Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to rejoice at the rebirth of Jesus in our lives as we are preparing for our annual Christmas celebration. Today is called Gaudete Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” i.e., “Rejoice in the Lord always.” So, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior into our hearts and lives, we light the rose candle in the Advent wreath, and the priest may wear rose vestments.
Scripture lessons: The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the exiled Jews in Babylon to rejoice because their God is going to liberate them from slavery and lead them safely to their homeland. In the second reading, James the Apostle encourages the early Christians to rejoice and wait with patience for the imminent second coming of Jesus. Finally, in the first part of today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages John the Baptist in prison to rejoice by casting away his wrong expectations about the Messiah and simply accepting Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah. In the second part of today’s Gospel, Matthew presents Jesus, the true Messiah, paying the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets, and giving special credit to the courage of John’s prophetic convictions, asking his listeners to rejoice in the greatness of his herald.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn how to survive a Faith crisis: If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus, the Messiah, had his doubts about Jesus and his teachings, we, too, can have our crises of Faith. On such occasions, let us remember the truth that all our Christian dogmas are based on our trusting Faith in the Divinity of Jesus who taught them, and on his Divine authority which he gave to his Church to teach what he taught. Hence, it is up to us to learn our Faith in depth and so to remove our doubts.
2) “Go and tell others what you hear and see.” We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, deepening in us His gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble and sacrificial service during this Christmas season. Hence, let us joyfully share God’s bountiful grace, forgiveness, and mercy with others. What Jesus commanded John’s disciples, he commands us as well: Go and tell others what you hear and see. This means that we have to share with others our experience of the rebirth of Jesus within us,
3) We need to open our hearts and let God transform our lives: Today’s readings remind us that our lives can also be transformed if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We must prepare our hearts to recognize and welcome Him by allowing a metánoia (a change of thinking about God, ourselves, and the world) to take place in us during Advent.L/16
ADVENT III [A] (12/Dec 11): Is 35:1-6a, 10; Jas 5:7-10; Mt 11: 2-11
Anecdote: # 1: Unfinished Play: Nathaniel Hawthorne was an American writer. When he died in 1864 he had on his desk the outline of a play he never got a chance to finish. The play centered around a person who never appeared on stage. Everyone talked about him. Everyone dreamed about him. Everyone waited for his arrival. But he never came. All kinds of minor characters described him. They told everybody what he would do. But the main character never appeared. –The Old Testament is something like Nathaniel Hawthorne’s play. It too ended without the main character’s putting in an appearance. Everyone talked about the Messiah, everyone awaited his arrival. But he never came in the Old Testament period. In today’s reading, we hear Isaiah describing what the Messiah would do by bringing salvation to all mankind. Today’s Gospel tells us that when the real Messiah came, even the last prophet and the Messiah’s herald, John the Baptist, could not believe that he was the expected Messiah. (Mark Link S. J. in Sunday Homilies)
# 2: Gaudete Sunday smile:A number of years ago, a young college student was working as an intern at his college’s Museum of Natural History. One day while working at the cash register in the gift shop, he saw an elderly couple come in with a little girl in a wheelchair. As he looked more closely at this girl, he saw that she was kind of perched on her chair. The student realized that she had no arms or legs, just a head, neck and torso. She was wearing a little white dress with red polka dots. As the couple wheeled her up to the checkout counter, he turned his head toward the girl and gave her a wink. Meanwhile, he took the money from her grandparents and looked back at the girl, who was giving him the cutest and the largest smile he had ever seen. All of a sudden her handicap was gone, and all that the college student saw was this beautiful girl, whose smile just melted him and almost instantly gave him a completely new sense of what life is all about. She took him from being an unhappy college student and brought him into her world - a world of smiles, love and warmth. With the lighting of the third rose candle of the Advent Wreath among the purple candles and the priest’s wearing the rose vestments, we are reminded that we are called to live with joy in our world of sorrows and pain. (Fr. James Farfaglia)
# 3: "Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”Under a cultural exchange program a rabbi from Russia was visiting with a Christian family in Texas. Since it was Christmas, the family wanted to take him to some of the finest places in Houston, so they all went to a favorite Chinese restaurant. Throughout the meal the rabbi extolled the wonders of America in comparison to the bleak conditions of his homeland. When they had finished eating the waiter brought the check, a fortune cookie, and a small brass Christmas tree ornament as a present for the rabbi. They all laughed when the rabbi pointed out that the ornaments were stamped “made in India.” But the laughter soon subsided when they saw that the rabbi was quietly crying. They all thought that the rabbi must have been offended by receiving a Christmas tree as a gift. But no, he smiled and shook his head and said, “Nyet, I was shedding tears of joy to be in a wonderful country, in a Chinese restaurant in which a Buddhist gives a Jew a Christmas gift made by a Hindu!”
Introduction: The common theme running through today’s readings is one of joy and encouragement. The readings stress the need for patience in those awaiting the rebirth of Jesus in their hearts and lives. They give us a messages of hope—for people almost three millennia ago, for people at the beginning of the first millennium and for people today. Today is called Gaudete Sunday because today’s Mass begins with the opening antiphon: “Gaudete in Domino semper,” i.e., “Rejoice in the Lord always.” Today, to express our joy in the coming of Jesus as our Savior, we light the rose candle, and the priest may wear rose vestments. The prophet Isaiah, in the first reading, encourages the exiled Jews in Babylon to believe that God is going to save them and transform their lives. In the second reading, James the Apostle encourages the early Christians to be patient, “because the coming of the Lord is at hand.” Finally, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus encourages John the Baptist to cast away the popular political expectations about the Messiah and simply to accept his healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Isaiah.
First reading: Is 35:1-6, 10:Isaiah tries to stir up in his exiled brothers and sisters the hope of their return to Israel by assuring them of the saving power of Yahweh in their lives. He reminds them that it was through their disloyalty to God that they had lost their liberty, had been taken as slaves to Babylon and had lived there in servitude for sixty years (598-538 BC). The Jews were finally set free by Cyrus (who had captured Babylon), and were allowed to return to their native land, rebuild the Temple and serve their God once more as His Chosen People. The prophet assures them that God will lead them back to their land in this second exodus (6th century B.C.), as He led their ancestors from Egypt to the Promised Land in the first exodus (13th century BC). He is going to do three things for them. 1) He will transform the wasteland lying between their land of exile and Israel into a new Garden of Eden to facilitate their journey. 2) The weak and the sick will be strengthened for the journey. 3) They will reach their destination singing and crowned with glory. The assurance of this second exodus is chosen for Advent, because both Exodus events foreshadow the coming of the Messiah.
Second reading: James 5:7-10: The expectation of Jesus' imminent return did not last very long in the early Church. Even within Saint Paul's lifetime, that expectation had waned. The Apostles advised the Christians to bear witness to Christ through their heroic lives without waiting for the Parousia in their lifetime. Hence, in the second reading, James encourages the fearful, frustrated and persecuted early Christians to be patient. Like Isaiah, James tries to show his Christian community that what they have been hoping for was already happening. Though he stresses patience and determination, James also reminds them that "the Judge stands at the gate." Just as the prophets believed that what they were proclaiming was already happening, the Christians needed to behave as though the returned risen Jesus were already influencing their lives. James uses the analogy of a farmer who must wait patiently for the ground to yield its fruit. In the same way, we must trust that God is bringing abundance into our lives, although we cannot see it yet. St. James' warning is clear: If anyone among you has hitherto neglected his duties to God, let him listen now to that warning and put his conscience and his life right with God.
Exegesis: Context:Today's Gospel describes how Isaiah's vision of Israel's glorious future is fulfilled unexpectedly by the coming of the promised Messiah and by his healing and preaching mission. But the Jews in general expected a political Messiah who would reestablish the Davidic kingdom after overthrowing the Roman government. Hence, most of them were scandalized by Jesus’ peaceful preaching and shameful death. The disciples of John the Baptist continued to insist that John was indeed the Messiah, and they awaited his return, causing problems to early Christians. Hence, all four Evangelists highlighted John’s important role as the Messiah’s herald but emphasized that John’s was a secondary and subordinate role in salvation history. Matthew, in the second part of today’s Gospel, presents Jesus, the true Messiah, as paying the highest compliments to John the Baptist as his herald and the last of the prophets, and to the courage with which John proclaimed his prophetic convictions.
