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December 28, 2014
SYNOPSIS: Feast of the Holy Family Luke 2: 22-40 or Lk 2: 22& 39-40L/14
Introduction: On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Ben Sirachhas many good things to say about living properly according to the Torah. Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” and the second long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.” Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards. He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey revere and show compassion to their father. Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul’s advice is part of the "Household code" – the rules for members of the Christian family. Though the details date to Paul’s time, the underlying message of being careful with one another – being full of care – is timeless. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness and sharing in the warmth of the family. In a truly holy family all members are respected, cherished, nurtured and supported, united through the bond of love. Today’s Gospel describes how Joseph presented Mary and the Child Jesus in the Temple for the ritual of the mother's purification and the child's "presentation."
Life messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.
2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife -- as in a confessional -- are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.”
3) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. L/14
DEC 28, 2014: HOMILY ON THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY L/14
(Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14, Colossians 3:12-21, Luke 2: 22-40 or Lk 2: 22& 39-40).
Anecdote # 1: Grandparents are a treasure: Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s illness, would drop food on the dining table, and smear it all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table and set it off to the side of the dining hall so the grandfather would eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad, when you get old like grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” Ever since that day, the grandpa was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who will celebrate his 78th birthday on December 17. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it’s lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/)
# 2: Cancer, heart disease and family relationship: A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac).
# 3: Dying of loneliness:In an audience Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).
Introduction: On the last Sunday of the year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We are here to offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. The first reading is a commentary on the fourth commandment: "Honor your father and your mother." Ben Sirachhas many good things to say about living properly according to the Torah. Sirach reminds children of their duty to honor their parents – even when it becomes difficult. He also mentions the five-fold reward which God promises to those who honor their father and mother. The first reward is “riches,” and the second long life: “Whoever reveres his father will live a long life.”Forgiveness of sins and God’s prompt answer to prayers are the fourth and fifth rewards. He reminds children that God blesses them if they obey revere and show compassion to their father. Paul, in the letter to the Colossians, advises us that we should put on love and remain thankful in our relationships with one another. Paul’s advice is part of the "Household code" – the rules for members of the Christian family. Though its details date to Paul’s time, the underlying message of being careful with one another – being full of care – is timeless. Paul teaches that children should learn and practice noble qualities like compassion, kindness, forgiveness and sharing in the warmth of the family. In a truly holy family all members are respected, cherished, nurtured and supported, united in the bond of love. Today’s Gospel describes how Joseph presented Mary and the Child Jesus in the Temple for the ritual of the mother's purification and the child's "presentation."
Rights and duties of parents and children: Although more emphasis is given in the first two readings on the obligation of children to their parents, there is a profound lesson here for parents too. "Like father like son" is an old saying, and very often true. If the parents fail to do what is right and just in the sight of God, they can hardly complain if their children turn out disobedient to God and to them. The young learn more from example than from precept. If parents give their children the example of a life of obedience to the laws of God and their country, the children will in turn carry out their duties to God, to their parents and to their fellowman.
Exegesis:The context: Today’s Gospel describes the presentation of the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The Feast of the Presentation of Jesus(celebrated formally on February 2),is a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the “Hypanthe” feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and a sacrifice offered in the Temple to redeem or buy the firstborn male child back from the Lord), the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed for liturgical and personal use) and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna).
Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Gospel describes how Joseph, as the head of the Holy Family of Nazareth, presented Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple of God for the mother’s purification and the Child’s “redemption.” The Mosaic Law (Numbers 18: 15), taught that since every Jewish firstborn male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” (redeem), the child by offering a lamb or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. In addition (Leviticus
12: 2-8), every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.
