Introduction: The Second Sunday of Advent challenges us to prepare a royal highway in our hearts for Jesus so that we may receive him as our saving God during Christmas. We should also be prepared for his daily coming into our lives in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in the praying community. Finally, we are asked to be ready to meet him as our Judge on his Second Coming, at the end of our lives and at the end of the world.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Baruch introduces Yahweh, the God of Israel, preparing the way for, and leading the Babylonian exiles to, Jerusalem. Hence, the prophet invites the weeping Jerusalem to rejoice and go to high places to watch the return of the exiles. We, too, are asked to return to the Lord from our slavery to sin during this Advent season. In the second reading, Paul advises the Philippian community members to prepare themselves for Christ’s Second Coming by practicing Christian love and by leading pure and blameless lives. John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, challenges the Jews to prepare their lives for receiving their long-awaited Messiah. They are to get ready by repenting of their sins, renewing their lives, and expressing their repentance by receiving the baptism of repentance in River Jordan.
Life messages: #1: We need to prepare our hearts and lives for Jesus our Savior to be reborn in us during this Christmas time. We have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls, formed from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism by practicing the true humility of rendering humble service to others.
#2: We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and fellow-human beings: John's message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We need to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God's forgiveness. Next, we need to forgive others who have offended us and ask forgiveness for our offenses. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14-15. He says, "For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions."
ADVENT II [C] (Dec 6): Bar 5:1-9; Phil 1:4-6, 8-11; Lk 3:1-6 (L/15)
Anecdotes: #1: "Dam up the Detroit River, and baptize the entire city!" William P. Barker tells about a machinist with the Ford motor company in Detroit who had, over a period of years, "borrowed" various parts and tools from the company which he had not bothered to return. While this practice was not condoned, it was more or less accepted by management, and nothing was done about it. The machinist, however, experienced a Christian conversion. He was baptized and became a devout believer. More important, he took his Baptism seriously. The very next morning, he arrived at work loaded down with tools and all the parts he had "borrowed" from the company during the years. He explained the situation to his foreman, added that he'd never really meant to steal them and hoped he'd be forgiven. The foreman was so astonished and impressed by his action, that he cabled Mr. Ford himself, who was visiting a European plant, and explained the entire event in detail. Immediately Ford cabled back: "Dam up the Detroit River," he said, "and baptize the entire city!" [Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide, Vol. 82, (Old Tappan, N.J.: Fleming H. Revell, 1986).] We can only hope that every Christian takes his or her Baptism that seriously.
# 2: Preparation for VIPs: When the president or prime minister of a country is scheduled to make a public appearance, his staff prepares weeks and even months in advance to make certain that the proper protocol will be observed and the leader’s security will be assured. Similarly, detailed preparations precede the appearance of religious leaders like the Pope. Programs are scheduled, choral presentations are practiced, gifts are bought and special persons are chosen to present them in the most gracious manner possible, so that the honored one is duly recognized and appreciated. Careful planning also accompanies the appearances of other political figures, celebrity entertainers and rock singers. When rock stars like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson and Bruce Springsteen made a tour, elaborate preparations were made for their coming. If they came to the Silverdome in Pontiac, Michigan, for example, their entourage would ahead of time to get things ready for their concert. Stages would be set; lighting would be adjusted; every care would be taken so that the needs and whims of each guest would be fully accommodated. In fact, one wonders if today’s Gospel about John the Baptist proclaiming the coming of Jesus applies more to modern rock stars than it does to the true Messiah. Only when we put the same care and commitment into our spiritual Christmas preparations that rock stars put into their musical performances will “all mankind begin to see the salvation of God.”
# 3: Bat baptism: Three pastors got together for coffee one morning. Much to their surprise they discovered that all their churches had problems with bats infesting their belfries. The bats were making a terrible mess. "I got so mad," said one pastor, "I took a shotgun and fired at them. It made holes in the ceiling, but did nothing to the bats." "I tried trapping them alive," said the second. "Then I drove 50 miles before releasing them, but they beat me back to the Church." "I haven't had any more problems," said the third. "What did you do?" asked the others, amazed. "I simply baptized and confirmed them," he replied. "I haven't seen them since." If that story doesn't make you laugh, it will make you cry. It is such a common occurrence. People come to the Church desiring Christian Baptism and Church membership. We welcome them into our fellowship, and then for six weeks or so after we welcome them into our fellowship, we don't hear anything of them. What does it mean? Or parents stand in the church to present a child to God. They make promises to bring up that child in the household of faith, and then they disappear. We rarely see them again. What did those promises mean? On this second Sunday of the New Church Year our lesson from the Gospels focuses our attention on the place of Baptism in our lives. Jesus came to be baptized by John.
Introduction: The Advent season challenges us to prepare for the celebration of Jesus’ first coming. We are also to prepare for his present “coming” to us in his Word, in the Eucharist, in our neighbors, in the Christian community and in the abiding presence of his Holy Spirit in our souls. Finally, we are asked to be ready to meet him as our Judge on his Second Coming at the end of our lives and at the end of the world when he will come with power and great glory on the clouds of Heaven, bringing our waiting for his coming to its completion. The readings today invite us to recall God's saving deeds in the history of Israel, culminating in the coming of the promised Messiah. Baruch, in the first reading, asks the grieving Jerusalem to stand on the heights in order to see her scattered children coming home, with God in the lead. This reminds us that all of us, like Israel in her exile, have been led into the captivity of sin. Hence, we are in need of restoration and conversion by the Word of the Holy One. Psalm 126 is a joyous song of ascent, sung by pilgrims on their way to Jerusalem. In writing to his beloved community at Philippi, Paul, in today’s second reading, prays that they be filled with joy as they await the day of Christ. Paul reminds us that our remembrance of God’s saving deeds during the Advent season is meant to stir our Faith and to fill us with confidence so that, "the One who began a good work in us will continue to complete it," until he comes again in glory. In the Gospel, John the Baptist challenges us to prepare the way for the salvation of "all flesh,” including our own, by a true repentance leading to the renewal of our lives. Quoting Isaiah, John declares that he has come to prepare a royal road in our hearts for our Savior, a way out of the wilderness of sin and alienation, to God.
First reading, Baruch 5:1-9: Enemies practically destroyed Jerusalem in 587 BC and deported many Jews to Babylon. Almost fifty years later, Cyrus, the Persian emperor, defeated Babylon and decreed that the exiles could return to their homelands. Many Jews returned to Judah and Jerusalem, but some stayed behind among the pagans. These people became known as the Diaspora ("dispersion"), Jews. Although they were cut off from the Temple and the sacrifices of the community, most of them remained faithful to their ancestral religion. They nourished their Faith with the teaching of God's word by prophets, scribes, and priests, primarily in their synagogue gatherings. They continued to feel their kinship with Judah's Jews and to express longing for Jerusalem and its Temple in their writings. The book from which we read today is ascribed to Baruch, the secretary of the prophet Jeremiah who accompanied the Jews to Babylon in their exile. The book voices a hope for release from exile and oppression by portraying “Lady Jerusalem,” who, like a priest, takes off the robes of mourning and puts on the cloak of God’s justice and the miter that displays the glory of God’s name. Baruch declares that the restored exiles will have a new name: "Peace of righteousness and glory of godliness." Then he shares with Isaiah 40:3ff this comforting image: Between the land of the Captivity and Jerusalem, the desert will be leveled, its mountains smoothed down and its valleys filled up, so that the returning exiles can travel with ease. In the original Isaiahian setting, the people exiled in Babylon were told that their God would lead them home, just as He had led their ancestors through the wilderness to the Promised Land. They were assured that all obstacles would be removed so that this could be accomplished. Isaiah's version is familiar to us in the form quoted by John the Baptist in today’s Gospel. [The book could also have been of great comfort to the Jews during the Persian period (500 - 300 BC), or the Hellenistic period (300- 50 BC), or to Jews living in Alexandria around 200 BC, offering them a vision of hope and optimism as they struggled to keep their faith.]
