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O. T. 27 (Oct 1) Sunday homily

O.T. XXVII [C] (Oct 2) Eight-minute homily in one page (L/22)

Introduction:  All three readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak a lot about “Faith” and how it works in our lives. “To one who has Faith, no explanation is necessary. To one without Faith, no explanation is possible.” (St. Thomas Aquinas). It is this Faith that is the nucleus of all of our readings today. They give us three dimensions of Faith. The theological virtue of Faith enables us to believe something to be true and therefore worthy of trust simply because it has been revealed to us by God. In his instructions to Timothy, Paul, who elsewhere defined Faith as, “the assurance of the things hoped for,” shows Faith operating as a believing, trusting, loving relationship with Christ, Finally, Christian Faith is that trusting Faith in God in action, expressed by steadfast loyalty, fidelity and total commitment to Him, resulting in our offering ourselves to Him in those we encounter, through our humble, loving service.

Scripture lessons, summarized: The first reading presents Faith as trusting in God and faithfully living out His Covenant with us. Here, Faith is shown as hope and steadfast expectation in the face of suffering and delay. God assures the prophet that Faith gives us access to Divine power, and, hence, the just will live righteous lives in the midst of encircling evil because of their Faith.  In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), God is characterized as a sturdy rock and a caring shepherd, surely worthy of our trusting Faith. In the second reading, Paul presents Faith as our acceptance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God.  Paul stresses the need for a living Faith in, and loyalty to, Christ’s teachings handed down to us by the Church. Hence, Faith is belief in, and acceptance of, revealed truths based on the authority and veracity of God, and Hope is trust in God. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his Apostles that Faith is sharing in God’s power, and, hence, even in small quantities, it allows God to work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. It is Faith, meaning reliance on, or confidence in, God, which makes one just, putting him into right relation with God and neighbor.  While the Apostles ask for an increase in the quantity of their Faith Jesus reminds them, and so us, that the quality of one’s Faith is more important than the quantity. A small amount of deep Faith can accomplish great things if that small amount of Faith is placed in a great, mighty, and all-powerful God. Using a master-servant parable, Jesus also teaches them, and us, that for Faith to be effective, it must be linked with trust, obedience and total commitment — an active submission to God with a willingness to do whatever He commands.

Life messages: 1) We need to thank God, giving Him the credit for our well- being.  Most of us are inclined to forget God’s providence when our earthly affairs are going well.  We pray to Him only when trouble strikes.  In His Infinite Goodness, God often answers such prayers. Stronger Faith enables us to accept the adversities and the trials of life asking God, “Increase our Faith, Lord!” at all times.

 2) We need to increase our Faith by becoming dutiful servants of God.   We grow in Faith as we act in Faith. A sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor.  A quiet word, a charitable gesture, an unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles can do more good than a series of sermons given by some renowned theologian.

3) We need to grow in Faith by using the means Christ has given us in his Church.  We must cultivate our Faith through prayer, Bible study, participation in the Holy Mass (‘the mystery of Faith”) and leading a well-disciplined spiritual life.

OT XXVII [C] (Oct 2) Hb 1:2-3; 2:2-4; II Tm 1:6-8, 13-14; Lk 17:5-10

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1:   Blondin, the French tightrope walker became world-famous in June of 1859, when he walked on a tightrope stretched over quarter of a mile across the mighty Niagara Falls. He became the first person to accomplish this amazing feat.  He walked across 160 feet above the waterfalls several times, each time with a different daring feat – once in a sack, on stilts, on a bicycle, in the dark, and once even carrying a stove and cooking an omelet! A large crowd gathered, and a buzz of excitement ran along both sides of the riverbank. The crowd “Oooooohed!” and “Aaaaahed!” as Blondin carefully walked across one dangerous step after another — blindfolded and pushing a wheelbarrow. Upon reaching the other side, the crowd’s applause was louder than the roar of the falls! Blondin suddenly stopped and addressed his audience: “Do you believe I can carry a person across in this wheelbarrow?” The crowd enthusiastically shouted, “Yes, yes, yes. You are the greatest tightrope walker in the world. You can do anything!” “Okay,” said Blondin, “Get in the wheelbarrow. ” The Blondin story goes that no one did although all had faith in his ability! Later in August of 1859, his manager, Harry Colcord, showed his faith in Blondin and did ride on Blondin’s back across the Falls. (https://youtu.be/nEHv1Rcn9YQ). In today’s Gospel, Jesus challenges his disciples to have such a Faith in him so that God can  work miracles through them and in their lives.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

2)   Pavarotti: My Own Story: Luciano Pavarotti was the charismatic successor of the legendary opera tenor, Enrico Caruso.  In his autobiography, Pavarotti: My Own Story, he describes how he was trained by a great master, Arrigo Pola. “Everything Pola asked me to do, I did, – day after day, blindly. For six months we did nothing but vocalize and work on vowels.” Pavarotti worked hard under Pola for two and a half years and then worked just as hard under Maestro Ettore Campogalliani for another five years. Finally, after putting so much faith and trust in his mentors, Pavarotti made a breakthrough at a concert in Salsomaggiore in Northern Italy where he thrilled the audience and was catapulted into fame. This story about faith and trust leads us into today’s readings which focus on the same themes. As Luciano Pavarotti put his trust in his teachers, today’s Gospel instructs that we too must put our trust in our mentor Jesus Christ. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

3) Little child’s Faith in action:  When Southern author and poet Laverne W. Hall was asked her definition of Faith, she couched it in the following narrative. Summer sun and a lack of rain had left the fields parched and brown. As they tended their wilting crops, the townspeople worriedly searched the sky for any sign of relief. Days turned into arid weeks and still no rain came. The ministers of the local churches announced that there would be a special service to pray for rain on the following Saturday. They requested that everyone bring an object of Faith for inspiration. At the appointed hour, everyone turned out en masse, filling the town square with anxious faces and hopeful hearts. The ministers were touched to see the variety of objects clutched in prayerful hands; prayer books, Bibles, crosses, rosaries, etc. Just as the hour of prayer was concluding, and as if by some Divine cue, a soft rain began to fall. Cheers swept the crowd as they held their treasured objects high in gratitude and praise. From the middle of the crowd, one faith symbol seemed to overshadow all the others; a small nine-year-old child had brought an umbrella! Without speaking a word, the child enunciated that quality of authentic Faith which expresses itself in commitment. By bringing the umbrella, the child affirmed the fact that Faith is more than intellectual assent to a set of revealed truths or theological doctrines. (Patricia Datchuck Sánchez). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

4)Expecto patronum (For children’s Mass): Let us begin with Harry Potter in the magic novel, and the film based on it, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. One night in the misty moonlight of Hogwarts Castle, the evil dementors are closing in on Harry. The shadowy, hooded figures are trying to capture his soul. Harry has only one chance — use the “Patronum” magic spell. So, he summons every ounce of belief because the “Patronum” spell demands absolute faith in its power. Pointing his magic wand at the dementors Harry shouts, “Expecto patronum.“ (https://youtu.be/xlxxWFENWr8) The spell works. A silvery stag gallops forth, the dementors fall back. Harry Potter is safe because he had faith in the power of his magic word. Today’s readings ask us to have such a Faith in the power of God.   (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

Introduction:  All three readings for the 27th Sunday in Ordinary Time speak a lot about “Faith” and how it works in our lives. They give us three dimensions of Faith. The theological virtue of Faith enables us to believe something to be true and therefore worthy of trust simply because it has been revealed to us by God. In his instructions to Timothy, Paul, who elsewhere defined Faith as “the assurance of the things hoped for,” shows Faith operating as a believing, trusting, loving relationship with Christ. Finally, Christian Faith is that trusting Faith in God in action, expressed by steadfast loyalty, fidelity and total commitment to Him, resulting in our offering ourselves to Him in those we encounter through our humble, loving service.

Scripture readings summarized: The first reading defines Faith as trusting in God and faithfully out His Covenant with us. Here, Faith is presented as trust and steadfast expectation in the face of suffering and delay. God assures the prophet that although “the rash one” that is one who does not believe, “has no integrity, “the just one, because of his Faith, will live” because he will lead a righteous life in the midst of encircling evil.  Faith, then, is the foundation of faithfulness; and faithfulness strengthens Faith.  In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 95), God is characterized as a sturdy rock and a caring shepherd, surely worthy of our trusting Faith. This reminds us of St. Augustine’s advice to “pray as though everything depended on God and work as though everything depended on you.” The second reading explains why Faith gives us a new way of looking at things and a new way of living.  Paul reminds Timothy, and us that  Faith is our acceptance of Jesus as the fulfillment of the promises of God.  Paul stresses the need for a living Faith in, and loyalty to, Christ’s teachings, which have been handed down to us by the Church. Hence, Faith is belief in, and acceptance of, revealed truths, based simply on the authority and veracity of God, and Hope is trust in God. Faith not only enables us to be faithful; it also strengthens us to be courageous. Faith grows as we put it to use by obediently rendering humble service to God in others. In today’s Gospel, Jesus teaches his Apostles that Faith allows us to share in God’s power, and, hence, even in small quantities, deep Faith enables Him to work miracles in our lives and in the lives of others. It is Faith which makes one just, putting him into right relation with God and neighbor.  In the Bible, Faith means reliance on, or confidence in, God, and Hope is the expectation of a better future.  While the Apostles ask for an increase in the quantity of their Faith, Jesus reminds them, and us, that the quality of their faith is more important.  Using a master-servant parable, Jesus also teaches them, and us,  that, for Faith to be effective, it must be linked with trust, loving obedience and total commitment — an active submission to God and a willingness to do whatever He commands, even in tough times.

