Visit http://frtonyshomilies.com for missed Sunday or weekday homilies. Fr. Tony
Dec 7-12: Dec 7 Monday (St. Ambrose, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-ambrose Lk 5: 17-26: 17 On one of those days, as he was teaching, there were Pharisees and teachers of the law sitting by, who had come from every village of Galilee and Judea and from Jerusalem; and the power of the Lord was with him to heal. 18 And behold, men were bringing on a bed a man who was paralyzed, and they sought to bring him in and lay him before Jesus; 19 but finding no way to bring him in, because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down with his bed through the tiles into the midst before Jesus. 20 ……. 26 .. (Cfr. Mt 9: 1-8). USCCB reflections: https://youtu.be/1aqVBJogCY4 Daily Catholic reflections: https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Beyond showing his authority over temptation, over the lives of men, over nature, over demons and over sickness, in today’s Gospel we see Jesus demonstrating a new form of authority – his authority to forgive sins. Jesus miraculously restores a paralyzed man to health. The healing episode presents Jesus as God Incarnate, sent to save us, restore us and make us new. So we have to look beyond the boundaries of our religious experience if we are to appreciate the healing and forgiving operation of our God in newer and newer ways.
Many kinds of sickness were seen by the Jews as punishment for one’s personal sin or the sins of one’s parents. This man’s paralysis was also seen by the people around him as a punishment for some sin in his own life or in the lives of his parents. It was a common belief that no sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus had first to convince the paralyzed man that his sins had been forgiven. Once Jesus granted the paralytic the forgiveness of God, the man knew that God was no longer his enemy, and he was ready to receive the cure which followed. It was the manner of the cure which scandalized the Scribes. By forgiving sin, they thought Jesus had blasphemed, insulting God, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. In addition to showing Jesus’ own direct connection to God, this healing demonstrates the fact that we can never be right physically until we are right spiritually, that health in body and peace with God go hand in hand.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s forgiveness to live wholesome lives. The heart of the Christian Faith is the “forgiveness of sins.” In the Creed we say, “I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins.” While we have the power to forgive others, we need to be forgiven ourselves by the One who has the authority to forgive. In Jesus we see this authority, the same authority He gave to his Apostles and so to his Church. 2) Today’s Gospel gives us an invitation to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, and to hear from in the priest’s words the voice of Jesus speaking to the paralytic: “Your sins are forgiven.” 3) The Gospel also instructs us to forgive others their sins against us and to ask God’s forgiveness for our daily sins every day of our lives. (Fr. Tony) L/20
Dec 8 Tuesday (Immaculate Conception of Blessed Virgin Mary) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/immaculate-conception-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary Lk 1: 26-38: Mary’s prophecy given in her Magnificat, “Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of Faith about her: 1-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus. Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).
Basis in Tradition and Scripture: (A) From tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a Dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved this in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception”. (B) From Holy Scripture: 1- God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth. (Jer 1:5 — “Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”). Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sins from the first moment of her origin. 2- The angel saluted Mary as “full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. 3- Gen. 3:15– “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers; He will strike at your head while you strike at His heel.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin. (C)-Argument from reason: 1-If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So, did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life.
Life messages: 1) Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children.
2) Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith, obedience and total commitment to her mission. https://www.franciscanmedia.org/feast-of-the-immaculate-conception/) (Fr. Kadavil) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20 (USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm)
Dec 9 Wednesday (St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-juan-diego Mt 11: 28-30: 28 Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” USCCB reflections https://youtu.be/7VWiEm211DM; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/2020/12/08/laying-down-your-burdens-3/
The context: In today’s Gospel, Jesus offers rest to those who labor and are burdened, if they are ready to accept his easy yoke and light burden. For the Orthodox Jew, religion was a matter of burdens, namely, 613 Mosaic laws and thousands of oral interpretations, which dictated every aspect of life. Jesus invites the overburdened Israel, and us, to take his yoke upon our shoulders. In Palestine, ox-yokes were made of wood and were carved to fit the ox comfortably. The yoke of Christ can be seen as the sum of our Christian responsibilities and duties. Jesus’ yoke is light because it is given with love. It is the commandment to love others as Jesus did. Besides, the yoke of Christ is not just a yoke from Christ but also a yoke with him. So, we are not yoked alone to pull the plow by our own unaided power. We are yoked together with Christ to work with him using his strength. Jesus is inviting each one of us to be yoked with him, to unite our life with him, our will with his will, our heart with his heart. By saying that his “yoke is easy,” Jesus means that whatever God sends us is made to fit our needs and our abilities exactly.
The second part of Jesus’ claim is: “My burden is light.” Jesus does not mean that his burden is easy to carry, but that it is laid on us in love. This burden is meant to be carried in love, and love makes even the heaviest burden light. By following Jesus, one will find peace, rest, and real refreshment. We are burdened with many things: business, concerns about jobs, marriage, money, health, children, security, old age, and a thousand other things. Jesus is asking us to give him our burdens and take on his yoke. By telling us, “Take my yoke . . . and you will find rest,” Christ is asking us to do things the Christian way. When we are centered in God, when we follow God’s commandments, we have no heavy burdens.