Second Reading, Philippians 1:4-6, 8-11: This is another Pauline passage that warns the early Christians of the second coming of Jesus, referring to it as "the day of Christ" and "the day of Christ Jesus.” The passage stresses everyone’s need for that perpetual readiness to be found in leading a righteous life. Paul was very fond of the Philippian Christians and was very pleased with their spiritual progress and maturity. So he assured them that their Heavenly Father, Who had given them the gift of conversion, would continue to bring that "good work" to fruition. He would complete His work “at the day of Jesus Christ,” when Jesus would come in glory to judge the whole world, provided that the Philippians had done their part by “approving what is excellent” and remaining “pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruits of righteousness.” By virtue of our Baptism in the Lord, we are all fully-equipped with every grace we need to cooperate with God's plan to get to Heaven. Moreover, our Lord provides us with the graces of the other Sacraments and other actual graces throughout our lives to better ensure that we have even more assistance in getting to our Heavenly homeland. Paul’s advice echoes the words of John the Baptist found in today’s Gospel, inviting the Jews to repent and renew their lives to welcome the Messiah.
Exegesis: The historical context: Each year, the second and the third Sundays in Advent center on John the Baptist, reminding us that if we want to prepare properly for the coming of Jesus we need to listen to the Baptizer’s message. The Evangelists realized the importance of John’s message. Hence, all four of them wrote about John’s preaching, while only two of them described the nativity of Christ. Following the style of ancient historians, Luke dates the appearance of John according to the ruling powers. He begins by setting the emergence of John against a world background, the background of the Roman Empire. After referring to the world situation and the Palestinian political situation, he turns to the religious situation and reports John's emergence as a herald of the Messiah during the religious leadership of Annas and Caiaphas. Although Caiaphas was the reigning High-priest, it was Annas, his father-in-law and the retired High Priest, who was the religious power behind the throne of Galilee’s ruler at that time, Herod Antipas, a son of Herod the Great. The “coming of the word of God” to someone is a standard formula for a prophetic call. In this case, the prophet was John, as he prepared the way for Jesus. The Baptizer proclaimed the coming of God’s Kingdom and preached a ceremony (a baptism), of immersion, as a response that was to symbolize the interior repentance that leads to forgiveness. The general consensus of Biblical scholars today is that John the Baptist began to preach in AD 28 or 29, and that Christ’s public ministry began that same year.
Theme of John’s preaching: the baptism of repentance: John's baptism was not a proselyte baptism, converting Gentiles into Jews. Instead, it was a baptism for the forgiveness of sins, and it required repentance (metanoeo, a change of being), which implied a turning around to proceed in a new direction. Baptism itself is a purification ritual, and John was inviting people to be purified of the unholy elements in their lives. Quoting the prophet Isaiah, John the Baptist declared, “Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways made smooth” (Lk 3:5). The quotation John used is from Isaiah 40:3-5, where the prophet was calling the people to prepare for the Lord's visitation. If a king were planning to travel, work crews would be dispatched to repair in effect. “Mend, not your roads, but your lives.” The quotation, “making straight the roads. Ideally, the roads for the king's journey would be straight, level, and smooth. John considered himself as the courier of the king. But the preparation on which he insisted was a preparation of heart and of life. "The king is coming," he said the paths of the Lord,” means clearing the path of sin, which is the major obstacle preventing the Lord from coming into our lives.
John called people to repent as a way of preparing their hearts and lives for the Lord's visit. He is calling us, too, to get ready for something so great that it fills our emptiness with expectation. A smooth road means nothing to God, but a repentant heart means a great deal. Hence, the truly important goal for us is to prepare our hearts to receive the Lord. By emphasizing the last line of the quotation "All flesh will see the salvation of God," Luke stresses the universal aspect of God's salvation. Having begun the section with a list of rulers who did not bring wholeness or salvation, Luke ends with the expectation of a true Lord Who can bring these about. We don't live in a perfect world, and we don't look to this world to see God's salvation. For salvation, we have to look to Jesus -- Jesus present in Scripture, Jesus present in the Sacraments, Jesus present in our coming together in his name, Jesus present in the lives of his followers. Perhaps if we began to see Jesus in each other and in ourselves, and started to treat one another (and ourselves), as we would treat Jesus, more of the world might come to see God's salvation.
The symbolism of John’s preaching at the Jordan: The Jordan River was the place that represented the eastern border of the Promised Land, separating it from the desert — where the Jews had wandered aimlessly for 40 years after centuries of slavery in Egypt. By preaching his message there, John was inviting the Jews of his day to come out of the bondage of slavery, to leave their faults, their wandering and their sinful lives behind, and to enter into the Promised Land full of God’s blessings. The Fathers of the Church have called the Sacrament of Reconciliation our “second baptism,” in which we’re brought back to the Jordan and cleansed interiorly as we were on the day of our Christening. Advent, like Lent, is a season given to us so that we may repent of our sins and be reconciled with God and His Church by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation. It was for this purpose that the Sacrament was instituted by Jesus after His Resurrection: “Receive the Holy Spirit: Those whose sins you forgive are forgiven; those whose sins you retain are retained” (Jn 20:18-22). It is for this on-going reconciliation, then, not just to “preach repentance and forgiveness of sins … to all nations beginning from Jerusalem” (Lk 24:47), that Jesus sent His apostles and their successors out to the ends of the world.
Life messages: #1: We need to prepare the way for the Messiah in our hearts: We have to fill in the “valleys” of our souls which have resulted from our shallow prayer life and a minimalist way of living our faith. We have to straighten out whatever crooked paths we’ve been walking, like involvement in some secret or habitual sins or in a sinful relationship. If we have been involved in some dishonest practices at work or at home, we are called to straighten them out and make restitution. If we have been harboring grudges or hatred, or failing to be reconciled with others, now is the time to clear away all the debris. If we have been pushing God off to the side of our road, if we have been saying to Him that we don’t really have the time for Him, now is the time for us to get our priorities straight. As individuals, we might have to overcome deep-seated resentment, persistent fault-finding, unwillingness to forgive, dishonesty in our dealings with others, or a bullying attitude. And we all have to level the “mountains” of our pride and egocentrism. As a society we might have to dismantle unfair housing policies, employment disparity, economic injustice, or racial and ethnic biases.
#2: We need to repent and seek forgiveness from God and our fellow-human beings: John's message calls us to confront and confess our sins. We have to turn away from them in sincere repentance and receive God's forgiveness. There are basically two reasons why people who have recognized their sins fail to receive forgiveness for them. The first is that they fail to repent. But the second is that they fail to forgive. Jesus is very explicit about this in Matthew 6:14 and 15. He says, "For if you forgive men their transgressions, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions." Is there someone I need to forgive today? We must not let what others have done destroy our lives. We can't be forgiven unless we forgive. We must release our bitterness if we are to be able to allow God to do His healing work in our lives.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing him to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives. Besides his first coming at his birth, Jesus comes to our lives through the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), through the Word of God, through the worshipping community, at the moment of our death and, finally, in his Second Coming to judge the world.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of King David who will bring security and justice to God’s people. Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus. He assures us that the Lord our justice will fulfill His promises, and, hence, we need not be afraid in spite of the frightening events and moral degradation all around. The Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), asking Him to make known His ways to us, guide us, and teach us. In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones." We are advised to "strengthen our hearts in holiness" (3:13) and "abound in love for one another" (3:12). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his Second Coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us accept the challenge of Alexander Pope this Advent season: “What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?"
2) A message of warning and hope: The Church reminds us that we will be asked to give an account of our lives before Christ the Judge, both at the moment of our deaths and at Jesus’ second coming. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives every night during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives and the setbacks in spiritual life, we must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again.
Advent I [C] (Nov 29): Jer 33:14-16, 1Thes 3:12 -- 4:2, Lk 21:25-28, 34-36
Anecdotes: #1: Be patient, be faithful: Be faithful. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth, and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” We are Christ’s Body in the world today. Be patient. Be faithful.
#2: ”But with a good ship, you can always ride it out.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told of encountering a hurricane while on a cruise in the Atlantic. After the captain managed to sail around the danger, he and Dr. Peale were visiting with one another. The captain said he had always lived by a simple philosophy namely that if the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. He added something worth remembering: “But with a good ship,” the Captain said, “you can always ride it out.” Our ship is our Faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Life is unpredictable. God is with us. "But not a hair of your head will perish," Jesus says, "By your endurance you will gain your souls” (Luke 21: 18.
# 3: “Watch the road.” There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s Gospel. Several years ago a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record. In 23 years he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident. When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “Watch the road.” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life. A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players. A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words. A good Catholic in the Church must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs. Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the past year and the other looking into future, Christians during the Advent season are to look at the past event of the first coming of Jesus into the world and expectantly look forward to his second coming in glory.