John’s reasonable doubts.Scripture scholars over the centuries have wondered why John sent his disciples to ask Jesus if he were the one who was to come. There are two possible explanations: 1) John knew that Jesus was the Christ and, as a prisoner, he wanted his disciples to follow Jesus as their new master. So he sent them to ask Jesus this question and presumed that, once they had met Jesus, they would see for themselves that he was the Messiah and so would become followers of Jesus. 2) John began to doubt Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. The silent healing, preaching, saving, and empowering ministry of Jesus was a surprise to John and to those who expected a fire-and-brimstone Messiah. Besides, Jesus had not yet fulfilled John's prediction that the One-to-come would baptize the repentant in the Holy Spirit. Nor did Jesus conform to popular Jewish beliefs about a warrior and a political Messiah who would bring political, social, and economic deliverance to Israel. Instead, Jesus pronounced blessings on the poor in spirit, the meek, and peacemakers (5:1-11). He called his disciples to love their enemies (5:42-48). He warned his disciples not to judge others (7:1-5). For John, these teachings might have seemed to weaken rather than to strengthen the Messiah’s cause. Furthermore, Jesus moved away from Jerusalem, the home of the Temple and the center of religious authority, and began his ministry in Galilee among the common people (4:12). John proclaimed the power of the coming Messiah to bring in a new age, and instead found himself imprisoned in the dungeon of Herod’s prison-fortress at Machaerus, southeast of the Dead Sea. He may have been wondering why the expected Messiah was not setting him free as Isaiah (61:1) had predicted. John may have found sympathetic doubters among his own disciples who might have wondered how the Messiah could leave their own teacher in prison, and how He could usher in the kingdom without political or military might. This may have been why John sent his disciples to dispel his doubt, asking: "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”
Generosity to dispel doubts meets humility to accept correction: Instead of criticizing Jesus or breaking away from him, John approached Jesus through his disciples. The disciples asked Jesus whether he was the one to come or if they should look for another. John may have had his doubts, but he was open to hearing Jesus say that he was, indeed, the one! John must have recognized the Scriptural allusions behind Jesus' answer. Isaiah 29:18 speaks of the deaf hearing and the blind seeing. Isaiah 35:6 speaks of the lame leaping like a deer. Isaiah 26:19 speaks of the dead becoming alive. Isaiah 61:1 speaks of good news for the oppressed, the brokenhearted, captives and prisoners. These were signs of the Messiah's coming. Jesus could have rebuked John for his doubts, but instead offered him a blessing. Jesus had not lived up to John's expectations, but John did not allow that to be a stumbling block (skandalizomia). Soon enough, Jesus would deal with the people of his hometown, who took offense at him (13:57). Complimenting John, Jesus says that John is the fulfillment of Malachi 3:1 ("See, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me"), presenting the Baptist as the end-time messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah.
Life messages: 1) We need to learn how to survive a Faith crisis:From a theological perspective, this entire episode helps us to understand how the experience of a faith crisis can play a role in our spiritual and emotional development. If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus the Messiah, could question, doubt and question his Faith, then so can we. If disillusionment is a necessary precondition for a more resilient faith, then we, too, must be open to its possibilities. In moments of doubt, despair and disillusionment, we are, indeed, in good company. Occasional doubts – even horrifying doubts – are one thing, but doubts that persist in the face of every Biblical remedy demand careful attention. Let us remember the truth that all our Christian dogmas are based on our trust and faith in the Divinity of Jesus Who taught them, and on His Divine authority by which He authorized the Church to teach what He taught. It is up to us to learn our Faith in depth, so that God will be able to dispel our doubts.
2) “Go and tell others what you hear and see.” In medieval times, this day—the Third Sunday of Advent—was called Gaudete Sunday, as an equivalent to LaetareSunday during Lent. As we pray today, we also rejoice that the Lord does not fail to show his power and might. We rejoice at the thought that Jesus is going to be reborn in our lives, deepening in us His gifts of love, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble and sacrificial service during this Christmas season. During this season, let us joyfully share God’s bountiful grace, forgiveness, and mercy with others. What Jesus commanded John’s disciples, he commands us as well: Go and tell others what you hear and see.
3) We need to open ourhearts and let God transform our lives:We, too, should be encouraged by today’s readings. They remind us that our lives can also be transformed, if we are patient and place our trust in God. The message of Advent is that God is present among us, in our everyday lives. We must prepare our hearts to recognize and welcome Him. “If a man is the center of his [own] life, everyone around him becomes hell for him because everyone around him interferes with him and obstructs what he wants to do” (Jean Paul Sartre). Let us believe in our hearts the Gospel message about Jesus given by Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. Will we allow the Holy Spirit, through these Gospel reports, to create a metánoia (a change of thinking about God, ourselves, and the world) in us during Adven
(Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: On the one hand, salvation is God's doing, and we cannot earn His blessings. Today's first reading, from Isaiah, emphasizes that, through his Son, God does all the saving. On the other hand, we must cooperate with God because He cannot force his bounty upon us. That is why John the Baptist in today’s Gospel summons us to play our essential part by leading lives of repentance, conversion, and renewal, thus preparing the way for the Lord's second coming. We start this process by preparing for the celebration of Christmas, the Lord’s first coming.
Scripture lessons: Because of the bad example of the unfaithful successors of King David, the Chosen People are wavering in their loyalty to Yahweh. Hence Isaiah, in the first reading, tries to dispel their fears and stir up hope among his people with God’s promise of a new Davidic King (a son of Jesse), who will establish peace and a glorious Kingdom of justice on earth. In the second reading, Paul is praying for the Jewish Christians of Rome and instructing them to draw endurance and encouragement from the Old Testament books. They are to live in harmony with Gentile Christians, accepting them as equals and brothers and sisters while they wait for the second coming of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptizer urges the Pharisees and Sadducees to give evidence that they mean to reform their lives so as to recognize and accept the promised Messiah. He challenges them to repentance, conversion and renewal. He tells the common people, who expect the Messiah to come in the near future, to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that will occur when the Messiah enters their lives. In the same way, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John advises us to "prepare the way of the Lord.
Life messages: We need to prepare for Christ’s coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives: Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting of our sins and renewing our lives through prayer, penance, and the sharing of our blessings with others. Let us remember the oft-repeated 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?” He means that Jesus must be reborn in our heart during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, radiating his love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and spirit of humble service to the world through our lives.
2) We need to answer the call for a change of life. John the Baptist challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that, while obeying the commandments faithfully, we must correct our relationships with others, mend ruptures and frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly and treat employees justly. Let us share our love with others as selfless and humble service. "Do small things but with great love" advise St. Theresa of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa). Therefore, following John's advice, let us celebrate the memory of Jesus’ first advent, prepare for Jesus’ daily advent into our lives through the Sacraments and the Bible, and wait for his second advent at the end of the world.
ADVENT II [A] (12/4/2016): Is 11:1-10; Rom 15:4-9; Mt 3:1-12 OK!
Anecdotes: #1: Accept divine forgiveness by true repentance: An attempt was made in 1985 by some fans of O. Henry, the short-story writer, to get a pardon for their hero who had been convicted a century before of embezzling $784.08 from the bank where he was employed. But a pardon cannot be given to a dead man. A pardon can only be given to someone who can accept it. Back in 1830 George Wilson was convicted of robbing the U.S. Mail and was sentenced to be hanged. President Andrew Jackson issued a pardon for Wilson, but he refused to accept it. The matter went to Chief Justice Marshall who concluded that Wilson would have to be executed. "A pardon is a slip of paper," wrote Marshall, "the value of which is determined by the acceptance of the person to be pardoned. If it is refused, it is no pardon. Hence, George Wilson must be hanged." For some, the pardon comes too late. For others, the pardon is not accepted. Today’s readings remind us that the Advent is the acceptable time for repentance and the acceptance of God’s pardon and renewal of life.
#2: John’s invitation is to practice the octopus-evangelism of mega-churches as opposed to the sponge evangelism of traditional churches: Most traditional churches are pretty good about sponge evangelism. We soak up visiting folks with warm welcome, ushers offer them seats of their choice, many members greet them with miles of smiles. But octopus-evangelism of mega-churches is something else. It means reaching, stretching, finding, touching, drawing in those who are in need of the love and forgiveness of Jesus Christ and may not have even realized it yet. Mega-churches are growing, not primarily because of their programming or preaching, buildings, video screens or cute, thirty-something pastors. They are growing primarily because members are actively inviting others to join them in worship. Eighty percent of all first-time visitors to a church come because a friend or neighbor invited them. It's the active verb...inviting, reaching, gathering...which makes all the difference. A mega-church is a non-denominational, Bible-centered Christian congregation that draws thousands of people to its weekly services. The phenomenon started about thirty years ago as a way to bring people back to the basics of Christianity - a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. You may have heard of Rick Warren, pastor of a mega-church in southern California whose book, The Purpose-Driven Life, has over 20 million copies in print. You may also have heard of Joel Osteen, author of two national bestsellers, who runs a mega-church in Houston, Texas that attracts 38,000 people to its Sunday services and 200 million households to its television broadcasts. You may even have heard of Bill Hybels [HIGH-bills], the founder of what many consider the first mega-church ever - Willow Creek Community Church, near Chicago, Illinois – that currently has more than 100 ministries operating out of its home base These are just some of the better known mega-church leaders, but mega-churches are springing up throughout North America, and they are even sending missionaries abroad. One little known fact about these mega-churches is that more than 25% of their members are former Catholics whom nobody in their former parishes actively invited to the liturgical celebrations and whom nobody involved in various church ministries. Today’s Gospel presents john the Baptist reaching out and touching the lives of people through his brand of fire-brand-octopus-evangelization.