Life messages: 1) We need to be freed from unnecessary burdens: Jesus is interested in lifting off our backs the burdens that drain us and suck the life out of us, so that he can place around our necks his own yoke and his burden, that bring to us, and to others through us, new life, new energy, new joy.
2) We need to unload our burdens before the Lord. One of the functions of worship for many of us is that it gives us a time for rest and refreshment, when we let the overheated radiators of our hectic lives cool down before the Lord. This is especially true when we unload the burdens of our sins and worries and evil addictions on the altar and offer them to God during the Holy Mass. (Fr. Kadavil) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 10 Thursday (Our Lady of Loretto): Lk 1: 26-38: (https://www.catholicculture.org/commentary/new-optional-memorial-our-lady-loreto/)m Pope’s decree: December 10 of 2019 was the first time that Our Lady of Loreto was celebrated in the General Roman Calendar. On October 7 the decree was pronounced by Pope Francis to be a reoccurring Optional Memorial for the Universal Church.
Traditional belief and the importance of Mary’s home: Tradition holds that a small house located in the basilica of Loreto, Italy is the actual home of the Blessed Virgin Mary. It is a small, one-room house, measuring 30 x 13 feet. It is composed simply of stones and mortar found in Palestine and hand-chiseled in a style consistent of the time of Jesus. This was thought to be the home of Saints Anne and Joachim, Mary’s parents. The Immaculate Conception occurred in this house. It is here that the Angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, and with her “ Fiat” the Incarnation happened in this very house. This was also the house that the Holy Family lived in Nazareth after returning from their time in Egypt. Jesus lived here until he was 30 and began his public ministry. Here also is where St. Joseph died.
Legendary historical background of Loreto home: Since apostolic times this house was a place of pilgrimage and worship. In 313 AD Constantine built a basilica around the Holy House of Nazareth to protect it. The basilica was destroyed by the Saracens in 1090, but the Holy House was untouched. Another basilica was built during the twelfth century, but this was destroyed by Moslems in 1263 during the Crusades. The Holy House was again unharmed. When the Christians were driven completely out of the Holy Land in 1291, the Holy House disappeared from Nazareth and suddenly appeared in modern day Croatia. It is said that angels transported it. The house was again moved (by angels) on December 10, 1294 (hence the date of the new Optional Memorial), due to the Muslim invasion of Albania. According to the legend, the house landed first in Recanti, Italy, but soon after moved for a third time to its present location in Loreto, Italy. The east wall contains an altar with the inscription: “Hic Verbum Caro Factum Est“ (Here the Word was made flesh). Above the altar is a statue of Our Lady of Loreto. The current statue of Mary over the altar in the house is a replica of an ancient one made from cedar of Lebanon, one of the so-called “Black Madonnas” due to the burning of candles and incense for hundreds of years. The original statue was destroyed by fire and replaced by another similar statue made from cedar from the Vatican in the 1920s.
Historical truth: In 1900, the Pope’s physician, Joseph Lapponi, discovered documents in the Vatican archive, stating that in the 13th century a noble Byzantine family, the Angeli family, rescued “materials” from “Our Lady’s House” from Muslim invaders and then had them transported to Italy for the building of a shrine. The name Angeli means “angels” in both Greek and Latin. Besides, a coin minted by a member of the Angeli family was also found in the foundation of the house in Loreto. In Italy, coins were often inserted into a building’s foundation to indicate who was responsible for its construction. Hernce the legend that the Mary’s house was miraculously transported by ‘angels” from Palestine to Italy. Thus historically, Loretto house is a replica of Mary’s hose in Nazareth. (https://www.catholicnewsagency.com/news/did-angels-really-carry-the-holy-house-of-mary-to-loreto-italy-25088)
Liturgical significance: The Directory on Popular Piety and the Liturgy points out that the Advent liturgy celebrates Mary “in an exemplary way…it exalts her faith and humility with which she promptly and totally submitted to God’s plan of salvation; it highlights her presence in the events of grace preceding the birth of the Savior.” We just celebrated the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, a feast that celebrates Mary’s preservation from original sin at the moment of her conception. Her sinlessness was a necessary preparation for being the Mother of God, which “harmonizes perfectly with many of the salient themes of Advent (Dir. Pop. Piety).” For the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, we are remembering the Blessed Virgin Mary in this Holy House, where the Immaculate Conception and Incarnation both occurred. This celebration will help everyone, especially families, young people, religious, to imitate the virtues of the perfect disciple of the Gospel, the Virgin Mother who, conceiving the Head of the Church, also welcomed us with Him.(Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 11 Friday (St. Damasus I, Pope, Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-damasus-i : Matt 11: 16-19: 16 “But to what shall I compare this generation? It is like children sitting in the market places and calling to their playmates, 17 `We piped to you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not mourn.’ 18 For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, `He has a demon’; 19 the Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, `Behold, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet wisdom is justified by her deeds.” (Cfr. Luke 7: 31-35).USCCB video reflections: blob:FC47F643-0E6F-4F89-AF4F-4A2577B6F90D
The context: The message of John the Baptist and the message of Jesus fell on deaf ears and met with stiff resistance from the self-righteous Scribes and the Pharisees because of their jealousy, prejudice and spiritual blindness. Hence, they attributed the austerities of John the Baptist to the devil and Jesus’ table fellowship with sinners as gluttony, evidence contraindicating any messianic possibility. In today’s Gospel, Jesus compares these Scribes and Pharisees to irresponsible street-children.