First reading: Habakkuk 1:2-3; 2:2-4, explained:  Habakkuk was a minor prophet who lived during the fall of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and encouraged his fellow Jews to retain their Faith during this disaster. He interprets Faith as a persistent confidence in God’s saving power. The first two chapters of the Book of Habakkuk are in the form of a dialogue between the prophet and God. The prophet repeatedly complains, and the Lord answers each time.  Around 600 BC, God’s people had been unfaithful, and, as a deserved punishment for their sins, God permitted a pagan nation, Babylon, to invade Jerusalem. What distressed the prophet was that Judah’s punishment came at the hands of brutal pagans who were overly aggressive. It looked as if bad were being punished by worse. To Habakkuk, it seemed that the Lord God was strengthening the arm of injustice in not punishing the excesses of His people’s enemy. He saw this as unworthy of God’s holiness and justice. Hence, the prophet cried out to God, “How long, Lord, am I to cry for help while you will not listen?  I cry out to you, ‘Violence!’–Yet you do not save.”   But God told His prophet to trust in Him, to persevere and to be patient, because He was aware of both the goodness of the good people and the evil they fought against.  The reading concludes with the positive answer from God: “The just man, because of Faith, shall live” [Hb 2:4; Rom 1:17; Gal 3:11; Heb 10:38].  This means that that the righteous, or just, one is steadfast in faithfulness, even in the midst of violence and destruction, and this faithfulness assures life. Faith here is not simply assent to a series of doctrines, but includes trust, with a steadfast expectation of release in the face of suffering and delay.  The just man lives because he keeps his relationship with God.  The word “Faith” (emunah) used here refers to a living Faith, a Faith expressed in actions, a Faith with works (Jas 2:17, 26).  Therefore, it can only be concluded that Faith without works is indeed dead. “Faith is compounded of belief and love as well as of trust and confidence amid trials and tribulations” (The Jerome Biblical Commentary, page 297, # 39, 4b).

Second reading: II Timothy 1:6-8, 13-14 explained: Raymond E. Brown (An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, New York: 1997) suggests that 2 Timothy was written not long after Paul’s death as a farewell testament by someone very close to him during his last days. Therefore, these words of encouragement should be understood as part of an eloquent and passionate appeal by the greatest Christian apostle that his work should continue beyond his death through generations of disciples.  Although Timothy had been groomed as Paul’s successor in the ministry, he had apparently grown disillusioned at the Christian community’s lukewarmness and was somewhat embarrassed by Paul’s current status as prisoner. Hence, Paul encouraged Timothy to persevere, stressing the need for a living Faith: “Hold to the standard of sound teaching that you have heard from me, in the Faith and Love that are in Christ Jesus.” The graces of ordination (which Timothy had received), include “power” to master every situation, self-sacrificing “love” expressed in affectionate service to the community, and the “self-control” essential for Christian leadership. The Deposit of Faith entrusted to him had to be handed on to the next generation, with Hope in, and Love for, Jesus Christ. Faith and love cannot be separated, and “Faith, Hope and Charity are the foundation of Christian moral activity.  They are the pledge of the presence and action of the Holy Spirit in the faculties of the human being” (CCC #1813).  In saying to Timothy, “I am reminding you to fan into flame the gift that God gave you when I laid my hands on you,” Paul was asking Timothy and his people to “get up and do something!” Paul urged Timothy and his community to cultivate thewillingness to tend and foster the gifts of Faith daily (“stir into a flame the gifts of God”) and to live bravely in the face of difficulty. Paul means both that the Faith proclaimed by the gathered assembly must continue to be spoken in personalized, daily words and works, and  that Jesus who is encountered and celebrated at the weekly liturgy should also be recognized and cared for in the poor, the needy, the hungry, the thirsty,  the naked, the lonely, and the oppressed. In other words, our Christian Faith is our bond with God and our communion with one another in the “fire” of Love, the Holy Spirit. We need to “fan [that small fire] into a flame” and keep it blazing.  That takes grace, vigilance and effort.  If we are really serious about our Faith, we will spend time with God in prayer, in reflection, in Adoration of Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament, and in the prayerful reading of Scripture.  

Gospel exegesis: The context: When Jesus demanded of his disciples that they respond with unconditional and unlimited forgiveness to their repentant offenders (vv 3-4), the disciples asked Jesus for more Faith so that they could meet this demand.  In addition, the Apostles were asking for greater confidence and trust in God, so that they might work the miracles which they had seen Jesus perform, like the withering of a fig-tree by a simple command. Jesus responded by telling them of the power of Faith — even a very little Faith (vv 5-6).  He used the parables of the mustard seed and the good servant to help them understand the need for strong Faith. Jesus tells us that the way we evaluate whether we are living by Faith is whether we are faithful in “doing all [we] have been commanded to do.

a) The parable of the mustard seed:If you have faith the size of a mustard seed.”  Faith is used here in three senses.  1) First, Faith means “trust.”   People “have faith in their banks” because their accounts are insured.  Similarly, we must put our trust in the authority of God and in the truth of His doctrines. St. Paul defines Faith as confidence and certainty (Hebrews 11:1).  2) Second, Faith refers to assent to doctrines about God taught by Jesus and the Church (e.g., our belief in the truths listed in the Nicene Creed and the Apostles’ Creed).   3) Third, Faith   refers to a “bond” or “relationship,” with God.   Jesus tells us that if we have even a small relationship with our Heavenly Father, we can do anything.  No matter how weak it seems, Faith is an overwhelming power.  Even a little dose of Faith can direct our lives, comfort us when we are discouraged and challenge us when we are complacent. Jesus did not ask the Apostles to move trees or mountains, but rather to forgive their repentant brothers and sisters.  Such a requirement demands Faith, and the Apostles (representing all Church leaders), responded by asking that their faith be increased to meet such a demanding challenge.  Jesus reminds them that it is not the greatness of their Faith, but rather the greatness of God’s power working through them that will move mountains (Mt 17:20; Mk 11:23).  Forgiveness is a gift of God’s grace, activated through Faith.  When a person of Faith is trustingly receptive to God’s power, all things become possible — even moving mountains or forgiving bitter enemies. 

Faith strong enough to plant a tree in the sea:  Planting a tree in the sea using words alone sounds impossible and ridiculous to us.  But, using this cartoon metaphor, Jesus challenges us to attempt the difficult things of life.  The tree Jesus mentions is a variety of large, deeply rooted mulberry tree that grows in the Middle East.  By this strange example, Jesus shows us that we, too, can perform miracles.   We must be ready to attempt things that the worldly, the wise and the sophisticated laugh at. Here are two examples. 1) A middle-aged mother went back to complete her teacher training.  She specialized in helping children with learning difficulties.  In a large school she worked with a class of what others called “the retarded.”  Because she had actually asked for this difficult class, some teachers treated her as though she were insane.   Wasn’t this truly “planting trees in the sea?”   2) A priest in Africa deliberately committed a small crime in order to get himself put in a prison where he could minister to those who needed him most.   He was “planting a tree in the sea!”  He had true Faith!

b) The parable of the Under-Appreciated Servant: This parable teaches that Faith requires action. It also gives us a lesson in theological Humility, reminding us that, as followers of Jesus, we are God’s servants. This becomes evident in the parable about the master who expects his servant to carry out his orders.  When the servant returns from working in the fields, he also has housework to do.  His master does not feel indebted to his servant for his fidelity in doing what is all part of his duty.  In the same manner, the Apostles, and we, are expected to carry out the orders Jesus gives us.  They, and we, are the servants of the Gospel. So, we can never feel that we have worked “enough.” We must regard ourselves as God’s servants, as did Jesus who came “not to be served, but to serve” (Matthew 20:28). Service to God and neighbor is a voluntary or free act which springs from a generous and merciful heart.  It is a sacred duty which we owe to God.  When we serve the poor, we are simply serving at the Lord’s Table and waiting on Him while He eats and drinks.  As we work for the Lord in Faith, He works in us, transforming us.

 Jesus instructs his disciples to say, “We are unprofitable servants.”  The New English Bible gives the correct translation: “We are servants and deserve no credit.” The Greek original suggests simply that these servants should not expect anything further, i.e., that they should not be looking for special attention or approval. We also must realize that our ability to lead a good life, to love other people, and to serve God is not our own doing.  These things come from our relationship with God.  Even when we forgive others, it is by the grace of God through Faith.  He is our Source of power, and without His help we are useless servants.  We acknowledge our bond with God as the source of our virtue.  The stronger our relationship with God, the more will we be empowered to forgive others and do good to them.

Life messages: 1) We need to thank God, giving Him the credit for our well-being.  Following the example of the Apostles, we must pray for greater Faith and trust in God.  Most of us are inclined to forget God’s providence when our earthly affairs are going well.  How often do we thank Him when we enjoy good health, or when our home-life and business are going smoothly?  How many of us thank God for all the gifts we have received?  We often attribute our good health to correct use of food and exercise.  Often, we attribute our success to our hard work and intelligence.  It is only when a storm arises in our life that we think of God.  We pray to Him only when trouble strikes.  In His Infinite Goodness, God often answers such prayers. If, however, we had thought of Him every day and realized His place in our lives, with how much more confidence would we approach Him in our hour of need?  If our own personal lives were stronger in Faith, how much more readily would we accept the adversities and the trials that God sends us?   This is why we must ask God today to “increase our Faith” at all times.

