December 16, 2019

Advent IV (Dec 22) Sunday homily

Advent IV [A] (Dec 22) Sunday Homily– One-page summary (L-19)

Introduction: Loving, responsive obedience to God, as modeled for us in the Gospel by St. Joseph, is the central theme of today’s readings, with special emphasis on the Virgin Birth of Jesus.

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah gives a sign from God to King Ahaz of Judah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Is 7:14). Matthew considers this prophecy as one of the most descriptive and definite prophecies foretelling the future Messianic King, the Christ, who will be born as a descendant of David. The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 24), “Let the Lord enter; He is King of Glory” reminds us that we must choose to let Jesus enter our hearts to rule our lives, for God never forces us to receive His gifts. In the second reading, Paul asserts that Jesus was a descendant of David and thus the Messiah: “from David according to the flesh(Rom 1:3). Paul explains that the only begotten Son of God, become Incarnate as Jesus, was revealed and established by the Father as Son of God in power by his Resurrection from the dead.  Then Paul provides a sweeping summary of God’s mighty acts in history through Jesus Christ.  Today’s Gospel, from Matthew, focuses on the person and role of Joseph. For Jesus to fulfill the Messianic prophecy given by Isaiah, Joseph had to, and freely did, accept Jesus as his son, making Jesus a legal descendant of David because Joseph was a descendant of David.  Hence, Matthew makes it clear that Jesus was not the biological child of Joseph.  But because Joseph was the husband of Mary at the time Jesus was born, Jesus was legally the son of Joseph and thus a descendant of David.

Life messages: 1) Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful.  Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, tensions in the family and health concerns, let us try to be like St. Joseph, trusting and faithful. Instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible.

2) We need to experience Emmanuel in our lives and change the world: The Good News and the consoling message of Christmas is that the Child Jesus still waits today to step into our hearts—your heart and mine—and to change us and the world around us by the beauty of God’s love, kindness, mercy and compassion.  Let us take some time to welcome the Christ Child into our hearts and lives this week, so that God may change our world of miseries with the beauty of that love.

3) Do we have any gift for our “Birthday Boy?” Let us check to see if Jesus is on our list this Christmas and if we have a special gift in mind for him.    A heart filled with love for God and our fellow-human beings is the birthday gift which Jesus really wants from us. Hence, let us prepare our heart for Jesus, filling it with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness on this Christmas and every day of our lives.

4) Let us be a Christmas gift to others: The greatest gift we can give to those we love, is to have faith in them, believe in their dreams and try to help them realize them. We need to believe in the dreams of our husband, wife, children, parents, heroes, leaders and friends, then try our best to help them realize those dreams.

ADVENT IV [A] (Dec 22) Is 7:10-14; Rom 1:1-7; Mt 1:18-24

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Image result for Father Damien deVeuster Emmanuel – God with us: Over 100 years ago Father Damien deVeuster, (St. Damien of Molokai) a Belgian priest, began working with lepers on Molokai, a small Hawaiian island. Father Damien found a source of fresh water in the mountains and developed a system to bring it down to the colony. He built the first sanitation system and clinic. He and the lepers constructed a chapel for worship. Each Sunday Father Damien would begin his sermon with these words: “You lepers know that God loves you.” This went on for years. Finally, one Sunday Father Damien began his sermon this way: “We lepers know that God loves us.” Father Damien had contracted leprosy. Yet he went on loving and serving until his death in 1898. Even as Father Damien cast his lot in with the lepers, Jesus, Emmanuel, invested Himself totally in us sinners. “He was bruised and wounded for our sins. He was lashed, and we were healed.” “All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: ‘Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel’” (Mt 1: 22-23). (Dr. William R. Bouknight). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

#2: Image result for crippled puppyYou don’t know what love can do!” There is a story about a small boy who went to a pet shop. “Mister,” he said to the owner, “I want to buy that puppy.” The owner’s eyes followed the boy’s finger to a little crippled puppy all by himself. “Son,” replied, “that pup is worthless. We’re going to have him put to sleep in the next few days.” But the boy protested, “I’ve saved my money just to buy that one puppy. I have been looking at him in the window every day. He’s the only one I want.” Once again, the owner explained the problem—the dog was crippled—the dog was worthless—the dog would be put to sleep. The small boy then reached down with two little hands and pulled up his trousers. The man observed two little legs enclosed in braces. “Mister,” he said, “You don’t know what love can do!” Jesus, Emmanuel has worn our braces and died for our sins. Now with grateful hearts let us enthrone him as Savior and Lord. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

# 3: A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” Carl Sandburg (1878-1967), the noted American historian, novelist, and poet, once said, “A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.” When Isaiah offered Ahaz the sign which he had refused to request, the prophet’s message bore some similarity to the words of Sandburg. A baby would be born, he prophesied, and that child’s existence would underscore, yet again, God’s fidelity to his promises. Judah could be sure that its world would indeed go on. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

# 4: FA80594You’ll know tonight.” It was a few days before Christmas. A woman woke up one morning and told her husband, “I just dreamed that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?” “Oh,” her husband replied, “you’ll know the day after tomorrow.” The next morning, she turned to her husband again and said she had the same dream and received the same reply. On the third morning, the woman woke up and smiled at her husband, “I just dreamed again that you gave me a pearl necklace for Christmas. What do you think this dream means?” And he smiled back, “You’ll know tonight.” That evening, the man came home with a small package and presented it to his wife. She was delighted. She opened it gently. And when she did, she found—a book! And the book’s title was The Meaning of Dreams. Today’s Gospel tells us how Joseph had a dream and how he reacted to it. (Rev Samuel Candler). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

Introduction: The story of the Virgin Birth is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations.  Hence, today’s readings focus on the story of the Virgin Birth.

