4th Sunday of Lent (Year A) – 22nd March 2020

Theme: LENT IS A TIME WHEN WE PREPARE TO CELEBRATE THE SACRAMENTS OF INITIATION: BAPTISM, CONFIRMATION AND EUCHARIST

  • 1 Samuel 16:1. 6-7. 10-13;
  • Psalm 22. R/ v. 1;
  • Ephesians 5:8-14
  • John 9:1-41 (Shorter Form, verses 1. 6-9. 13-17. 34-38)

Today is the 4th Sunday of Lent. Today is also “Rejoice” Sunday or joyful Sunday! We are joyful because we are more than half way through to Easter! That is why today we use rose vestments instead of purple vestments!

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night! Besides receiving the sacrament of baptism, some of us are also receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist! These three sacraments are the sacraments of initiation into full communion with the Catholic Church!

The readings today tell us about these three sacraments of initiation, namely, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist.

The gospel today tells us about the sacrament of baptism. The gospel today tells us that Jesus “anointed” (Lefrois; Brown) the blind man with saliva mixed with earth and told the blind man to wash himself in the Pool of Siloam. Siloam means ‘sent’. Jesus was sent by the Father. After washing himself, the blind man could see, that is, see with the eyes of faith! He could see God in creation, in salvation, and in sanctification!

Washing, anointing and faith are three important themes of baptism. When we are baptized, we are washed with the waters of baptism, the waters of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit cleanses us of our sins and gives us new life! A new life that is even better than the life before sin! Paul tells us that the grace of Jesus Christ more than compensated for the sin of Adam! When sin increased, grace increased all the more!

After that we are anointed with the oil of Chrism as Christ was anointed priest, prophet and king. We share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ. As a priest, I share in the “ministerial priesthood” of Christ in the “parish church”. You share in the “common priesthood” of Christ. This is especially evident in the “BECs” (Basic Ecclesial Communities), that is, in the “community church” and in the “domestic church” where the head of the house presides in prayer and worship. You are also prophets. You proclaim the word of God and you share and pray and act on the word of God in the BECs! You are also kings. You build the kingdom of God and you build the Church by building BECs of love and unity, and of justice and peace!

After washing himself, the blind man could see with the eyes of faith! The gospel tells us that not only the blind man had faith, but that his faith also grew. At first he saw Jesus as a man, then he recognized Jesus to be a prophet, and finally he believed in the Son of Man, Jesus and worshipped him as Lord! The Pharisees on the other hand did not believe in Jesus, then they did not even believe that the blind man was blind, and finally they believed that Jesus was a sinner! Even today there are those who believe that Jesus was a sinner! Indeed, they have lost their faith!

After baptism, we have to renew our baptism every year, so that like the blind man, our faith will grow stronger and stronger every year! Otherwise like the Pharisees our faith will grow weaker and weaker every year!

There is another important theme of baptism found in the longer form of the gospel today, that is, light! It is related to the theme of faith, particularly to the faith of the blind man. Light in the New Testament basically, symbolizes three things, namely, faith, life and good. (NJB; Jn 8:12) The three themes are related, that is, if we have faith in God, we will receive new life, and this new life is a life of good and good works!

The gospel today tells us about the light of faith. Thus we read in the long form of the gospel: “As long as I am in the world I am the light of the world.” (Jn 9:5; SM)

The Gospel Acclamation today tells us about the light of life. Thus we read in the Gospel Acclamation: “I am the light of the world, says the Lord; anyone who follows me will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12; SM)

Finally the second reading tells us about the light of good and good works. Thus we read in the second reading: “You were darkness once, but now you are light in the Lord; be like children of light, for the effects of the light are seen in complete goodness and right living and truth.” (Ep 5:8-9; SM)

After baptism and after being anointed with the oil of Chrism, we will be given candles lighted from the big Easter candle symbolizing the light of Jesus Christ, the light of faith, life and goodness!