2)  We need to increase our Faith by becoming dutiful servants of God.   A zealous Christian can speak more convincingly to his or her neighbor about the need for God and an upright life through his or her own daily actions than through explaining religious doctrines. A sincere Christian can find many ways to help to make Christ known to his neighbor.  A quiet word, a charitable gesture, an unselfish interest in a neighbor’s troubles can do more good than a series of sermons given by some renowned theologian. There are always people around us who need help. We can help them — God expects it of us. Faith is increased by serving others, not by being served. Faith is increased when we manifest our love towards others, our family, friends and strangers.  When we isolate ourselves from the world, we lose our Faith.

3) We need to grow in Faith by using the means Christ has given us in His Church.  We must cultivate our Faith through prayer, Bible study, and leading a well-disciplined spiritual life. Faith is the gift of God—so we must pray that God will increase our Faith.  Time spent with God in prayer is fundamental to the development of Faith.  We must pray for a Faith that is strong enough to overcome the difficulties and crises we face daily.  In addition, association with people of Faith builds Faith.  Hence, our participation in the Holy Mass (“the mystery of Faith”), and the life of the Church is important.  Because of the Eucharistic Meal on the altar and   the Sacramental graces at our disposal, we find that we are not unprofitable servants, but instruments and agents of Jesus, Who, through the power of Divine Love, helps us to reap a harvest worthy of Him.  Sacred Scriptures inform and correct our Faith.  Without the guidance of the Scriptures, our Faith tends to be weak.    We grow in Faith as we act in Faith.  Every gift of God is strengthened by the exercise of it. Someone has said, “Charity means pardoning what is unpardonable, or it is no virtue at all. Hope means hoping when things are hopeless, or it is no virtue at all. And faith means believing the incredible, or it is no virtue at all.”

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) Faith of a little boy: A little boy wanted $100.00 very much, and his mother told him to pray to God with Faith.  He prayed and prayed for two weeks, but nothing turned up.  Then he decided perhaps he should write God a letter requesting the $100.00. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to God, they opened it up and decided to send it to the President. The President was so impressed and touched that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a check for $5.00. He thought that this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00 and sat down to write a thank-you letter to God, which ran as follows:” “Dear God: Thank you very much for the money.  I noticed that you had to send it through Washington.  Dad said that, as usual, they deducted $95.00 for themselves in the name of ‘Homeland Security’ to save our country from terrorists.”

2) Faith of a little girl: “Whales can’t swallow people,” the teacher said. “Even though they are large mammals, their throats are very small.” “But the Bible teaches us that Jonah was swallowed by a whale,” the little girl replied.  “My mom says Bible is God’s words, and it must be correct.” “That just can’t be,” the teacher said. “It’s physically impossible.” “If so, when I get to Heaven, I will ask Jonah,” said the little girl. The teacher looked down at her, smiled and asked, “What if Jonah went to Hell?” The little girl replied, “Then you can ask him yourself when you get there.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups

1) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)

2) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics:   https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)

3)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  

4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/

5)    Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/   

6) Scriptural evidence for Catholic doctrines: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/index.html

7) Faith magazine: http://faithmag.com/

8) The Official Vatican Website: http://www.vatican.va, (Documents, photos etc.)

23-Additional anecdotes:

1) “Give me a lever, long enough, and a place to put it on, and I will move the world?” Was it Archimedes, the ancient Greek scientist, who said, “Give me a lever, long enough, and a place to put it on, and I will move the world?” What a claim! Surprising of course. Theoretically, the claim of Archimedes is perfectly sound. But evidently, in the physical world, it may seem an impossibility. However, in the spiritual realm, it is definitely possible. For, there is such a lever, and it is called ‘FAITH’; there is a place to put it on, and it is called ‘GOD’; and there is a power that can swing that lever, and it is called ‘MAN’. Another claim we also find in the Gospel Reading of today from St. Luke: If you had faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to this mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.”Is it really true? Can it really happen? Today’s readings answer those questions. (Fr. Lakra).  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

2) “Is anyone else up there?” The story is told of a man who fell off a mountain cliff. Half-way down the cliff he succeeded in grabbing the branch of a tree. There he was, dangling on the branch, unable to pull himself up yet knowing that letting go of the branch he would definitely fall to his death. Suddenly the man got an idea. He looked up to Heaven and shouted, “Is anyone up there?” A voice came from heaven, “Yes, I am here. I am the Lord. Do you believe in Me?” The man shouted back, “Yes, Lord, I believe in You. I really believe. Please help me.” The Lord says, “All right! If you really believe in Me, you have nothing to worry about. I will save you. Now let go of the branch.” The man thinks about it for a moment and then shouts back, “Is anyone else up there?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

3) All the fresh water you could ever need: A man was lost in the desert and was near death for lack of water. Soon he came across a pump with a bucket hung on the handle and a note. The note read as follows: “Below, you will find all the fresh water you could ever need, and the bucket contains exactly enough water to fill the pump to start it working.” It takes GREAT FAITH to pour out the whole content of the bucket for a promise of unlimited water. What would we do? Jesus demands such a Faith. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

4) “Be cast into the sea.” The October 5th, 1988 issue of Christian Century carried the story of a couple who have found a meaningful way of expressing their Faith. Millard Fuller was a successful lawyer. But he was dissatisfied. He had it all, and he decided he had virtually nothing. One day he decided to do something about it. He and Linda, his wife, walked out of the law practice, sold all their possessions, gave the money to the poor, and joined Clarence Jordon at Koinonia Farms, a Christian Community outside Americus, Georgia. Together with other Christians of the community, they searched for a focus for their lives that would have meaning. Eventually, they established an organization that has come to be called Habitat for Humanity. You have read about them. President Carter worked with them, pounding nails. The wonderful idea is simply, in Millard Fuller’s words, that “all God’s people ought to have simple, decent, affordable housing.” So they work along with others, find some poor, decent folk who are willing to work to better their situations, and they work along with them to build a simple, decent house to live in. And when they are done, these folks have a house at a cost that is affordable. Habitat for Humanity is having a remarkable impact on people all over this country. It is miraculous how homes, hundreds of homes, are being built for families who need and deserve such housing because this couple put their Faith into action. The result has been nothing short of miraculous. It is comparable to saying to a tree, “Be cast into the sea,” and a moment later there is nothing but a hole in the ground. (Dr. Norm Lawson). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

 5) “Just do it.” The sales manager of a large Real Estate firm was interviewing an applicant for a sales job. “Why have you chosen this career?” he asked. “I dream of making a million dollars in Real Estate, like my father,” the young man replied. “Your father made a million dollars in Real Estate?” asked the impressed sales manager. No,” replied the young man. “but he always dreamed of it.” Have you ever noticed that the Bible never mentions the dreams of the Apostles? It doesn’t even mention the ideas of the Apostles. However, it devotes an entire book to the Acts of the Apostles. Some of the most impressive commercials on television have been the Nike shoe commercials with the theme, “Just do it.” These commercials have normally featured famous athletes, such as Bo Jackson, to get their message across. These commercials carry a good message for all of us, not just for people who are physically challenged. However, if the people at Nike think they invented the phrase, “Just do it,” they might be surprised to find that they are a few thousand years late. In Ezra 10:4 we read, “Be of good courage and do it.” (Or, we could translate it, “Just do it.”) This is, in effect, the answer Jesus gave his disciples when they asked him to increase their Faith. He said, “Just do it,” to paraphrase him in today’s language. This is a curious answer to a request for more Faith. “Just do it.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

6) “Mr. Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting.” There are people with lots of Faith who still contribute very little to God’s kingdom. They are like a man Ernest Fitzgerald tells about in his book, Keeping Pace. The man was a wealthy English philanthropist named Jeremy Bentham. In his will, Mr. Bentham bequeathed a fortune to a London hospital on whose Board of Directors he had sat for decades. There was, though, one peculiar stipulation. Mr. Bentham’s will read that in order for the hospital to keep the money, he, Jeremy Bentham, had to be present at every board meeting. So, for over 100 years the remains of Jeremy Bentham were brought to the board room every month and placed at the head of the table. And for over 100 years in each secretary’s minutes was a line that read: “Mr. Jeremy Bentham, present but not voting.” Two-thirds of the world and 50 percent of all Church members will not even roll out of bed on Sunday morning. They don’t need more Faith. They just need to roll out of bed. [Michael B. Brown, Be All That You Can Be (Lima, Ohio: CSS Publishing Company, Inc., 1995), pp. 55-56]. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

7) “We are doing the best we can.”  I read an amusing tale recently about a group of French prisoners of war during World War II. These prisoners were forced to work in a German munitions factory. Upon realizing that the very bombs they were building were being used to destroy their beloved homeland, they made the decision to create a malfunction in the devices that detonate the bombs. The bombs were designed to explode on impact. But with the changes that the prisoners made, the bombs were “harmless ” – no explosion occurred. Puzzled by so many failed attacks, the French government finally conducted an investigation. Upon opening the bombs, they found slips of paper inside bearing these words: We are doing the best we can with what we’ve got, where we are, every chance we get. [Jay Strack, Everything Worth Knowing I Learned Growing Up in Florida (Dallas: Word Publishing, 1993).] That would be a good motto for the Church. We can pray until we are blue in the face for God to give us more Faith, but God wants us to get into action using the Faith we already have. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

8) “Fr. John, I figured out the meaning of life!” Father John Dear tells about a friend of his who died several years ago from cancer. She was a very lively, outgoing person, says Father Dear, who worked in two big parishes in Long Island, New York and was very involved in many good causes, including the struggle to abolish the death penalty and nuclear weapons. Just before she died, she said to him, “John, I figured out the meaning of life!”

