December 14, 2020

December 14-19 (Weekday homilies)

Visit https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed homilies. Dec 14 Monday (St. John of the Cross, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-of-the-cross : Matt: 21: 23-27: 23 And when he entered the temple, the chief priests and the elders of the people came up to him as he was teaching, and said, “By what authority are you doing these things, and who gave you this authority?” 24 Jesus answered them, “I also will ask you a question; and if you tell me the answer, then I also will tell you by what authority I do these things. 25 The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven or from men?” And they argued with one another, “If we say, `From heaven,’ he will say to us, `Why then did you not believe him?’ 26 But if we say, `From men,’ we are afraid of the multitude; for all hold that John was a prophet.” 27 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And he said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things. USCCB reflections: https://youtu.be/rr67_HBah2o; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: After casting out the animal-merchants and money-changers from the Temple immediately after the Palm Sunday procession, Jesus started teaching in the Temple courts. Hence, the chief priests and elders of the people approached Jesus, questioning his authority to enter the city in a triumphal procession, allowing the children to acclaim him, curing the sick, casting out merchants and moneychangers and teaching in the Temple area. It was a trap. If Jesus claimed that his authority was Divine, as the Messiah, he would be charged with blasphemy. If he claimed that his authority was human he would be arrested as a mad zealot damaging the simple Faith of the people in the Temple and what it stood for. Since Jesus did not want to risk his life and mission a few days ahead of time, he silenced them by asking a challenging counter-question about John the Baptist and his message – was this from God or man? Was this Divine or human? If they answered Divine, the questioners would be asked to explain why they did not accept John’s message and his witness-bearing that Jesus was the Messiah. If they answered human, they would have to face the anger of the crowd who had accepted John as a prophet. Hence, they kept silent, opting for a shameful self-humiliation.

Life message: In religious matters we should not ask the question whether our stand is safe, politically correct, or useful. Instead, we need to stand for truth with the courage of our Christian convictions even if it costs our life. (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Dec 15 Tuesday: Matt: 21: 28-32: 28 “What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, ‘Son, go and work in the vineyard today.’ 29 And he answered, ‘I will not’; but afterward he repented and went. 30 And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, ‘I go, sir,’ but did not go. 31 Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32 For John came to you in the way of righteousness and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. USCCB reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Jesus entered Jerusalem, which was to be the scene of all the Passion events he had predicted. After he had cleansed the Temple with prophetic indignation and had started teaching in the Temple area, the priests and the elders approached him and asked for his credentials to teach. Jesus used the parable of two imperfect and disobedient sons to give them a wake-up call. Through this parable, Jesus gave them the warning that, because of their pride and their refusal to obey God’s call to repentance, they would exclude themselves from God’s Kingdom, while the tax-collectors and sinners would repent of their sins and would be accepted there.

In the parable, a man who has two sons tells both to go out to work in the vineyard. The first says he will go but he does not. The second says he won’t go, but later regrets his refusal and goes to work. The second son who first refused to go to work in the vineyard represents the tax collectors and sinners, while the first son who agreed to work but did not go represents the scribes and the Pharisees. The parable gives us the warning that it is our final decision for or against God that is most important, because we are rewarded or punished according to it. The message of the story is crystal clear. There are two very common classes of people in this world. First, there are the people whose profession of Faith is much better than their practice. Second, there are those whose practice is far better than their profession. The ideal son for this parable would be a son who accepted the father’s orders with grace and respect and who unquestioningly and fully carried them out as Jesus did his Father’s will.

Life messages: 1) We need to lead a responsible Christian life, saying “yes” to God. We should become men and women who profess our Faith in word and deed, knowing that, “Not all those who say to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but those who do the will of my Father Who is in Heaven.” 2) The Christian way lies in performance, not just promise, and the mark of a Christian is obedience, graciously and courteously given. (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Dec 16 Wednesday: Luke 7: 18-23: 18 The disciples of John told him of all these things.19 And John, calling to him two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord, saying, “Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?” 20 And when the men had come to him, they said, “John the Baptist has sent us to you, saying, ‘Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?’” 21 In that hour he cured many of diseases and plagues and evil spirits, and on many that were blind he bestowed sight. 22 And he answered them, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them. 23 And blessed is he who takes no offense at me.” (Cfr Matt 11: 2-6) USCCB reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: John the Baptist sent a few of his disciples to Jesus to clarify whether he was truly the fiery Messiah John had described, then introduced to the people. Jesus encouraged John the Baptist to cast away the popular expectations about the Messiah and simply to accept Jesus’ healing and preaching ministry as the fulfillment of the Messianic prophecy of Isaiah.