Introduction: Advent is a time of waiting and hoping, of renewing our trust in God’s merciful love and care, and of reflecting on the several comings (advents), of Christ in our lives. Besides his first coming at his birth, we are asked to reflect on Christ’s coming as the risen Lord at Easter, in the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in our everyday lives, at the moment of death, and at the end of human history (the second coming). The Church invites us to join a pilgrimage of Faith by showing us a prophetic vision of Christ’s first coming (advent), through the prophecy of Jeremiah, a prophetic vision of Christ in his glorious Second Coming through the Gospel selection from Luke, and his daily coming into our lives here and now through the second reading. She also reminds us that these are days of "joyful and prayerful anticipation of Jesus’ coming” because the Advent season is intended to fill us with great expectations of the coming of the Messiah just as parents expectantly wait for the birth of their child and make preparations for receiving the child into their family. We know that all valuable things in life – a healthy child, a loving marriage relationship, a work of art, a scientific discovery – need a period of quiet incubation. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for an ideal descendant of King David who might bring security and justice to God’s people. He was waiting for the Messiah of Israel, and we Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus. He assures us that the Lord our justice will fulfill His promises and, hence, that we need not be afraid, in spite of the frightening events and moral degradation all around. "For you I wait all the day long:" Thus, the Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), asking Him to make known His ways to us, to guide us, and teach us. In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his holy ones.” He urges us to put God’s promise of peace into action by cultivating a spirit of love for others. We are told to strengthen our hearts in holiness (3:13) and abound in love for one another (3:12). In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his second coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.
First reading: Jer. 33:14-16: Jeremiah, the prophet of hope, introduces us to our season of Advent. He was from a priestly family and was born in a little village called Anathoth, close to Jerusalem. Josiah, who was king (640-609 BC), in Judah in those days, was a God-fearing man. But he was killed in a battle at Megiddo by the invading Egyptians who were attacking the Assyrians (2 Kings 23: 29-30; 2Chron 35: 20-24). A later king of Judah, Zedekiah (598-587 BC), swore allegiance in the Name of the Lord God, to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in return for his life and continued rule in Jerusalem, then rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2Chron 36: 13). He faced an attack by the Babylonian (Chaldean) army which surrounded Jerusalem. The king ignored God’s advice, given through Jeremiah, to surrender and save the town and its people and he concealed the message from his generals (Jeremiah 38: 17-27). As a result, the Babylonians took Zedekiah prisoner, blinding him after he had watched the execution of his sons, captured and looted the city, burned the Temple down, and sent the healthy Jews into exile leaving only some poor people (2 Kings 25: 1-21; 2 Chronicles 36: 17-21; Jeremiah 38: 28 – 39:10). Despite all this, Jeremiah conveyed words of hope from God to the people in exile: "I WILL BE WITH YOU." Jeremiah told the people that they would return to see their old city and their Temple again, and that their priests would return to their Temple duties (Jeremiah 33: 17ff). His inspiring words, spoken at such a tragic moment, kindled hope and optimism in the people. What does it mean to raise up for David a just shoot? David was this people's first great king, and he became the standard by which subsequent kings were measured. "Shoot" is an image from farming or gardening, meaning a young growth from a mature plant. These people believed their fortunes were linked to the justice of their king. So, for them, a “just shoot for David” would have meant a new king, descended from David, whose justice would have positive effects among the people, and who would then get a new name: "The Lord our justice."
Second Reading, 1 Thessalonians 3:12-4:2: Readings in early Advent always carry forward from the last Sundays of the previous liturgical year the theme of Jesus' coming again. At the time Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (rather early in his apostolic career), he and they believed Jesus was to return soon. His coming would mean the end of history and the judgment of all peoples. That’s why Paul emphasizes proper behavior in this part of his letter. "May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” Paul tells them that what they do while they’re waiting is just as important as the event for which they’re waiting. Hence, he prays for their transformation. He prays that they, and we, will abound in love, that our hearts will be strengthened.
Exegesis: Two versions of the end time events: Today we move from the year of Mark (B) to the year of Luke (C). In fact, today's Gospel is Luke's version of the Gospel which we read two weeks ago from Mark. Luke seems to be the first evangelist who believed that everyone in his community would die a natural death before Jesus triumphantly returned in the Parousia. Still, many years after Mark’s Gospel, Luke wrote about the Parousia. Comparing Mark 13: 24-32 which we read two Sundays ago with Luke 21: 25ff, which we read today, we note that Luke has reduced the scope of the spectacular celestial events of the Last Days and has omitted Mark’s description of the Son of Man. The reason for these changes may lie in the events filling the years between Mark’s Gospel (AD 69), and Luke’s work (AD 80). Mark wrote his Gospel sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Jewish Christians believed that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple would coincide with the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. But when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the world did not end. Perhaps taking this into account, Luke, completing his gospel in A.D. 80, dissociated the destruction of the Temple from Jesus’ prediction of the end of the world.
The context: The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple created a major crisis of Faith for the early Christians. Since the expected end of the world did not come, many Christians gave up their belief in the Second Coming of Christ, abandoned their Faith and began living lives of moral laxity. It may have been in order to address these needs that Luke continued with the second half of today's Gospel, Jesus' exhortation to all of His disciples, then and now, to be on their guard against “dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life" (21:34).
Jesus’ warning: Neither Paul nor the evangelists were preparing their readers for Christmas. Instead, they were helping these Christians to boost their spirits while they waited for Jesus to accomplish things in their lives that would give them a share in His risen life. That’s why, after reminding his community about the signs which would precede Jesus' Second Coming, Luke gives them Jesus’ warning: "Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and to stand secure before the Son of Man." Since our own transformation is an ongoing process, we move yearly through the liturgical celebration of the mystery of our salvation. While Advent is set aside to commemorate Jesus’ coming in the flesh as well as His final coming in glory, it is also a time for us to open ourselves to the Lord’s coming into our lives and our world today. In order to do this, we must read the signs of the times and adjust our lives accordingly. Jesus also gives us the assurance that no matter what terrors the future holds, He will be present, caring for His followers.
Life Messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting for our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us remember the words of Alexander Pope: ‘What does it profit me if Jesus is reborn in thousands of cribs all over the world and not reborn in my heart?” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy and forgiveness. Then only will we be able to give people his hope by caring for those in need, give them his peace by turning the other cheek when we are provoked, give them his love by encouraging those who are feeling sad or tired, and give them his joy by encouraging and helping those who feel at the end of their strength, showing them that we care and that God cares as well. When, with his grace, we do these kinds of things we will receive hope, peace, love, and joy in return. Then we will know that when the King, our Lord Jesus, returns on the clouds of glory, we will be ready for Him.
2) A message of warning and hope: The Church begins the Advent season of Liturgical year C by presenting the second coming of Christ in glory, in order to give us a vision of our future glory in Heaven and to show us the preparation needed for it. She reminds us that we are accountable for our lives before Christ the Judge. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Advent is the time for an improvement of our lives and for deepening the sincerity of our religious commitment. It is a call to “look up” to see that Christ is still here. We must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again. Luke reminds us to trust in Jesus, amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives. Our marriage may break up; we may lose our job, discover that we have cancer or some terminal illness or become estranged from our children. In all such situations, when we feel overwhelmed by disaster and feel that our lives have no meaning, Jesus says: "Stand up, raise your heads, because your salvation is near" (Lk 21:28).
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: This Sunday, at the end of Church’s liturgical year, the readings describe the enthronement of the victorious Christ as King in Heaven in all his glory. Instituting this Feast of Christ the King, Pope Pius XI proclaimed: “Pax Christi in regno Christi” (the peace of Christ in the reign of Christ). This means that we live in the peace of Christ when we surrender our lives to him every day, accept him as our God, Savior and King and allow him to rule our lives.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the book of Daniel, tells of the mysterious Son of Man (with whom Jesus would later identify himself), coming on the clouds, glorified by God and given dominion that will last forever. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 93), proclaims, “The Lord is King,” celebrating the God of Israel as King over all creation. In the second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, the risen Christ comes amid the clouds as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last of all things. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asserts before Pilate that he is a king and clarifies that that his kingdom “does not belong to this world.” He rules as King by serving others rather than by dominating them; his authority is rooted in truth, not in physical force, and his Kingdom, the reign of God, is based on the beatitudes. Jesus has come to bear witness to the truth: about God and His love for us, about himself as the Son of God and about us as the children of God. There are plenty of texts proving the kingship of Jesus both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament of the Bible.