He said, “Really?!”

She said, “When you’re a child and a teenager, you serve. When you are in your twenties and beginning life and starting a family, you serve. When you are in your thirties and forties, you serve. When you are middle age, you serve. When you are in your sixties and seventies and starting to retire, you serve. When you move into your eighties and start to slow down, you serve. When you get sick, you serve. When you are dying, you serve. On your last day, as you die, you serve.” (http://www.johndear.org/sermons_homilies/welldoneservant.html). That’s true. You serve. Without fuss. Sometimes it’s with very little recognition and not a lot of glory. It’s only when you pass over to the other side, to be received into the arms of Jesus that you hear those ultimate words of commendation, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Come, share my joy.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

9) “There is an angel in there” One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, “What are you making?” He replied, “There is an angel in there, and I must set it free.” Every Christian at his or her Confirmation is handed a large cold white marble block called religion. We must then take the mallet in hand and set to work. Religion is not our goal, but we must first start there. Now, there are many names for religion. At times we do call it religion, but we often use other words and images to describe it. Sometimes we call it our Faith. Jesus spoke in terms of the Kingdom of God. We say we are the Church, Christians, or Disciples. There are many names with varying nuances of meaning but in the end they all describe the same thing. We are a people of Faith, Faith in Christ to be sure, but Faith nonetheless. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

10)  “I am coming home. Nobody wears shoes here.”  Many years ago, a famous shoe company sent one of its salespeople to a faraway country to start a business.  After a few months he sent back the message: “I am coming home.  Nobody wears shoes here.”  The same company sent another salesperson to the same backward area.  After a few months she sent this message to the home office: “Send more order forms! Nobody wears shoes here! Hence, I can sell more shoes.”  The second salesperson saw the opportunity in her situation – not the difficulty.  She succeeded because she had faith in her product, faith in the people and faith in her ability to canvass customers.   Today’s readings tell us that if we have a little Faith – even the smallest amount – in God’s power, which He is glad to share with us, then we’re on the right track. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

 11) Mountain-moving     Faith: An old woman regularly read the Bible before retiring at night. One day she came across the passage that said: “If you have Faith as little as a mustard seed and ask the mountain to go away, it will go.” She decided to test the efficacy of the passage. There was a hillock behind her house. She commanded the hillock to go away from there and went to bed. In the morning she got up as usual and remembered her command to the hillock. She wore her spectacles and peered through the window. The hillock was there. Then she muttered to herself, “Ah! That’s what I thought.”  – What she thought was that the mountain would not move. While her outer mind gave the command, her inner mind was convinced that she was giving a futile order. She did not have even an atom of Faith! (G. Francis Xavier in The World’s Best Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

12) I believeAt the end of World War II, it is reported, the Allied soldiers were searching farmhouses for snipers. In one abandoned house, which was almost a heap of rubble, they had to use their flashlights to get to the basement. On the crumbling wall, they spotted a Star of David.  It had obviously been scratched by a victim of the Jewish Holocaust. And beneath it was the following message in clear but rough lettering: “I believe in the sun -even when it does not shine.  I believe in love – even when it is not shown. I believe in God – even when He does not speak.” -Like the Holocaust victim who had inscribed those uplifting words on the basement wall, Mother Teresa believed in the sun-even when it did not shine. She believed in love -even when it was not shown. And she believed in God -even when God did not speak. In her secret and personal letters Mother Teresa revealed that for almost 50 years, she went through what is best described as “the dark night of the soul,” driving her to doubt the existence of Heaven and even God. Said a Jesuit priest, Fr. James Martin, “I have never read a saint’s life where the saint has had such an intense spiritual darkness. No one knew she was that tormented.” Like all of us, Mother Teresa was but human. And it is only natural that we, like her, will experience times of doubt, loneliness, dryness and even denial. “Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe!” (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

13) Be careful in whom you place your trust! Before modern radio and television became so sophisticated, a telephone operator used to get a call every afternoon asking for the correct time. She was always able to give this information with great confidence. The reason for this was that she always checked her watch, and adjusted it when needed, when the whistle blew for the closing time in the local factory. One day her watch stopped. The telephone rang inquiring for the correct time. She explained her predicament. Her watch had stopped, and she had no way of ascertaining the correct time until the factory whistle sounded some time later.  The caller then explained his predicament. He was calling today, as he had done every other day, from the same local factory, and he had always adjusted his clock, when necessary, to agree with whatever time it was in the telephone exchange. -Be careful in whom you place your trust! (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

14) Mustard-seed Faith: You have heard of Dorothy Day, a woman many considered a living saint. Many admirers came to visit her, to have a look at her, to cherish her, to speak to her, to touch her, if possible. Sometimes they would tell her, “You are a saint,” or she would overhear others saying of her, “She is a saint.” She would get upset, turn to the speaker, and say, “Don’t say that. Don’t make it too easy for yourself. Don’t escape this way. I know why you are saying, ‘she is a saint.’ You say that to convince yourself that you are different from me, that I am different from you. I am not a saint. I am like you. You could do what I do. You don’t need any more than you have; get kicking, please.”  -A mustard seed is very tiny; there is a chance of losing it if it is not handled carefully. Likewise, Faith: if it is not handled carefully there is a chance of losing it. We have to feed Faith. Do not despise small beginnings, for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin. (Zech 4:10) Let us look at the Bible. Against a towering giant, a brook pebble seems futile. But God used such a pebble to topple Goliath. Compared to the tithes of the wealthy, a widow’s coins seem puny. But Jesus used them to inspire us. Moses had a staff. David had a sling. Samson had a jawbone. Rahab had a string. Mary had some ointment. Dorcas had a needle. All were used by God. (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

15) Accusing God: The year is 1965. The place is a synagogue in Russia. The Jewish writer Elie Wiesel, who survived Auschwitz concentration camp as a boy, is attending the service. His eyes are fixed on the old rabbi who is praying and sighing as though in a trace. An ancient, bewildering sadness seems to come from the old man; he appears to be living elsewhere, resigned to all that has happened. Wiesel has a mad thought that the rabbi will shake himself, pound the pulpit, and cry out his pain, his rage, his truth. In his heart he addresses the rabbi: ‘Do something, say something, free yourself tonight and you will enter our people’s legend; let the hushed reality buried inside you for so many years explode; speak out, say what oppresses you – one cry, just one, will be enough to bring down the walls that encircle and crush you’. My eyes pleaded with him, prodded him. In vain. For him it was too late. He had suffered too much, endured too many ordeals for too many years. He no longer had the strength to imagine himself free. So nothing happened. Nothing interrupted the rhythm of the solemn service. Wiesel was hoping that the old rabbi would find a voice to express suffering, that he would name the anguish that fidelity to God can bring. Suffering can deaden boldness of spirit; but it can also give the sufferer a liberating madness to become God’s accuser. And Judaism, which Pope St. John Paul II has called “our elder brother in Faith”, has given us a tradition of boldness in dealing with God. It is the boldness of Faith which dares to scream at God. (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).    

16) Blame-game without trusting in God: There is a humorous story of an updated piece of advice to a new pastor. On his very first day in office, this new pastor got a call from his predecessor. He congratulated him on his new charge and told him that in the centre drawer of the desk in the office he had left three envelopes, each numbered, which he was to open in order when he got into trouble. After a short-lived honeymoon with the congregation, the heat began to rise and the pastor decided to open the first envelope. The note inside read, “If it will help, blame me for the problem. After all, I am gone and have new problems of my own.” That worked for a while, but then things went bad again. The pastor opened the second envelope, which read, “Blame the congregation. They have a lot of other interests. They can take it.” That worked for a while, but then the storm clouds gathered again, and in desperation the pastor went to the drawer and opened the third envelope. The message read, “Prepare three envelopes!” (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks: Listen! (Quoted by Fr.       Botelho).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

17) Mustard seed-size faith:  Dirt carpeted the floor. Rats scurried beneath the grated vent. Roaches roamed the walls and crawled over sleeping prisoners. The only source of light peeked through three holes near the fifteen-foot ceiling. The cell offered no bunk, no chair, no table, and no way out for American General Robbi Risner. For seven and one-half years, North Vietnamese soldiers held him and dozens of other soldiers in the Zoo, a POW camp in Hanoi.     Misery came standard issue. Solitary confinement, starvation, torture, and beatings were routine. Interrogators twisted broken legs, sliced skin with bayonets, crammed sticks up nostrils and paper in mouths. Screams echoed throughout the camp, chilling the blood of the other prisoners….      How do you survive seven and one-half years in such a hole? Cut off from family. No news from the United States. What do you do? Here is what Risner did. He stared at a blade of grass. Several days into his incarceration he wrestled the grate off a floor vent, stretched out on his belly, lowered his head into the opening, and peered through a pencil-sized hole in the brick and mortar at a singular blade of grass. Aside from this stem his world had no color. So he began his days with head in vent, heart in prayer, staring at the green blade of grass. Today’s Gospel calls it a mustard seed-size faith. [Max Lucado, Every Day Deserves a Chance (Thomas Nelson Publications, 2007). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

