Theme: The Word dwelt among us
Throughout Advent there is a note of underlying joy and expectancy. It reaches its height on the 25th day of December as the feast of the birth of Christ. “He came into the world that was made through him” John 1:3. The world was not a strange place for Jesus; he was not a tourist visiting a foreign country. That is why what the world had become did not surprise him.
Of course, as a man, Jesus experienced everything differently than as God. Now, he touched the soft lamb’s wool, smelled the fragrant flowers, tasted the sweet grape, felt the sand on his feet; was buoyed up by waves. One thing though surprised Jesus; “He came to what was his own but his own people did not accept him” John 1:11. He had come into a world where brothers quarreled and stewards cheated; where adultery was normal, where the rich freely cheated, while the poor were becoming poorer. Because of this he would not entertain sin. This is why he is Emmanuel.
First reading: Isaiah 52:7-10
In this reading prophet Isaiah imagines himself standing on the top of the mountain where the ruins of Jerusalem stand. From there he sees a lot of life and activity in the city: people running about and excited, dancing and cheering. He looks again more carefully and sees the watchmen running along the path giving joyful news to all they meet on their way. The exiles are returning from Babylon, the period of slavery, suffering and humiliation are over; the leaders, evil kings and bad shepherds who exploited the people have been removed forever. A new era has dawned, for the Lord will personally lead His people.
This is happening after forty years of captivity in Babylon, the Jews thought that God had abandoned them, but that was just a thought. When they eventually returned, their Capital Jerusalem was a heap of burned ruins. But Prophet Isaiah, in God’s name announced that those ruins would have life in them again. Yes, it is true that the salvation of God is not outside creation because it is a mystery fitted within history. Today we who are alive are we not almost facing a situation similar to the one experienced by the people of Israel in the time of Prophet Isaiah? We see that our promised political and spiritual independence is still far from being complete; but like the people of Israel we must trust in God. The new kingdom has begun and we are the ‘watchmen and women’ that have seen it and must proclaim it to all. Why is it that our announcement does not display of joy? It is because we are still lukewarm and believe little. We need to know how to recognize where the joy of salvation is coming from. Our nation, our city, towns and markets and even in our individual homes are supposed to be among those places where the ‘watchman’ stands proclaiming that that inconveniences are over. We need to be attentive that the voice does not pass unrecognized. We need to be ablaze with the message of the Gospel of Jesus that Christ is our Lord in word, action and life.
Second reading: Hebrews 1:1-6
This reading tells us how God used many ways to make people aware of his love for all of them. He spoke first through creation by making all things beautiful that every one who contemplates them should be able to discover the love of God who made them. Therefore; who ever uses created things without questioning him/herself whether their Maker has something to say through them is a materialist, unable to understand the language of true love. The people of Israel had a privilege of hearing the voice of God through prophets. God called prophets to read and interpret the signs of the time in his name. But this way was not even enough for them to comprehend, then in the fullness of time, sent his son into the world, the one who is the perfect image of himself, his ‘WORD’. Jesus Christ the word of the Father is the highest possible revelation, the most eloquent revelation of the Father. St. John in his gospel confirms this truth. If then we are still slow to believe the good news and transform our lives for the better; whom are we still waiting for? God is already here in our midst. Let us welcome and accommodate him through our change of lifestyle.
Gospel: John 1:1-18
For John, the son of God who became man in Jesus existed even before the creation of the world. John calls the son of God ‘WORD’ which means speech. The word was communicated to us and dwelt among us assuming time and making history. The son of God is the WORD of the FATHER. This WORD is the maximum manifestation of the term LOVE from God to you and me. The WORD of God became flesh two thousand years ago, he was made man like us, spoke the human language, in order to tell us face to face about the Father and what value we are for the Father and his eternal plan for all of us. If we want to know the plan of God for us is mainly to look at Jesus and all is accomplished.