# 3: The artist’s reconciliation: Leonardo da Vinci painted the fresco (wall painting), "The Last Supper," in Santa Maria delle Grazie church in Milan in three years (1495-1498). A very interesting story is associated with this painting. At the time that Leonardo da Vinci painted "The Last Supper," he had an enemy who was a fellow-painter. Da Vinci had had a bitter argument with this man and despised him. When Da Vinci painted the face of Judas Iscariot at the table with Jesus, he used the face of his enemy so that it would be present for ages as the man who betrayed Jesus. While painting this picture, he took delight in knowing that others would actually notice the face of his enemy on Judas. As he worked on the faces of the other disciples, he often tried to paint the face of Jesus but couldn't make any progress. Da Vinci felt frustrated and confused. In time, he realized what was wrong. His hatred for the other painter was holding him back from finishing the face of Jesus. Only after making peace with his fellow-painter and repainting the face of Judas was he able to paint the face of Jesus and complete his masterpiece. Be reconciled with your fellow human beings, says today's Gospel. (http://www.lifeinitaly.com/art/last-supper.asp)
# 4: Waiting for the Lord to be reborn in our lives: Waiting, an inevitable and even necessary aspect of human life, is not something that most of us relish. We wait in lines: in order to purchase groceries; to be served at popular restaurants; to be assisted in a bank; at stop signs and traffic signals; at amusement parks; to see a play or film. We must also wait for flowers to grow and bloom; for babies to be born; for wounds to heal; for bread to rise and cheese to age; for children to mature; for friends to call; for love to deepen. Statisticians have estimated that in a lifetime of 70 years, the average person spends at least three years waiting! Today’s readings invite us to wait for the rebirth of the Lord in our lives with repentant hearts and renewed lives.
Introduction: On the one hand, salvation is God's doing, and we cannot earn His blessings. Today's first reading, from Isaiah, emphasizes that, through his Son, God does all the saving. On the other hand, we must cooperate with God because He cannot force his bounty upon us. That is why John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel, summons us to play our essential part – leading lives of repentance, conversion and renewal and thus preparing the way for the Lord's second coming. We start this process by preparing for the celebration of Christmas, the Lord’s first coming. All the kings who succeeded David proved to be increasingly unfaithful, bringing eventual defeat and destruction upon the nation. Because of the bad example of their leaders, the Chosen People were wavering in their loyalty to Yahweh. Isaiah, in the first reading, tries to dispel their fears and stir up hope among his people by God’s promise of a new Davidic King (a son of Jesse), who will establish peace and a glorious Kingdom of justice on earth. His kingdom will be a return to the time of peace before sin entered the world. In the second reading, Paul is praying for the Jewish Christians of Rome and instructing them to draw endurance and encouragement from the Old Testament books. They are to live in harmony with Gentile Christians, accepting them as equals -- brothers and sisters -- while they wait for the second coming of Jesus. In today’s Gospel, John the Baptizer urges the Pharisees and Sadducees to give evidence that they mean to reform their lives so as to recognize and accept the promised Messiah. He challenges them to repentance, conversion and renewal. He tells the common people, who are filled with expectation that the Messiah will come soon, to act with justice and charity, letting their lives reflect the transformation that will occur when the Messiah enters their lives. In the same way, as we prepare to welcome Christ at Christmas, John advises us to "prepare the way of the Lord."
First reading: Is 10: 1-11: Explaining how God will respond to the sincere conversion of his people, Isaiah reports three oracles concerning a future king. The first two oracles (Isaiah 7:10-17, 9:1-6), were probably delivered to King Ahaz. This prophecy may have had an initial fulfillment in the days after it was first given, in Isaiah’s time. If so then, like many prophecies, it has another, greater fulfillment, which is in the Messiah. Today’s reading gives the third oracle as a prediction of the first coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Isaiah prophesies that the Spirit of God with His sevenfold gifts of wisdom, understanding, counsel, fortitude, knowledge, piety and fear of the Lord will appear in the promised Messiah. God Who called Abraham will fulfill His word by sending to them a king who will rule with wisdom and justice, and will have the true spirit of the Lord. The reading also portrays this Messianic Kingdom as a return to the perfect harmony of Paradise. The Spirit will enable men to create a world in which “the wolf shall be the guest of the lamb, and a leopard shall lie down with the young goat.” These prophecies are fulfilled, in an anticipatory way, with the first advent of the Messiah and the spread of the Christian Faith, and they will be definitively fulfilled with the Second Advent and the eternal order. The message for us is that, if we allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives, we will be able to live in peace and harmony even with those who threaten and disturb our lives. There can be no true love of neighbor or true respect for his rights where there is no love for God. Hence, we must strive to give God his rightful place in our daily lives and to follow the path that leads to justice and peace on earth.
Second reading: Rom 15:4-9: Perhaps this reading is in the Lectionary today because it recommends patience, and this is the season of patient waiting for the Lord to come. It also contains a very seasonal statement about why the Lord came: to fulfill God's promise to the Jews and to extend mercy to the Gentiles. Paul reminds the newly-converted Roman Christians, many of whom are Jews, that the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament are still a source of instruction, encouragement, and hope. The sacred Scriptures are useless unless they are employed to control the Christian's relations with others (Rom 15:4-9). Hence, Paul advises the Judeo-Christians and Gentile Christians of Rome to “live in harmony with one another according to the Spirit of Christ Jesus,” by being less judgmental and more understanding and benevolent. Paul also reminds the Romans that Jesus came to fulfill God's promise to the Jews and to extend mercy to the Gentiles. Hence, he encourages the Roman Christians to “accept one another” as Jesus Christ has accepted them. This reading reminds us to wait patiently for the coming of the Lord during this Advent season and shows us how to live as we do so.
Exegesis: A prophet on fire with a fiery message: While only two Gospels mention the nativity, all four Gospels introduce Jesus with an account of John the Baptist's ministry (Mark 1:1-11; Luke 3:1-22; John 1:6-9). Matthew puts slightly greater emphasis on John's words than on his action of baptizing. He records a direct quote from John’s preaching: "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near." There had been no prophet in Israel for four hundred years. But the people had no hesitation in accepting John as a prophet because he was like a burning torch summoning men to righteousness, a signpost to point men to God, and he had the authority of a man of God. He wore garments of coarse camel hair and a leather belt like the prophets that we read about in Zechariah 13:4 and 2 Kings 1:8. He ate what was available in the rocky desert -- wild honey and roasted grasshoppers – which was permissible according to Leviticus 11. The Jews expected Elijah to return prior to the coming of the Messiah (Mal 4:5). John's clothing of camel's hair and leather belt (2 Kings 1:8)) identified him as the fulfillment of that prophecy, and Jesus Himself affirmed John’s role when he said, "I tell you that Elijah has already come (Mt. 17:12)."
Call to repentance: John's message was not soothing. It cut into the very hearts of men. John denounced evil wherever he found it. He accused Herod of living a loose moral life (14:4), addressed the Scribes and the Pharisees as "brood of vipers" and summoned people to righteousness. His message was "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near" (v. 2), words which Jesus later used to begin his own preaching (4:17), and similar to those the disciples would proclaim (10:7). John justified his call to repentance by announcing that the Kingdom of Heaven was near and that the way to prepare for that day was to repent. Literally, the Greek word for repentance (teshuvá in Hebrew and metánoia) in Greek), means, "to change one's mind and heart," a change of direction or a U-turn. Repentance involves turning around – facing in a new direction -- with a change of heart and a new commitment. Repentance is a daily experience that renews our Baptism. “The repentant person comes before God saying, 'I can't do it myself, God. Kill me and give me new life. You buried me in Baptism. Bury me again today. Raise me to a new life.'" Repentance for us is not a one-time action but must take place daily, because preparing for the Lord is a perpetual task.