18) “I can’t see you:” During the terrible days of the Blitz, a father, holding his small son by the hand, ran from a building that had been struck by a bomb. In the front yard was a shell hole. Seeking shelter as quickly as possible, the father jumped into the hole and held up his arms for his son to follow. Terrified, yet hearing his father’s voice telling him to jump, the boy replied, “I can’t see you!” The father, looking up against the sky tinted red by the burning buildings, called to the silhouette of his son, “But I can see you. Jump!” The boy jumped, because he trusted his father. The Christian faith enables us to face life or meet death, not because we can see, but with the certainty that we are seen; not that we know all the answers, but that we are known. (Donner Atwood). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

19) “There is an angel in there and I must set it free.” One day the great Michelangelo attracted a crowd of spectators as he worked. One child in particular was fascinated by the sight of chips flying and the sound of mallet on chisel. The master was shaping a large block of white marble. Unable to contain her curiosity, the little girl inquired, “What are you making?” He replied, “There is an angel in there, and I must set it free.” Every Christian at their confirmation or conversion is handed a large cold white marble block called religion. We must then take the mallet in hand and set to work. Religion is not our goal, but we must first start there. Now there are many names for religion. At times we do call it religion, but we often use other words and images to describe it. Sometimes we call it our Faith. Jesus spoke in terms of the Kingdom of God. We say we are the Church, Christians, or Disciples. There are many names with varying nuances of meaning but in the end they all describe the same thing. We are a people of Faith, Faith in Christ to be sure, but Faith nonetheless. We are not a business or institution. We do not sell or produce anything. We advocate no earthly cause. We serve no worldly authority. We come to a Church building made by men. And to do what? Practice our Faith. (Fr.      Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   

20) “Is it something to make soup of?” A legend says that once upon a time, a Japanese peasant died and went to heaven. The first thing that he saw was a long shelf with something very strange looking upon it. “What is that?” he asked. “Is it something to make soup of?” “No,” was the reply. “These are ears. They belonged to persons whom, when they lived on earth heard what they ought to do in order to be good, but they didn’t pay any attention to it. So, when they died their ears came to heaven, but the rest parts of their bodies did not.” After a while, the peasant saw another shelf with very queer things on it. “What is it?” he again asked. “Is that something to make soup of?” “No,” was the answer. “These are tongues. They once belonged to people in the world who told people to do good and how to live good but they themselves never did as they told others to do. So, when they died, their tongues came to heaven, but the rest parts of their bodies could not enter.” Then, again the peasant roamed around heaven and he saw another shelf. “What is it?” he asked again. “Is it something to make soup of?” “No,” was again the answer. “These are hearts. They once belonged to people who enthusiastically preached about love, how to love others and be loved. But they themselves did not practice it. So, when they died their hearts came to heaven, but the rest parts of their bodies did not.” Is this what we want to have happen in our own life? Maybe yes, maybe no. But the sure thing is this will happen to us if we do not move and act. Well, our Gospel today talks about Faith. Jesus’ apostles ask Him: “Increase our faith.” And Jesus answers: “If you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you would say to mulberry tree, ‘Be uprooted and planted in the sea,’ and it would obey you.” (Fr. Benitez) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

21) With the strength that comes from God: St. Paul’s young friend and disciple, Timothy, gets a wonderful “pep talk” in today’s first reading. The Holy Spirit, says Paul, gives us the gift of courage, not the vice of cowardice. So we should never shrink from bearing our share of “hardship which living up to the Gospel entails.” And we should never be ashamed to praise God to others.

The Joseph P. Kennedy family of Hyannisport needs no introduction to Americans or to the world. They have had a host of admirers and a host of foes. But nobody can deny that this Irish-American family has assumed leadership courageously. And their mother, Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy, has clearly had a lot to do with setting for them an example of courage.

When Rose Kennedy, long a widow, reached the age of 93 in 1983. A reporter for Parade magazine interviewed this woman of strong convictions and strong practical Catholic faith. Rose, the interviewer knew very well, had known tragedy as well as glory. If most of her sons and daughters had made headlines, she also had one daughter under permanent institutional care. She had lost not only her husband, but her oldest son, Joe (in war), her daughter, Kathleen (in an air accident), her sons, President John F. Kennedy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy (at the hands of assassins). But Rose had marched ahead despite her many griefs, and she still marched off to Mass each morning. “I would rather have been” she said, “the mother of a great son than to have written a great work or painted a great masterpiece.” This is a forthright acknowledgement of the creative role of a mother in God’s plan. Admitting her trials to the interviewer, she said “I have always believed that God never gives a cross to bear larger than we can carry. No matter what, God wants us to be happy. He doesn’t want us to be sad. Birds sing after a storm, Why shouldn’t we?” That first sentence was an echo of St. Paul. The last four sentences are pure Rose Kennedy, a deeply Christian reflection. If a secular journalist flattered me with an interview, would I make a point of speaking God’s praises? I really wonder, and just wondering makes me ashamed. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

22) I always feel terrible when I hear this “Mustard Seed” parable (Lk 17:5-10)! My faith will never be so strong as to physically transplant trees. You are misunderstanding the purpose and intent of this parable. Indeed, if the “goal” is always to go around “testing” our faith by commanding trees to be uprooted, one of two things will happen. Either we will experience a gigantic deforestation situation, or we will have a lot of unhappy people who think their faith level is demonstrably ‘zilch’! Jesus loves to use exaggeration to make a point, a common literary device in every culture of every age. You will remember an example used by Jesus in the gospel five weeks ago (hate your father and mother, wife and children, etc…, Lk 14:26). We call it “hyperbole,” and use it regularly (e.g., “It’s raining cats and dogs”). It is legitimate to use if what it describes is really true. The “truth” is that even though the Mustard Seed looks so tiny and powerless, compare that seed with the effect its planting will bring after a few years! Faith is like that: it may seem powerless, based on an image of a dead man on a cross. But it will produce incredible results when we live that faith and share that faith, because that dead man on the cross rose from the dead, and is our Salvation! Change is always possible, because His dynamic Spirit dwells within us. It is a power so strong that it can be compared to a person telling a tree to be transplanted into the ocean! So simply do your daily Christian duties, including sharing your faith, and let God take care of the growth. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

23) “Unworthy servant.” When St. Francis de Sales was nineteen years old he fell seriously sick. At that time, 1587, medical students practiced on cadavers (corpses) which were generally stolen from graves. Thinking he was dying, Francis told his favorite teacher: “Sir, arrange my funeral as you see fit. I ask only that after my funeral you give my body to medical students.” “But that would be a disgrace to your family,” objected the tutor. The young saint insisted: “It is very consoling to me as I lie dying, to think that I have been a useless servant during life. I will at least be of some good after death.” Here was a learned and holy young man who felt that he had accomplished nothing. All the saints were like that. They called themselves, in the words of today’s gospel: “Unworthy servants.”(Msgr. Arthur Tonne). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  L/22

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C(No. 53) by Fr. Tony:akadavil@gmail.com

isit my website by clicking on https://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 at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

OT XXVI (C) Homily, September 25, 2022

Introduction: The main theme of this Sunday’s readings is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, without sharing them with the poor and the needy is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the Covenant responsibility of the rich for the poor, reminding us of the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. It warns us against making money the goal of our existence.

Scripture lessons: Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money on themselves alone. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps 146) praises Yahweh, who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes Timothy and us to pursue virtue (“righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness”); compete well for the faith; lay hold of eternal life; keep the commandment of love, and not wealth.. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught on sharing his blessings with the poor.

Life messages: 1) We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others.  God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.

2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of Last Judgment: Matthew (25:31ff) tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from him  (food, drink, home, mercy and compassion), with our brothers and sisters, anyone in need, for Jesus identifies himself with each of them.

3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister Lazarus. Lazarus in the 21st century is also our pre-born brother and sister. Many of these babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brothers and sisters.

4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: “Where we go hereafter depends on what we ‘go after,’ here!” Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We will get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit forever in one of two places.

OT XXVI [C] (Sept 25): Am 6:1a, 4-7; 1Tm 6:11-16; Lk 16:19-31

Homily starter anecdotes:  # 1: The parable that challenged Dr. Albert Schweitzer is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. This story Jesus told made a man with three doctoral degrees (one in medicine, one in theology, one in philosophy), study medicine, leave civilization with all its culture, and amenities and go to the jungles of darkest Africa to serve as a missionary doctor for 47 years. It was this parable which induced a man, who was recognized as one of the best soloists and concert organists in all Europe, to go to a place where there were no organs to play! It was this powerful parable which so intensely motivated a man that he gave up a teaching position as university professor in Vienna, Austria to go to help people who were so deprived that they were still living in the superstitions of the dark ages, for all practical purposes. At the age of 38, he became a full-fledged medical doctor with specialization in tropical medicine. At the age of 43, he left for Africa where he opened a hospital on the edge of the jungle in what was then called Equatorial Africa. He died there in 1965 at the age of 90. The man, of course, was Dr. Albert Schweitzer who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1952.  The single parable that so radically altered his life, according to him, was our text for this morning, the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the beggar. — That parable convinced Schweitzer that the rich, Europe, should share its riches with the poor, Africa, and that he should start the process. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

# 2: Half to doctors and half to lawyers: Cecil John Rhodes was an enormously wealthy man. He was an English-born businessman, mining magnate, and politician in South Africa. He was the founder of the diamond company De Beers, which today markets 40% of the world’s rough diamonds and at one time marketed 90%. An ardent believer in colonialism and imperialism, he was the founder of the state of Rhodesia to perpetuate his name.  One day a newspaperman remarked to him, “You must be very happy.” Rhodes replied, “Happy! No! I spent my life amassing a fortune, only to find that I have spent half of it on doctors to keep me out of the grave, and the other half on lawyers to keep me out of jail!” — He reminds us of the rich man of Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