Scripture summarized: In the first reading, God gives a sign through the prophet Isaiah to King Ahaz of Judah: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (Isaiah 7:14) Matthew considers this one of the most descriptive and definite prophecies foretelling that the future Messianic king, the Christ, would be born as a descendant of David. The Refrain for today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 24), “Let the Lord enter; He is King of Glory,” reminds us that, like Joseph, we must choose to let Jesus enter our hearts to rule our lives, for God never forces us to receive His gifts. Paul, in the second reading, also asserts that Jesus is a descendant of David and thus the Messiah, being: “descended from David according to the flesh” (Rom 1: 3). Paul also explains that Jesus was revealed and established as the Son of God in power by his Resurrection from the dead.  Then Paul provides a sweeping summary of God’s mighty acts in history through Jesus Christ.  Today’s Gospel, from Matthew, focuses on the person and role of Joseph. In order for Jesus to fulfill the Messianic prophecy given by Isaiah, Joseph had to, and freely, willingly, did, accept Jesus as his son, making Jesus a descendant of David because Joseph was a descendant of David.  Hence, Matthew makes it clear that Jesus was not the biological child of Joseph.  But because Joseph was the husband of Mary at the time Jesus was born, and because he named and thus accepted the child as his own, Jesus was legally the son of Joseph and thus a descendant of David.

The first reading (Is 7:10-14 explained: God had promised (2Samuel 7:14) an unending dynasty to David. Hence the Israelites hung their hopes on a coming messiah (anointed king) whose reign would restore the peace and prosperity for which they longed. But the undivided kingdom of Israel under David and Solomon was divided at Solomon’s death in the late eighth century BC, into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. Assyria, the dominant power in the region controlled, among other lands, Israel and Syria. These two liege states were planning to rebel against Assyria.  Their kings pressured Judah’s King Ahaz, the eleventh Jewish king of Judah in ten years (735 to 715 BC), to join them. [See 2 Kg 16 ff and 2 Chronicles 28 for Ahaz’ history.] When he refused, they began to plot to overthrow him by attacking Judah. Instead of trusting in God, Ahaz planned to ask from the pagan Assyrian king, help for holding his throne, a request which later led to the overthrow of the kingdom of Judah. Confident that his God, Yahweh, would protect Judah and its king, the prophet Isaiah told Ahaz to have Faith in Yahweh and not to ally himself with Assyria. The sign value for Ahaz would be more in the name given to that child: Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” That child would be a sign that God is on the house of Judah’s side, that we don’t have to act as if God has left us alone.  But Ahaz wouldn’t listen. He was determined to go ahead with his alliance.  (In order to appease the Assyrians, Ahaz had replaced the altar in the Temple with an Assyrian altar and had sacrificed his firstborn son to the Assyrian god Moloch).  Isaiah told Ahaz that the Lord wanted him to ask God for a sign of the truth of what Isaiah was saying.   Ahaz had already made up his mind to rely on Assyria. So, he refused to ask for a sign, using the excuse that it would be “tempting God” to do so. In frustration, Isaiah announced God’s sign anyway, the birth from a virgin of a son, whose very name, “Emmanuel” (“God is with us”), would assure everyone that God was really with His people.

The true and definitive fulfillment of the sign given to Ahaz, however, we see in today’s Gospel. Seven centuries later, in describing the miraculous events of Jesus’ conception and birth, St. Matthew wrote, “All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet, “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God-is-with-us.” Matthew understands the passage from Isaiah as promising the birth of an ideal descendant of David, the Messiah. Despite Matthew’s citation from Isaiah, Isaiah probably wasn’t consciously prophesying Jesus’ birth in Is 7:10-14, and certainly was not foretelling that birth exclusively.  The Lord God, through Isaiah, was giving King Ahaz a sign, which had to be recognized instantly, not 700 years later in Jesus. Besides, the Hebrew word almah which we translate as “virgin,” meant only a woman who had not yet delivered a baby.  Hence, the almah Isaiah mentions probably would be Ahaz’ wife, Abia, and the Emmanuel would be their soon-to-be-born son Hezekiah. In the birth of the child, God proved himself once again to be Emmanuel; God-with-us. The promised son of Ahaz would be faithful to Yahweh and would institute a series of religious reforms that would undo many of Ahaz’ accommodations to Assyrian religious practices. Hence, many modern Bible scholars do not believe that the immediate identities of Isaiah’s “virgin” and “Emmanuel” were Mary and Jesus. But on a fuller level of meaning, Isaiah’s prophecy has been understood to apply to the birth of Jesus. As is reflected in Matthew’s Gospel today, the early Church realized that the Israel’s centuries’ old messianic aspirations and God’s promise to David were finally and completely fulfilled only in Jesus’ coming. That prophecies, the work of the Holy Spirit, can have several fulfillments often centuries apart is axiomatic in the Church, which relies on the Holy Spirit as her Guardian against error, as Jesus promised would be the case. The Letter to the Hebrews provides multiple instances of this kind of reading of Biblical texts. Matthew’s citation, which does identify the “Virgin” as Mary and “Emmanuel” as Jesus, provides what is probably the final fulfillment of the prophecy. We’re tempted sometimes, like Ahaz, to go through life as if God is not really there for us, as if he is not really present. But God has given this enduring sign that even when we’re experiencing tremendous human difficulty, we’re never abandoned. God is truly with us

The second reading (Romans 1:1-7 explained: The reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Romans also emphasizes that Jesus was a descendant of David and thus the Messiah [” descended from David according to the flesh(Rom 1: 3).]  At the beginning of this letter, Paul briefly summarizes the Gospel, the core of Christian Faith, as including two things.  One is that that the only-begotten Son of God, become Incarnate as Jesus, is a descendant of the line of David; the second is that Jesus was revealed and established by the Father as Son of God in power by his Resurrection from the dead. Jesus’ birth is significant because of his death and Resurrection for our salvation.

The Christian congregation in Rome was small, not yet persecuted, and still meeting in people’s homes. These were the first-generation converts – some Jewish, some Gentile. Paul was introducing himself to the Romans in this letter, and he was establishing his authority as God’s Apostle. That was necessary because the Church in Rome did not know Paul personally, having heard only that he was a former persecutor turned Apostle.  In the first sentence, Paul describes himself as “set apart to proclaim the Gospel …,” and later, “favored with Apostleship.”   The rest of the introduction is a summary of the Gospel and of the Divine Plan Paul serves.  Paul sees how Jesus’ coming and his own mission to non-Jews is prefigured in the Hebrew Scriptures.  Paul does not use the name Emmanuel for Jesus, but he does provide a sweeping summary of God’s mighty acts in history through Jesus Christ.