Explanations by Bible scholars as to why John sent his disciples to Jesus: 1) John knew that Jesus was the Christ and, as a prisoner, he wanted his disciples to follow Jesus as their new master. 2) John began to doubt Jesus’ identity as the promised Messiah. The silent healing, preaching, saving, and empowering ministry of Jesus was a surprise to John and to those who expected a fire-and-brimstone Messiah. Nor did Jesus conform to popular Jewish beliefs about a wealthy, warrior-politician Messiah who would bring political, social, and economic deliverance to Israel. Instead, Jesus pronounced blessings on the poor in spirit, the meek, and peacemakers (5:1-11). He called his disciples to love their enemies (5:42-48). Furthermore, Jesus moved away from Jerusalem, the home of the Temple and the center of religious authority and began his ministry in Galilee among the common people (4:12). John had proclaimed the power of the coming Messiah to bring in a new age, and instead, he found himself imprisoned in the dungeon of Herod’s prison fortress at Machaerus, southeast of the Dead Sea, wondering why the expected Messiah was not setting him free as Isaiah (61:1) had predicted.

Life messages: 1) We need to learn how to survive a Faith-crisis: If John the Baptist, even after having had a direct encounter with Jesus the Messiah, could come to the point of question, doubt and revision of his Faith, then so can we. 2) Let us remember the truth that all our Christian dogmas are based on our trust and Faith in the Divinity of Jesus who taught them. It is up to us to learn our Faith in depth and to remove our doubts. (Fr. Tony) L/16 (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Dec 17 Thursday: Mt 1:1-17: 1 The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham. 2 Abraham was the father of Isaac, and Isaac the father of Jacob, and Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers, 3 and Judah the father of Perez and Zerah by Tamar, and Perez the father of Hezron, and Hezron the father of Ram, 4 and Ram the father of Ammin’adab, and Ammin’adab the father of Nahshon, and Nahshon the father of Salmon, 5 and Salmon the father of Bo’az by Rahab, and Bo’az the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse, 6 and Jesse the father of David the king. And David was the father of Solomon by the wife of Uri’ah, 7 and Solomon the father of Rehobo’am, and Rehobo’am the father of Abi’jah, and Abi’jah the father of Asa, 8 and Asa the father of Jehosh’aphat, and Jehosh’aphat the father of Joram, and Joram the father of Uzzi’ah, 9 and Uzzi’ah the father of Jotham, and Jotham the father of Ahaz, and Ahaz the father of Hezeki’ah, 10 and Hezeki’ah the father of Manas’seh, and Manas’seh the father of Amos, and Amos the father of Josi’ah, 11 and Josi’ah the father of Jechoniah and his brothers, at the time of the deportation to Babylon. 12 And after the deportation to Babylon: Jechoni’ah was the father of She-al’ti-el, and She-al’ti-el the father of Zerub’babel, 13 and Zerub’babel the father of Abi’ud, and Abi’ud the father of Eli’akim, and Eli’akim the father of Azor, 14 and Azor the father of Zadok, and Zadok the father of Achim, and Achim the father of Eli’ud, 15 and Eli’ud the father of Elea’zar, and Elea’zar the father of Matthan, and Matthan the father of Jacob, 16 and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ. 17 So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations. USCCB reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm ; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Starting with a genealogy was the Jewish way of beginning a biography because the Jews gave importance to the purity of the lineage which made them part of God’s Chosen People. For a noble Jew, the line must be traceable back through five generations, and for a Jewish priest traceable back to Aaron. Matthew presents Jesus’ human ancestry, indicating that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through Mary by the working of the Holy Spirit. The Jewish genealogies followed the male line. Hence, Joseph, as the husband of Mary, was the legal father of Jesus, and the legal father was on a par with the real father regarding rights and duties. Thus, it is through Joseph, his legal father, that Jesus became the descendant of David. Since the Jews generally married within their clan, the early Fathers of the Church believed that Mary also belonged to David’s family. As a legal son of David, Jesus is the fulfillment of prophecies. The genealogy of Jesus Christ in today’s Gospel is carefully arranged into three groups of fourteen generations each. The three groups are based on 1) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom under David and Solomon, 2) the fall of the nation in the Babylonian exile and 3) the raising of the nation after the exile. The three groups symbolically represent the creation of man in God’s image, the loss of man’s greatness in Adam’s sin and the regaining of greatness through Christ Jesus.