# 3: “The Fortunate Fifth” versus the “Forgotten Four-Fifths“. America is increasingly becoming a caste society. We call it a two-coupon society – with severe social separation of the two sets of coupon clippers. The top 10 or 20 percent of the population (50 million), clip their stock coupons and treasury certificates. Their kids go to private schools, while the public schools are deteriorating. Their mail goes Federal Express while the postal service is deteriorating. Their bottled water is delivered to the door while the water system becomes more and more contaminated. The rest of Americans, 200 million, are standing at supermarket check-outs, the poorest members clipping food stamps, while the dwindling middle-class members clip food coupons. Doug Henwood calls this division, “The Fortunate Fifth” versus the “Forgotten Four-Fifths.” Neither group is able to see reality as it is – one group has its head in the clouds, arched in the air above the pain and poverty, while the other has its head is in the sand and dirt, enmeshed in the grind and grime of eking out a living in a service economy and unable to lift up its head for hope or help or anything much else beyond survival. Whitehead groups the poor class into the “traditional poor” (primarily holding part-time service occupations with no benefits), and a frighteningly expanding new group of the poorer than poor known widely as “the underclass” – two million-plus Americans who are permanently homeless and psychologically hopeless, without voice or face in popular culture. New York University’s Lawrence M. Mead shows how many of the ghetto poor are “seceding from mainstream institutions – breaking the law, dropping out of school, not learning English, declining to work.” This “internal secession” he deems as threatening to the nation as the South’s secession in 1861. [See Mead, “The Democrats’ Dilemma,” Commentary 93 (January 1992), 44.] — Like the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel parable, these two groups are separated by a chasm predetermined by their economic status. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

4) You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” The story is told of a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and ‘gofer’ to Mother Teresa when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet. Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?” Mother Teresa looked at him. You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied eagerly. — “Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” Mother Teresa understood that Jesus’ ministry was to the poor and she made it hers as well. (Quoted  by Fr. Lakra). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

Introduction: The  main theme of this Sunday’s readings is the warning that the selfish and extravagant use of God’s blessings, like wealth, with no share going to the poor and the needy, is a serious sin deserving eternal punishment. Today’s readings stress the truth that wealth without active mercy for the poor is great wickedness. It warns us against making money the goal of our existence. At the end of our lives God checks only what kind of persons we were and what good we did for others. We are on the right road when we use our earthly wealth to attain our heavenly goal. Amos, in the first reading, issues a powerful warning to those who seek wealth at the expense of the poor and who spend their time and their money only on themselves. He prophesies that those rich and self-indulgent people will be punished by God with exile because they don’t care for their poor and suffering brothers. The Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 146) praises Yahweh, Who cares for the poor. In the second reading, Paul admonishes us to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness” – noble goals in an age of disillusionment – rather than riches. In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us a warning, pointing to the destiny of the rich man who neglected his duty to show mercy to poor Lazarus. The rich man was punished, not for having riches, but for neglecting the Scriptures and what they taught.

First reading, Amos 6:1, 4-7, explained: Amos’ message from the Lord God was couched in a series of oracles, words,  woes, and visions. Today’s first reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7), is taken from the third woe (6:1-14), concerning self-indulgence, an excellent companion text for today’s Gospel. The prophet Amos laments the self-indulgence and fraternal indifference of the wealthy both in Zion (Southern Kingdom) and Samaria (Northern Kingdom, to which the Lord God had sent Amos as His prophet), who are “living a life of luxury, heedless of the misfortunes of others, of the ‘ruin of Joseph,’” notes the Navarre Bible. Because of this, the people of the Northern Kingdom will be conquered by the Assyrians and will go into exile first. They did so in 721 BC.  The collapse of Joseph is not Judah’s collapse. But by designating the Northern Kingdom “Joseph,” the Lord God, through Amos, calls attention to the patriarchal traditions Israel shares with Judah. What kind of brother satisfies expensive tastes while his younger brother suffers? The Lord God tells them that the solidarityone expects of brothers cannot be found among Judah’s elite either; they, too, are people who prefer good food and drink to coming to the aid of other suffering members of the same family. Hence, the Lord God says that He will punish those rich and unsympathetic people of Judah with exile as well. The prophecy was fulfilled when the Southern Kingdom – Judah with Jerusalem as its capital- was razed to the ground in 587 BC by the army of Babylonian King Nebuchadnezzar, and its elite rich were led to a humiliating and punishing exile in Babylon. The words of Amos will always be a reminder to us of the call from God for social justice and social inclusion, for, “God takes the side of the poor and needy,” and the Responsorial Psalm concludes with the observation, “The fatherless and the widow He sustains, but the way of the wicked He thwarts – The Lord shall reign forever; your God, O Zion, through all generations, Alleluia.”

Second Reading, 1 Timothy 6:11-16 explained: Timothy held a position in the church at Ephesus like that of the modern Bishop. He was relatively young and of mixed Jewish and Gentile parentage. In the letter, the senior apostle Paul gives the young bishop advice and encouragement. After warning  Timothy (6:10) that “the love of money is the root of all kinds of evil, and in their eagerness to be rich some have wandered away from the Faith and pierced themselves with many pains,” he reminds Timothy, the ordained priest and consecrated Bishop, of the Faith he had confessed at his Baptism, of his obligation to “pursue righteousness, devotion, faith love, patience, and gentleness”  and of his ongoing call to bear witness to Christ as a loyal teacher and practicer of that Faith.  The message for us is that the generous sharing of our talents and resources is the necessary response of our Christian commitment.

Gospel exegesis: (Watch the video homily: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7p4QsmZbWs ) Objectives: Jesus told this parable to condemn the Pharisees for their love of money and lack of mercy for the poor. He also used the parable to correct three Jewish misconceptions held and taught by the Sadducees: 1) Material prosperity in this life is God’s reward for moral uprightness, while poverty and illness are God’s punishment for sins. Hence, there is no need to help the poor and the sick for they have been cursed by God. 2) Since wealth is a sign of God’s blessing, the best way of thanking God is to enjoy it by leading a life of luxury and self-indulgence in dress, eating and drinking, of course, after giving God His portion as tithe. 3) The parable also addresses the Sadducees’ false doctrine which denied the soul’s survival after death, and, so, the consequent retribution our deeds and neglects in this life will receive in the next. Jesus challenges these misconceptions through the parable and condemns the rich who ignore the poor they encounter.  The parable also offers an invitation to each one of us to be conscious of the sufferings of those around us and to share our blessings generously.

One-act-play: The parable is presented as a one act play with two scenes. The opening scene presents the luxurious life of the rich man in costly dress, enjoying five course meals every day, in contrast to the miserable life of the poor, sick beggar living in the street by the rich man’s front door, competing with stray dogs for the crumbs discarded from the rich man’s dining table. The name ‘Lazarus’ means ‘God is my help.’ Despite a life of misfortune and suffering, Lazarus does not lose hope in God.  As the curtain goes up for the second scene, the situation is reversed. The beggar Lazarus is enjoying Heavenly bliss as a reward for his fidelity to God in his poverty and suffering, while the rich man is thrown down into the excruciating suffering of Hell as punishment for not doing his duty of showing mercy to the poor, sharing with the beggar at his door the mercies and blessings God has given him.

Why punishment for the innocent? Naturally, we are tempted to ask the question, why was the rich man punished? Because he continued to commit the sin of omission although he did not drive either the poor beggar or the stray dogs from in front of his door nor did he prevent either from sharing the discarded crumbs and leftovers from his table. He did not kick Lazarus. He was not cruel to him. The sin of the rich man was that he never noticed Lazarus  as a human being and a brother, an who represents a fact of life: the poor, the sick, and the unfortunate who are always around us. He did no wrong, but he did nothing good, either. The problem that rich Dives encountered was that he seemed oblivious to the fact that poor Lazarus was right there outside his gate, and he did not recognize him nor his obligation in charity and justice to help him! In the Catholic teaching, that is the sin of omission (not doing what one is supposed to do). The Fathers of the Church find three culpable omissions in the rich man in the parable. a) He neglected the poor beggar at his door by not helping him to treat his illness or giving him a small house to live in. b) He ignored the scrolls of Sacred Scriptures kept on his table reminding him of Yahweh’s commandment in the book of Leviticus (15:7-11) “Don’t deny help to the poor. Be liberal in helping the widows and the homeless.” c) He led a life of luxury and self-indulgence, totally ignoring the poor people around him, with Cain’s attitude: “Am I the guardian of my brother?” It is not wrong to be rich, but it is wrong not to share our blessings with our less fortunate brothers and sisters. d) He forgot the truth that money is an instrument that can buy everything but happiness and can purchase a ticket to every place but Heaven. e) Although he was greatly blessed with much by way of comfort and enjoyed a life of luxury, his response to his blessedness was serious social blindness and insensitivity to both the needs of the poor and suffering around him and to genuine justice. One third of the total world population is homeless and without food; 500 million are malnourished; 14,000 die every day because they eat nothing. Why does this happen? Because of the sins of omission of those people who selfishly monopolize God’s blessings for themselves.