Gospel (Matthew 1:18-24) Exegesis

While Mary is featured prominently in Luke’s account of Jesus’ birth, Matthew brings Joseph to the forefront, because Jesus becomes part of David’s lineage through Joseph (1:1-17).  Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew tells us of Joseph’s obedience.  Luke tells the story of the angel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), but Matthew tells us only that the child was from the Holy Spirit.  But why does the Church couple Ahaz with Joseph in today’s readings? Because of the stark contrast between the two men, each faced with a difficult situation. One of them, Ahaz, relied on his own wits and schemes. Joseph relied on God alone and trusted in Him absolutely. One of them sacrificed his own son to appease others and showed no mercy. The other spent his life in protecting his foster-son. And so we see Joseph, in sharp contrast to Ahaz in the background, as the just and righteous man that he is.

Crisis in the family: Jewish marriage started with an engagement arranged by parents, often between children. Just prior to marriage, couples began a year-long betrothal very much like marriage except for sexual rights. Betrothal was binding and could be terminated only by death or divorce. A person whose betrothed had died was considered to be a widow or widower. Joseph found that Mary was pregnant without his knowledge. Now, the law required that Mary be stoned to death, because she would have been considered an unfaithful wife, and the baby would have been stoned to death with her. In Deuteronomy 22:23-24, the penalty for adultery was death by stoning at the door of her father’s house as she had disgraced her father. Since Joseph was a just man of great mercy, he resolved to divorce Mary quietly so that he might not cause her unnecessary pain. In doing so, he shows us Christ-like compassion in the face of sin. He also demonstrates a Godly balance between the Law of Torah and the Law of Love.  (If civil divorce is the only way of ensuring certain legal rights, it can be tolerated, and for that reason does not constitute a moral offense (CCC #2383). And then in a dream he learned that the Child had been conceived by the Holy Spirit, and that he himself was to be the foster-father of the Christ, claiming the Child by naming Him, and then rearing Him. Joseph, through trust and Faith in God, accepted his mission as the foster-father of the Son of God.

God’s message through His angel: This is the first of three occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. Joseph doesn’t have a speaking part. In this first instance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In Mt 2:13, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. In Mt 2:19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. The angel begins by saying, “Joseph, son of David,” alerting us to Joseph’s lineage. It is through Joseph that Jesus will be of the house and lineage of David. Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name him. By naming him, Joseph makes Jesus his son and brings him into the house of David. After each of the three angelic apparitions in his dreams, Joseph obeys the angel’s commands without question or pause. His hallmark is obedience—prompt, simple, and unspectacular obedience. And in this sense, Joseph prefigures the Gospel of Matthew’s understanding of righteousness: to be righteous is simply to obey the Word of God. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s role that allows Jesus to be born Son of God. In the end, Joseph obediently took Mary as his wife, in spite of his fears, and he claimed her Son as his own by naming him. In spite of his earlier decision to divorce this woman quietly, Joseph nurtured, protected, watched over and loved both Mary and her Child.

Virgin Birth: In order to emphasize the traditional Christian belief that Jesus did not have a human father; the Christian tradition always taught the revealed truth that the conception of Jesus by Mary was from the Holy Spirit. The main biblical text supporting this teaching is Isiah 7:14: “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel.” Matthew and early Christians understood Mary as the Virgin and Jesus as the Son in the prophecy. This means that the prophecy had an original fulfillment and a final fulfillment. The prophecy found its original fulfillment in Hezekiah, the son of Ahaz and his wife, Abia. So, in the Gospel reading for today, where Matthew 1:23 cites Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son and his name shall be called Emmanuel,” as the explanation for the events he has just related, the full meaning of parthenos (the Greek translation of the Hebrew word almah used by Isiah) makes it plain that the final fulfillment of the Isaiah prophecy was to be found in Mary as the untouched Virgin who, by the power of God, gave birth to Jesus as Emmanuel without a human partner. “The doctrine of the Virgin Birth of the Messiah, Jesus, the Son of God and the Son of Man is crucial to our Redemption (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Luke 1:27, 34). First, let’s look at how Scripture describes the event. In response to Mary’s question, “How will this be?” (Luke 1:34), Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35). The angel encourages Joseph, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary, your wife, into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her” (Mt 1:20). Matthew states that the virgin “was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 1:18). Galatians 4:4 also teaches the Virgin Birth: “God sent His Son, born of a woman.” [Question of the Week.]

Almah and Parthenos: In the Old and New Testaments, there are two possibilities for the word we translate “virgin”: a Hebrew meaning and a Greek meaning.  In Hebrew, the language of the Old Testament, the word for “virgin” used in the Isaiah prophecy is “almah,” which simply means “young woman who has not yet delivered a baby.” But in Greek, the language of the New Testament, the word used for “virgin” is parthenos, and it means someone who has not been sexually active with another person, who has never had sexual relationships with another. With the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the Hebrew “almah” in Isaiah’s prophecy became the Greek parthenos and brought the more complete meaning of “virginity” in our terms, with it. In the Old Testament, virginity (meaning the state in a woman of never having had sexual intercourse), was highly prized.  A virgin was someone who was precious.  Rebecca was not merely a young woman; she was a virgin.  The Bible is very emphatic about that.  There were several laws to protect the virginity of women.  That is, parents made arrangements for their daughters to be married, and they expected their daughters to be virgins. In fact, Christ’s birth ‘did not diminish his mother’s virginal integrity but sanctified it.’ And so, the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the ‘Ever-virgin.’ (CCC #499). “Christian tradition emphasizes a virgin birth (just as it emphasizes a virgin burial, a virgin tomb to parallel the virgin womb), not because it judges that sexuality is too impure and earthy to produce something holy. Rather, beyond wanting to emphasize that Jesus had no human father, the Christian tradition wants to emphasize what kind of heart and soul is needed to create the space wherein something divine can be born.” (Fr. Ron Rolheiser S. J.) “Virgin birth stories in the Gospels are an affirmation of faith in the transcendental origin of Jesus’ history. (Fr. Reginald Fuller).