The invitation of Christmas is: See what he does, listen to what he says and teaches, watch how he behaves, the people he goes with, where he takes his meals and with whom, the persons he chooses, who are those that he rebukes, and those that he defends; because this is what the Father does. The first gift of Incarnation to us people of this generation is to reveal to us how much God loves each one of us. He is God who does not punish people, he is God who saves and gives complete eternal happiness. This Word of God has come and is here among us. This “word has come as light that darkness cannot overcome” John 1:5. A new humanity in Jesus Christ has suddenly risen within people steeped in sin, but sin can never overcome him. Even if darkness tends to cover our world but it can not manage to overcome even the smallest light that originates from Christ who has come to stay into the world. We are sure of his victory yesterday, today and forever.
To make the celebration of Christmas a reality, here are three things that do contribute towards happiness and victory that we all so urgently need now. The first is to have meaning and purpose of my life. So much emphasis in our society is placed on celebrity and achievement. Surely, much more important is the fulfillment of our gifts, whatever they may be, so that we feel we are making a contribution to our society. Jesus did not so much speak of the crowds, but rather of ‘a certain man, a certain woman’. He emphasized the value and dignity of each human person.
The second point is to have clean and health relationships. Good relationships lie at the heart of a happy life and are based on a strong moral code of caring for the other and being loyal. Our emotional security and acceptance of self is primary if we are to reach out to others. Usually, our inner security comes from those earliest years of our life through receiving consistent love which reassures us that we are lovable and so can then reach out to others in true friendship. We have to remember too that friendship is a two-way thing. As the poet Emerson said: to have a friend you must be a friend. Most of us have to cope at some moment of our lives with negative feelings – rejection, hurt, illness, bereavement and breakdown in relationships – all kinds of trials that life can throw at us. If we do not learn to cope and face such difficulties then we can be tempted to different forms of escapism in order to anaesthetize the pain, which are not the road to happiness.
The third and most important is Faith in Jesus Christ. True and lasting happiness is also a deeply spiritual quest transcending one’s own self. We all need a point of reference outside of ourselves, a scaffold of beliefs and values to help shape our lives. For us Catholics, it must be the person of Jesus and His Gospel. Strive, so that Jesus becomes real for you as a person, rather than a notion. Without genuine celebration of Christmas we can well be assured that ‘the nice decade is over’. Christmas assures us that God is not finished with us. Christmas shows that life is a struggle in which even God is willing to participate in order to save us. Easy acquisition of salvation tends to fuel an explosion of consumer-centered selfishness. This is not a Christmas value where God is available for all people of good will. Let it be known that increased wealth does not automatically bring increased happiness. Indeed, we must not look for unalloyed happiness this side of heaven. God has placed what I often call a ‘repining restlessness’ within us, so that we will not find ultimate rest and happiness outside of Himself. Christmas offers fundamental change to human history since it opens our minds to new reality of existence. Christmas offers true and natural friendship between our ethnic groups that tend to be continuously in a struggle when it comes to jobs, power and political issues. People like this with closed minds learn nothing because they live in the past. They idealize the period that is gone; they live on prejudices thinking they are principles. To live in Christmas is to embrace change since to be perfect is to have changed often. Be ready to set this country alight with the message of joy and peace because Jesus the Emmanuel is here today because of you.
Have you been living a reckless life? Hopeless in implementing facts? Lazy in planning? Today is the day of Salvation. God in Emmanuel wants turn your life round. Receive the spirit of joy and start on the journey of transformation. Be the new person in yourself who knows that Jesus is born. Let this Jesus’ event change you for the better. One sure step in the right direction makes to a thousand kilometers; come let’s get going.