What is wrong with working hard to acquire a decent standard of living? Nothing really, though there might be some serious questions about where to draw the line that separates a decent standard of living from conspicuous consumption! The real problem is not wealth in itself, but what it can do to us. When we have enough and maybe more than enough to live comfortably, we may begin to forget our dependence on God. We could begin to think we have it made, like the rich man in the Gospel, and become infected with terminal complacency. A comfortable sufficiency can lead to self-indulgence which blinds us to the needs of others. This is what both Amos and Jesus condemn in today’s readings.

The lessons taught: This parable teaches important lessons: a) It reminds us that eventually all of us will experience God’s justice after our death (“particular judgment”), when we are asked to give an account of our lives. b) It points to the Law and the Prophets (the Sacred Scriptures), as ways to learn how to practice righteousness and sacrificial sharing. c) It looks ahead to our resurrection (“neither will they be convinced if someone rises from the dead”), and the reality that the people who heed nothing and die unrepentant will suffer for it. d) God permits injustices in this life, though not in the next. e) Perhaps the main lesson of this parable is that supreme self-love is total moral depravity and making self-gratification one’s supreme goal in life does not merely lead to sin – it is sin.

Pope Saint John Paul II in Yankee Stadium in New York in 1979, during his first visit as Pope to the United States said that this parable “must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience.” “We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the twentieth century stands at our doors.” Almost fifty years ago,  Pope Saint Paul VI [canonized October 14, 2018, by Pope Francis] spoke of the campaign against hunger in these words: “It is a question of building a world where every person can live a fully human life… where the poor man Lazarus can sit down at the same table with the rich man” (Populorum Progressio 47). Christ is the true rich man who has made himself utterly poor for our sakes for He left the wealth of Heaven to enter our spiritual poverty on Earth.   He comes to us not only in Holy Communion, though that is, by far, the greatest of His gifts to us, but He comes to us also in the poor.  He is the poor man who sits at our doorsteps and on our streets.  He hides the wounds of the Cross under those of addiction and poverty.  He suffers in all who are poor, needy or abandoned, from the child in the womb to the old person dying alone, from the poorest of the poor in Africa to those unjustly imprisoned.  What we do or fail to do for them we do or fail to do for  Jesus.

Life messages: 1) We are all rich enough to share our blessings with others.  God has blessed each one of us with wealth or health or special talents or social power or political influence or a combination of many blessings. The parable invites us to share what we have been given with others in various ways, instead of using everything exclusively for selfish gains.

2) We need to remember that sharing is the criterion of the Last Judgment: Matthew (25:31ff), tells us that all six questions to be asked of each one of us by Jesus when He comes in glory as our judge are based on how we have shared our blessings from Him  (food, drink, home, mercy, and compassion), with our brothers and sisters, anyone in need,in whom he is found. Here is the message given by Pope St. John Paul II in Yankee Stadium, New York during his first visit to the U.S., October 2, 1979. “The parable of the rich man and Lazarus must always be present in our memory; it must form our conscience. Christ demands openness to our brothers and sisters in need – openness from the rich, the affluent, the economically advanced; openness to the poor, the underdeveloped, and the disadvantaged. Christ demands an openness that is more than benign attention, more than token actions or halfhearted efforts that leave the poor as destitute as before or even more so. …We cannot stand idly by, enjoying our own riches and freedom, if, in any place, the Lazarus of the 20th century stands at our doors.”

3) We need to treat the unborn as our brother/sister Lazarus. The Lazarus of the 21st century is also our preborn brother and our preborn sister. These babies are brutally executed in their mother’s wombs. Their cries for a chance to live are rejected 4400 times a day in our country. This Lazarus is the person torn apart and thrown away by abortion. The rich man was condemned for not treating Lazarus as his brother. We also will be condemned for our selfishness if we do not treat the preborn as our brother and sister. “Who am I to interfere with a woman’s choice to abort?” I am a brother, a sister of that child in the womb! I am a human being who has enough decency to stand up and say “NO!” when I see another human being about to be killed. I am a person gifted with enough wisdom to realize that injustice to one human being is injustice to every human being, and that my own life is only as safe as the life of the preborn child. Finally, I am a follower of the One who said, “Whatsoever you do to the least of my brothers, you do to me.”

4) Our choices here determine the kind of eternity we will have. It has been put this way: “Where we go hereafter depends on what we ‘go after,’ here!” Where we will arrive depends on what road we travel. We get what we choose, what we live for. We are shaping our moral character to fit forever in one of two places.

JOKE OF THE WEEK

1) “Oh Lord, hit him again!” The parish church was badly in need of repair. So the pastor called a special meeting inside the Church to raise funds. At the assembly the pastor explained the need of an emergency fund for plastering the roof and supporting pillars and the other areas which needed repair. He invited pledge of contributions. After a brief pause Mr. Murphy, the richest man in the parish, volunteered he would give 50 dollars. Just as he sat down, a hunk of plaster fell from the ceiling on the head of Mr. Murphy. He jumped up looking terribly startled and corrected himself: “I meant to say 500 dollars.” The congregation stood silent and stunned. Then a lone voice cried out: “Oh Lord, hit him again!”

2) Jesus died between two thieves.” An old pastor was dying. He sent a message for his IRS agent and his lawyer (both Church members), to come to his home. When they arrived, they were ushered up to his bedroom. As they entered the room, the dying pastor held out his hands and motioned for them to sit on each side of the        bed. The pastor grasped their hands, sighed contentedly, smiled and stared at the ceiling. For a time, no one said anything. Both the IRS agent and lawyer were touched and flattered that the old pastor would ask them to be with him during his final moment. They were however puzzled because the pastor had never given any indication that he particularly liked either one of them. Finally, the lawyer asked, “Father, why did you ask the two of us to come?” The old pastor mustered up some strength, then said weakly, “Jesus died between two thieves, and that’s how I want to go, too.”

3) Drowsy Living: There is a sign series on the West Virginia Turnpike that says, “Driving while drowsy can put you to sleep – permanently.” Drowsy, uncaring living can put us to sleep – permanently. That kind of person, Jesus says, is separating himself from God until it becomes permanent, digging a chasm between himself and Heaven that even the love of God cannot bridge. (Carveth Mitchell, The Sign in the Subway, CSS Publishing Company).

4) Grab as many bottles as you can.  The old beer adage which I am sure you all remember and follow went like this: You only go around once, so grab as many bottles as you can. We do go around only once in this world, as you may have noticed, or perhaps not, and we should grab every opportunity to do good that we encounter.

5) “It’s my dad’s.” Harry and his neighbor Joe often borrowed things from each other. One day, Harry asked to borrow Joe’s ladder. Joe said, “Sorry Harry, I’ve lent it to my son.”  Remembering a saying that his grandma often used to tell him, Harry said, “Joe, you should never lend anything to your children because you’ll never get it back.”  Joe replied, laughing, “Don’t worry, it’s not my ladder. It’s my dad’s.”

6) “I wish you would beat me half to death.” A man was walking on the beach one afternoon kicking up the sand. There on the beach was a bottle and as he walked he kicked the bottle into the surf. Out of the bottle came a mysterious being… a Genie. “Because you have freed me you are granted three wishes…but be advised that with each one your mother-in-law will receive double what you ask for.” Thinking seriously the man responded, “ I would like $10,000,000.” “Granted and your mother-in-law will receive twenty million.” “Next wish”…..I would like 10 new cars, Corvettes, Ferrari, Vipers, “Granted but you know your mother-in-law will receive 20 new cars.” Great. “This is your last wish now so think about it seriously”…..The man thought and thought and finally he responded, “I wish you would beat me half to death.” Is the story true? Could it possibly take place? A silly little joke but many sons-in-law might say “Amen!” We laugh at the story  but in reality the little joke reveals a hidden truth about at least one man…he really did not care for his mother-in-law. He who laughs the most probably……I’ll just leave it at that.

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (For homilies & Bible study groups

1) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org/featured-homilies/ (Copy it on the Address bar and press the Enter button)

2) Fr. Geoffrey Plant’s beautiful & scholarly video classes on Sunday gospel, Bible & RCIA topics https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant20663)

3)Fr. Nick’s collection of Sunday homilies from 65 priests & weekday homilies: https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  

4) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C Sunday Scripture for Bible Class: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-Biblical basis of Catholic doctrines: http://scripturecatholic.com/

5)    Agape Catholic Bible Lessons: http://www.agapebiblestudy.com/   

6) Audio Bible Pronunciation Guide: http://netministries.org/bbasics/bbwords.htm

7) St. Anthony Messenger Online: http://www.americancatholic.org/,

8) US Catholic Online: http://uscatholic.claretians.org/site/PageServer?pagename=usc_homepage.