The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s anointed one, and in his prayer of blessing he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and the light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, he warned her that her child would be “asign of contradiction,” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah
Influence of the Holy Family on Jesus: We know that the family of Jesus was steeped in Scripture. Mary’s prayer, the Magnificat, is rich in Old Testament quotations. We know that Jesus’ family had a deep life of piety that included pilgrimages and prayer to the angels. Both Mary and Joseph were accustomed to receiving the guidance of Heaven’s messengers. From Jesus’ adulthood, we can also glimpse the prayer life He learned from His parents. He prayed the morning offering of pious Jews (Mk 12:29-30). He prayed spontaneously. He took time to pray alone. Yet, He also prayed with His friends. Jesus fasted and marked the holy days. All these habits He probably acquired from His home life in Nazareth. We know that work was important to Jesus’ family. In adulthood, Jesus was called not just “Joseph’s son,” but “the carpenter’s son.” Joseph was skilled in a trade that was highly regarded in his day, and he trained Jesus in the same craft. We can conclude from Jesus’ preaching that Mary was industrious and frugal in keeping a house. It was likely from her example that Jesus drew many of His favorite stories: a woman finding just the right cloth to patch a piece of clothing, a woman setting aside leaven for tomorrow’s baking, a widow searching her house for a lost coin. Hard work, struggling to pay the bills, taking long road trips, praying simple devotions — all of this we learn from the real Gospels. (mikeaquilina.com).
Life Messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the parents: "Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery - the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the 'material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'" The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).
2) Marriage: a Sacrament of holiness. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of priesthood and the Sacrament of marriage. Through the Sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish church through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support and mutual respect. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after they have grown up and left home.
3) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage with a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife -- as in a confessional -- are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a heavenly one.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented in TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.
4) Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives.
5) Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today in the streets of big cities, fighting the cold and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.
On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: "children are a gift from God to you." Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year.
Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to imitate the Holy Family: (http://karlaschultz.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/how-to-imitate-the-holy-family/)
1. We need to hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. At least it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.
2. We need to cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking. With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel. We need to do what it takes to bring silence home — move the TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of our household; turn it off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce family stress levels.
4. We need to make our home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes from a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’” Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many of us Catholics decry the lack of reverence in their our Church then go home to desecrate our domestic churches — by harsh words toward our kids or our spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests? Remember: “They’ll know we are Christians” — not just by the nativity scene in our front yard — but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.
5. We need to make our home a place of prayer. Our day needn't be dominated by devotions, but we should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done. There are many ways we can pray as a family, and we should seek the ways that work best for our tribe. We can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. We should, at least, be saying grace at every meal. We can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. It might be advisable to begin with something small and manageable and then give ourselves time to grow into it before tackling something bigger.
December 25, 2014
December 25, 2014
CHRISTMAS- SYNOPSIS OF THE THEMATIC HOMILY
Christmas: (Lk 2: 1-14) 1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior : God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-Man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures describe ten incarnations of God “to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that every one who believes in Him may not die, but have eternal life.” We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a baby today as good news because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by his suffering, death and Resurrection, and he atoned for our sins. So every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to him, allowing him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.
# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “good news” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God and not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God. He demonstrated by his life and teaching how God our Heavenly Father loves us, forgives us, provides for us and rewards us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian duty and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?”(Alexander Pope). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and
within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community and in each believer as the Holy Spirit transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony) L/14
CHRISTMAS- GOD’S SHARING LOVE AS AN EMMANUEL & SAVIOR
Homily starter 1) The first Christmas crib: It was St Francis of Assisi who assembled the first crib in a cave on an Italian hillside. It was in 1293 that the first crèche was erected in the woods of Greccio near Assisi, on Christmas Eve. The crib was ready, hay was brought, the ox and the donkey were led to the spot. Greccio became a new Bethlehem The aim of St. Francis was to make the Christmas story come alive for the people of the locality. His idea was to show them how close it was to them and their lives. And it seems that he succeeded. On Christmas Eve the friars and the people assembled with candles and torches around the crib. Francis spoke to the people, who were mostly farmers and shepherds, about God’s Son coming among us to teach us that we too are children of God, and that as such we have an eternal destiny. The shepherds and farmers got the messages: God had time for simple folks like them. At the end of the vigil they all returned to their homes, full of peace and joy, feeling very close to God and to one another. (http://www.catholicdoors.com/misc/christmascrib.htm)
2) Origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, a feast established by the Roman Emperor, Aurelian, in AD 274. Since December 25th was around the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again, showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing. When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness. Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. It claims that the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zachariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th. Since the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.
Where did the name Christmas originate? In the medieval ages the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ's birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in the Old English as Christes Masse (Christ's Mass), from which is derived Christmas.