Theme: Be at peace
Violence and peace are at the origin of two opposite ways of building society. The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces the most serious negative social consequences. The Holy Father sums up this situation in the expression: ‘A third world war in pieces’. Peace, by contrast, promotes social good consequences and allows progress. We should act within what is possible and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical
First reading: Numbers 6:22-27
The book of Numbers represents a complex mixture of various traditions, religious history, liturgical rites and legal codes which grew out of the developing faith and culture of the Hebrews. These traditions infiltrated through life and customs of the people for about ten centuries before they were concentrated in a less orderly book named Numbers. While much of the material in this book comes from a later period, the blessing which comprises today’s text is quite ancient. This formula was used by priests in blessing the people at the end of prayer and it is very familiar to us because it is still used in both Jewish and Christian liturgies. It is a perfect example of the prayer of petition expressed in three different ways. The phrases “the Lord bless you, the Lord let his face shine, the Lord look upon you kindly” Numbers 6:24-26 are but three alternatives for understanding the Lord’s favor. The word for the Lord’s face ‘panim’ is always a collective noun signifying all the qualities behind a face; namely attitudes, sentiments, personality. In a word, God’s very presence is invoked. The threefold prayer for prosperity, presence and peace is an excellent expression of our hope in God who alone can make ours a happy new year. No matter what ‘wilderness’ may be ahead of us, God is there to bless us.
Second reading: Galatians 4:4-7
Writing in Ephesus in the mid-50s AD on his third missionary journey, St. Paul used the letter to answer one major pastoral obstacle, the Judaizers who were a group of early Christians believing that the way to Jesus Christ was only to pass through Moses. They denied Paul’s apostleship and blamed him of diluting the power of the gospel for the sake of gentile converts. The Judaizers bothered gentile converts insisting on circumcision and observance of Jewish feasts and eating habits.
Paul clarified that all these were not necessary because baptism wins every baptized the freedom in Christ thus rejecting the old law and circumcision. Quoting Abraham Paul asserted that the promise made to him had to be enjoyed by all Christians because it is Christ Jesus and not the law which makes us heirs. Indeed, because of Jesus Christ and his Spirit, we are children of God, intimate enough to call him ‘Abba’ ‘Daddy’. To qualify this, Paul taught that “God sent forth his son so that we might receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:7. For all who believe in Jesus, every day is a designated time that has come so that all who have been born may proclaim Christ’s incarnation and witness that Christ is Lord. This truth is central to the whole gospel. Through Jesus we can address God as ‘Abba Father’. Those who accept Jesus and his gospel, God become their Father. Since we are children of God, then we have received the Holy Spirit who turns us into brothers and sisters.
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
The gospel today shows us the importance of listening to the message of the gospel. How do I want to welcome Jesus? like shepherds? Herod? or citizens of Bethlehem? The shepherds do not find anything extraordinary but inside that innocent baby, God is present. At times we want to see extraordinary things so as to believe; instead a true disciple hears the message and goes after it. It is the normal trend that is biblically associated with God’s project. Elizabeth, Zachariah, Mary, Joseph are all ordinary people with an extraordinary sense of the divine. This is the model we have to imitate. On the other hand, we all need to be aware that to be able to work with God we have to get used to small disappointments which make up our day to day living. The shepherds’ visit to the newly formed holy family parallels the magi story in Matthew’s gospel. Both groups the shepherds and magi come to Jesus due to an extraordinary revelation, in one case an angel, in the other a star. Both groups represent believers in the early Church who accepted Jesus as the Christ as opposed to other groups who rejected and even persecuted him namely Herod, scribes and the chief priests. Both groups, shepherds and magi, come to adore Jesus as savior and went away from the event believing, though the terms and conditions where tough. In the first case the magi were foreigners and astronomers while the shepherds were considered lawless since their livelihood at times pushed them to survive at any coast and even graze their flocks on the lands of others by force.