John’s baptism as the expression of repentance: John’s baptism by water was only an external expression of repentance. What he insisted on was repentance that bore real fruit: a turning from worldly values combined with generosity and love. As a sign of true repentance, John urged the tax collectors to "stop collecting more than what is prescribed," and told the soldiers to “stop extortion and false accusation and remain satisfied with their wages.” In short, John’s message was a call for radical conversion, a demand for self-denial, sacrifice and loving service to others. We may have to put an ax to the roots of the resentments and biases in our hearts. We may have to winnow out our greed and overindulgence, and we may have to burn the chaff of our impatience. Even though John’s preaching was characterized by scathing criticism, his call for reform was described in Luke’s Gospel as "the Good News" because the arrival of the Messiah would initiate a new reign of forgiveness, healing and salvation.
John’s conditions for belonging to the Kingdom of Heaven: The coming Kingdom was John’s main theme. While the Gentile convert, Mark, uses the words “Kingdom of God," Matthew follows the Jewish tradition of avoiding the use of God’s name by using the expression "Kingdom of Heaven.” The Kingdom of God is a God-centered, God-controlled life. John wanted people to experience such a life. Everyone who wants to experience this “reign of God" needs to make a radical change in his or her life. That is the call for repentance. We cannot come under the sovereign rule of God without a change of attitude, a change of heart and a change of lifestyle. John not only denounced men for what they had done, he summoned them to what they ought to do. That is why Matthew emphasized the new life of proper fruit-bearing more than the forgiveness of sins. Bearing good fruit is not just doing good things but also doing them for the right reason.
Life messages: 1) We need to prepare for Christ’s coming by allowing him to be reborn daily in our lives: Advent is the time for us to make this preparation by repenting of our sins, and renewing our lives through prayer, penance, and sharing our blessings with others. Let us remember the oft-repeated 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?" He means that Jesus must be reborn in our heart, during this season of Advent, and every day of our lives, bringing us love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and the spirit of humble service.
2) We need to accept John’s call for a change of life. John the Baptist, the stern and uncompromising preacher, challenges our superficial attempts at change, demanding that we take a deeper look. Obeying the commandments is a good start, but we must also examine our relationships with others. We must mend ruptures and frictions, face family responsibilities, work honestly, and treat employees justly. Start where you are, John says. Our domestic and social lives must be put in order. John's voice is sober and runs counter to the intoxicating voices around us today. He calls for rectitude and social consciousness. We must abandon our selfish thirst for consumption and, instead, be filled with the expectation of Jesus' coming. Therefore, following John's advice, let us celebrate the memory of this first advent, prepare for Jesus’ new advent in our lives, and wait for his second advent at the end of the world.
3) We need to wait prayerfully for the second advent of Jesus. John’s answer as to how the Jews should wait for the Messiah was that they should wait for the Lord with repentant hearts and reformed lives. We can start by praying from the heart. Let us remember that the Holy Mass is the most powerful of prayers because it transforms us into Eucharistic people, providing the living presence of Jesus in our hearts and his divine life in our souls. Conversion is through Jesus whom we encounter, mainly, through the Holy Scripture and the Sacraments. The Word and the Sacraments are the principal means God uses to give life to men's souls. Daily reconciliation with God as we ask and receive His pardon for our daily sins and make our monthly sacramental confession make us strong and enable us to receive more grace in the Eucharist. Let us read the Bible, pray the Rosary daily and fast once a week all year-round, rather than just during Advent and Lent. After all, we sin all year-round, so let us fast also all year-round by controlling our senses. We could take some time before Mass to adore Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and we should practice forgiving those who offend us. Finally, let us share our love with others as selfless and humble service. "Do small things but with great love,” advise St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa).
Introduction: Today we begin our yearly pilgrimage through the events of our history of salvation starting with the preparation for the birthday celebration of Jesus and ending with the reflection on his glorious “second coming” as judge at the end of the world. We are entering the Advent season. Advent means coming. We are invited to mediate on Jesus’ first coming in history as a baby in Bethlehem, his daily coming into our lives in mystery through the Sacraments, through the Bible and through the worshipping community and finally his Second Coming at the end of the world to reward the just and to punish the wicked. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments and hangings, dried flowers on the altar, and the Advent wreath. These signs remind us that we have to prepare for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives, enabling him to radiate his love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness around us.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah describes his vision of all nations making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, affirming their Faith in the one true God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 122), is a joyous hymn originally sung as pilgrims journeyed to the Temple in Jerusalem. They prepare us for our yearly pilgrimage.
In the second readingPaul exhorts the Roman Christian community to get ready to meet Jesus in his Second Coming by discharging their duties properly and by freeing themselves from their former pagan tendencies toward excessive drinking, sexual promiscuity, jealousy and rivalry. We, too, are challenged to make spiritual preparations for Christ’s birth in our lives.
In today’s Gospel Jesus warns us of the urgency of vigilant preparation on our part that we may meet him as the judge both at the end of our lives on earth and on the day of the Last Judgment when he comes in his glory. Jesus reminds us of how the unrepentant and ill-prepared evil people were destroyed by the flood in the time of Noah and how a thief would break in and plunder the precious belongings of an ill-prepared house owner. Using the additional examples later, Jesus repeats his warning for us to be vigilant and well-prepared all the time, doing the will of God by loving others.
Life message:We need to be alert and watchful while spiritually preparing for Christmas by offering our daily work to God for His glory, by practicing more self-control in resisting our evil habits and inclinations, by seeking reconciliation daily with God and our fellow-humans, and by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness and extending our unconditional forgiveness to those who have hurt us. Let us begin each day by praying for the strength and power of the Holy Spirit to prepare ourselves for Jesus’ rebirth in our hearts and lives.
I ADVENT [A] (Nov 27) Is 2:1-5; Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44
Anecdote# 1: Unheeded warning: Early Sunday morning, June 30, 1974, a hundred young people were dancing to the soul-rock music at Gulliver’s in Port Chester, on the border between New York and Connecticut. Suddenly the place was filled with flames and smoke. In a few minutes 24 were dead, burnt by fire, suffocated by smoke, and crushed in the exit passage by the escaping youngsters. According to the Mayor of Port Chester, the dancing crowd ignored the repeated and frantic warnings given by the band manager when he noticed the smoke. Today’s second reading passes on to us the warnings given by St. Paul, and today’s Gospel gives the warning to be vigilant and prepared given by Jesus.
#2: Doomsday paranoia: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 was in 1978 that the media flashed the shocking news of the mass suicide of 914 men and women from the U.S.A. They belonged to a doomsday cult called the Peoples Temple, in Jonestown, Guyana and they committed suicide at the command of their paranoid leader, Rev. Warren (Jim) Jones. In 1988 Edgar Whisenant, a NASA engineer, used his mathematical skills to set a date for the return of Jesus. He wrote a book called, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Take Place in 1988. In the same year Rev. Colin Deal published a book titled Christ Returns By 1988 – 101 Reasons Why.A very popular book in 1989 was 89 Reasons Why the World will End in 1989.It was in 1995 that the landmark apocalyptic thriller novel, Left Behind, first ofa series of 16 books byTim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins (Left Behind, Tribulation Force, Nicolae, Soul Harvest, Apollyon, Assassins, The Indwelling, The Mark, Desecration, The Remnant, Armageddon, and Glorious Appearing + 4 new ones) began hitting Christian bookstores. Since then, over 62 million copies of the Left Behind series and its related books have been sold, generating $650 million. In October, 2005 a big-budget film, Left Behind, based on this novel series, was released and shown in all Evangelical Christian parishes. 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 involves a portrayal of the rapture, when “born again” and "saved" Christians, both alive and dead, are supposed to fly up in the air to meet Jesus on his Second Coming. Omega Code was rated in the top 10 grossing movies for October 1999.This is how modern man reacts to the end of the world. Today’s readings remind us that we should be well prepared and always ready to meet Jesus at all times, either at the end of our lives or at the end of the world, whichever comes first, without getting panicky.
Introduction:The readings in the early Sundays of Advent always carry forward the "end of the world" theme from the last Sundays of the previous year, the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time and the Feast of Christ the King, the 34th and final Sunday of the Liturgical year. This links each ending year with the one following it. Today is the first Sunday of Advent, the “Sunday of Hope” in God and His Son, Jesus Christ, through whom God has promised to save and redeem His people. Today we begin our yearly re-enactment of the drama of our salvation, starting with the mystery of the Incarnation (Christmas) and culminating in the celebration of Christ’s ultimate victory (Christ the King). It is our yearly pilgrimage through the scenes and events of our history of salvation. Advent is a time for looking both backward and forward. We look backward as we prepare to celebrate the historical birth of Jesus. At the same time, we look forward to hisSecond Coming, as we prepare ourselves to welcome him into all areas of our lives during the Advent season. In the Eucharistic Acclamation we profess our faith in Jesus’ Second Coming: "We proclaim Your Death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection until You come again"; and in the Creed we proclaim our belief that “He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.” One Bible scholar has estimated that there are 1,845 references to Christ’s second coming in the Old Testament and 318 references in the New Testament. We see the traditional signs of Advent in our Church: violet vestments and hangings, dried flowers on the altar, and the Advent wreath. We light a candle on this wreath each Sunday until all four are lit. These signs remind us that we are waiting for the rebirth of Jesus in our hearts and lives in love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness.