Life Messages: 1) We need to accept Christ the King as our Lord, King and Savior and surrender our lives to him. We surrender our lives to Jesus every day when we give priority to his teaching in our daily choices, especially in moral decisions. We should not exclude Christ our King from any area of our personal or family lives. In other words, Christ must be in full charge of our lives, and we must give him sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our heart and our will.
2) We need to accept Jesus Christ as our serving King. Jesus claimed that he came not to be served but to serve and showed us the spirit of service by washing of the feet of his disciples. We become his followers when we recognize his presence in everyone, especially the poor, the sick, the outcast and the marginalized in the society and render humble and loving service to Jesus in each of them. 3) We need to accept Jesus Christ as the King of love. Jesus came to proclaim to all of us the Good News of God’s love and salvation, gave us his new commandment of love: “Love one another as I have loved you,” and demonstrated that love by dying for us sinners. We accept Jesus as our King of love when we love others as Jesus loved, unconditionally, sacrificially and with agape love.
CHRIST THE KING (Nov 29) (Dn 7:13-14; Rv 1:5-8; Jn 18:33b-37)
Anecdotes: #1) Long live Christ the King! In the 1920s, a totalitarian regime gained control of Mexico and tried to suppress the Church. To resist the regime, many Christians took up the cry, "Viva Cristo Rey!” (“Long live Christ the King!”) They called themselves "Cristeros." The most famous Cristero was a young Jesuit priest named Padre Miguel Pro. Using various disguises, Padre Pro ministered to the people of Mexico City. Finally the government arrested him and sentenced him to public execution on November 23, 1927. The president of Mexico (Plutarco Calles) thought that Padre Pro would beg for mercy, so he invited the press to the execution. Padre Pro did not plead for his life, but instead knelt holding a crucifix. When he finished his prayer, he kissed the crucifix and stood up. Holding the crucifix in his right hand, he extended his arms and shouted, "Viva Cristo Rey!" (“Long live Christ the King!”) At that moment the soldiers fired. The journalists took pictures; if you look up "Padre Pro" or "Saint Miguel Pro" on the Internet, you can see that picture. (Fr. Phil Bloom).
#2: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” St. Thomas More is the patron saint of politicians. He was a brilliant lawyer and diplomat in 16th century England. His patriotism and loyalty to the throne attracted the attention of King Henry VIII who made him Lord Chancellor of England. What Henry VIII did not know was that Thomas More’s first loyalty was to Christ, the King of kings. When Henry VIII decided to divorce his wife Catherine of Aragon, marry Anne Boleyn and make himself head of the Church of England, More thought this was not right. Rather than approve what he believed to be against the Divine will, he resigned from his prestigious and wealthy position as Lord Chancellor and lived a life of poverty. Since he would not give his support to the king, More was arrested, convicted of treason, imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1534 and beheaded in July of the following year. On his way to public execution, More encouraged the people to remain steadfast in the faith. His last recorded words were: “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” For More, it was not simply enough to confess Christ privately in the safety of his heart and home; he believed one must also confess Christ in one’s business and professional life as well as in the laws and policies that govern society. (Fr. Munacci).
# 3: On His Majesty’s Service: Polycarp, the bishop of Smyrna, was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, "Eighty-six years have I served him, and he has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King, Jesus Christ, who saved me?" The Roman officer replied, "Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt." But Polycarp said, "You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgment to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish."
Introduction: The Church’s liturgical year concludes with this feast of Christ the King, instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925 to celebrate the Jubilee Year and the 16th centenary of the Council of Nicaea. Instituting this feast, Pope Pius XI proclaimed: “Pax Christi in regno Christi” (“The peace of Christ in the reign of Christ”). This feast was established and proclaimed by the Pope to reassert the sovereignty of Christ and the Church over all forms of government and to remind Christians of the fidelity and loyalty they owed to Christ, who by his Incarnation and sacrificial death on the cross had made them both adopted children of God and future citizens and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven. Christ is our spiritual King and Ruler who rules by truth and love. We declare our loyalty to him by the quality of our Christian commitment, expressed in our serving of others with sacrificial and forgiving love, and by our solidarity with the poor. Although emperors and kings with real ruling power exist today only in history books, we nevertheless honor Christ as the King of the Universe and the King of our hearts by allowing him to take control of our lives. In thousands of human hearts all over the world, Jesus still reigns as King. The Cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount, his rule of law. His citizens need obey only one major law: “Love God with all your being, and love others as I have loved you.” His love is selfless, compassionate, forgiving, and unconditional. He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: freeing us from all types of bondage, enabling us to live peacefully and happily on earth, and promising us an inheritance in the eternal life of heaven.
This Sunday, at the end of Church’s liturgical year, the readings describe the enthronement of the victorious Christ as King in heaven in all his glory. The first reading, taken from the book of Daniel, tells of the mysterious Son of Man (with whom Jesus would later identify himself), coming on the clouds, glorified by God and given dominion that will last forever. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 93), proclaims, “The Lord is King,” celebrating the God of Israel as the King over all creation. In the second reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, the risen Christ comes amid the clouds as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last of all things. In today’s Gospel, Jesus asserts before Pilate that he is a king and clarifies that that his kingdom “does not belong to this world.” He rules as King by serving others rather than by dominating them; his authority is rooted in truth, not in physical force, and his Kingdom, the reign of God, is based on the beatitudes.
First reading: Daniel 7:13-14: The apocalyptic Book of Daniel came to prominence during a bitter persecution of the Jews in the second century BC, where it bolstered the faith of the beleaguered chosen people of God. The book rises from the sixth century BC, during the Captivity of the Jews in Babylon (the Exile). Today’s selection from Daniel expresses well the Jewish understanding of the Kingship of God and that of the Promised Messiah. It describes the mysterious “Son of Man” (with whom Jesus would later identify himself), as coming on the clouds, glorified by God and given the dominion that will last forever. In his vision, Daniel saw God seated on a Throne, with millions of people serving Him. Into His presence there came a human figure, "one like a Son of Man,” to whom were given (v.14) "dominion and glory and kingship, that all should serve him... his kingship is one which shall never be destroyed." He would be the King of kings and the Lord of glory and His Kingdom would last forever. The New Testament proves that Jesus is this long-awaited King of the Jews.
Second reading: Revelation 1:5-8: The New Testament Book of Revelation has the same apocalyptic character as the Book of Daniel, although that element is not very evident in today's short selection. Its readers were being persecuted, and the author wanted to bolster their faith. To the description of Jesus given here, we can apply what was said above about the Son of Man and his commission from the Ancient One. Today’s reading from the Book of Revelation also explains how the risen Christ will come amid the clouds as the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last of all things. In its apocalyptic style, the Book of Revelation describes how Jesus has become our King by freeing us from our sins by his blood (and so from the ruler of darkness), and by blessing all of us to be priests for his God and Father -- all because he loves us. Today’s reading concludes by stating that Christ the King is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, that is, the A and the Z, the beginning and the end of our lives and of all life. Alpha and Omega are the first and the last letters of the alphabet in Greek, the original language of this book. Giving Jesus the Alpha title reminds us of the first theme of John's Gospel: That Jesus is the Word of God, pre-existing with the Father before all creation. To call Jesus the Omega is to say that he will be in charge at the end of the world. The four passages refer to the supreme Kingship of Christ who founded a Kingdom for us, where He has made us priests dedicated to the service of God his Father. He will come a second time to judge all men.
Exegesis: The Biblical basis of the feast: A) Old Testament texts: The title "Christ the King" has its roots both in Scripture and in the whole theology of the Kingdom of God. In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel, Christ the Messiah is represented as a King. B) New Testament texts: a) In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk 13:2-33, we read: “The Lord God will make him a King, as his ancestor David was, and He will be the King of the descendants of Jacob forever and His Kingdom will never end." In fact, the Kingdom of God is the center of Jesus’ teaching and the phrase "Kingdom of God" occurs in the Gospels 122 times, of which 90 instances are uses by Jesus. b) The Magi from the Far East came to Jerusalem and asked the question: (Mt. 2:2) “Where is the baby born to be the King of the Jews? We saw his star… and we have come to worship him." c) During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk.19: 38) “God bless the King, who comes in the name of the Lord." d) During the trial of Jesus described in today’s Gospel, Pilate asked the question: (Jn.18: 33): “Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied: “You say that I am a king. I was born and came into this world for this one purpose, to bear witness to the Truth." e) The signboard hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, king of the Jews." f) Before his Ascension into Heaven, Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18): “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth.” g) Finally, in Matthew 25:31, we read that Christ the King will come in glory to judge us on the day of the Last Judgment.