The first reading tells us about the sacrament of confirmation. To confirm is to strengthen, to make strong. In the sacrament of baptism we are born again in the Holy Spirit. In the sacrament of confirmation we are made strong in the Holy Spirit! David was a youth, but he was made strong in the Spirit so he could defeat the giant Goliath! We read this in the next chapter (1 S 17). Thus we read in the first reading:

“The Lord said, ‘Come, anoint him, for this is the one.’ At this, Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him where he stood with his brothers; and the spirit of the Lord seized on David and stayed with him from that day on.” (1 S 16:12-13; SM) In the next chapter, David defeats the giant Goliath! (1 S 17)

The responsorial psalm today tells us about the Eucharist! Just as we are born again in baptism and we are made strong in confirmation, we continue to grow stronger and stronger in the Eucharist by eating the body of Christ and drinking the blood of Christ every Sunday! That is why it is important to come to Mass every Sunday after baptism! If we do not eat and drink, we die! Our faith will die! That is why not coming to Mass on Sunday is a mortal sin! The word mortal is from a Latin word meaning death!

Again, it is the Lord who provides – providence! The Lord provides us with both material food and drink, and spiritual food and drink! Thus we read in the first and third stanzas of the responsorial psalm depicting the Lord as Shepherd and Host respectively:

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. Fresh and green are the pastures where he gives me repose. Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.” (Stanza 1; SM)

“You have prepared a banquet for me in the sight of my foes. My head you have anointed with oil; my cup is overflowing.” (Stanza 3; SM)

Again, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate Easter. Particularly, Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacrament of baptism on Easter Vigil night. Besides receiving the sacrament of baptism, some of us are also receiving the sacraments of confirmation and Eucharist.

Lent is a time when we prepare to celebrate the sacraments of initiation, namely, baptism, confirmation and Eucharist. That is why the Church asks us to pray, to fast, and to give alms to the poor during this time of Lent. A happy Lent to all of you! Amen!

14th December 2014 – 3rd Sunday of Advent

Theme: REJOICE

  • lsaiah 61:1-2. 10-11 .
  • Psalm Lk 1:46-50. 53-54. R. ls 61:10
  • 1 Thessalonians 5:16-24
  • John 1:6-8. 19-28

 

Today we celebrate the 3rd Sunday of Advent. The word Advent comes from the Latin word meaning “coming” or “arrival”. Jesus Christ came the first time 2,000 years ago. He died rose from the dead and gave us the Holy Spirit. He gave us his graces, his love, his peace and his joy! These gifts are eternal. They come from God and they will go back to God. When these gifts become complete and perfect in us, Jesus Christ will come back a second time to take us to heaven to continue to live this eternal life of love, peace and joy!

 

But between His first and second coming there are thousands of years, and we do not know when is his second coming. It may be in another two thousand years. But one thing we do know, i.e. in the thousands of years between his first and second coming, Jesus Christ has not forgotten us, he has not abandoned us and he has not left us to ourselves to work out our own salvation. To work out our own salvation is against the very nature of our salvation by grace.

 

Between his first coming in the past and his second coming in the future, Jesus Christ continues to come in the present every year, every month, every week, and every day. He continues to come to help us grow in his Spirit, in his grace, in his love and in his joy, until at last when his grace becomes perfect and complete in us he will come a second time at the end of the world to take us with him to heaven!

 

That is why we celebrate Christmas every year and at the beginning of every liturgical year! When we celebrate Christmas, we celebrate the coming of Jesus Christ every year, every month, every week, and every day! And Advent is a time when we prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!

 

The Church has chosen the gospel today to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas. In the gospel today, the Jews sent priests and Levites to John the Baptist to ask if he was the Messiah, or Elijah who was supposed to come before the Messiah, or the Prophet, i.e. another Moses who was the prophet par excellence and who will repeat the Exodus on a grander scale.

But John the Baptist replied that he was not any of these. He was as the prophet Isaiah said. ‘a voice that cries out in the wilderness, make the path straight for the Lord’. John the Baptist was not the Messiah; he was only the one who prepares the people for the coming of the Messiah. The Church has chosen this gospel reading to exhort us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas.

 

Then the Pharisees asked John the Baptist why he was baptizing if he was not the Messiah, and John the Baptist replied, ‘l baptize you with water, but there is one among you, who you do not recognize and whose sandal-strap I am not worthy to undo, i.e. I am not worthy even to become his slave. In short, John the Baptist said, ‘I am not the messiah; I am only the one preparing the people for the coming of the messiah. Again, the Church has chosen this gospel reading to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas!

 

Even more important, the Church has chosen the first reading from Isaiah to tell us that when Jesus Christ comes at Christmas, he will bring good news to the poor, bind up the broken hearted, set the captives free, liberate those in prison and proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace!

In Luke 4:16-21, Jesus tells the people in the synagogue that this text of Isaiah 61:1-2 is fulfilled in him!