3) Early American Christmas Celebrations : Back in the early 1700s, when the United States were the Colonies, the settlers in Williamsburg, capital of Colonial Virginia, celebrated Christmas with customs they had brought from England. There was no Santa Claus (a Dutch tradition), no Christmas trees (a German tradition), no Nativity crèche (an Italian tradition), and no chimney stockings (an American tradition). Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was primarily a holy day, but the atmosphere was not solemn. Churches and homes were decorated with greens, while candles burned in all the windows to welcome carolers.
There was a public celebration, too. Musicians played special concerts, fireworks were wet off and cannon were fired to heighten the general merriment. Feasting was in order with dishes of roasted fowl and hare, marrow pudding, ham, oysters, sausage, shellfish, often capped by whole roast boar on a platter. Some gifts were given then as part of the Christmas celebration, but not nearly on the present-day scale.
Introduction: We celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing for three reasons. 1) It is the birthday of our God who became man and Savior to save us from our sins. 2) It is the birthday of a God who came to share His love with us and 3) It is the anniversary of the day when Almighty God came to live with us as Emmanuel.
First of all, Christmas is the feast of God’s sending us a Savior. Jesus, the Incarnation of God as man, came to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures in India describe ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large scale erosion of moral values.” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). But the Christian Scriptures teach that there was only one Incarnation of God, for the purpose is stated in John 3: 16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that every one who believes in Him might not perish, but might have eternal life.” We celebrate that Incarnation today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus atoned for our sins and liberated us from slavery to sin by His suffering, death and Resurrection. Every Christmas reminds us that we still need this Savior to be reborn in our hearts and to live there, for we need Him every day to free us from our evil habits, addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. Hence, Christmas challenges us to accept Jesus our as our Lord our God and our personal Savior and to surrender our sinful lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our lives.
Second, Christmas is the feast of God’s sharing His love with us. Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “good news” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful and rewarding God who wants to save us through His Son Jesus and not a judgmental, cruel and punishing God. Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our Heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us, and provides for us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross and the institution of the Holy Eucharist. Christmas reminds us that we have to allow this God of unconditional love to be reborn in us and to start living in us: Let us accept the challenge given by the famous poet, Alexander Pope, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world, and He is not born in my heart?” Let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives today and every day and radiate his light around us, as sharing and selfless love, compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and overflowing generosity.
Third, Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel, i.e., God living with us and within us. Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is God-with-us, Emmanuel, Who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as announced by the angel to Mary. The Christmas story tells us that there is a way out of our sinfulness and hopelessness, because God is with us. We are not alone. There is a mighty God within us to strengthen us in our weaknesses and temptations. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Holy Bible, in the praying community and in each believer, with the Holy Spirit Who is transforming us daily into the "Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Hence, each Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary duty of conveying Jesus to others around us by loving others as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble and committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give to, or receive from, others.
1) Abnormal birth: After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on "childbirth" in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush," said the surprised great-grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, "I am very sad to find out that there was not even a single natural birth in our family for three generations... All our children were extraterrestrials." (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior.
2) Kierkegaard has a fable of a king who fell in love with a maid. A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When asked, "How shall I declare my love?" his counselors answered, "Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiment before the maid's humble dwelling and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours." But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love's truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid's cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey, not God's power, but God's love. God wants not submission to his power, but in return for his love, our own.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI website.
December 21 , 2014
December 21 , 2014
SYNOPSIS OF AVENT IV HOMILY ON LUKE 1: 26-38 (L/14)
Introduction: Today’s readings focus on the circumstances leading up to the first coming of Jesus, the event which sets the pattern for his coming to us now and at the end of time. The Gospel stresses the key role of Mary in the work of our salvation. In addition, today’s Scripture texts describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. They also tell us that God's preparation for the coming of Jesus was full of surprises.
Scripture lessons: The first reading surprises us by telling of God’s promise to David that he would have a long line of royal descendants culminating with a final king, Jesus Christ. In the Responsorial Psalm, the Psalmist recalls all of God’s promises and surprises us by describing God’s promise to David and his descendants in terms of a Covenant. Today’s Gospel surprises us by telling us that this King would be born to an ordinary virgin, not by means of sexual relationship, but through the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus would become a descendant of David. This would occur through Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband and the legal father of her son, as Joseph was "of the house of David." The Gospel narrative surprises us also by reminding us that God’s promise is best fulfilled not in buildings, or even great kings like Solomon, but rather in humble souls like Mary who trusted in God’s promise. The second reading also surprises us with Paul’s explanation of the unveiling of God's plan for human salvation through Jesus. Thus, the unfolding of God's plan of salvation though history has contained many surprises.