Jesus’ clarification of his kingship before Pilate during his trial: The Jews accused Jesus of blasphemy for claiming to be God, and they wanted him to die by the most shameful and painful type of Roman execution. Hence, they brought Jesus before Pilate the Roman governor and accused Jesus of causing sedition against the Roman Empire and Caesar. "We found this man inciting our people to revolt, opposing payment of the tribute to Caesar, and claiming to be Christ, a king" (Lk. 23:2). Today’s Gospel presents the first part of the trial conducted by Pilate who questions Jesus about his kingship. In his dialogue with Pilate, Jesus implies that Pilate does not understand the spiritual or transcendent nature of Jesus’ kingship (“My Kingdom does not belong to this world”). Jesus admits that he is a king but declares that his Kingdom is not of this world. Neither his present nor his future reign operates according to the world’s criteria of power and dominance. Jesus’ Kingdom, the reign of God, is based on the beatitudes, and he rules through service rather than through domination. His authority is rooted in truth, not in physical force. Jesus also claims that he has come to bear witness to the truth about a larger and eternal Kingdom. Jesus has come to bear witness to the truth: about God and His love, about us and about whom we are called to be.
Life Messages: 1) We need to assess our commitment to Christ the King today. As we celebrate the Kingship of Christ today, let us remember the truth that he is not our King if we do not listen to him, love him, serve him, and follow him. We belong to his Kingdom only when we try to walk with him, when we try to live our lives fully in the spirit of the Gospel and when that Gospel spirit penetrates every facet of our living. If Christ is really King of my life, he must be King of every part of my life, and I must let him reign in all parts of my life. We become Christ the King’s subjects when we sincerely respond to his loving invitation: "Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart" (Matthew 11:29). By cultivating in our lives the gentle and humble mind of Christ, we show others that Jesus Christ is in indeed our King and that he is in charge of our lives.
2) We need to give Jesus control over our lives. Today’s Feast of Christ the King reminds us of the great truth that Christ must be in charge of our lives, that we must give him sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our heart and our will. In every moral decision we face, there’s a choice between Christ the King and Barabbas, and the one who seeks to live in Christ's Kingdom is the one who says, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven.” Let us ask ourselves the question, "What does Jesus, my King, want me to do or say in this situation?" Are we praying each day that he will give us the right words to say to the people we meet that day, words that will make us true ambassadors of Jesus? Does our home life as well as the way we conduct ourselves with our friends come under the Kingship of Jesus? Or do we try to please ourselves rather than him?
3) We need to follow Christ the King’s lesson of humble service to the truth. Christ has come to serve and to be of service to others. Hence, we are called to his service - service to the truth. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus saying that the reason for his coming – the reason that he was born – was to “bear witness” to the truth. The truth to which Jesus bears witness by His Life and which he teaches us is that God his Father is also our loving and forgiving Father, so we are all His children, forming one body. Hence, whatever we do for His children, and our sisters and brothers, we do for Him. So we are called to be a people who reach out to embrace the enemy and the stranger, a people who are called to glory in diversity, a people who will endlessly forgive, a people who will reach out in compassion to the poor and to the marginalized sectors of our society, a people who will support one another in prayer, a people who will realize that we are called not to be served, but to serve. In other words, servant-leadership is the model that Christ the King has given us.
4) We need to obey the law of love of Christ the King. Citizens of Christ’s kingdom are expected to observe only one major law--the law of love. "Love God with your whole heart and love your neighbor as yourself.” "If you love Me, you will keep My commandments." Jesus expects a higher degree of love from His followers: “Love one another as I have loved you.” On this great Feast of Christ the King, let us resolve to give him the central place in our lives and promise to obey his commandment of love by sharing what we have with all his needy children.
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to live out a total commitment to God’s service with a humble and generous heart, free from pride and prejudice.
Scripture lessons: The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others. In the reading from the First Book of Kings, a poor widow who had barely enough food for herself and her son welcomed the prophet Elijah as a man of God, shared her food with him and received her reward in the form of a continuing daily supply of food. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146), is the first in the final group of Hallel psalms. In it, God is praised for his loving-kindness toward the needy, including widows. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasted the external signs of honor sought by the scribes with the humble, sacrificial offering of a poor widow and declared that she had found true honor in God’s eyes. The poor widows in both the first reading and the Gospel gave away all that they possessed for the glory of God. The second reading tells us how Jesus, as the High Priest of the New Testament, surrendered His life to God His Father totally and unconditionally as a sacrificial offering for our sins – a sacrifice far beyond the sacrifices made by the poor widows.
Life messages: # 1: We need to appreciate the widows of our parish: Even in seemingly prosperous societies, widows (and widowers), in addition to their deep grief, often suffer from economic loss, from the burden of rearing a family alone, and from a strange isolation from friends, which often sets in soon after protestations of support at the funeral of their spouses. Let us learn to appreciate the widows and widowers of our parish community. Their loneliness draws them closer to God and to stewardship in the parish. They are often active participants in all the liturgical celebrations, offering prayers for their families and for their parish family. Frequently, they are active in the parish organizations, as well as in visiting and serving the sick and the shut-ins. Hence, let us appreciate them, support them, encourage them and pray for them.
#2: We need to accept Christ’s criteria of judging people: We often judge people by what they possess. We give weight to their position in society, to their educational qualifications, or to their celebrity status. But Jesus measures us in a totally different way – on the basis of our inner motives and the intentions hidden behind our actions. He evaluates us on the basis of the sacrifices we make for others and on the degree of our surrender to His holy will. The offering God wants from us is not our material possessions, but our hearts and lives. What is hardest to give is ourselves in love and concern, because that gift costs us more than reaching for our purses. Let us, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold. Let us stop dribbling out our stores of love and selflessness and sacrifice and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our "whole life" into the love-starved coffers of this world.
O. T. XXXII (B) (Nov 8) I Kgs 17: 10-16; Heb 9:24-28; Mk 12: 38-44
Anecdote: # 1: Blessed Mother Teresa’s mite: Consider David Porter's comment on Mother Teresa: "She was born as Agnes Gonxha Bojaxhiu (AG-nes GOHN-jah BOY-yah-jee-oo), to Albanian parents in Yugoslavia. She went to India in 1929 as a member of the Loreto Order of nuns, after learning English in their Motherhouse in Dublin Ireland. There she taught for many years and became principal of the school. In 1946, she received her 'call within a call' to work with the poorest of the poor. By 1948, she had received permission to leave the Loreto order and had trained in the nursing skills she would need to carry out her calling. She prayed, "Oh God, if I cannot help these people in their poverty and their suffering, let me at least die with them, close to them, so that I can show them your love" [Mother Teresa: The Early Years, 67; cited by Caroline J. Simon, "The Media and Mother Teresa," Perspectives, 12 (March, 1997), 3.] Simon notes: "From this simple beginning, the Missionaries of Charity have grown to include 4,500 Sisters and Brothers, 755 homes for the children, the sick, the destitute and the dying and 1,369 medical clinics that serve 120,000 worldwide." Mother Teresa's mite has might, and it's the ever-growing might of love in action.
#2: A widow’s mite in the life of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton. By birth and marriage, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton was linked to the first families of New York and enjoyed the fruits of living in high society. Reared a staunch Episcopalian by her mother and stepmother, she learned the value of prayer, Scripture reading and a nightly examination of conscience. At 19, Elizabeth was the belle of New York. She married a handsome, wealthy businessman, William Magee Seton. They had five children before his business failed, and William died of tuberculosis. At 30, Elizabeth found herself widowed and penniless, with five small children to support. While in Italy with her dying husband, Elizabeth had witnessed the Catholic Church in action, through the lives, beliefs and behavior of family friends. Three basic elements in Catholicism led her to become a Catholic in March, 1805: a belief in the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, a devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary as Mother of God, and a conviction that the Catholic Church traced its origin and priesthood in a direct line back to the apostles and to Christ. When Elizabeth returned to the U. S., many of her family and friends rejected her because she had become a Catholic. To support her children, she opened a school in Baltimore with the cooperation of some of her friends. From the beginning, her group was organized along the lines of the religious community which would only be founded officially in 1809. Mother Seton became one of the keystones of the American Catholic Church. She founded the first American religious community for women, the Sisters of Charity. She opened the first American parish school and established the first American Catholic orphanage. All this she did in the span of 46 years while rearing her five children. She died on January 4, 1821, and was buried in Emmitsburg, Maryland. In 1963, Mother Seton was beatified, the first American-born citizen to receive this honor. She was canonized in 1975. Elizabeth Ann Seton was a real widow who offered her mite to God without reservation as the poor widow in today’s gospel did (Adapted from St. Anthony’s Messenger).
