Dec 19-24: (Click on http://frtonyshomilies.comf or missed homilies)
Dec 19 Monday: 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
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 making the offering of 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 yearly chance of offering incense in front of the hidden Holy of Holies. It was while performing this priestly function that Zechariah received the vision of the angel who told him that his long-prayed-for son would be born of Elizabeth and that Zechariah was to name the boy John, then described in detail how that child was to be raised and what he would do. Disbelieving Zechariah demanded a sign of the angel who responded, “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. And behold, you will be silent and unable to speak until the day that these things come to pass, because you did not believe my words, which will be fulfilled in their time” (Lk 1:19-20
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/22
Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections.
Dec 20 Tuesday: Regular reading: Lk 1:26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”38 ….
The context: Today’s Gospel describes the story of the Annunciation, explaining how God began to keep the promise He had made to King David through the prophet Nathan, that David’s descendant would rule over the world as its Messiah. The Archangel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary: “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:12), and the angel’s salutation to Gideon, (Jgs 6:12). Mary is described as “full of grace”, filled with God’s favor and graciousness. She is to be the new Ark, a tent and temple. God will be in her, literally and physically, and thus she will be the greater House God promised to David. Mary’s believing question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” is natural. That is why Gabriel reminds Mary, ” For with God nothing will be impossible.” God will “empower” her (“the Spirit will come upon you“) and “protect” her (“overshadow you“). Luke’s narrative points out that the Child will not only be a distant grandson of David — He will be God’s own Son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David.” Mary does not require confirmation but responds in Faith. She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her.
Life messages: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness. St. Augustine reminds us that God Who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation. Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility. 2) Like Mary, who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, it is our duty to carry Jesus everywhere and bring Jesus to the lives of others around us through love, mercy, forgiveness, and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose). 3) We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, by practicing the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. (Navarre Bible Commentary). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Dec 21 Wednesday: St. Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor of the Church: For a short biography, click here: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-peter-canisius: Lk 1: 39-47: 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 42 and she exclaimed with a loud cry, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! 43 And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For behold, when the voice of your greeting came to my ears, the babe in my womb leaped for joy. 45 And blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfillment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.”
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, “One who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, carrying Jesus and filled with the empowering fire of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and the child in her womb. 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, die, and be buried. 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 that we may respond to His love by accomplishing 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, offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate caring service. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Dec 22 Thursday: 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.
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 praise and gratitude to God as Mary did because of the great gift of life God has given us through our parents and for the gift of early training we have 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 for the opportunities God gives us every day for doing good to others. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Dec 23 Friday: St. John of Kanty, Priest: For a short biography, click here: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-of-kanty : (Luke 1:57-66: (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/nativity-of-saint-john-the-baptist) Luke 1:57-66: 57 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.
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. Appealed to by the gathered people, the mute Zechariah approved that name by writing, “His name is John.” At that action of obedient surrender to the Lord God, the priest’s 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 Jesus’ Mystical Body, 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 the Baptist was, by our transparent Christian lives. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22
Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections.
Dec 24 Saturday: 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.”
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 message: As happened to doubting Zechariah, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit by asking for His daily anointing and strengthening. Let us prophesy 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/) L/22