Jesus the Emmanuel: The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means ‘YHWH is salvation’.  The first Joshua, the successor of Moses, saved the people from their enemies.  The second Joshua (Jesus) will save the people from their sins.  The people did not expect a Messiah who would save them from their sins, but one who would deliver them from their earthly oppressors.  The fulfillment of prophecy is important to Matthew. He mentions fulfillment of prophecy eleven times (1:22; 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:35; 21:4; 26:56; 27:9).  In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God. Immanu-El means “God with us.”  Emmanuel describes Jesus’ role or vocation.  Jesus’ calling is to save his people from their sins and to manifest God’s presence. Matthew thus begins his Gospel with the promise that Jesus is God-with-us. He will end the Gospel with the promise that Jesus will be with us “always, to the end of the age” (28:20).  Matthew understands that in the life, death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, God is with us, reconciling the world to Himself.  He is the reassurance in the flesh that God has not given up on us, but will remain with us. The real event of Christmas is that God comes to change the world and each of us—not just through a historical, virginal conception and a baby lying in a manger, but through the God Who is with us today, shattering our self-righteous attitudes and seeking to move us beyond our fears, freeing us from our bondages.

Life messages:

1) Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful.  We are here in this Church, three days before Christmas, because, like Joseph, we are faithful, and we trust in God, His power and His mercy. Although we may face financial problems, job insecurity, family problems and health concerns let us try to be trusting and faithful like St. Joseph. Instead of relying on our own schemes to get us through life, let us trust in God and be strengthened by talking to Him in fervent prayer and by listening to Him speaking through the Bible. Let us remain faithful and prayerful, imitating Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy, as we welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives this Christmas.

2)We need to experience Emmanuel in our lives and change the world: God who entered our world through Jesus some 2000 years ago is at work in the world.  But the question is, if God has come to be present in our lives and our world, then why are there so many lives which are unhappy and beastly?  Why are people so hostile, hating each other, and why do so many love-relationships turn sour? Why is there domestic violence? Why is there child abuse?  Why is there war in at least a dozen countries of God’s good earth at any given time?  Why are so many people homeless and hungry, even in rich countries?  The Good News, the consoling message of Christmas, is that the child Jesus still waits today to step into our hearts—your heart and mine—and to change us and the world around us by the beauty of God’s love, kindness, mercy and compassion.  Let us take some time to let the Christ Child enter our hearts and lives this week, so that He may change our world of miseries with the beauty of that love.

3) Do we have any gift for our “Birthday Boy?” Let us check to see if Jesus is on our list this Christmas and if we have a special gift in mind for him.  We all know the pleasure of finding the right present for our husband or wife, for our children, a good friend, a parent. What special gift are we giving to Jesus this year to honor his birth, and what do we expect from God?  God sent Jesus from Heaven to earth to give us human beings what we really need most in life: hearts filled with love.  That is the gift which Jesus really wants from us, and that is what you and I really need from God this Christmas – a heart filled with love. We have tons of wants. We are like children with a catalogue before Christmas, circling all our wants by the dozens. But we have one essential need: a heart filled with love. God wants to give each of us a heart filled with love, mercy, compassion and forgiveness on this Christmas and every day of our lives.

4) Let us be a Christmas gift to others: The greatest gift we can give to those we love, is to have faith in them, believe in their dreams, and try to help them realize them. We need to believe in the dreams of our husband, wife, children, parents, heroes, leaders and friends, then try our best to help them realize those dreams.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

Jesuit Joke: A Jesuit, a Dominican and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, a vision of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him. The Franciscan fell on his face, overcome with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty. The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family. The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, “So, where ya thinking of sending the kid for school?

WEBSITE OF THE WEEK

1)Catholic directory & resources: http://www.catholicweb.com/directory.cfm

2) It’s Catholic: http://www.disciplesnow.com/catholic/html/article654.html,

3) Catholic online: http://www.catholic.org/featured/headline.php?ID=1586

4) Video Scripture study on Advent IV (A) by Fr. Geoffrey Plant: https://youtu.be/rFeetdyM9j8

5) Bible project videos: https://www.youtube.com/user/jointhebibleproject/

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24 Additional anecdotes

1) Beauty and the Beast: Today’s Gospel message is a bit like the story of Beauty and the Beast, the animated film nominated for the Oscar Award in 1991.  In that film, Beauty stepped into the ugly world of the Beast, not because he was loveable, not because he deserved her, but because she loved her father.  But the world of the beast did not change right away, even though Beauty was there.  The servants, who shared the curse of the Beast, warned him that Beauty might be the one they had been waiting for, but the Beast continued to rage and scream and roar, finally sending Beauty away.  On her way home, she was attacked by the wolves, and Beast saved her.  As Beauty returned and nursed the wounded Beast back to health, they began to bicker and blame each other, until in one beautiful moment, Beauty stepped into the heart of the ugly beast. From that moment on, the Beast began to change slowly.  He started to laugh and play.  And then, finally, Beast realized that he loved Beauty, and in an amazing act of love, he released her to find her father.  Beauty and her father returned to the ugly world of the Beast to warn him of the danger of the townspeople’s attack, but they were too late.  In the fighting, Beast had been stabbed, and as he lay dying, Beauty confessed her love for him.  And the spell was broken. Beast was changed by the love of Beauty.  Because Beauty stepped into the ugly world of the Beast, Beast was changed, little by little, until one day he was transformed into a wonderful handsome prince. In Jesus, God stepped into our ugly, beastly world as Joshua (Savior), and Emmanuel (sign of God’s permanent presence with us), to change it, to bring to it – to us – the beauty of the love of God’s kingdom.  But change comes slowly.  Yes, just look at our world.  There are so many ugly people, so many beastly things happening. But, there are some people who are changing and some who have been changed by the beauty of God’s love, and both begin loving others. Today’s Gospel describes the changes that occurred in St. Joseph and in the Holy Family. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