# 3: Fanny Epps' mite has might of love: Mrs. Epps likes the time she spends with children. So she enjoys her time as a volunteer at the Norge Elementary School in Williamsburg, Virginia. There, she works with students who have mental and physical disabilities. Her day begins long before she goes on duty at 7 a.m. She has to catch a bus to get to the school. When she gets there, she greets Drew who has difficulty walking. Another one of her favorites has Down syndrome. He sits beside her, smiling. She turns on the tape recorder and plays "Jingle Bell Rock," while her students sing and clap enthusiastically. It takes a lot of energy to work all morning, five days a week, with these children. Oh, did I mention that Mrs. Epps is 99 years old? Wasted time, twisted values? "I don't want to act dead while I'm still alive," she says. Fanny Epps' mite has might, and it's the might of love!
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to live out a total commitment to God’s service with a humble and generous heart, free from pride and prejudice. The first reading and the Gospel today present poor widows who sacrificially gave their whole lives and means of livelihood to God, symbolizing the supreme sacrifice Jesus would offer by giving His life for others. In the reading from the First Book of Kings, a poor widow who had barely enough food for herself and her son welcomed the prophet Elijah as a man of God, shared her food with him and received her reward in the form of a continuing daily supply of food. Today’s Responsorial Psalm is the first in the final group of Hallel psalms. In it, God is praised for his loving-kindness toward the needy, including widows. In the Gospel, Jesus contrasted the external signs of honor sought by the scribes with the humble, sacrificial offering of a poor widow and declared that she had found true honor in God’s eyes. The poor widows in both the first reading and the Gospel gave away all that they possessed for the glory of God. The second reading tells us how Jesus, as the High Priest of the New Testament, surrendered His life to God His Father totally and unconditionally as a sacrificial offering for our sins – a sacrifice far beyond the sacrifices made by the poor widows.
First reading, 1 Kings 17:10-16: This particular passage is one in a collection of stories of miracles wrought by the prophet Elijah who challenged King Ahab and his cruel pagan Queen Jezebel over the issue of worship of the false god, Baal. Complementing the story of the Widow’s Mite told in today’s Gospel, the first reading explains how another poor, pagan widow, a Syro-Phoenician living in Zarephath in the territory of Sidon, in the middle of a famine and with little left for herself, shared the last of her meager resources with the prophet Elijah. As a reward for her sacrificial generosity, she received God’s blessing for the remaining months of the famine in the form of sufficient continuing daily provisions which ensured their survival. Elijah, instructed by the Lord God and following the Near Eastern custom, had asked for hospitality in the form of food and accommodation. The widow was not unwilling, but told the prophet that she had enough for only one meal for her son and herself. Nevertheless, Elijah asked her to demonstrate her trust in his God's provision by first giving food to Elijah himself, as the man of God. She did as he asked, and we know what happened. Her jar of meal and the jug of oil did not empty until the drought had ended. This story of the widow's provisions, like the following story of Elijah's raising of her son when he had died, also emphasizes the power of God's word in the prophet's mouth.
Second Reading, Hebrews 9: 24-28: The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, in part to help them cope with the loss of the comforts they had enjoyed from the institutions of Judaism. The Temple authorities had refused to permit early Jewish Christians to participate either in the synagogue or the Temple services. St. Paul teaches these Judeo-Christians that Jesus, alive in the community, has become the Holy of Holies and the High Priest, around which pair all Temple worship revolved. Since Jesus has replaced both the Temple and human mediators, the Christians need not go to the Temple for worship. In today's passage, the institutions in question are sanctuary, sacrifice, and judgment. Under the Old Covenant, a priest conducted an annual ritual sacrifice in the sanctuary of the Temple, slaughtering a lamb. Paul argues that Jesus Himself has replaced the whole class of ancient priests, and that the earthly sanctuary has been made obsolete by the sanctuary that is Heaven, where Jesus the High Priest intercedes for us directly before God. Similarly, the repetitive annual sacrifices have been replaced by Jesus' once-for-all sacrifice at the end of the ages. The old sacrifices were meant to forestall an unfavorable judgment by God. The new expectation is brighter and more positive: salvation for those who eagerly await Him.
Exegesis: The context: Beginning from chapter 11 of Mark’s Gospel, Jesus confronts the Temple authorities and challenges the abuses in the "organized religion" of his time. One by one he engages in debate with the Sadducees, the Pharisees, the scribes, and the Herodians. Jesus' overarching condemnation of the religious-political-economic establishment is summed up when he accuses the leaders of having transformed the Temple into a den of robbers (Mark 11:17). Today's Gospel text demonstrates why all those who held traditional positions of religious power found Jesus' presence and preaching so disturbing. Jesus' denunciation of the scribes forms the conclusion of the series of Jerusalem conflict stories. These stories show the widening gulf between Jesus and the Temple authorities that will result in the Sanhedrin's decision to get rid of Jesus.
The attack on pride and hypocrisy: The scribes of Jesus' day were experts in the Law of Moses, scholars to whom people turned for a proper understanding of God's will as revealed in Scripture. But in today’s Gospel, Jesus moves from the scribes' erroneous theology to their bankrupt ethics, reflected in their craving for pre-eminence both in religious gatherings (in the synagogue), and in social settings (market places and banquets). Jesus publicly criticizes their behavior as a ceaseless grasping for honor. He begins by attacking the popular style of scribal dress, a fairly easy target. A first-century scribe wore a long linen robe with a long white mantle decorated with beautiful long fringes. White robes identified the wearer as someone of importance and prestige. Jesus' observation that the scribes liked "to be greeted with respect in the marketplaces" is a reference to the tradition which dictated that common people "in the marketplace" should respectfully rise to their feet when a scribe walked past. The Talmud notes that when two people meet in the marketplace, the one inferior in knowledge of the Law should greet the other first. But the scribes began to feel that such respect was a right owed to them for their learning in the Law, and this made them arrogant and proud. Likewise at banquets and dinner parties, when rich men invited scribes and perhaps some of their pupils as guests, they would give these men prominent seats. Similarly, the scribe's synagogue seat of honor placed him up front with the Torah, facing the congregation. Scribes were seated on a platform facing the people, resting their backs against the same wall that held the box which contained the Torah scrolls. The problem Jesus pinpoints is that the scribes had confused the respect intended for the position they held with respect given them for their own abilities and accomplishments. Jesus also characterizes the scribes' offering of long prayers to God, whether in the synagogue or Temple or some other highly public place, not as an attempt to seek God's will or praise God's Name, but as a means of asserting, and being honored for, superior piety.
Devouring widows’ houses: In verse 40, Jesus denounces the shameless profiteering of the scribes at the expense of widows. The Jewish scribes of the first century were not paid for being scribes because they were not considered as belonging to a professional, self-supporting group. Thus, despite the honor their position brought them, many scribes were downright poor, and it was deemed an act of obedience and piety to extend the hospitality of one's goods and services, of one's home and resources, to scribes for their support. Devouring widows' houses is Jesus' condemnatory description of the source of the luxurious lives led by some scribes who impoverished gullible and pious widows who volunteered to support them. The reference to "widows' houses" could also refer to the scribes' tendency to abuse their powers as trustees for the estates of wealthy widows. Further, these authorities were charged with distributing the Temple collections to widows and the needy. In actuality, however, some spent the funds on conspicuous consumption: long robes and banquets and Temple decorations. This is how they devoured the estates of widows. Power and position often lead even religious leaders to material greed and corruption.