The last verse of today’s gospel gives fleeting attention to Jesus’ circumcision before focusing on his naming. Contrary to custom, Joseph does not name the child. Rather, he is given the name which had been announced by the angel. In this way, Luke attests to the extraordinary circumstances of Jesus’ birth as well as the faith of Mary who had kept the angel’s words in her heart and acted on them. This revelation shows that God’s love is universal and that his saving gifts are intended for the benefit of all of humankind. Besides offering a universal scope of Jesus ministry, it provides the basis for the subsequent universal mission of the Church which deserves a serious attention and commands a sincere response in faith from all of us. We need to be convinced that through the gift of Jesus who is God among us, the Father has honored, dignified and redeemed us. Through Jesus, we can hear the Father say to each of us, ‘I care about you; you have special worth in my eyes’. In his capacity as GIFT, we celebrate him today, as leader and Lord, as dying and rising savior and especially as the Eucharistic living bread for all.
Peace my best choice during 2020
Time is forcing us to move into uncertainty provoking panic. As you can see, we are now in 2020 for the prepared and unprepared. There may be some excitement around us but it will end with little gain unless the death and birth of years is planned by us with the eyes of God.
The movement of time is not routine; its history being written in words, actions and deeds. I am sure that as you read this, you have also your age in front of you. Are you happy with the history you have so far made? Is society happy to have you around or are you are a problem to yourself and others? Some of us can as well think of being good; but the truth is that they are good for nothing. If you are a Christian; remember that quality time is a moment of grace because it brings about salvation. “When the fullness of time came, God sent his only Son to be born of a woman” Galatians 4:14. Time and ages are fulfilled by the very fact that God in incarnation came down into human history. Eternity has entered into time. Often we think of time as a formless container which brings no significance with it. It’s not so. Time can be measured with precision and calculated with clocks and calendars. It’s in this framework that history builds your plans and availability to God’s grace. 2020 is not any year thus allow Jesus to demarcate with you some steps forward towards salvation through a concrete life saving agenda.
The first step could be: LORD TEACH US TO LOVE YOU AND TO PRAY. Dedicate this year to Love God and to pray. Are you intending to keep yourself so busy that you have no moment to be a moment with God? Make a difference during 2020. Change the style and have time with the one who loves you most, your God. Do you know that you can donate a few hours of adoration in some Churches on your way home? Do you know that you can tune in Radio Maria for Rosary, Holy Mass and healing music? Just move in and you will like it.
The second step is: FORGIVE OUR SINS AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US. Make 2020 a time of conversion and reconciliation. Time is now, do not wait for anything more. How long will you co-exist with sin? Stop defending and protecting bad habits and evil acts. They are your enemies. They will end up destroying you and all you have accumulated all these years. You can decide to live for peace. You have already tried friendship with trouble; why not accept a change for a new heart with a new spirit? You can be a trouble free zone in 2020 if you so wish.
Third step: HAVE AN AGENDA. You may have been nomadic in as far as planning of your time is concerned. Drop your pride and have an agenda for your activities. Set time limits and stick to it. If you do not have an agenda, the devil may easily plan one for you. Always have quality reasons for what you are doing whether alone or with others. Time planning is wisdom in practice, thus a gift of the Holy Spirit. Do not miss it in 2020.
Forth step. IDENTIFY A SCALE OF VALUES. Not everything that glitters is gold. You want to be qualitatively happy? Set priorities and allow God to bless them. These values are the same as virtues. You may say that: You do not want to wake up late in 2020, borrow money and incur debts, get drunk, reckless driving, shouting at individuals, being greedy on food or things, avoiding sacraments, being dishonest and participating in corruption. You can say you want to perform excellent at work, be loving and caring to all, make some savings for a quality asset, listening to God’s voice, taking care of your health, improving your spirituality and academics. It’s important to select and after choosing, you stick to what you have decided. Good resolutions lead to discipline and balanced life.
Make this year reflect the blessings of the faith you are enjoying. Collaborate with the Holy Spirit in being holy and you will see the good surprises from God. Identify with Christ by actions of faith. Start this year on the right note so that God’s blessings can be fully upon you. This year think peace, live in peace and be peaceful. Happy New Year Hits: 92