 

The poor are not only the materially poor or even the spiritually poor, but the poor are the humble who are dependent on God alone for salvation, i.e. the humble who recognize their own sin, and more importantly, their own helplessness to overcome sin, and most importantly, their total dependence on God to help them overcome sin!

 

The broken hearted are not only those who have been jilted by boyfriend or girlfriend, or husband or wife, but those who have not experienced the infinite and unconditional love of God, the forgiveness of God, and the mercy of God! The captives and those in prison are not only those who are in our jails, but those of us who are enslaved by sin, lust, sex, power, drugs, wealth and death and who have no way to get out of our enslavements. Only Jesus Christ can free and liberate us from our enslavements!

 

And finally, to proclaim the Lord’s year of favor and grace! Salvation is 100% God’s favor and grace, not 99.9%! We have only to respond to God’s grace and favor, but even our response is a result and an effect of God’s grace and favor! Salvation is God’s favour and grace all the way!

 

The first part of Isaiah, which we have just seen, is taken from Isaiah 61 :1-2, but the second part of Isaiah, which we are about to see, is taken from Isaiah 61 :10-1 I. Again, it is important to remember that the Church has chosen this second part of Isaiah to tell us of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas! This second part of Isaiah may be seen as a response to the first part of Isaiah. Thus we read, ‘I exult for joy in the Lord, my soul rejoices in my God, for he has clothed me with the garment of salvation and he has covered me with the cloak of integrity (saving-justice, NJB), like a bridegroom wearing his wreath and like a bride wearing her jewels. (God is the bridegroom who covers us his bride with the garment of salvation and wrap us with the cloak of saving-justice. He is like a bridegroom who wears a garland and he adorns us his bride with jewels.) Just as the earth brings forth vegetation and the garden seeds spring to life, so too the Lord will make integrity (saving-justice) and praise spring up in the sight of the nations’!

 

This theme of the joy and rejoicing of Christmas is taken up and reinforced in the Responsorial Psalm. In fact the Responsorial Psalm today is strictly not a Responsorial Psalm. It is not even a psalm. It is the Magnificat of Mary! It is from the gospel of Luke, chapter 1! In the gospel of Luke, chapter 1, we read of the announcement of the angel Gabriel, ‘Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you’. We also read of Elizabeth saying to Mary, ‘Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, and blessed are you who believe that the promise made to you will be fulfilled’!

 

ln response to these blessings, favors and graces, Mary ‘responds with the Magnificat by saying, ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of God, my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.

He has looked on his lowly handmaid; from now on all generations will call me blessed.

The Almighty has done great things for me. Holy is his name! His mercy is from age to age on all those who fear’.

 

Again, the Church chose the Responsorial Psalm of today to tell us that Mary responds to the favor, grace and blessing of God with joy and rejoicing!

 

Today is the 3rd Sunday of Advent and it is called literally “Rejoice” Sunday! It is taken from the Latin word “Gaudete” meaning “Rejoice”. That is why just now after proclaiming the gospel I lighted the 3rd candle of the Advent wreathe which is pink in colour. The vestment I am wearing is also pink in colour and with the word “Joy”. Pink is the colour of joy! There are 4 Sundays in Advent and we are already in the 3m Sunday of Advent. We are more than half way through to Christmas and that is why we rejoice!

 

Finally, the Church has chosen the second reading of today from l Thessalonians for this time of Advent to tell us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas! The spirit of this second reading is summed up in the caption of today’s second reading: “May you all be kept safe and blameless in body, mind and spirit for the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”!

During this time of Advent, the Church asks us to prepare for the coming of Jesus Christ at Christmas by prayer, by going to mass on Sunday and weekdays, by going to confession (penitential services in the parishes), by penance (although Advent is not a penitential season, the Church in the Diocese of Kota Kinabalu tells us not to get married during Advent), by going carolling (proclaiming the good news), by becoming Santa Claus (St. Nicholas in Dutch) to the poor, the sick, the aged, the children, the weak, the handicapped, etc.! St. Nicholas was the Bishop of Myra in Lycia in Asia Minor, who lived in the 3″’ century! He was noted for his charity to the poor! Besides being Santa Claus to the poor, we must also become Santa Claus to one another, i.e. we must also buy presents for one another! We may not be materially poor, but we may be emotionally, psychologically, socially, and spiritually poor!

 

A Happy Advent to all of you! Amen!