Widow’s mite: According to the Mishnah (Shekalim VI. 6), there were, standing up against the wall of the Court of Women, 13 trumpet-shaped receptacles that functioned to gather the gifts of the faithful for the Temple treasury. As Jesus and his disciples sat and watched the comings and goings of those offering their gifts of support, they observed many wealthy worshipers placing significant sums into the temple treasury. But it was not until Jesus observed the tiny offering of two leptons (equivalent to a couple of pennies), made by a poor widow, that he was moved to comment on the proceedings. It was not the woman's poverty that made her gift significant for Jesus. For him, it was the fact that this widow, alone among all the contributors lined up to give their offerings, gave her all. The very rich put in much, and the moderately well-off put in a decent amount. But all those who had gone before this widow had limited their giving by holding back a major portion of their money for their own use. This widow stood alone as the one who had turned over, as an offering to God for His use, everything she had -- two leptons. Those two, almost worthless coins represented her last shred of security, her fragile earthly thread of hope for the future. With her deep desire to be an obedient servant of God, the widow gave all she had as an offering -- even her future -- for the sake of God. In other words, she gave herself totally into God’s hands, with the sure conviction that He would give her the support she needed.
Compliment or lamentation? Oddly, some modern Bible commentators argue that Jesus’ statement that this poor widow put in all she had, was not intended primarily as praise of the woman but was meant both as a prophetic denunciation of the members of the Temple establishment who took advantage of such little people and as the expression of His personal moral indignation at the situation. How, they ask, could Mark's Jesus praise someone for sacrificing everything to a place and system which, even in the first century, Christians believed Jesus had replaced? According to John Pilch (The Cultural World of Jesus), speaking of the widow who put her two mites in the Temple collection box, "Jesus laments this woman's behavior because she has been taught 'sacrificial giving' by her religious leaders. Jesus' constant Gospel teaching had been grounded in a belief that religion was never to use people's benevolence to enrich itself. Christians were to direct their generosity to the needs of others, not to enrich their parishes beyond a certain limit. Yet Mark clearly focuses on the widow’s deed. In contrast to the external signs of honor sought by the scribes, she sought only to please God, and she, not they, possessed true honor in God’s eyes. “The simple piety of this woman of no social standing is contrasted with the arrogance and social ambitions of some so-called religious leaders. This poor woman, in a daring act of trust in God's providence, put into the treasury everything she had. Her action symbolized what Jesus would do by offering his very life to God his Father as an act of perfect obedience.
Life messages: # 1: We need to appreciate the widows of our parish: In our seemingly prosperous society, widows (and widowers), in addition to their deep grief, often suffer from economic loss from the burden of rearing a family alone and from a strange isolation from friends which often sets in soon after protestations of support at the funeral of their spouses. Let us learn to appreciate the widows and widowers of our parish community. Their loneliness draws them closer to God and to stewardship in the parish. They are often active participants in all the liturgical celebrations, offering prayers for their families and for their parish family. Frequently, they are active in the parish organizations, as well as in visiting and serving the sick and the shut-ins. Hence, let us appreciate them, support them, encourage them and pray for them.
#2: We need to accept Christ’s criteria of judging people: We often judge people by what they possess. We give weight to their position in society, to their educational qualifications, or to their celebrity status. But Jesus measures us in a totally different way on the basis of our inner motives and intentions hidden behind our actions. He evaluates us on the basis of the sacrifices we make for others and on the degree of our surrender to God’s holy will. The offering God wants from us is not our material possessions, but our hearts and lives. What is hardest to give is ourselves in love and concern, because that gift costs us more than reaching for our purses.
# 3: We need to pour out our "whole life." Can we, like the poor widow, find the courage to share the wealth and talents we hold? Can we stop dribbling out our stores of love and selflessness and sacrifice and compassion and dare to pour out our whole heart, our whole being, our "whole life" into the love-starved coffers of this world?
Introduction: Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst, guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary uncertainty concerning the end time when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Each year at this time, the Church asks us to apply the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell -- to ourselves.
Scripture lessons: The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer. 2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion. 3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living. The first reading with its vision of the archangel Michael, taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people, persecuted by a cruel pagan king. In the second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews consoles believers suffering from “endtime phobia” with the knowledge that Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is our mediator. By his sacrificial death, he forgave our sins and sanctified us. Today’s Gospel, taken from Mark (69 AD), offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, reminding them of Jesus’ words about his glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge, to gather and reward his elect. Daniel and Markcontinue to remind us that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns us all to read the “signs of the time,” reminding us that we must be ever prepared to give an account of our livesto Jesus when he comes in glory as our Judge, because we can not know “either the day or the hour” of his Second Coming.
1) Let us recognize the “second coming” of Jesus in our daily lives through everyday occurrences, always remembering that Jesus comes without warning. But let us not get frightened at the thought of Christ’s Second Coming because he is with us every day in the Holy Eucharist, in the Holy Bible and in our worshipping communities. We will be able to welcome him in his Second Coming as long as we faithfully do the will of God daily by serving our brothers and sisters, by recognizing Christ’s presence in them, and by getting reconciled with God and with our brothers and sisters every day.
2) We need to “learn the lesson from the fig tree.” This means that we are to watch and wait in a state of readiness. Instead of worrying about the endtime events, we are asked to live every day of our lives loving God living in others, by our committed service to them with sacrificial agape love.
OT XXXIII [B] SUNDAY: Dn 12:1-3; Heb 10:11-14, 18; Mk 13:24-32
Anecdote #1: The endtime phobia: French "prophet" and astrologer Nostradamus (1503-1566), foretold that the world would end when Easter fell on April 25. This happened in 1666, 1734, 1886 and 1943; it will occur again in 2038. In 1379, St. Vincent Ferrer (1350-1419), a Spanish Dominican monk, basing his prediction on the number of verses in the Book of Psalms (2,537 verses), predicted the demise of the world in AD 3936. By the end of 1998, the Mount of Olives Hotel, run by Palestinian Muslims, wrote to 2,000 Protestant Christian groups in the U.S. asking "How would you like to be reserving your rooms at the Mount of Olives Hotel, to wait for the ‘second coming’ of Jesus on the first day of the new millennium, 2000 A.D.?" Some scientists fueled public anxiety by citing a series of possible ways, including nuclear war and collision with a comet, in which the world could come to an end. A very popular book in 1989 was 89 Reasons Why the World Will End in 1989. The Jehovah’s Witnesses frightened gullible followers at least 3 times during the last century with their “end of the world” predictions in 1914, 1918 and 1974. It is this paranoid fear that led people to die in the mass suicides organized by Heaven’s Gate andJim Jones. The film Omega Code, released in October, 1999, was an independent movie funded by the Trinity Broadcasting Network, the largest Evangelical Christian TV network in the U.S. It was promoted by a team of 2,400 U.S. Evangelical pastors. The plot involved a portrayal of the “rapture” at the imminent “Second coming” of Jesus, when “born again” and "saved" Christians, both alive and dead, are supposed to fly upward in the air to meet Jesus. The film was rated in the top 10 grossing movies for October, 1999. Over 17 million copies of Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins' “Second Coming” novel, Left Behind, were sold by July 27, 2000. This is how modern man reacts to the reality of the coming of the end of the world. Hence, today’s readings remind us that we should be well prepared and always ready to meet Jesus at any time, daily in our brothers and sisters and at the end of our lives or the end of the world, whichever comes first.
# 2: Bingo first! Who cares about the Second coming?: There is a second group of people who ignore Christ’s Parousia and stick to their addictions. A woman was hurrying home from work. This was her Bingo night. Suddenly she spotted this fellow standing on the edge of the pavement holding aloft a placard which read: The end of the world is near. She went up to him and said, “You say the end of the world is near.” “That’s right, missus,” he replied. “But are you sure?” “Quite sure, missus.” “And you say it’s near.” “Yes, missus.” ”How near?” “Oh, very near.” “Could you be more precise?” “This very night, Missus.” She paused for a moment to reflect on this. Then in a voice full of anxiety, she asked, “Tell me, son. Will it be before or after Bingo?” (Flor McCarthy in NewSunday and Holy Day Liturgies).