Life messages: 1) We need to say a courageous and generous “yes” to God: True obedience comes from a free choice made in the light of what is true and good. It often requires a great deal of courage because it can involve going against the tide of social expectations. True obedience also aims at putting oneself at the service of something/Someone that is greater than oneself by accepting what God clearly wants us to do or what He wants to do through us. It is by saying, with Jesus and Mary, a wholehearted and totally unconditional “yes” to Jesus that he will be re-born in me or maybe even born in me for the first time. By my saying “Yes,” Jesus will be born or re-born in others too. 2) We need to try to learn God’s plan for our lives: The Good News in today’s Scripture message is not only that God is making provision for the salvation of His people, but also that He has a plan for each individual person. In many cases, our work for God seems rather ordinary, but each ordinary task which we carry out fits into God's plan in ways that we cannot yet understand. God desires not the skill of our hands but the love of our hearts. The Babe in the Manger reminds us of what God has done and is still doing for us. What are we doing in return? Let us show our gratitude to God by living as true followers of Christ: “Behold here I am Lord to do thy will.”
ADVENT IV (Dec 21) II SAM 7:1-5, 8-12, 14-16; ROM 16: 25-27; Lk 1: 26-38
Anecdote 1): The FBI and the White House staff: The FBI agents conducted a raid in a psychiatric hospital in Santiago that was under investigation for medical insurance fraud. After hours of reviewing thousands of medical records, the dozens of agents were terribly hungry. The chief in charge of the investigation called a nearby pizza parlor with delivery service to order a quick dinner for his colleagues. Here is the recorded text of the conversation. Agent: Hello. I would like to order 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of soda. Pizza Man: And where would you like them delivered? Agent: We're over at the psychiatric hospital, and we are all FBI agents, and since we have locked the front door to help our operations, you will have to go around to the back to the service entrance to deliver the pizzas. Pizza Man: A group of FBI agents calling from the psychiatric hospital that I should come with 19 large pizzas and 67 cans of sodas through the back door? Agent: That’s right, and it is very urgent. We've been here all day and we're starving. I have my F.B.I. checkbook right here. Will you show up soon? Pizza Man: I don't think so. Agent: Why? Pizza Man: Because last week it was President Obama who ordered pizzas from that psychiatric hospital for his White House staff! I shall ask your doctors to give you stronger medicines to ward off your F.B.I. hallucinations and to help you sleep well. Bye.” Click. Bzzz. The feeling that the Pizza Man had as he participated in that conversation may have been something like what the teenaged Mary felt at the beginning of her encounter with the angelic messenger on the day of the Annunciation.
2) A De Mello story on Emmanuel: “Excuse me,” said a small river fish that happened to reach the ocean. . “You are older than I, so can you tell me where to find this thing they call the ocean?" "The ocean," said the older fish "is the thing you are in now." "Oh, this? But this is only salty water. What I’m seeking is the ocean," said the disappointed fish as he swam away to search elsewhere. Today’s Gospel introduces God as Emmanuel, one living with us. Christmas celebration should enable us to experience this God within us and all around us.
3) “I'm the president of 7-UP!" Three men were pacing nervously outside the delivery room at a hospital when the head nurse cam out beaming. To the first she said, "Congratulations, sir, you are the father of twins." "Terrific!" said the man, "I just signed a contract with the Minnesota Twins and this'll be great press." To the second man the nurse said, "Congratulations to you too. You are the father of healthy triplets!" "Fantastic!" he said. "I'm the vice-president of 3-M Company. This'll be great P.R.!" At that point the third man turned ashen and ran for the door. "What's wrong, sir? Where are you going?" called the nurse. As he jumped into his car, the man shouted, "I'm dashing to my office to resign. I'm the president of 7-UP!"