In the first reading, Isaiah (2:1-5) reports his vision of all nations gathering on Mount Zion, as described also by Micah (4: 1-3), using the image of pilgrimage.The prophet looks forward to the time when the Covenant between God and His people will be extended to all people, and the Temple in Jerusalem will be the worshipping place for all mankind, so that all may live in peace and harmony with God and their fellow-humans. In the late eighth century BC, God's people were already divided into a northern kingdom called Israel, and a southern kingdom known as Judah. Israel had fallen under Assyrian rule, while Judah and its capital Jerusalem were in danger of being conquered by Babylon. In the vision of Isaiah, however, Judah is shown as the place to which all nations will come for “instructions in righteous living.” (Zion in Jerusalem was the holy mountain where Solomon's Temple had stood). The result will be universal peace. The Lord will mediate all disputes among nations, and "they shall beat their swords into plowshares." The prophet reveals to his audience the radical notion that God might love other nations in addition to Judah.The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 122) is a joyous hymn originally meant to be sung as pilgrims journeyed to Jerusalem, the site of the Temple, the dwelling place of God on earth. As we sing the Psalm today, it invites us to look longingly toward Christmas, the feast that celebrates the Incarnation of God among us.
The second reading (Romans 13:11-14) is Paul’s exhortation to the Roman Christians showing them how to bring about Isaiah’s vision of peace. Because of its concentration on the Parousia,or the Second Coming of Jesus, the Christian community was neglecting its actual day-to-day duties. The Jewish Christians among them lived according to the Law of Moses, a moral code which even pagans admired. But the Gentile Christians were not yet fully free from the “orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity and lust” of their pagan days. Hence, Paul advises them: “Conduct yourselves properly.” He warns them against “orgies and drunkenness...promiscuity and lust.” He condemns their “rivalry and jealousy” and advises them to get ready to meet Jesus at his Second Coming. Paul believes that Jesus' Second Coming will be a day of salvation only for those who are already acting in a proper manner. We, too, must act as pilgrims, entering wholeheartedly into our yearly pilgrimage through salvation history, leaving behind whatever might hinder our progress, and accepting whatever hardships our journey might entail.
Exegesis:The context:Matthew’s audience was mostly made up of Jewish converts to Christianity. These Christians were ridiculed and ostracized by their Jewish friends who had not accepted Christ as the Messiah, and they wondered why some Jews were selected to become Christians and others not. To clear their doubts, Matthew quotes Jesus in today’s Gospel, suggesting the apparently arbitrary nature of the election on the last day. Just as at the time of the Deluge, Noah and his small family were spared while others perished, so shall it be at "the end." The emphasis on the unpredictability of election may have helped Matthew's Jewish Christian audience to deal with the fact that many of their fellow-Christians were recently despised Gentiles. This apocalyptic section of Matthew’s Gospel begins with Jesus' prediction of the destruction of the Temple, and goes on to Christ's Second Coming, and the signs preceding both. Jesus answers the disciples by giving them signs of the end of the age (24:3-8), foretelling persecutions (24:9-14), and recalling the sacrilege prophesied by Daniel (24:15-28). Jesus also tells the Parable of the Barren Fig Tree (24:32-35), in which he warns his disciples to be alert and prepared.
The need for preparedness: The consistent warning in today’s Gospel text is that we should be prepared for the coming of the master. Our text indicates that the end will seem to be a peaceful and normal time, with people eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, and working in their homes or businesses. In this routine normal life, it might be easy to forget the "coming of the Son of Man." In a reference to the story of Noah, Jesus says that the sin of the people was placing too much emphasis on the normal cares and necessities of life. They were too concerned with eating and drinking – just as we are during the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's holidays. Jesus reminds us that there is something more important than feasts or weddings: the Son of Man will come to us unexpectedly, either at our death or at the end of the world, and that could be at any moment. Since God will show up without an appointment, we must be prepared at all times.
The “Rapture.” The reading from Romans contains a disputed reference to the so-called "rapture," an event in which, it is supposed, some people will be taken up from life on earth directly into the air to meet the returning Christ. This concept of “dispensationalism," proposed by Rev. Nelson Darby an Irish Anglican lawyer -pastor in A.D. 1800, is a misinterpretation, however. The belief in the Rapture is rooted in the fourth and fifth chapters of 1 Thessalonians, which are placed into an elaborate chronology of "end-time" events based on other passages from Revelation, Daniel, and Matthew 24. In this scheme, the Rapture was called the "day of the Lord" which would come like “a thief in the night" (1 Thess. 5:2). After this secret removal of believers would come the rise of the Antichrist and the placement of the "Mark of the Beast" on his followers during seven years of Tribulation. At the end of those seven years, the second coming of Christ and Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil, would take place. The passage in Matthew (24:40-41), does, indeed, talk about some people being "taken" and some being "left behind,” but the word for "taken" (paralambanomai) means, not "to go up" but rather "to go along with.” It isn't a magical word about the “born again and saved” people floating up in the air as many of our Protestant brothers believe. It is much more like Jesus' words to the apostles by the Sea of Galilee: “follow me” or “come along with me."
We need to be alert even while we work: The man working in the field and the woman working at the mill will be “left", because they won’t leave their work. True enough – work is important. We need to provide food and shelter for ourselves and our families. But there is something more important than our work: the coming of the Son of Man. God will arrive unexpectedly. We don't know when a thief might break into our house, so we are prepared for him at all times. We lock our doors and windows. We leave a light on when we're gone. We put in an alarm system. We insure our possessions. We do these things now because a thief could come at some unknown time. Hence, even during this busy Christmas season we must keep our daily life centered on Christ.
How do we prepare for the unexpected coming of the Son of Man? In Jesus’ parable, we have an example of the proper and improper methods of waiting. The faithful slave who, with sincerity and good management, has faithfully carried out his master's instructions to ensure the welfare of his fellow-slaves (20:26-27), is always ready for his master's coming. In contrast, the wicked servant is primarily concerned with power, food and drink. The master is the image for Jesus. To be prepared for his coming (Matt. 24:3, 36-43), we must be obedient to the Divine will, which means that our actions must serve the community. The question we might ask is: "Am I being faithful and wise in caring for others while waiting for Christ's return?" The text reminds us that our preparation for the Incarnation of our Lord is only one aspect of our Advent preparation, and not necessarily the most important. Let us remind ourselves of our need to be prepared for our Lord’s return in judgment without "doomsday paranoia" on the one hand or complacency on the other.
Life messages: 1) An Advent project: How to be alert and watchful in the spirit of today’s Gospel. Every morning when we get up, let us pray, “Lord, show me someone today with whom I may share your love, mercy and forgiveness.” St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa), once said, "Whatever you do in your family, for your children, for your husband, for your wife, you do for Jesus." Every night when we go to bed, let us ask ourselves, “Where have I found Christ today?” The answer will be God’s Advent gift to us that day. By being alert and watchful, we’ll be getting an extra gift: Christ himself. There is a saying about being saved which goes back to St. Thomas Aquinas: "Without God, I can't. Without me, He won't."
2) We need to be wakeful and watchful: We are so future-oriented that we frequently forget the present entirely. We spend too much time trying to protect ourselves against future misfortunes. We save for a rainy day, to get married, to buy a home, to send the children to college, to retire in comfort and to protect ourselves against future misfortunes with varieties of insurance. But we need to be more spiritually wakeful to prepare for our eternal life. Let us make this Advent season the time of such preparation.
(Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (Stjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction: It was Pope Pius XI who brought the Feast of Christ the King into the liturgy in 1925 in order to bring Christ, his rule and Christian values back into lives of Christians, into society and into politics. The Feast was also a reminder to the totalitarian governments of Mussolini, Hitler and Stalin that Jesus Christ is the only Sovereign King. Although Emperors and Kings now exist mostly in history books, we still honor Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning Him in our hearts and allowing Him to take control of our lives. This feast challenges us to see Christ the King in everyone, especially those whom our society considers the least important, and to treat each person with love, mercy and compassion as Jesus did.