Dog-in-the-manger attitude: Jesus compares the attitude of the Scribes and the Pharisees to that of street-children who want to entertain themselves by playing wedding and funeral songs. They divide themselves into two groups. But when one group proposes to sing wedding songs and asks the other group to dance, the second group will propose funeral songs and ask the first group to carry one of them on their shoulders as they act out a funeral procession. In the end both groups will be frustrated. Jesus states that the Scribes and Pharisees act exactly like these irresponsible and immature children because of their pride and prejudice. Jesus criticizes the unbelieving Jews for not listening either to John the Baptist, who preached a message of austerity and repentance, or to Jesus, who preached the good news of love, mercy and salvation.
Life messages: 1) Jesus’ parable about disappointed playmates challenges us to examine whether we are buffet Catholics with selective hearing, so that we hear only what we want to hear. Jesus’ message of the kingdom of God is Good News and it produces true joy and spiritual freedom for those who will listen, but it is also a warning for those who refuse to listen and close their minds. 2) Hearing the Gospel implies the total acceptance and assimilation of what we hear and the incorporation of it into our daily lives. Like the generation of Jesus’ time, our age is marked by indifference and contempt, especially in regard to the things of Heaven. Indifference dulls our ears to God’s voice and to the Good News of the Gospel. Only the humble of heart can find joy and favor in God’s grace. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 12 Saturday (Our Lady of Guadalupe, U.S. A.): (https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/our-lady-of-guadalupe Lk 1: 26-38 or 39-47: https://youtu.be/lRcl-rvn8bQ?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9
Most of us know the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe. On December 9, 1531, an elderly Indian man named Juan Diego (57) had a vision of Mary, the mother of Jesus, at Tepeyac, a poor Mexican Indian village outside Mexico City. Mary directed Juan Diego to tell his Bishop to build a Church in Tepeyac. The Spanish Bishop, however, dismissed the Indian’s tale as mere superstition. But to humor Juan Diego, the Bishop demanded that the visionary bring some sort of proof. Three days later, the Virgin Mary appeared again and told Juan Diego to pick the exquisitely beautiful roses that had miraculously bloomed amidst December snows, and take them as a sign to the Bishop. When Juan Diego opened his poncho (tilma) to present the roses to the Bishop, the flowers poured out from his poncho to reveal an image of the Virgin Mary painted on the inside of the poncho. That image hangs today in the Basilica of Guadalupe in Mexico City and is venerated by thousands of pilgrims from all over the world. This apparition occasioned the conversion of nine million Indians to Christianity in twenty years. Saint John Paul II, who in 1979 became the first pope to visit the shrine in Mexico City, described the Guadalupe event as “the beginning of evangelization with a vitality that surpassed all expectations. It is estimated that ten million pilgrims visit the Basilica every year. The original Church was built in 1533 at la Villa de Guadalupe, the second in 1556 and the third in 1709. The 488-year-old (in 2019) Guadalupe apparition is not only one of the earliest Marian apparitions, but also the only time in history that Our Lady has shared her portrait. Our Lady not only appeared as an indigenous woman, but she also recruited an indigenous native from Cuautitlán to proclaim her message. The Virgin of Guadalupe was declared the Patroness of Latin America by Pope St. Pius X (1907). In 1945, the year that World War II ended, Pope Pius XII looked at the suffering, fragmented world and declared Our Lady of Guadalupe patroness of the Americas. Pope St. John XXXIII (1961) and Pope St. John Paul II (1979) called her Mother of America and Star of Evangelization.
Life messages: 1) The story of the apparition tells us how Jesus, as Emmanuel, and Mary his mother, want to be among us, especially among the poor, the downtrodden and the marginalized in society who have neither voice nor political or social influence. That is why Our Lady appeared to a poor Indian in a village, not as a white woman but as a brown-skinned Indian princess, speaking his native Nahuatal language, and why Mary did not appear to any of the Spanish overlords. God wanted the Basilica in honor of Jesus’ mother built in the village, not in the city. 2) The vision challenges us to listen to the ordinary people who do not look or act like important people and to treat them with reverence. While it is true that God loves each and every one of us, there is a special place in God’s heart for the poor and the powerless – God’s preferential option for the poor. So, the feast challenges us to see and serve Jesus in the poor and the broken-hearted in our communities. (Fr. Tony) (http://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20 (USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm)