May Jesus be reborn in your heart and life during Christmas 2020 and every day of the New Year 2021 May He radiate His presence from within you as sharing love, unconditional forgiveness, humble service, a compassionate heart and overflowing generosity. May the Holy Babe of Bethlehem bless you with health in body and soul and grant you a peaceful and blessed New Year. I assure you of my special prayers during my Christmas Holy Masses and every day in the New Year. Fr. Tony. (Fr. Anthony Kadavil Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 (firstname.lastname@example.org).
PRAYERFUL CHRISTMAS GREETINGS
May the LORD bless you and keep you!
May the LORD let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!
May the LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!
(Book of Numbers 6: 24-26)
Dec 21-26: Dec 21 Monday (St. Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-peter-canisius : Visitation of the BVM: http://cpbcomaha.org/2020/05/visitation-of-the-blessed-virgin-mary/ Lk 1:39-45: 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, …45 USCCB video reflections http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: The mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness and generosity to do God’s will. Luke, in today’s Gospel, tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. In the Gospel, one definition of discipleship is to listen to God’s word and then carry it out. Mary did both, to become the most perfect disciple. The incident also shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age.
Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, carrying Jesus and filled with the fire and empowering of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and her child. Like all good Jews, Mary was prompted in everything she did by her commitment to God’s word in her life.
The paradox of blessedness. Blessedness confers on a person both the greatest joy and the greatest task in the world. Nowhere can we see the paradox better illustrated than in Mary’s life. Mary was granted the blessedness and privilege of being the mother of the Son of God. Yet, that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart: one day she would see her Son hanging on a cross. So, to be chosen by God is often both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. God does not choose us to give us a life of ease and comfort, but in order to use us for His purposes.
Life messages: 1) We should recognize the real presence of Emmanuel (God Is with Us) and say “yes” to Him: The Visitation of Mary reminds us that, through his holy ministry, Christ continues to be present among his people. Let us recognize and appreciate the truth that the same Christ “dwells among us” in the Bible, in the Sacraments, in the praying community, and in our souls.
2) We should convey Jesus to others as Mary did to Elizabeth. We can make a real difference in the lives of others today by carrying Jesus to them. For that, we must be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing his rebirth within us. Then Jesus will enable us to share his love with all whom we encounter, by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate caring. (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 22 Tuesday: Lk 1:46-56: 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. USCCB video reflections: http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: The Magnificat and Hannah’s song (1400 B.C.) are properly mentioned together, because the former is literarily and thematically dependent on the latter. Mary as a young Jewish girl knew Hannah’s song as it was sung on every Jewish New Year Day in the Temple and the synagogues. Both Hannah and Mary are mothers rejoicing at the birth of an unexpected child. Hannah praises God that he has seen fit to end the curse of her barrenness, while Mary glorifies the Lord because he has chosen her to bear the promised Messiah. Each knew to her sorrow that she would have to give up her son one day. Just as Hannah dedicated her child Samuel to the Lord, so Mary offered her son Jesus for our salvation. On hearing Elizabeth’s greetings, Mary sang, praising and thanking God for the great things He had done for her. He had filled her with graces, overshadowed her with His Holy Spirit and made her the mother of His Son Jesus. Mary praised God also for the mercy He had worked by humbling the proud, by ousting the mighty from their thrones, and by exalting the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, a social, political and economic revolution.
Life messages: 1) We need to sing songs of gratitude to God as Mary did because of the great gift of life God gave us through our parents and the gift of early training we received from them in a Christian home.
2) Let us also glorify God every day through our works of charity for the gift of our particular vocation in life and the opportunities God gives us every day for doing good to others. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 23 Wednesday (St. John of Kanty, Priest) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-john-kanty/ : (Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist )(https://www.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit-blog/nativity-of-saint-john-the-baptist) Luke 1:57-66: 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/d12ht3GCNLA?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the birth and naming of St. John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet. He was given the mission of heralding the promised Messiah and of preparing the Chosen People to welcome that Messiah by preaching to them repentance and the renewal of life. John was born to the priest, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth in their old age. Today’s Gospel passage describes John’s birth, Circumcision and Naming ceremony.
A miraculous birth and an event of double joy: His elderly parents rejoiced in John’s birth, as he was a gift from God in their old age. Since the child was a boy, all their neighbors rejoiced with them, and the village musicians celebrated the birth by playing their joyful music. The Naming followed the baby’s Circumcision, and Elizabeth insisted that the child should be named John (which means “the Lord is gracious”), the name given him by the Archangel Gabriel when he spoke to Zechariah. The mute Zechariah approved that name by writing, “His name is John.” At that action of obedient surrender to the Lord God, his speech was restored, and he loudly proclaimed the praises of God for blessing him with a son and Israel with her Deliverer, whose herald his son would be.