Scripture lessons: Since the New Testament identifies Christ the King as the Son of David, the first reading recalls the story of David's anointing as King of Israel. In the second reading, St. Paul asserts that, as the Image of the invisible God, Christ the King is superior to the prominent groups of angels like "Thrones, Dominations, Principalities or Powers.” Describing the crucifixion scene, today’s Gospel teaches that Christ became the King of our hearts and lives by His suffering, death and Resurrection. In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, the Christ, the Messiah, is represented as a King. The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long-awaited King of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk 1:32-33, 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.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews”? Jesus made this answer, “You say I am a King. For this I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to My Voice” (Jn 18:37)
Life messages: 1) We need to recognize and appreciate Christ’s presence within us and surrender our lives to Christ’s rule: Since Christ, our King, lives in our hearts with the Holy Spirit and His Heavenly Father and fills our souls with His grace, we need to learn to live in His Holy Presence and do God's will by sharing His forgiving love with others around us. Being aware of His presence in the Bible, in the Sacraments and in the worshipping community we need to listen and talk to Him.
2) We need to learn to be servers: Since Christ was a serving King we are invited to be His loyal citizens by rendering humble service to others and by sharing Christ’s mercy and forgiveness with others.
3) We need to use our authority to support the rule of Jesus. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the public or the private realms to use it for Jesus by bearing witness to Him by the way we live. Parents are expected to use their God-given authority to train their children in Christian ideals and in the ways of committed Christian living.
4) 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,” (John 13:34), 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.
OT 34 [C] (Nov 20) CHRIST THE KING: II Sam 5:1-3; Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43
Anecdote: 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!" 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)On His Majesty’s Service: Polycarp, the fifth century bishop of Smyrna, was arrested and brought before the Roman authorities. He was told if he cursed Christ, 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."
3) The King of Kings is a silent film directed by Cecil B. De Mille in 1927. It is a religious movie about the last weeks of Jesus on earth, with H. B. Warner starring as Jesus. It was a production acclaimed by world-famed scholars, the press and the public in the U. S. and abroad, as the most ambitious presentation of the final years of the life of Jesus ever pictured on the screen. It was seen by over a billion people all over the world. De Mille claimed that the most important tribute to the movie he had ever received came from a woman who had only a few days to live. Her nurse wheeled her to a hall in the hospital to see the movie. After viewing the whole movie she wrote to the producer DeMille: “Thank you sir, thank you for your King of Kings. It has changed my expected death from a terror to a glorious anticipation.” She shared the feelings of the good thief who heard the promise of Jesus: “Today you will be with me in paradise.” Both of them were suffering, both expected death and both received new hope from the dying King of kings for only He could give them what He promised because He was God, the King of kings and Lord of all. Today, as we celebrate the feast of Jesus, the King of kings, and as we re-enact His Calvary sacrifice on our altar, let us approach Him with repentant hearts and trusting Faith in His promise of eternal life.
4) "Honey, take a long, long look": As the body of Abraham Lincoln’s body lay in state for a few hours in Cleveland, Ohio, for mourners to pay their tribute, a black woman in the long queue lifted up her little son and said in a hushed voice: “Honey, take a long, long look. He died for us, to give us freedom from slavery.” Today’s Gospel gives us the same advice, presenting the crucifixion scene of Christ our King Who redeemed us from Satan’s slavery by His death on the cross.
Introduction:The Franciscan Order, following the lead of its great thirteenth century theologians St. Bonaventure and Blessed Duns Scotus, was instrumental in establishing the Feast of Christ the King and extending the celebration to the universal Church. It was Pope Pius XI who brought this feast into the liturgy in 1925, because the people of the day had “thrust Jesus Christ and his holy law out of their lives,” believing “these had no place in public affairs or in politics.” Although Emperors and Kings now exist mostly in history books, we still honor Christ as the King of the Universe by enthroning him in our hearts and allowing him to take control of our lives. When we accept Jesus as the King of our lives, then everyone and everything else falls into its proper place. We are also challenged to find Christ the King in everyone around us. As loyal subjects of Christ the King, we are invited to treat others with justice and compassion as Jesus did, especially those whom we consider the least important.
First reading: II Sm 5:1-3:recalls the story of David's anointing as King of Israel. David was seen in the Old Testament as a type, a representation, of the future Messianic King (2 Sm 7:16, Is 9:6-7, Jer 23:5). Jesus is often identified as the Son of David, as the Messiah and as the Shepherd of God’s people. King David's successful 40-year reign became the model for the hoped-for Messiah (that is, the Anointed One, or the Christ), in later Judaism. Saul, the first King of Israel, learned from the Lord God through the prophet Samuel that the kingship would not remain in his family because he had disobeyed the laws of God. David was chosen by God to replace Saul and was anointed secretly by Samuel in Bethlehem. Having had to flee from Saul, David settled in Hebron. Accepted by the tribe of Judah, he reigned there as King of Judah for seven years. The first reading tells us how, on the death of Saul, the northern tribes came to David in Hebron and anointed him King over all of Israel. David's reign lasted a mere forty years, but Christ's reign is eternal. David was a mere man, sinful but repentant. Christ was True God and True Man, sinless and All-perfect. Christ died on the cross to free all men from their sins.
Second reading: Col 1:12-20: Among the early Christians at Colossae, there were people promoting a detailed belief in angels and their mediating role in our relationship with God. Paul, neither affirming nor denying the existence of these "Thrones, Dominations, Principalities or Powers," simply states that Christ is superior to the whole lot. St. Paul tells the Colossians how grateful they should be to God for having made them Christians and citizens of Christ’s kingdom. The Apostle then describes Who and What their new Sovereign is: true God and true Man, the true Image of the invisible God and, at the same time, the perfect exemplar of true humanity. As God’s beloved Son, our King has direct and immediate access to God. As the Image of the invisible God, Jesus, our King, is the embodiment of Divine Sovereignty. As the firstborn of creation, He is the promise of all the good things that will follow. As risen Lord, He is the Head of the Church and the promise of our own resurrection. This portion of St. Paul's Epistle is aptly chosen for this great Feast of the Kingship of Christ, for it reminds us of how blessed, how fortunate we are to be Christians, citizens of His Kingdom on earth, with a promise of perpetual citizenship in His Heavenly Kingdom if we remain faithful to Him, because “in Him all things hold together.”
Gospel: Today’s Gospel presents Christ the King as reigning, not from a throne, but from the gibbet of the cross.Like the “suffering servant” of Isaiah (53:3), He is despised and rejected, as the bystanders ridicule the crucified King, challenging Him to prove His Kingship by coming down from the cross. The Gospel also tells of the criminal crucified beside Jesus who recognized Him as a Savior King and asked Jesus to remember him when Jesus entered His kingdom. Jesus promised the good thief that he would be with Him that day in Paradise.Tradition remembers the criminal on Jesus’ right side as “the good thief” who repented of his sins at the last moment, though Mark and Matthew call him a “revolutionary.” Although the Romans intended the inscription on the cross, “This is the King of the Jews,” to be ironic, it reflected the popular Jewish speculations about Jesus’ possible identity as the Messiah of Israel. For Luke and other early Christians that title was correct, since the Kingship of Jesus was made manifest most perfectly in his suffering and death on the cross, followed by His Resurrection on the third day, as He had foretold.
Exegesis: Kingship of Jesus the Messiah in the Bible.In most of the Messianic prophecies given in the Old Testament books of Samuel, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah, Christ the Messiah is represented as a King. Seven hundred years before the birth of Jesus, the Prophet Micah announced His coming as King. "But you, O Bethlehem Ephrata, who are little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from of old, from ancient days"(Micah 5:1). Daniel presents "one coming like a son of man ... to him was given dominion and glory and kingship that all peoples, nations and languages should serve him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that shall not pass away and his kingship is one that shall never be destroyed" (Daniel 7: 13-14).
The New Testament tells us that Jesus is the long awaited king of the Jews. In the Annunciation, recorded in Lk.1:32-33, 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.” 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.” During the royal reception given to Jesus on Palm Sunday, the Jews shouted: (Lk 19:38) “Blessed is the King, who comes in the name of the Lord.” When Pilate asked the question: (Jn 18:33) “Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus, in the course of their conversation, made his assertion, “You say that I am a King. For this was I born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the Truth. Everyone who belongs to the Truth listens to My Voice” (John 18:37). That Truth, as we know, is that He is God and Sovereign King of all creation. Today’s Gospel tells us that the board hung over Jesus’ head on the cross read: “Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews,” (Lk 23:36; see also, Mt 27:37; Mk 15:26; John 19:19-20), and that, to the repentant thief on the cross who made the request: “Jesus, remember me when you come into your Kingdom,” Jesus promised Paradise with Him that very day. (Luke 19:39-43). Before His Ascension into Heaven, the Risen Jesus declared: (Mt. 28:18) “I have been given all authority in Heaven and on earth.”