That's exactly what Mary was feeling as she listened to the angel spell out what God wanted of her: "Virgin birth?! Are you crazy? Who's going to believe that? I'll be stoned to death as soon as the neighbors see I'm pregnant! Dear God, what are you asking of me?" (Msgr. Dennis Clarke)
Introduction: Today’s readings focus on the circumstances leading up to the first coming of Jesus which sets the pattern for his coming to us now and at the end of time. The Gospel stresses the key role of Mary in the work of our salvation. Today’s Scripture texts describe God’s promise to David and its fulfillment in Jesus, the Son of David. They also tell us that God's preparation for the coming of Jesus was full of surprises. The first reading surprises us by telling of God’s promise to David that he would have a long line of royal descendants culminating with a final king, Jesus Christ. In the Responsorial Psalm, the Psalmist recalls all of God’s promises, and surprises us by describing God’s promise to David and his descendants in terms of a Covenant. Today’s Gospel surprises us by telling us that this King would be born to an ordinary virgin, not by means of sexual relationship, but through the Holy Spirit, and that Jesus would become a descendant of David. This would occur through Joseph, Mary’s betrothed husband and the legal father of her son, as Joseph was "of the house of David." The Gospel narrative surprises us also by reminding us that God’s promise is best fulfilled not in buildings, or even great kings like Solomon, but rather in humble souls like Mary, who trusted in God’s promise. The second reading also surprises us with Paul’s explanation of the unveiling of God's plan for human salvation through Jesus. Thus, the unfolding of God's plan of salvation though history has contained many surprises.
First reading (2 Sam 7:1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16): The historical background: Moses had led God's people in their escape from Egypt around the year 1250 B.C. Joshua led them on an invasion of Palestine around 1220. Judges ruled them from 1200 to 1025. The last Judge, Samuel, anointed for them their first King, Saul, around 1030. David succeeded Saul in 1010. David’s first step was to capture Jerusalem from the Jebusites and make it the political capital of his kingdom. Once David had completed the building of his palace, he wanted a more beautiful house to accommodate the Ark of the Covenant representing God’s presence in the midst of His chosen people. For over 200 years, the Ark of the Covenant had been a "mobile shrine," kept in a tent so that it could be easily carried to any place to which the people moved or where Yahweh's special presence was needed. David wanted to build a special Temple in Jerusalem to house the Ark. He hoped that making Jerusalem the religious center of Israel would ensure the continued loyalty of all twelve tribes.
Though Nathan, the prophet, initially accepted the plan, as we heard in the first reading, he eventually returned to inform the king that Yahweh was more concerned with turning David's family into "His house" than with residing in a house Himself. In other words, God's presence in families is more important than is His presence in buildings. That is why the Lord spoke to David through his prophet Nathan and promised him a line of kingly succession. God said that David was not to build a house for God; rather God would build a house for David by establishing the family of David securely on the throne of Israel forever. God kept His promise for four centuries allowing the descendants of David to serve as kings of Israel in unbroken succession. But in the 6th century BC, the Babylonians conquered Judah and ended the succession of Davidic kings, prompting Israel to look for a different kind of fulfillment of God's promise to David. In other words, Israel began to look for the Messiah, a descendant of David who would come at the end of time to eradicate evil from the world. We find the beginning of the fulfillment of this hope in today’s Gospel where the angel tells Mary that the son she is about to conceive will sit on "the throne of his father David, and reign over the house of Jacob forever" (Lk. 1: 32-33). The text reminds us that we are not on earth to do things for God, but to reflect and build on what God is doing for us.
Second Reading, (Romans 16:25-27): Since St. Paul had not founded the Church of Rome nor visited it earlier, his letter to the Romans was a kind of introduction of himself to the Christians in Rome and a partial synthesis of his theology. The section of Paul’s epistle which we read today is a prayer praising God for revealing through the Gospels "the mystery kept secret for long ages,” to all nations. In other words, God worked through His chosen people in the past, and He can and will work in and through the Gentiles by the risen Jesus. The Church has selected this prayer in the final week of our preparation for Christmas to remind us of the sublime facts commemorated at Christmas, namely, how, in becoming man, Christ elevated our nature by uniting it with his own Divine nature and made us adopted children of God with a claim to eternal life and the possibility of sharing in God's kingdom forever.
Exegesis: The context: Luke was a Gentile converted by St. Paul at Troas about the year 50 A.D. Later, he became a fellow-worker with Paul in spreading the faith. Luke's Gentile Christian community lived a generation or more later than the apostles, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 Since they were not Jews, Luke had to explain to them how Jesus was the Messiah promised to the Jews by God through the prophets. He also explains how the Messiah had his human origin while retaining his Divine nature. In the Acts of the Apostles, he shows how Jesus continued to operate among his apostles and the early Church. Hence, today, the narrative of the infancy of Jesus in Luke’s Gospel was intended to teach the Gentile converts their Christian heritage and to keep them focused on their new religion's mission. This ”Annunciation" of the birth of Jesus also established Jesus in good-standing among the Jews, since King David, presented as Jesus’ ancestor, was the most revered early King and the original Messiah (literally, "anointed as king" and earthly savior of the nation of Israel).