2) Grandfather or great-grandfather? In Christian art, Joseph is often portrayed more like Jesus’ grandfather or great-grandfather than like a parent. In a 17th-century painting by Guido Reni, Joseph, with gray hair and beard, lovingly holds the infant, who plays with his beard. One beautiful exception is El Greco’s “Joseph,” which portrays him as a vigorous young man with Jesus clinging to his legs, here a figure of trust and protection. The historical Joseph, a carpenter or stoneworker, was most likely young and vigorous, excited about a future with a woman he so loved that he would not invoke a harsh law against supposed adultery, but still followed the law and so would have put her away “quietly” — except for the angel from God. Yet out of his shattered hopes would come forth One whom he would name Jesus-| the Emmanuel, “God with us.” Matthew’s Joseph, in today’s Gospel, provides a model of complementarity for parents today as they engage in that most Divine of tasks—bringing forth new life and guiding their sons and daughters along the way of Christ. (Fr. John R. Donahue, S.J.) https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

3) Emmanuel to ward off Phobias: More than 300 fears, or phobias, are listed in medical dictionaries. There is the fear of darkness and the fear of light. There is the fear of high places and low places. The fear of closed places we call claustrophobia. Some people suffer from pyrophobia which is the fear of fire, and some from neophobia, which is the fear of what is new. Toxicophobia is the fear of being poisoned, and gamaphobia is the fear of marriage. Pantophobia is the fear of everything; and the person who is not afraid of anything may be suffering from phobophobia, which is the fear of being afraid! But one of the most devastating of the fears is “futurphobia,” the fear of the future. It is difficult to go anywhere if you are afraid to take the next step. But if you are walking in Faith, trusting your Lord, you don’t have to be afraid. He says, “Go … and I am with you.” Here is one of our Lord’s wonderful promises. It is important that we read it correctly. He doesn’t say, “Go … and I will go with you.” Rather, he says, “Go … and I am with you.” He is not just a tag-along; He is already out there ahead of us in the very next step we are going to take; and He is there no matter how dark it is. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

4) “Audio spotlight” technology in the first century: Last year busy Christmas shoppers in the SoHo district of New York were suddenly hearing voices. The woman’s voice they heard seemed to whisper directly in their ear, asking, “Who’s there? Who’s there?” Spooked shoppers then heard the voice claim, “It’s not in your imagination.” The voice, in fact, WAS real, but there wasn’t any disembodied being lurking on Prince Street. Instead those who heard the voice were simply “receiving” an ad for a new A&E television program called Paranormal State. The ad used “audio spotlight” technology developed by the Holosonic Company. Usually used to give audio slideshows in quiet environments like libraries and museums, this technology “beamed” an audio message from a nearby rooftop towards the street. When the beam intercepted an individual, that person received what seemed to be his or her own personal whisper-in-the-ear message. Anyone remember the one-second dancing hot dogs that used to flash across movie screens to suggest subliminally to patrons that they should leave their seats and buy a hot dog? The same thing was done with popcorn. Today’s Gospel describes how St. Joseph received such a message from God in a dream some 2000 years ago, removing his suspicion about Mary’s miraculous pregnancy. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

5) The forgotten Saint: A pastor tells the story of a worried mother who phoned the Church office on the afternoon before the annual Christmas program to say that her small son, who was to play the role of Joseph in the Christmas Pageant, had a cold and had gone to bed on doctor’s orders. “It’s too late now to get another Joseph,” the director of the play said. “We’ll just have to write him out of the script.” And they did! Joseph just disappeared! And only a few of those who watched that night actually realized that Joseph was missing. Joseph is often forgotten. But today’s Gospel is centered on Joseph.https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

6) Humans in solar system in 2600 AD: God did something as fantastic for that age, some 2000 years ago, as some of the proposals for the future by contemporary scientists suggest! Edward Regis, Jr., in an article, “Mother Sun,” seems to be fantasizing when he looks ahead to conditions in this solar system in A.D. 2600. He believes, with some other scientists like Crisweli, that the human race will inhabit most of the planets and asteroids of the system in 600 years: “But there’s a catch. Although there are hundreds of billions of people spread out from one end of the solar system to the other, planetary materials are nearing exhaustion.” Edward Regis believes that human beings can take the sun apart through the use of particle accelerators, thereby providing a virtually inexhaustible source of energy and materials to support human life in this universe. Two thousand years ago, the announcement of a “Virgin Birth” must have been just as incredible to those people as Edward Regis’ or Crisweli’s Plan for “Mother Sun” is to us. But through God-given Faith, as described in today’s Gospel, Joseph was able to accept the promised miracle and act accordingly.https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

7) “Honey, seems I’m lost again.”. G. K. Chesterton, who died at the age of 62 in 1936, was a prolific British writer and theologian. He was a brilliant man who debated the greatest minds of his day and his writings influenced people like C.S. Lewis to convert to Christianity. Though he was a deep thinker and could express himself well, including writing articles for the Encyclopedia Britannica, he was extremely absent-minded and over the years he became rather notorious for getting lost.  He would absolutely forget where he was supposed to be and what he was supposed to be doing. On one such occasion, he sent a telegram to his wife which carried these words: “Honey, seems I’m lost again. Presently, I am at Market Harborough.  Where ought I to be?”  As only a spouse could say it, she telegraphed back a one-word reply “HOME!” This is precisely what this classic passage in the first chapter of Matthew does for us… it brings us home… — Home to the real meaning of Christmas — Home to the most magnificent truth in the entire Bible — Home to our Lord’s greatest promise — Home to the reason we celebrate Christmas, namely this: “GOD IS WITH US!” When we accept Christ into our lives, nothing, not even death, can separate us from God and His love. It is what Christmas is about. God is with us. (Fr. Kyala)’https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