A unique King with a unique Kingdom: Jesus Christ still lives as King, in thousands of human hearts all over the world. The cross is his throne and the Sermon on the Mount is his rule of law. His citizens need obey only one law: “Love others as I have loved you" (John 15:12). His love is selfless, sacrificial, kind, compassionate, forgiving and unconditional. That is why the preface in today’s Mass describes Jesus’ Kingdom as "a Kingdom of truth and life, a Kingdom of holiness and grace, a Kingdom of justice, love and peace." He is a King with a saving and liberating mission: to free mankind from all types of bondage so that we may live peacefully and happily on earth and inherit Eternal Life in Heaven. His rule consists in seeking the lost, offering salvation to those who call out to him and making friends of enemies.
The Kingdom of God is the central teaching of Jesus throughout the Gospels. The word Kingdom appears more than any other word throughout the four Gospels. Jesus begins His public ministry by preaching the Kingdom. "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the Gospel" (Mark 1:14).In Christ's Kingdom, “we are all a royal priesthood, a holy nation” (1 Pt 2:9; see also Ex 19:6; Is 61:6). According to the teachings of the New Testament, the “Kingdom of God” is a three-dimensional reality: the life of grace within every individual who does the will of God, the Church here on earth, and Eternal Life in Heaven. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains that the Church is the Kingdom of Christ already present in mystery. It is the mission of the Church to proclaim and establish the Kingdom of Christ in human souls. This mission takes place between the first coming and the second coming of Christ. The Church helps us to establish Christ’s Kingdom in our hearts, thus allowing us to participate in God's inner life. We are elevated and transformed through sanctifying grace. This supernatural life of grace comes to fulfillment in the eternal life of Heaven (CCC #758-780).
Life messages:1)We need to surrender ourlives to Christ’s rule:SinceChrist, our King, lives in our hearts with the Holy Spirit and His Heavenly Father and fills our souls with His grace, we need to learn to live in His Holy Presence, doing His will by sharing His forgiving love with others around us. We need to be constantly aware of His Presence in the Bible, in the Sacraments and in the worshipping community.
2) We need to fight against the enemies of Christ’s Kingdom: Terrorism has affected the entire world, including Christ’s kingdom on earth. These terrorists are people who slaughter the unborn; engage in a frontal attack on the modern family through provocative television shows, movies, music and pornography; eradicate any recognition of God from public display and public schools; they include those priests and the religious who abuse children. Hence, Jesus, the King, needs convinced apostles prepared and ready to fight against these enemies, first by prayer, then by accepting willingly the sufferings that come our way and offering them to God with Jesus, our King, in reparation for our sins and the sins of the world, and finally by living lives of loving humble service, using our gifts generously for all. The battlefield is the home, the school, the place of employment, the neighborhood, and the parish. These provide new and exciting challenges, new opportunities for us to do, ourselves, what is right and to live out the Truth of Jesus Christ our King, neither compromising with sin nor passing judgment on the motives or guilt of any of our brothers and sisters, but loving and praying for all of us. To ensure that Jesus is always the King of our hearts, we need to make a great commitment to Him and to back that commitment with the necessary sacrifices, conviction, hard work and daily, serious prayer.
3) We need to use what authority we have been given to pass on Jesus’ message. This feast is an invitation to all those who have power or authority in the government, public offices, educational institutions and in the family to use it for Jesus. Are we using our God-given authority so as to serve others with love and compassion as Jesus did? Are we using it to build a more just society rather than to boost our own egos? Are parents using their God-given authority to train their children in Christian ideals and committed Christian living?
4) We need to make Christ the King of our Personal, Familial Social and Cultural life: Personal: By allowing Him to be King and center of our heart through prayer, receiving the Sacraments and freely entering a personal relationship with Him; Familial: By creating a proper rule and servant-leadership in the family – let us have a "king," a "queen," "prince" and "princesses" in our home; Social: By not divorcing ourselves from the state, from legislation and from affecting the social order; and Cultural: By bringing Christ and His Beauty and Radiance into the living traditions of our community. (Fr. Lombardi).
The Solemnity of Christ the King is not just the conclusion of the Church year. It is also a summary of our lives as Christians.On this great Feast, let us resolve to give Christ the central place in our lives and to obey His commandment of love by sharing our blessings with all his needy children. Let us conclude the Church year by asking the Lord to help us serve the King of Kings as He presents Himself in those reaching out to us. "To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His Blood and made us a Kingdom, priests for His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever.Amen" (Revelation 1:5b-6).Christusvincit! Christusregnat! Christusimperat! Christ conquers! Christ rules! Christ reigns!
(Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (sthjohngrandbay.org) and published by CBCI)
Introduction:The central theme of today’s readings is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory, as Judge, at the end of the world. They warn us about the final days of the world, our own death and the final judgment. Scripture lessons: Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, which will bring healing and reward for the just and punishment in fire for the “proud and all evil doers.” Although St. Paul expected that Jesus would return during his lifetime, he cautions the Thessalonians, in the second reading, against idleness in anticipating the end of the world. Paul advises the Thessalonians that the best preparation for welcoming Jesus in his “Second Coming” is to keep working and doing one’s duties faithfully, as he did. Today’s Gospel passage clarifies that the date of the end of the world is uncertain. Signs and portents will precede the end, and the Christians will be called upon to testify before kings and governors. The Good News is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God's eternal kingdom. Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we say at Mass, "We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again." Since Luke's community had experienced much persecution,today’s Gospel gives them a cheering reminder: don't give up because God is always with us. Jesus' promise of the protective power of a providing God was meant to encourage His disciples to persevere in Faith and its practice. Jesus later adds the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world, to prepare His disciples and to remind them to rely upon Him for Salvation, not their own power.
Life messages:1)We must be prepared daily for our death and private judgment. We make this preparation by trying to do God’s will every day, leading holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness. In order to do this, we must recharge our spiritual batteries every day by personal prayer, that is, by talking to God, and listening to Him by reading the Bible. Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime, asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for the sins of the day, will also prepare us to face God any time and give an account of our lives.
2) We need to attain permanence in a passing word by leading exemplary lives.We must remember that our homes, our Churches and even our own lives are temporary. Our greatness is judged by God, not on our worldly achievements, but on our fidelity to our Faith and its practice in our loving service of others. How our faithfulness is expressed each day is the most important thing. We are to persevere in our Faith, in spite of worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs. Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials, for they are essential to our affirmation of Jesus as our Lord and Savior.
OT 33 [C] (11/13/2016) Mal 3:19-20a; II Thes 3:7-12; Lk 21: 5-19
Anecdote: # 1:The theater is on fire:The Danish philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard, tells the parable of a theater where a variety show is proceeding. Each act is more fantastic than the last, and each is applauded by the audience. Suddenly the manager appears on the stage, apologizing for the interruption. He announces at the top of his voice that the theater is on fire, and begs his patrons to leave the theatre immediately, without causing a commotion. The spectators think that it is the most amusing turn of the evening, and cheer thunderously. The manager again feverishly implores them to leave the burning building, and he is again applauded vigorously. At last he can do no more. The fire races through the whole building engulfing the fun-loving audience with it. "And so," concludes Kierkegaard, "will our age, I sometimes think, go down in fiery destruction to the applause of a crowded house of cheering spectators" (Resource, July/August). Today’s readings warn us about a similar fate if we are not well prepared when the “Day of the Lord” dawns quite unexpectedly, marking the end of the world.
# 2: Be patient and be faithful waiting for Christ’s Second Coming. 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.” The Church had the moral courage to resist a dictator, and it saved the lives of so many Jews because it believed in the assurance given by Jesus in today’s Gospel.
# 3: Beware of false messiahs: In 1978, the whole world was shocked and dismayed by reports from Jonestown, Guyana where the Rev. Jim Jones had led hundreds of people into one of history’s darkest mass-suicides and mass-murders. These were not ignorant, primitive savages in a far-off land. They were American citizens who had fallen under the leadership of a madman. We don’t see many signs nowadays of the Moonies. Their founder Rev. Moon and his Unification Church have faded into the background. At one time he boasted considerable political support. He invested heavily in the elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Rev. Moon built an empire by putting young people out on the streets selling flowers. Moon preached that a new messiah was soon to come. He claimed that new messiah was a man born in Korea in the 20th century. False messiahs are forever with us. We need not even deal with such self-deluded creatures as mass-murderer Charles Manson who gathered a group of seemingly intelligent young adults as his followers. Manson once said, “My philosophy is: ‘Don’t think.’” That is the philosophy subtly expressed by all false messiahs. Don’t think. Reason is the enemy of all fanatics. But false messiahs do come along every once in a while. That is why Jesus warns his followers about false messiahs in today’s Gospel.