The unique selection of Mary and Gabriel’s unique salutation: In the two annunciations described in Luke’s Gospel, neither Elizabeth (Zechariah's wife) nor Mary appears to be a likely candidate for motherhood. Elizabeth is too old and Mary is a virgin engaged to Joseph, of the house of David (v. 27). Joseph’s betrothal to Mary was binding, and it made Mary his legal wife. The angel's salutation to Mary, “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God's words to Moses at the burning bush, "I will be with you" (Ex 3:12), the angel’s salutation Gideon, "The Lord is with you, you mighty warrior" (Jgs 6:12) and the Lord’s assurance to Jeremiah, "Be not afraid of their faces: for I am with thee to deliver thee" (Jer 1:8). Luke says that Mary is perplexed by Gabriel's words, "Rejoice, blessed one!"(Greek), translated as “Hail, full of grace.” Mary is described as "full of grace,” filled with God's favor and graciousness, something which she has in no way earned, but which was given as a gratuitous gift by God. Mary is told by the angel Gabriel, the messenger of God that the Lord is literally with her. She is the new Ark, a tent and temple. God is literally and physically in her, and thus she is the greater house of God promised to David.
Mary’s perplexity versus Zechariah’s doubts: Mary's question, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" is natural, very much like Zechariah's, "How will I know that this is so? For I am an old man, and my wife is getting on in years" (1:18). However, the angel struck Zechariah mute for his unbelief because Zechariah asked for a sign -- tangible proof that the angel was telling the truth. Mary's question, on the other hand, springs from an understandable confusion. Mary is fully aware of the significance and consequences of the angel's message. In a flash, she recognizes the new challenges that will emerge in her betrothal and the crisis into which this pregnancy could throw both families (see Dt 22:13-21 and Num 5:11-31). That is why the angel reminds Mary, “Nothing is impossible with God." He will "empower" her ("the spirit will come upon you") and "protect" her ("overshadow you"), two duties of a Middle Eastern husband.
The Virgin Birth: In Luke’s Annunciation scene, we are face-to-face with one of the major doctrines of the Christian faith – the Virgin Birth. There are two great reasons for accepting it. (i) The clear literal meaning of this passage in Luke and Matt.1:18-25, is that Jesus was to be born of Mary without a human father. (ii) It is natural to argue that if Jesus was, as we believe, a very special person, he would have a special entry into the world. Since this conception is the work of God's direct power, Mary's virginity is unaffected as is her integrity before her natural husband. "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you" (v. 35). The word "overshadow" is also used at the Transfiguration (9:34) and in a story of Peter's healing ministry (Acts 5:15). In all these places the verb clearly refers to Divine presence and power. The angel makes it clear that the child "will be holy" and "will be called Son of God" (v. 35). The word "virgin" appears three times in this passage, which shows that Luke clearly intends to emphasize Mary's sexual purity as seen in Jesus’ virgin birth.
Son of David and Son of God: For Luke, the child would not only be a distant grandson of David -- he would be God's own Son. "He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David " On several occasions, Luke uses the phrase " Most High" to refer to God (1:76; Acts 7:48; 16:17), so that "Son of the Most High" means "Son of God." Luke uses this title several times to refer to Jesus (1:35; 22:70; Acts 9:20). ".... “He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end" (vv. 32b-33). This is a fulfillment of the promise that God made to David, who wanted to build a Temple for God as described in today’s first reading. God forbade David to build the Temple, but said, "The Lord will make you a house... I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever" (2 Sm 7:11-13). Knowing that David's son, Solomon, built a temple, it is natural to assume that the offspring who "shall build a house," refers directly to Solomon. However, the complete fulfillment of the promise was not to be found in Solomon but in Jesus, since Solomon built a Temple that stood for only 379 years (966 BC –August, 578 BC), whereas Christ will build "a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens" (2 Cor 5:1).