Life messages: 1) We need to pray for our parents and be thankful to them for the gift of life, the training and discipline they have given us, and the love and affection they have lavished on us. Let us ask God’s pardon if we are, or were, ungrateful to them, do/did not take proper care of them in their illness or old age or ever inflicted pain on them.
2) We need to remember and pray for our godparents who sponsored us in Baptism, which made us children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, heirs of Heaven and members of the Church.
3) We should have the courage of our Christian convictions as John the Baptist did, and we should become heralds of Christ as John was, by our transparent Christian lives. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20
Dec 24 Thursday: Lk 1:67-79: 67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/7av1BY15VmQ?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
The context: Today’s Gospel gives the prophetic hymn which Zechariah, filled with Holy Spirit, sang on the eighth day after his son John’s birth when all had assembled for his Circumcision and Naming ceremony. Although the Jews generally believed that Elijah the prophet would return to earth to prepare the way for the Messiah, Zechariah prophetically sang here that it was his son, John, who was going to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus.
Zechariah’s prophecy contains four steps of the Christian way we are supposed to take.
1)Preparation: Our life must be a preparation, leading us to our eternal salvation, enabling us to walk through/with/in Christ, the only sure Way.
2) Correct knowledge of the only true God: Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior who taught us that God His Father is a loving and forgiving Father Who saved us through His son Jesus.
3) Forgiveness of sins: This is the restoring of our broken relationship with God, accomplished through the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus.
4) Walking in the way of peace: Peace is not the absence of trouble. It is the fullness of everything needed for man’s highest good. Jesus instituted in his Church all the means necessary for us to attain our highest good. He gave us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Bible, the Sacraments and the centralized teaching authority of his Church, with Mary and the saints as role models and praying companions for our journey.
Life messages: As it happened to doubting Zechariah, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit by asking for His daily anointing and strengthening, and let us prophecy as Zachariah did, by conveying to others the reason for our Christmas celebration as rebirth of Jesus into our lives. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2020
Dec 25 Friday Christmas: A thematic homily in one page: We celebrate Christmas with a lot of rejoicing for three reasons:
# 1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior: God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as Godman to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures describe ten incarnations of God, “to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation and its purpose is given in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”(RSV 2 Catholic) We celebrate as “Good News” the Incarnation of God in a Baby today because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by His suffering, death and resurrection, and He atoned for our sins. So, every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.
# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful, rewarding God and not a judging, cruel, punishing God. Jesus demonstrated by his life and teaching how God, our heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us, provides for us, and rewards us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian privilege and duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?”(Meister Eckhart, quoting St. Augustine; GoodReads). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the Light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service, and overflowing generosity.
# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community, and in each believer as the Holy Spirit, residing in us, transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary privilege and duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble, committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
Dec 26 Saturday: (Martyrdom of St. Stephen, First Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-stephen/:
Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59, Mt 10:17-22: 17 Beware of men; for they will deliver you up to councils, and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear testimony before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you up, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say; for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour; 20 for it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver up brother to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death; 22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved. USCCB video reflections: https://youtu.be/QtXb3j8-fjo?list=PLpTzvCOJa7DAAsw34PxZGDqnI_bBKNWa9; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/
Life and death of St. Stephen: Today’s first reading, taken from the Acts of the Apostles, describes the death of Stephen, the first martyr in the history of the Church. Stephen was a zealous Greek convert from Judaism to Christianity. He was chosen by the community and accepted by the Apostles to serve as one of the seven earliest deacons in the Church. They were meant to help meet the material needs of Greek Christian widows in Jerusalem who had complained that they were being slighted in favor of Hebrew Christian widows in the matter of Church assistance. Stephen was chosen for this ministry of helping the poor because he had good character and was filled with the Holy Spirit. But he was arrested by the Sanhedrin because he was converting numerous Jews to Christianity, and the Jewish leaders could not win against him with arguments. The jealous Jews arranged false witnesses against Stephen. These men accused him of blaspheming against Yahweh and Moses. In his final defense speech before his judges in the Sanhedrin, Stephen, inspired by the Holy Spirit as Jesus had promised all His disciples they would be when called to bear witness to Him, bravely and eloquently defended his belief in Jesus as the promised Messiah. He accused the Jews of unbelief and explained that the sacrifices and sacrificial Laws given by Moses were temporary. When Stephen suddenly announced that he could see Jesus standing at the right hand of the Father, the infuriated Jews mobbed him, dragged him out of the city, and stoned him to death. Obeying Jesus, Stephen prayed loudly for his executioners during the stoning and bore heroic witness to Jesus by his death.
Life message: St. Stephen teaches us how to bear witness to Christ bravely in our lives, when our Faith and its practice are questioned or challenged. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/20