Introduction: Today’s readings give us the assurance that our God will be with us all the days of our lives and that we will have the ongoing presence of the Holy Spirit in our midst guiding, protecting and strengthening us in spite of our necessary human uncertainty concerning the endtime when “Christ will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.” Next Sunday is the Thirty-fourth and last Sunday in our liturgical year when we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King, and the following Sunday marks the beginning of the Advent season with a new Liturgical Cycle. Each year at this time, the Church asks us to mediate on the “last things” – Death, Judgment, Heaven and Hell -- as they apply to us. The readings invite us to focus our attention on the threefold coming of Jesus: 1) His first coming according to the flesh, as Redeemer. 2) His second coming, either at our death, or at the end of time and the world, which will bring our salvation to completion. 3) His coming into our lives each time we step forward in genuine Christian living. The first reading with its vision of the archangel Michael, taken from the prophet Daniel (167 BC), was originally given to comfort and give hope to the Jewish people, persecuted by a cruel pagan king. In the second reading, the author of the letter to the Hebrews consoles believers suffering from “endtime phobia” with the knowledge that Jesus, who sits forever at God’s right hand, is our mediator. By his sacrificial death, he forgave our sins and sanctified us. Today’s Gospel, taken from Mark (69 AD), offered hope to early Christians persecuted by the Roman Emperor Nero, reminding them of Jesus’ words about his glorious return to earth with great power and glory as Judge, to gather and reward his elect. Though Daniel and Mark describe frightful scenes, their accounts also remind their audience that God will ensure that the righteous will survive the ordeal and will find a place with Him. Through the parable of the fig tree, Jesus warns us all to read the “signs of the time,” and reminds us that we must be ever prepared to give an account of our lives to Jesus our Judge, because we can not know “either the day or the hour” of our own death or of his second coming.
The first reading: In the second century BC, the Jews were conquered by the Greeks. The Greek king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes, tried to Hellenize the Jews by imposing Greek norms on them, by forbidding them to practice circumcision, by stripping the Temple of its valuables, by burning the Torah scrolls, by introducing the worship of Greek gods to the Jews and by forcing the Jews to join in the worship of these pagan gods. In this frightening and dangerous time, the Lord God’s prophetic message to Israel through Daniel addressed the needs of the suffering Jewish people, bolstering their morale and promising them the sure and definite intervention of Yahweh, their God of power and glory, even if they faced persecutions and hardship for a short term. Hence, they believed that Yahweh was on the verge of stepping into the world and definitively changing everything (Dan 12: 1-3). This short passage also describes the “great tribulation,” the “resurrection of the dead” and the Divine Judgment with its rewards for the wise and righteous and its punishments for the foolish and wicked. Thus, today’s selection from Daniel introduces the belief in the resurrection of the dead and makes the first mention in the Bible of “everlasting life,” while such a doctrine was almost unprecedented among Jews even in the second century.
Second Reading, Hebrews 10:11-14, 18: The letter to the Hebrews was written for Jewish converts to Christ, in part to help them cope with the loss of the comforts they had enjoyed within the institutions of Judaism and from which they had been excluded by their conversion. The author's intent was to show that Jesus himself had replaced those old institutions and exceeded them. In today's passage, the institutions in question are priesthood and sacrifices. The author asserts that the old, repetitious sacrifices were futile, while the one sacrifice of Jesus makes us perfect forever and wins the forgiveness of sin, rendering further sacrifice unnecessary. Furthermore, Jesus, the new and the only High Priest, has a seat at God's right hand, closer than any other priest has ever come to Him. For Jesus’ sacrifice made possible the forgiveness of sins and the formation of a new relationship between God and humankind.
Exegesis: The context: Mark's Gospel, written some 40 years after Jesus' death, is the simplest, shortest, and oldest of the four Gospels. This week's Gospel text is taken from the thirteenth chapter of Mark, which, together with Matthew 24 and Luke 21, is often called the "Little Apocalypse." Apocalypse literally means unveiling. The whole of Mark’s thirteenth chapter is full of apocalyptic imagery and predictions borrowed from the Old Testament. Verses 24-27 are taken from images appearing in the prophecies of Joel (2:10), Isaiah (13:10and 34:4), Daniel (7:13), Deuteronomy (30:3) and Zechariah (2:10). Jesus skillfully weaves all these various strands into one powerful vision. The Gospel of Mark was written in the year 69 AD, just one year before the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem, at a time when the Romans were suppressing Jewish protests and persecuting Christians. Many Christians began wondering why Jesus did not return as he had promised. Some even wondered whether he had really been the promised Messiah. Hence, Mark tried to strengthen their faith by quoting Jesus’ predictions of the coming persecution of the faithful (13:9-13), the destruction of Jerusalem (13:2, 7-9, 14-20), the rise of the Anti-Christ (13:5-6, 21-23), the end of the world, and Christ’s Second Coming (13:24-26). Mark also offered hope to a persecuted community by reminding the people of Jesus’ promise that wars, natural disasters and betrayal by family members would be overcome when the Son of Man returned to gather in his loved ones.
The glorious coming of the Son of Man: In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about the displacement of celestial bodies at the end of the world, followed by the appearance of the Son of Man in glory to establish the Reign of God. The coming of the Son of Man, "in clouds with great power and glory," echoes a passage in the Daniel. Cosmic disturbances of the sun, moon and stars are images traditionally associated with the manifestations of God's judgment of Israel. Although no time-frame is given in the Gospels for the period between the destruction of Jerusalem and the final coming of Jesus as King and Lord of all, the early Christians believed that Jesus would come in their lifetime, based on their understanding of Jesus’ promise in Mark, "this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place."
Parable of the fig tree and warning for watchfulness: Jesus gives a warning lesson from the fig tree, using stock prophetic expressions well known to his listeners (Ezra 9:3; 13:1; Baruch 27:5-13; Amos 8:9; Joel 2:10, 3:15; Ezekiel 32: 7, 8; Isaiah 27:13, 35; Micah 7:12; Zechariah 10:6-11). The fig tree sprouts its leaves in late spring heralding the summer season. The application of this image to the end of the world suggests that the end of the world will mean good times, or summer, for Jesus’ disciples, because their God will be bringing things to a triumphant end and His Truth, Love and Justice will prevail forever. But we must always be well prepared to face our judgment because we do not know the day nor the hour, either of the ending of the world or of our own call from this life. Hence, true disciples are to watch and wait in a state of readiness. Instead of worrying about the endtime events, we are asked to live every day of our lives in loving God living in others, by our committed service. Thus, we will enter into a deeper relationship with God, which will continue when we pass through death into a different kind of life.
Life messages: 1) Let us recognize the “second coming” of Jesus in our daily lives. Today’s Gospel reminds us of a “coming” of God which we tend to forget, namely, God’s daily coming to us in the ordinary events of our lives. We must learn to recognize and welcome Him in these everyday occurrences – happy, encouraging, painful or disappointing – always remembering that He comes without warning. Let us remember that the Lord is present wherever people treat each other with gentleness, generosity, and thoughtfulness. Hence, let us try to bring Jesus to earth, as Blessed Mother Teresa puts it: “by doing little things to others around us with great love.”
2) Let us take heart and not get frightened: The end of the world should never be thought of as depressing, disheartening or frightening because we are in the hands of a good and loving God. Christ’s second coming gives us the message that God is journeying with us in the trials and difficulties of life and that His word is ever-present as a light of hope. He speaks to us through the Bible. We have the Eucharist as a sign that God is with us, in our midst. Holy Communion is our point of direct, personal contact with God. That is why the holy Mass is special: the more fully and frequently we participate in the Mass, the more deeply the Lord can come to us, and the more completely He can remain with us. Let no one frighten us with disturbing descriptions of the end of the world because “the end” is all about the birth of everyone and everything into eternity.
3) Are we ready to meet our Lord with a clear conscience? Suppose we were to learn today that we had just one year to live - that we would die on November 15, 2016. What changes would we make in our lives? How would we spend our time, talents and wealth? What changes would we make in our priorities? Would we be concerned about the petty quarrels and bickering of life? No! The next twelve months would be the best year of our lives because we would spend our time doing loving, holy and worthwhile things.
4) “Learn the lesson from the fig tree.” Jesus tells us that our personal “endtime” is a prelude to eternal happiness. However, we are all so taken in by our secular culture’s fascination and glamour that we are sometimes embarrassed or saddened by the signs of our own approaching end. We foolishly consider growing old as an evil thing, rather than as a warning from a loving God to prepare to meet Him and to give an account of our lives. Our aches and pains and frequent “doctor’s appointments” in our senior years should remind us of God’s warning that we are growing unfit to live in this world, and that we have to get ready for another world of eternal happiness. Hence, let us take the spirit of the 27th Psalm: “Wait for the Lord. Take courage; be stouthearted