“For nothing will be impossible with God.” It is ironic that Zechariah, who asked for a sign, was punished (1:20), while Mary, who did not ask for a sign, was given one. If Mary wanted to know how she could bear a son while remaining a virgin, she need only to look to her kinswoman Elizabeth who, despite her age, was pregnant. If God could create new life in old woman, He could surely do the same in a young virgin. “For nothing will be impossible with God" (v. 37). Again, Luke adopts OT language. When the Lord announced the impending birth of Isaac, Sarah laughed. The Lord responded by saying, "Is anything too wonderful for the Lord?" (Gn 18:14 -- see also Jesus' comment at Luke 18:27). This is truly Gospel – Good News – for those of us who find ourselves in impossible situations. As we walk with the Lord, however, no situation is beyond redemption.
“May it be done to me according to your word.” Mary does not require confirmation, but responds in faith. Sheagrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her. Her response again calls forth OT language -- Abraham's"Here I am" (Gn 22:1) -- Isaiah's "Here am I, send me" (Is 6:8) -- Hannah's "Think kindly of your maidservant" (1 Sm1:18) -- Samuel's "Here I am" (1 Sm 3:4). Raymond Brown says “Mary's response qualifies her as Jesus' first disciple. Subsequent references to her are consistent with this pattern (Luke 1:45ff; 8:19-21; 11:27-28; Acts1:14). Her humble acquiescence to the will of God commends itself to every believer: “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let what you have said be done to me." Mary is thus presented as the perfect disciple. Those who find out what God wants of them and accept His message as Mary did are Jesus' true followers. Those who only hear the Word but never put it into action are deceiving themselves. Christian Faith is a matter of continually making Jesus a part of our lives.
The significance of Mary’s yes: Jesus' earthly existence begins with Mary’s “Yes” in today's account of the Annunciation. Although we normally regard the birth of Jesus as the beginning of God's presence among us, the Church teaches that the conception of Jesus in Mary's womb by the power of the Holy Spirit took place at the moment that Mary agreed to be the mother of Jesus. If Mary had said “No,” instead of “Yes,” history might have been different – although we know that God's plans would not have been frustrated. Mary's “Yes,”changed the world. Her obedience to God's call changed the lives of all of us. How many times have we said“No,” to God? How different would things be – for us and for others – if we had said “Yes,” to him more often?
The frightening consequences of Mary’s “Yes”: Mary's choice was no easy one. As a teenage girl, betrothed but not yet married to Joseph, she was being asked to become pregnant by a Heavenly Source. Betrothal was regarded as a full commitment to one's future spouse, and for such a girl to lose her virginity was tantamount to adultery, a sin punishable by death.
Life messages: 1) We need to say a courageous and generous “Yes” to God as Mary did. True obedience comes from a free choice made in the light of what is true and good. It often requires a great deal of courage, because it can involve going against the tide of social expectations. True obedience also aims at putting oneself at the service of something/Someone that is greater than oneself by accepting what God clearly wants us to do or what He wants to do through us. Jesus' own moment of greatness, like his Mother’s, came when he said “Yes,” to his Father, and Jesus' own obedience is our model. Will we surrender to God and allow God to do what, from our human point of view, seems impossible? Will we surrender our agenda, our will and our kingdom to God and allow God’s agenda, will and Kingdom become a reality for and through us? It is by saying, with Jesus and Mary, wholehearted and totally unconditional “Yes,” to God that Jesus will be re-born in me or maybe even born in me for the first time. By my saying “yes,” Jesus will be born or reborn in others too.
2) We need to try to learn God’s plan for our lives: The Good News in today’s Scripture message is not only that God is making provision for the salvation of His people, but also that He has a plan for each individual person. Just as God called Mary, He calls every mother to raise her child in the awareness of God’s nurturing presence, His unconditional love and His guiding commandments. In many cases, our work for God seems rather ordinary, but each ordinary task which we carry out, fits into God's plan in ways that we cannot yet understand. God desire not the skill of our hands, but the love of our hearts. The Babe in the Manger reminds us of what God has done and is still doing for us. What are we doing in return? Let us show our gratitude to God by living as true followers of Christ: “Behold, here I am Lord, your humble and grateful servant. Let it be done to me according to Your word.”
3) St. Francis said, "We are the mother of Christ when we carry him in our heart… and we give birth to him through our holy works which ought to shine on others by our example.”
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI website.
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