8) “Dog Theology” vs. “Cat Theology:” You may have heard of “Dog Theology” vs. “Cat Theology.” Here is Dog’s Theology: “You feed me. You pet me. You shelter me. You love me. You must be God!” Cat’s Theology: “You feed me. You pet me. You shelter me. You love me. I must be God.” A Far Side cartoon once depicted a scientist announcing a breakthrough in understanding cat language: “They say only two things: ‘Where’s my dinner?’ and ‘Everything here is mine.’” Here is a cat story illustrating the need of our co-operation to get saved by God. At the very same time the Santa Ana winds returned to southern California, swamping flood waters inundated western state of Washington and submerged Interstate 5 for five days. Camera crews captured a lot of dramatic rescue stories. While filming the flooded farmlands a TV camera crew spied a lone refugee—a large grey cat perched on top of an old metal out-building. The flood waters had completely surrounded this cold and shivering cat. For whatever reason, the TV crew paddled and waddled forward to rescue the kitty. The cat took one look at this splashing gang of strangers with blazing lights and blaring bullhorns and saw his doom. As they tried in vain to corral and catch the cat, one camera recorded the kitty’s “escape” to higher ground. First, the cat leapt an amazing distance to the next ragged metal building. Then, still in a panic, the cat proceeded to climb the sheer, smooth, aluminum siding straight up for at least twelve feet—until he reached the roof peak and was “safely” away from all those who had thought they would “rescue” him. Now in total darkness and utterly defeated, the camera crew left. A check of the same site the next day found the flood waters had receded, and the superman cat had disappeared. 2000 years ago, on that first Christmas God launched a rescue mission to save mankind from the bondage of sin by sending His Son Jesus as our Savior. But being “saved” depends upon our trusting God the Savior because we cannot save ourselves. And that is the theme of today’s Gospel. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

9) “God is with us.” Phyllis Martin, a schoolteacher in Columbus, Ohio, tells of the day when the storm clouds and strong gusts of wind came up suddenly over the Alpine Elementary School. The school public address system blared tornado warnings. It was too dangerous to send the children home. Instead, they were taken to the basement where the children lined the walls and huddled together in fear. She said the teachers were worried, too. To help ease the tension, the principal suggested a sing-along. But the voices were weak and unenthusiastic. One child after another began to cry. The children could not be consoled and were close to panic. Then one of the teachers, whose faith seemed equal to any emergency, whispered to the child closest to her, “Kathy, I know you are scared. I am too, but aren’t we forgetting something? There is a power greater than any storm. God will protect us. Just say to yourself, ‘God is with us,’ then pass the words on to the child next to you and tell her to pass it on.” Suddenly that dark and cold basement became a sacred place as each child in turn whispered around the room those powerful words, “God is with us,” “God is with us,” God is with us.” A sense of peace and courage and confidence settled over the group. Phyllis Martin said, “I could hear the wind outside still blowing with such strength that it literally shook the building, but it did not seem to matter now… Inside the fears subsided and tears faded away… When the all-clear signal came sometime later, students and staff returned to the classrooms without the usual jostling and talking. Through the years I have remembered those calming words. When we are frightened, we can claim that great Christmas promise: “God is with us”

10) “God is with us as never before”: There was a family which was going through a painful, heart-breaking grief-experience. Their teenage daughter had died after a long bout with leukemia. Their pastor went to their home and they sat down together around the kitchen table, sipped coffee, and reminisced about their daughter, Courtney. They poured our hearts out. They cried together as they remembered painful moments. They laughed and remembered Courtney’s incredible sense of humor through it all… and some of the funny things she had said and done over her last few years. They prayed when they recalled her amazing Faith, her tender love and her brave spirit. Finally, when their pastor stood to leave, Courtney’s mom took his hands in hers, she looked him straight in the eye and she said, “Now pastor, don’t worry about us. We’re going to be all right. This is the toughest thing we have ever been through… no question about that… but God is with us as never before, and He will hold us up… and He will see us through. He has given us strength every day throughout this ordeal. https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

11) “God is with us”: The great writer Max Lucado tells about his neighbor who was trying to teach his six-year-old son how to shoot a basketball. They were out in the backyard. The father shot a couple of times, saying, “Do it just like that, son; it’s real easy.” The little boy tried very hard but he couldn’t get the ball ten feet into the air. The little fellow got more and more frustrated. Finally, after hearing his father talk about how easy it was for the tenth time, the boy said, “It’s easy for you up there. You don’t know how hard it is from down here.” You and I can never say that about God. When Jesus became man and lived among us, he walked where we walk, he suffered what we suffer, he was tempted as we are tempted. He was Emmanuel which means “God is with us.” https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

12) “I hate Christmas”: I remember a lady in a previous parish in which I served who told me how much she hated the Christmas season.   With her children grown and her husband dead, she felt as if there were really nothing for her; Christmas, after all, is for children, at least according to the merchants.  Each year the woman became more depressed than she had the previous December.  Using her reasoning that Christmas was for children, I asked her to be responsible for the Adopt-A-Family Project.  She met the families, discovered what they needed, and organized the parish community for action and for giving.  The month of December became different for her. Christmas was not just for children, but for her.  She had discovered God’s presence by giving, and both the giving and that presence continued throughout the year. On her way to becoming an embittered woman, she had been transformed as God’s presence was made real to her.  Today’s Gospel tells us how God became Emmanuel, “God with us” to transform us.  https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

13) What is your Christmas gift for Jesus? When Jesus called that Christmas week I wasn’t at my best;/ And the house was much too cluttered to entertain a guest./ He seemed to notice everything, the card still unaddressed,/ The gifts piled high awaiting wraps, the baking and the rest./ He eyes fell on the evergreen and the presents ‘beneath the tree./’It’s my birthday that you celebrate—what are you giving me?’‘/ What am I giving Him?’ I thought; ashamed, no words I found. / So many costly things I’d bought, He looked at me and frowned. /I prayed He’d let the question pass, but when he did persist, / I blurted out the truth at last, ‘You were not on my list.’” (Louise Teisberg )