Introduction: As the Church year comes to an end, the Sunday readings reflect on the final days of the world, our own death and the Final Judgment. Today's theme is “The Day of the Lord” or the “Second Coming” of Jesus in glory as Judge at the end of the world. Malachi, in the first reading, foretells this Day, giving the warning that the future, known to God alone, will bring healing and reward for the just who forearm themselves with words and works (peace, justice, mercy and truth), and retribution for the “proud and all evildoers.” Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 98) refers to Jesus in his Second Coming: “The Lord...comes to rule the earth; He will rule the world with Justice and the peoples with equity”(Ps 98:9). Although Paul expected to be alive at the return of Jesus, he cautioned the Thessalonians, in today’s second reading, against the idleness with which some of them were anticipating the end, and encouraged them not to be weary of doing good. He suggested that their best preparation for the future was to devote their attention to present duties, to maintain a holy and wholesome balance between prayer and service, work and play, and to develop enduring family ties and values.Today’s Gospel passage warns that the date of the end of the world is uncertain. Signs and portents will precede the end, and the faithful will be called upon to testify before kings and governors. The Good News, however, is that those who persevere in faithfulness to the Lord will save their souls and enter God's eternal kingdom. Christ’s Second Coming is something to celebrate, because he is going to present all creation to his Heavenly Father. That is why we proclaim His Second Coming at Mass: "We proclaim Your death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again." For Luke's community which had experienced much persecution, Jesus' words about people being "handed over by parents, brothers, relations and friends," were beginning to come true. They would have found, as did Jesus original disciples, that Jesus' promise of the protective power of a providing God through all of this served them as a real encouragement to persevere in Faith and its practice: “By your perseveranceyou will secure your lives." Jesus also prophesied the signs of the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world in order to prepare His original disciples for this more immediate coming disaster and to remind them to rely upon Him for Salvation, not their own power.
First reading: Malachi 3: 19-20:When Judah returned from exile in Babylon, the people and their leaders showed a tendency, which they had absorbed from their long contact with the pagans, to lead loose moral lives. The priests were irresponsible, ignorant and indulgent leaders, failing to correct abuses (Collegeville Bible Commentary). Hence, in today’s first reading, the prophet Malachi, in the mid-fifth century (515-458) BC, chided them for their religious impiety, dishonesty and marriages with pagans, for which they hoped, foolishly, to avoid punishment. The Lord God, through His faithful prophet, Malachi warned Israel that the day of the Lord was coming shortly, and that He had taken note of the goodness of those who feared Him and would have compassion on them in the Day of His coming. But He would punish the wicked and the proud on the “Day of the Lordby setting them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch.”The image here is that of a blazing oven.For the sinful, the Day will be a day of fiery purification; for the righteous, it will be the Day of healing. Malachi is the very last book of the Old Testament in many non-Catholic Bibles. The Lord God's final word, that He will send Elijah the prophet to them to give them one last chance at conversion before the Day of the Lord brings Final Judgment, is first fulfilled in John the Baptist, the precursor of Jesus, the Messiah, bringing Salvation to the world.
Second reading: II Thes 3:7-12: The earliest Christians expected Jesus to come again in His Glory (Parousia), soon, bringing history to its climax in God's Final Judgment of the living and the dead. Some among the Thessalonians responded to this prospect by abandoning their customary work and leading lives of idleness. They asked themselves, "Why should we spend the small amount of time before the Parousia in hard labor?" Some of them were more interested in minding other people's business.Hence, St. Paul corrects them by asking them to imitate his own example of manual work (as a tent-maker or leather-worker of some sort),and preaching, warning them, “If anyone is unwilling to work, neither should that one eat.”By his manual labor Paul supported his ministry, preaching his beliefs in word and deed to his fellow workers. We, too, must keep ourselves busy by faithfully discharging our duties and actively bearing witness to Christ through our lives, as we wait in Hope for the second coming of Jesus.
Exegesis:The apocalyptic discourse. Luke 21:5-36 is Luke's version of what is frequently called "the apocalyptic discourse." The early Christian apocalyptic writing was symbolic in nature, giving more an interpretation of future events than an actual prediction.The purpose of apocalyptic literature is to encourage dispirited people by proclaiming that God is in control of history and that punishment of the wicked will come about by God’s doing. It is also intended to encourage believers to remain faithful through the coming ordeals. Further, these works are meant to inspire believers to derive all the spiritual good God offers them through life’s inevitable suffering. So the apocalyptic writers encouraged their readers to interpret their sufferings as a sharing in the birth pangs of the “end.” The believers were assured that if they remained constant in Faith, they could welcome the end of all things and the beginning of eternity with confidence and joy rather than with fear and dread. Jesus addressed His words to His disciples and followers gathered in the Temple for the Passover feast. Jesus demands of His hearers tenacity of Faith and Hope in spite of their sufferings. In the liturgical context, the Church aptly places the first part (ending with verse 19), of Luke's account of Jesus’ endtime predictions at the end of the Church year. [The rest of Luke's account (vv 20-36), as we have it, includes Jesus' prophecy of the destruction of the Temple of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 with His predictions of the end of the world.]
Fulfilment of Jesus’ prediction: To the proud people of Jerusalem, Jesus’ prediction of the destruction of the Temple was a great shock, almost blasphemy in fact, because those words sounded like massive distrust of God and an insult to God. Yahweh would not allow it! It is not surprising that these words of Jesus were used against him at his trial before the High Priest. Yet within forty years, the prediction of Jesus was largely fulfilled. The Temple, originally built by Solomon (960 BC), demolished by the Babylonians (586 BC), rebuilt by Zerubbabel and the returning exiles (536-516 BC), and enlarged and rebuilt by Herod the Great (20 BC-- AD 64), was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. At the siege of Jerusalem by the Roman army, 1.1 million people perished, 97,000 were carried away into captivity, the Temple was demolished by fire, and the priests were murdered.
Call for evangelization by heroic witnessing: The real question of the believers at the end of the first century was: "Now that many of these things have happened, and we are being persecuted, what should we do?" Luke reminds them of Jesus’ assurance that they were to trust His words against their persecutors. They were to make use of this opportunity to bear witness to Jesus. This test of Faith was also an opportunity for them to bear witness to Him before the court officials and the public at large. Thus, the persecution would become a massive evangelization campaign [21:12-13]. Jesus cautions them against despair in the face of wide-ranging opposition and persecution. Arrests would be followed by trial and condemnation in religious (Jewish) and civil (Gentile) courts. Their Faith would serve as a clear witness on the Day of Judgment. Not only would the individual martyrs see the Lord in Heaven, but the Church would flourish in persecution [21:18-19].
Doomsday prophets miss the message: Jesus refused to predict details or provide clues for the time of the coming calamity. “War, earthquake, pestilence and famine" were traditionally personified as the “Four Apocalyptic Horsemen” who would come to announce the endtime judgment. The late Raymond Brown, a renowned Scripture scholar, suggests that end-of-the-world people perform a valuable service for us. They keep the Second Coming before our eyes. Prophets of doom in every century point to historical calamities (wars and revolts) and cosmic disasters (great earthquakes, famines, pestilence), and "signs in heaven" (like solar eclipses and comets), as signs of the end. This is a direct contradiction of what Jesus said. He told us not to try to predict the end, but to live loyally and lovingly in situations which, in many cases, would be hostile to the Gospel. Instead of destroying us, persecution and martyrdom will gain us eternal life. At the end of the discourse, Jesus gave the assurance, “Not a hair from your head will perish" (21:18). God's saving purpose will certainly triumph, because, contrary to appearances, He remains firmly in control. Finally, the way to glory is traveled more often through day-by-day endurance, rather than through isolated acts of heroic virtue. Here is a practical spirituality each of us can live, whatever our current situation may be.
Life messages: 1)We need to beprepared daily for death and judgment. The ideal way to accept Jesus’ apocalyptic message is always to be ready to face our death. We must live holy lives of selfless love, mercy, compassion and unconditional forgiveness, remembering the demands of justice in our day-to-day lives. We must also take time to rest and to pray in order to keep our hearts alive to God’s presence with us and within us.Daily examination of our conscience at bedtime, asking God’s pardon and forgiveness, also prepares us to face God at any time to give an account of our lives.
2) We need to attain permanence in a passing world by leading exemplary lives.Our homes, our Churches and even our own lives are temporary. All our structures are provisional. Our influence has no more claims to permanence than our buildings. Hence, our task is not to build monuments of any kind, but to be faithful to Christ. How our faithfulness is expressed each day is the most important thing. We are to persevere in our Faith, despite worldly temptations, attacks on religion and moral values by the atheistic or agnostic media, threats of social isolation, and direct or indirect persecution because of our religious beliefs. Let us conclude this Church year by praying for the grace to endure patiently any trials that are essential to our affirmation of Jesus our Savior.