Life messages: 1) We need to accept and support, lift up, and correct the bad members of our family, acknowledging the truth that every family has some black sheep. Jesus’ genealogy mentions a harlot named Rahab, an adulteress named Tamar and a Moabite Gentile woman named Ruth. We need to remember that God can bring good out of the worst persons and circumstances. 2) We need to appreciate our membership in the Divine family of God by Baptism and behave as holy children of a Holy God. (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Dec 18 Friday: Mt 1:18-25: 18 Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child of the Holy Spirit; 19 and her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. 20 But as he considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit; 21 she will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” 22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and his name shall be called Emmanuel” (which means, God with us). 24 …25 USCCB reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: Today’s Gospel focuses on the story of the Virgin Birth, which is at the heart of our Christmas celebrations. It focuses also on the person and role of St. Joseph. In today’s Gospel, Matthew sees in the passage from Isaiah one of the most descriptive and definite prophecies foretelling that the future Messianic King, Christ, will be born as a descendant of David. In order for Jesus to fulfill this promise, Joseph had to, and willingly did, accept Jesus as his son, making Jesus a descendant of David because Joseph was a descendant of David. 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 in his royal line. Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew shows us 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.

God’s message through His angel: This is the first of three occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. The angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. 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. Joseph’s hallmark is obedience — prompt, simple, unspectacular obedience. Joseph’s obedience allows Jesus to be adopted as a true Son of David; it is Mary’s free consent to the will of God that allows Jesus to be born Son of God. In the end, Joseph takes Mary as his wife, in spite of his fears, and he claims her son as his own by naming him. In spite of his earlier decision to divorce this woman quietly, Joseph nurtured and protected and watched over and loved both Mary and her child.

Life messages: 1) Like Joseph, we need to trust in God, listen to Him and be faithful. Like Joseph and Mary, we are called to be faithful, and to trust in God. Let us talk to Him and listen to Him speaking through the Bible.

2) Let us try to imitate Joseph and Mary, the humblest of the humble, the kindliest of the kindly, and the greatest-ever believers in God’s goodness and mercy and welcome Jesus into our hearts and lives not only at Christmas but all year long. (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20

Dec 19 Saturday: Lk 1:5-25: 5 In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there was a priest named Zechariah, of the division of Abijah; and he had a wife of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elizabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. …. 16 And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” 18 And Zechariah said to the angel, “How shall I know this? For I am an old man, and my wife is advanced in years.” 19 And the angel answered him, “I am Gabriel, who stand in the presence of God; and I was sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news. 20………………25; USCCB reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; Catholic Daily Reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/

The context: We recall two advents and two angelic messages during the Advent season, namely, the advent of John the Baptist and the advent of Jesus. The first was preceded by the Archangel Gabriel’s informing Zechariah the priest that a son whom he was to name John would be born to him and his barren, aged wife. The second is preceded by the Archangel Gabriel’s message to Mary, a virgin betrothed to Joseph, asking her consent to become the mother of Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Zechariah got the Divine message from the Archangel Gabriel in the Holy of Holies in the Temple of Jerusalem while Zechariah was offering incense.

Zechariah was one of the 1800 priests serving the Temple of Jerusalem. They were divided into 24 groups of 75 each. Thirty priests of each group were to serve the Temple for worship services each day and only one of them got the rare chance of offering incense inside the Holy of Holies. It was while performing this priestly function that Zechariah received the vision of the angel and was given the message about his having a son in his old age. Zechariah was given, as the sign he demanded, a temporary punishment of muteness for his lack of Faith in God’s message delivered by Gabriel.

Life messages: 1) We should not take our small misfortunes as big tragedies. We should imitate Zechariah who remained optimistic, continuing in prayer and service in the Temple.

2) We need to get rid of the barrenness of our heart, cleanse it daily, liberate it from evil attachments and prepare it for the rebirth of Jesus. 3) We need to be good parents and grandparents, offering incessant prayers for our children and grandchildren. (Fr. Tony) (https://www.frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20