction of the rainforest, the pollution of the environment, the destruction of other species, the ozone hole, the warming of the earth, over fishing, the pollution of the earth with chemicals, the earth will not yield up its food for man!

The first reading tells us that when Jesus Christ comes there will be peace between God and man, man and man, and man and the animal kingdom!

Thus the prophesy of Isaiah: “The wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid (of the goat), calf and lion cub feed together with a little boy to lead them. The cow and the bear make friends, their young lie down together. The lion eats straw like the ox. The infant plays over the cobra’s hole; into the viper’s lair the young child puts his hand”!

 

The responsorial psalm helps us to meditate on the first reading, thus the responsorial psalm takes up the theme of the first reading. The response of the responsorial psalm tells us that when Jesus Christ comes there will be justice and peace: “In his days justice shall flourish and peace till the moon fails”! Peace forever!

The psalm tells us that he will judge the people with justice and the poor with right judgment. He will save the poor when they cry, and he will save the weak and the poor from oppression and exploitation!

The responsorial psalm relates justice to peace! There can be no peace without justice!

 

But most importantly, the gospel tells us that when Jesus Christ comes he will baptize us with the Holy Spirit and with fire! His Holy Spirit will burn away our sins like fire burning away the impurities to purify the gold! Something that even water cannot do! The Holy Spirit of God’s love will burn away our sins!

That is why at a penitential service for our priests, we were told to write down our sins on pieces of paper and burn them with the fire of the paschal candle and throw them into a metal container! The fire of the paschal candle is the Holy Spirit of God’s love and the metal container is hell!

Hell is not a place where God burns you. Hell is the love of God burning away our sins! Hell is the love of God experienced by a sinner! A sinner experiences God’s love as pain, suffering, punishment, purification, purgatory, and hell, for his repentance and conversion, so that he will find the love, mercy, forgiveness, peace, joy, and life of God!

I was brought up by my mother to do good works for fear of hell and for love of heaven! A Muslim woman mystic was asked why she always carried water on one hand and fire on the other! She carried water to put out the fire of hell and she carried fire to burn heaven, because people do good works, for fear of hell and for love of heaven, but not for the love of God! God first loved us! We respond by loving God in return! We do good works because we love God and we love one another! God’s love burns away our sins so that we can love God and love one another!

The gospel today asks us to repent and to convert, that is, to turn away from sin (repent) and to turn to Jesus Christ (convert)! To turn away from sin is not good enough, because we will turn back to sin! We have to turn away from sin and more importantly, to turn to Jesus Christ who will burn away our sins with the Holy Spirit of God’s Love! 

That is why when you go to confession during this time of Advent, it is more important that you listen to what the priest confesses than the priest listen to what you confess!

After you have confessed your sins and received your penance, the priest gives you the absolution with these words:

    “God, the Father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of his Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the Church may God give you pardon and peace, and I absolve you from your sins in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit”. And you answer: “Amen”.

   With these words of absolution Jesus Christ burns away your sins with the fire of the Holy Spirit, the Holy Spirit of the love and mercy of God! Amen!

 

Besides going to confession during this time of Advent, the Church also asks us to practice justice and to make peace, but more importantly, the Church also asks us to practice charity (from the Latin word “caritas” meaning love) and love, especially to the poor, the aged, the children, the orphaned, the blind, the deaf and the dumb, the sick, etc., by becoming “Santa Claus” to them!

Finally, the Church also asks us to go caroling to share the Good News of Christmas with others, including the pagans!

Thus the second reading from Romans exhorts us: “The reason Christ became the servant of circumcised Jews was not only so that God could faithfully carry out the promises made to the patriarchs, it was also to get the pagans to give glory to God for his mercy, as scripture says in one place: For this I shall praise you among the pagans and sing your name”!

 

Amen!