14) Being just in dealing with others: The ancient Greeks defined justice as “giving to another what is his due.” Having given a definition for justice, they failed to render the same to their great philosopher, Socrates. Socrates felt he had been given a Divine call to right the wrong, enlighten the ignorant and lead people from untruth to truth. He engaged with people in conversation on all kinds of topics -war, marriage, morality, religion etc. He was always kind and gentle in his disposition but delighted in exposing the quacks and the humbugs of his time. He practiced the virtues he preached. He was falsely charged with atheism and the corruption of youth by the Athenian people; the judge ordered that he should be put to death by the drinking hemlock, a poison. Since his death, history has reversed the judgment, has declared Socrates innocent, and has condemned the Athenian people and the judge as guilty of giving an unfair and wrong judgment against Socrates.—Time and again, we have seen in history that people have been wrongly condemned and put to death. How are we to act justly? When we are called upon to judge, how should we render judgment? In today’s Gospel, Joseph gives us an example of how we can wisely pass judgment on others. Joseph ‘being a just man’ breaks the law by showing compassion. In showing compassion to Mary, he acted as God does in His dealings with His people.
(John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19 

15)
St. Joseph, the model of Faith: A retreat master was addressing a group of fathers. He proposed St. Joseph as a perfect model for them as the head of their families. At that, one retreatant said: “Joseph’s situation was totally different from mine. He was a saint, his wife was sinless, and his Child was the Son of God. I’m no saint, my wife is not sinless, and my child isn’t the Son of God.” Without batting an eyelid, the quick-witted Retreat master responded: “Was your wife pregnant before marriage and you didn’t know by whom? Did you son leave home for three days and you didn’t know where he was? Were you ever awakened in the middle of the night and urged to flee from the imminent threat of your innocent child’s assassination?”  St. Joseph was pre-eminently a man of Faith who never doubted the reassuring promise of the Heavenly messenger: “Don’t be afraid, Joseph, to take Mary to be your wife. For it is by the Holy Spirit that she has conceived.” Joseph believed God’s word and acted on it and fulfilled the mission God had given him. We too, with His ever-present help, can do the same. (Mark Link; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

16) The impossible becomes possible with God: It is reported that when Fred Astaire, the famous tap dancer, presented his very first performance before the director of MGM way back in 1933, the response was: “Can’t act! Slightly bald! Can dance a little!” Undeterred, he went on to become one of the finest, most graceful and impressive dancers the world has ever known. Beethoven handled the violin awkwardly and preferred to play his own compositions instead of improving his technique. His teacher called him hopeless as a composer. The rest, as we know, is history: Beethoven went on to distinguish himself as a brilliant violinist and an eminent composer. Albert Einstein did not speak until he was four years old and didn’t read until he was seven. His teacher described him as “mentally slow, unsociable and adrift forever in his foolish dreams.” Further, he was expelled and refused admission into the Zurich Polytechnic School. Unaffected by this harsh and unfair assessment he went on to become one the world’s greatest geniuses. — Fred Astaire, Beethoven and Albert Einstein each admirably demonstrated what we have heard in the three readings today, viz. what is impossible to man is possible to God, and the God of wisdom, power and love is with us and in us always, even to the end of time. The essential message of Christmas is: “The Lord Himself will give you a sign. It is this: ‘The maiden is with child and soon will give birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel, a name which means ‘God-is-with-us.’” If God is for us and with us, who can be against us? (James Valladares in Your Words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

17) The Excitement of Arrival: In 1915, Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton led an expedition to Antarctica which nearly ended in tragedy. His ship was caught in ice and eventually was crushed. The crew had to flee, taking with them what provisions they could carry. They drifted 150 miles on an ice floe to Elephant Island, where there was an old supply hut. From there Shackleton and a few of his men sailed 800 miles in a small boat on wild seas to South Georgia Island. After a near tragic landing (the rudder broke apart just as they reached a rocky shore) they made a nearly impossible crossing of a rugged mountain range to a whaling village on the opposite shore. Meanwhile, the men he left behind at Elephant Island had exhausted their supplies and had nearly given up hope that the ‘boss’ – that’s what they called Shackleton -would make it back to save them. But he did, and one can only imagine the excitement of those beleaguered men the day they sighted Shackleton’s rescue ship making its way through the stormy Antarctic Ocean to Elephant Island. The ‘Boss’ had arrived, just as he said he would. -Are we faithfully living in expectation of the Lord’s coming? Do we believe He will come, as He said, He would? (Pulpit Resources; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

18) Preparing for the task ahead: Queen Victoria of England, ruled over the vast British Empire for many years. When she was eight years old, her teacher slipped a little piece of paper into a book, that the princess was studying. The teacher had written: “Someday you will be the Queen of England.” Little Victoria looked at those words for a long time and mulled over them. Then she said, “I am nearer to the throne than I think. I will try to get truly ready and will be good.” She took to heart the words of the teacher and began to prepare herself for the great task ahead of her. Her constant efforts enabled her to fulfill her duties and she became one of the greatest monarchs of the British Empire. (Elias Dias in Divine Stories for Families; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19

19) Are you awake? Are you aware of God? A man came to the Buddha and asked him, “Tell me Buddha, are you a god?” “No, I am not god.” “Are you an angel?” “No, I am not.” “Are you a prophet?” “No, not a prophet neither.” “What are you then?” Whereupon the Buddha answered……. “I am awake.” -Most of us are not awake. We are always in slumber. We are not aware of our own thoughts, feelings and actions. We function most of the time, like automatons. The enlightened are those aware and awake. During Advent let us be awake and get prepared for the rebirth of Jesus in our lives. (Dr. Francis Xavier in The World’s Best Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

20) Giving him the best: The story is told of a mother waiting for her young son to come home from boarding school for his Christmas holidays. In her eager anticipation, on the evening before his arrival, she had baked his favourite cake and kept it in the larder. That night her aged father, who was staying with them, got up feeling hungry, he stumbled down to the kitchen and was rummaging for some food. He espied the cake and could not resist taking a slice. The next morning when the mother saw the ‘damage’ done, she scolded the old man, who very sheepishly was trying to excuse himself, saying he only took a ‘tiny slice’. She said: “It doesn’t matter to you does it? But it matters to me, very much indeed.” In her joyful expectation she had poured out her love, only a matter of flour, and milk and eggs, it would seem, but it mattered very much indeed. –The Church places Mary as the model for waiting and preparing for the coming of the Lord. What exactly did Mary do? By her Faith, and obedience to God she prepared a body for him, through her self-gift. (Denis P. in All Times and Seasons Belong to Him! Quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

21) Are you the one?  Yes, Jesus was “the One who was to come.” But where can people find him today? Once, a group of salesmen attended a sales convention. They had assured their families that they would be home in time for dinner. But the meeting ran overtime, so they had to run for the train. Tickets in hand, they dashed along the platform. One of them knocked over a table supporting a basket of apples. But neither he nor any of his companions stopped to help the young boy who staffed the apple stand. All reached the train and boarded it with a sigh of relief. But then one of them felt a twinge of compassion for the boy whose apple stand had been overturned. He immediately decided to do something about it. Saying good-bye to his companions, he returned to the scene of the accident. He was glad he had done so. He discovered that the boy was blind. The salesman began to gather up the apples. As he did so he noticed that some of them were bruised. He took out his wallet and handing the boy some money he said, ‘Here, take this for the damage we did. I hope we didn’t spoil your day.’ As he started to walk away, the bewildered boy called after him, ‘Are you Jesus?’  Are you Jesus?” In a sense, he was. Because he acted like Jesus. So where is Jesus to be found today? In his disciples. Blessed are we if we do not lose Faith in Jesus. And twice blessed are we if, like Jesus, we are able to show forth our Faith in deeds of love and mercy. People will encounter Jesus in us. (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

22) Janus the Roman god with two faces: Janus, one of the Roman gods, had two faces, which signified his ability to see both past and future, at once. His image was posted in the doorway of Roman houses, from which position it was thought he could protect the comings and goings of the inhabitants. Wherever Rome was at war, the doors of Janus’ temple were left open; in times of peace, they were closed. During his reign as emperor, Augustus (31 B.C. – AD 14) ordered the doors to Janus’ temple to be closed three times as evidence of the Pax Romana (Roman Peace), which he established and enforced and which lasted for two centuries. Before his death at age 75, Augustus had so organized Rome’s provinces and made its extensive system of roads so safe that commercial enterprise flourished and extended even into India and China.

When he wrote to the Christians at Rome, Paul’s letter was safely carried from Corinth to Rome, and like the other early Christian missionaries, his many journeys for the sake of the Gospel were made less difficult because roadways were maintained and guarded by Roman soldiers. But when Paul extended his traditional greetings of grace and peace (vs. 7) to the Roman Church, it was not the Pax Romana but the Pax Christi to which be referred. Christ’s peace, which is so much in the forefront during the seasons of Advent and Christmas, is Christ’s gift to all of us of Himself, Incarnate, crucified and risen. His peace is not enforced but offered to all who will appropriate his gift in Faith. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

23) Doing it my way or His way! There is a story about King Henry III of Bavaria, who lived in the eleventh century. Apparently, he became tired of his earthly duties and responsibilities and felt the call to a simpler more spiritual life. He made an application to Prior Richard to enter his monastery as a contemplative, finally free from worldly distractions to foster his spiritual life. Prior Richard responded, “Your majesty do you understand that one of the vows here is that of obedience?  That will be hard for you since you have been a king and are used to giving not receiving orders.” “I understand,” Henry said, “For the rest of my life I will be obedient to you, as Christ leads you.” “Then I will tell you what to do.” Prior Richard responded. “Go back to your throne and serve faithfully and generously in the place where God has put you.” In today’s Gospel we find Joseph following God’s way in a family crisis.(Corbin Eddy in ‘Who Knows the Shape of God?’ Quoted by Fr. Botelho). https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

24)Jesus’ face on the laminated birch-wood door of the hospital’s recovery room Image result for Jesus' face at Walker County Medical Center in Jasper, Alabama

King Ahaz, spoken of in today’s first reading, was, in one sense, commendable when he refused to ask God for a sign: “I will not tempt the Lord.” It is impertinent of us to demand that the Almighty keep showing us His divine credentials. He uses miracles with great economy. Believers are sometimes too ready to consider this or that striking occurrence as a sign given us by God. One such occurrence was described in April 1983, by the Associated Press. That month, a visitor to the Walker County Medical Center in Jasper, Alabama, noticed what looked like Jesus’ face on the laminated birch-wood door of the hospital’s recovery room. There were two “eyes” that appeared tear-filled, set in what looked somewhat like a Christ-face. News of this phenomenon spread quickly, and during the following week at least 10,000 people came to see it. Viewers had difference reactions. Some laughed nervously. Some wept. Some prayed. One man took it as a promise that his ailing son would recover; and the son did get well. On the other hand, certain of the hospital employees referred to it as “the hoax.” Of course, the newspapers seized upon the event, soliciting the opinions of local pundits. Ministers of the vicinity asked to be given the door, if the Medical Center, obviously embarrassed by the crowds of visitors, should remove it. A Benedictine monk of a nearby monastery said that while Divine signs are always possible, the Catholic Church is cautious about declaring unusual happenings miraculous. Photographs published in the daily press suggested that the “face” was merely a natural pattern in the laminated wood. At all events, the furor soon died down. Six months later the press apparently considered the “apparition” no longer newsworthy. One suspects that at Jasper Faith had yielded to credulity. This is always a perilous thing, since credulity, once disappointed, can contribute to a loss of true Faith. Ahaz’ real fault in refusing to ask a sign from God was that on that occasion God wanted to give a sign. What Ahaz refused to ask, God gave anyhow, to the King and all mankind: “The virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and she shall name Him Emmanuel.” Father Robert F. McNamara (L/19) https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/   L/19  

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle A (No 5) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website: By clicking on https://www.frtonyshomilies.com for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of Faith“ Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only atakadavil@gmail.com. Click on http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html for the Vatican version of this homily and  the CBCI website https://cbci.in/SundayReflectionsNew.aspx?&id=cG2JDo4P6qU=&type=text.

Or https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony or under CBCI (Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).