9) The New Testament Gateway: http://www.ntgateway.com/

10) Video talk on the parable (Non-Catholic): i) https://youtu.be/FUtr5kyfnS8; ii) https://youtu.be/Pzpvqym9whY

11) Pope Francis on the parable: https://www.humanthreadcampaign.org/blog/pope-francis-on-the-rich-man-and-poor-lazarus/ & https://georgiabulletin.org/news/2017/02/pope-francis-lent-message-rich-man-lazarus-word-gift-persons-gift/

12) (Watch the video homily: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j7p4QsmZbWs for good exegesis

                                                       

17 Additional anecdotes

1) “America’s Mansions.” There used to be a television show, America’s Mansions, that featured homes of the extremely rich in the U. S. One was the Vanderbilt estate in Hyde Park, New York constructed by a wealthy industrialist of the nineteenth century. It is a fifty-four-room home, with a breathtaking view of the Hudson River and the Catskill Mountains in the distance. Another feature was the home of Bill Gates the richest man in the world. Its building cost was over $53 million.  It is a fifty-four-room house: a 66,000 square foot complex with seven bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, six fireplaces and an 11,500 square-foot inner sanctum for privacy. The financier Nelson Peltz’s mansion on his waterfront estate in Florida is worth $75 million. The original price of the Bel-Air Mansion owned by Iris Cantor, the widow of Gerald Cantor, was $60 million. (http://www.forbes.com).  We find it hard to imagine living in such luxury. But neither can we imagine the poverty found around the world.   Here is the report of the United Nations Human Development Commission. “The richest fifth [20 percent] of the world’s people consumes 86 percent of all goods and services, while the poorest fifth [20 percent] consumes just 1.3 percent.” The three richest people in the world have assets that exceed the combined gross domestic product of the 48 least developed countries. “Americans spend $8 billion a year on cosmetics–$2 billion more than the estimated annual total needed to provide basic education for everyone in the world.” Each day over 700 million people do not get enough to eat. Each year twelve million children below the age of five starve to death in a world that produces enough food for everyone to eat over 4 pounds of food a day. 250,000 go blind each year because of vitamin deficiency in their diet. In Latin America, forty million abandoned children live on the streets. Even in the United States about three million people are homeless at least a part of each year. — In today’s Gospel, Jesus suggests a remedy: share your blessings generously with others instead of using them selfishly — thus making yourselves eligible for eternal punishment. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

2)  Here is the image of God covered with rags! There is a Jewish story about Rabbi Joshua, the son of Levi, and his trip to Rome in the third century. He was astounded to see the magnificence of the buildings, especially the care lavished upon statues which were covered with exquisite cloths to protect them from the summer heat. As he was admiring the beauty of Roman art, a beggar plucked at his sleeve and asked for a crust of bread. The sage looked at the statues and turning to the beggar in rags said: “Here are statues of stones covered with expensive clothes, and here is a man created in the image and likeness of God covered with rags. A civilization that pays more attention to statues than to human beings shall surely perish.” — Telling the parable of the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel, Jesus asks us the same question: What are our “statues,” our priorities? The poor and powerless, the illiterate, the homeless, the ill? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

3) “A diet plan I can recommend!”: Guideposts magazine, several years ago, published an account of how a young woman named Mary Bowers MacKorell found an effective weight loss plan. Mary’s doctor told her she needed to lose several pounds. She went through many diet plans, counted her calories and used dietetic foods, but found she just didn’t have the necessary willpower. One day she received a pamphlet about needy people in her mail. Pictured on the pamphlet was a dark-skinned, scrawny, near skeletal boy. MacKorell says that she experienced a kind of spiritual shock treatment at the sight of the starving child. She began to think more seriously about how she could take off unnecessary pounds and put them where they were needed on this starving child. “At last I had a spiritual motivation for reducing,” she said. “Under God’s guidance I formed a practical plan and carried it through. For a period of ten days I ate only two meals a day, skipping lunch. Each day at the lunch hour I sipped a sugar free drink and looked at the picture of the starving boy. I prayed to God to bless him and let my extra weight be transferred to him or someone like him. For each lunch I omitted I placed in a box for missions one dollar saved. Now there is a diet plan I can recommend.” The parable of the rich man and Lazarus in today’s Gospel gives all of us a similar diet plan. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

4) “I have so much, and you have so little.”  There is a story about David Rockefeller of Chase Manhattan Bank when he was traveling through South America. A group of bank officials of the government of Uruguay invited him for lunch, hoping for a sizable loan. The affair was held at a club that was famous locally for its magnificent cold appetizer buffet. Rockefeller passed through the line first and, thinking this to be the entire meal, served himself generously. Once seated, he noticed that others had taken skimpier portions. “I have so much,” he said to the president of Banco Central, “and you have so little….” “I am glad you mentioned that Mr. Rockefeller” interrupted his host, “because that is exactly what we want to talk to you about!”* — You and I are not Rockefellers, but we, too, have so many blessings and talents from God. Others have so little. The 5 billionth baby was born on planet earth recently. Chances are very, very high that baby will live all his or her life poorly clothed, poorly housed, poorly fed. That is because most of the babies born today are in the so-called third world where poverty is the rule and not the exception. Hence, today’s Gospel parable challenges us to share our blessings with the less fortunate ones in our society. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

5) Hell full of Lutherans: There is a town in Norway named Hell. A couple of Lutherans from the U.S. visited Norway some time back and then sent a postcard to their pastor back home. He read it at a meeting of the parish council. “Dear Father,” it said, “We passed through Hell today, and we’re concerned. Almost everyone here seems to be Lutheran.” [Leonard R.N. Ashley, The Amazing World of Superstition . . . (New York: Bell Publishing Co., 1988).] — In today’s Gospel Jesus reminds us that Hell is a realty, and it is meant for selfish people.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

6) “He doesn’t believe in Hell.” You may have heard about a young woman about to get married who said to her mother, “I can’t marry him, mother. He’ is an atheist and he doesn’t believe there is a Hell.” — Her mother responded, “That’s all right, dear! Marry him, and between the two of us I am sure we can convince him.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

7) Making a Difference: Some of you are old enough to remember Eleanor Roosevelt, wife of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. She arrived at the seat of power as a president’s wife, but her power was much more pronounced than that of any other First Lady. Mrs. Roosevelt was a one-woman war on poverty during the Depression. She visited coal mines, hospitals, and squatters’ camps all over the nation. She traveled around the world, speaking with kings, presidents, and the destitute with equal enthusiasm and compassion. During her husband’s presidency, she acted as unofficial ambassador to the world and devil’s advocate to his conscience and the conscience of a nation. She achieved all this in spite of the fact that she was painfully shy. After her husband’s death, with no official capacity, Mrs. Roosevelt continued to be a spokesperson for dozens of causes. When President Truman appointed her to the newly-formed United Nations, he was confident that he had given Mrs. Roosevelt a perfect platform from which to launch a worldwide fight for fairness and equality. Everyone she came into contact with felt the power of her convictions. Her work on the “Bill of Human Rights” for the United Nations came to fruition after four years of arduous effort. To date, this document has been used as the basis for the constitutions of sixty nations! Eleanor Roosevelt was on a mission, and she made a major difference in our world. [Sheila Murray Bethel, Making a Difference, (New York: Berkley Books, 1990).] — If you and I are not as powerful as we ought to be, maybe it is because we have no mission burning in our soul. God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power. God has also given us a spirit of love. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

8) “Grandfather’s Corner,” is the story of an old man who lived with his son and his son’s wife and children. The man was almost deaf and blind and had difficulty eating without spilling his food. Occasionally, he would drop a bowl and break it. His son and daughter-in-law thought it was disgusting and made the old man eat in a corner behind the stove. They gave him a wooden bowl which could not be broken. One day the old man’s little grandson was working with some pieces of wood. When his father asked what he was doing, he replied, “I’m making a trough for you and mother to eat out of when I’m grown up.” From that moment on, the grandfather rejoined the family at the table. No one ever said another word about it. [Leo Buscaglia, Bus 9 to Paradise (New York: Wm. Morrow & Co., 1986), pg. 249.] — What goes around comes around. The way we treat other people is the way we will be treated. That is especially true within the family. The boy saw how his father treated his grandfather and assumed that it was an acceptable way to treat someone who was old. In today’s parable Jesus warns us that we will reap in the next world what we sow in this world. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

9) Caring and sharing with the poor: Dr. Samuel Johnson was a great lexicographer, writer, critic and conversationalist. He was the first one to make an attempt to write an English Dictionary. William Barclay gives this account of his kindness and generosity. “Surely one of the loveliest pictures in literary history is the picture of Johnson, in his own days of poverty, coming home in the small hours of the morning, and as he walked along the Strand, slipping pennies into the hands of waifs and strays who were sleeping in the doorways because they had nowhere else to go. When someone asked him how he could bear to have his house filled with ‘necessitous and undeserving people,’ Johnson answered, “If I did not assist them no one else would, and they must not be lost for want.” — Dr. Johnson cared and was concerned about the beggars, and the strays that flocked to him. (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

10)  Dear       Abby: The Dear Abby column once received a letter from a 15-year-old girl which read as follows: Dear Abby, “Happiness is not having your parents scold you if you come home late, having your own bedroom, and getting the telephone call you’ve been hoping for. Happiness is belonging to a popular group, being dressed as well as anybody, and having a lot of spending money. Happiness is something I don’t have! 15 and Unhappy.”  Shortly after the letter was published, Dear Abby received a reply from 13-year-old girl who wrote: Dear Abby: “Happiness is being able to walk and talk, to see and hear. Unhappiness is reading a letter from a 15-year-old girl who can do all four things and still says she isn’t happy. I can talk, I can see, I can hear. But I can’t walk! 13 and Happy.”  These letters reflect two different points of view on happiness. Today’s Gospel parable does the same. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word      Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

11) Vanity of           Wealth: The famous Greek law-giver Solon once went on a vacation to the town of Lydia, now in Turkey. It boasted the richest king in the world, named Croesus. Solon, the great philosopher, – quite detached from all possessions of this world – decided to visit the man who seemed to find all his happiness in wealth. As soon as he got to the place, Croesus decided to show his vaults. “What do you think of that?” he demanded triumphantly. But Solon kept silent and so the king went on, “Who do you think is the happiest man in the world? The philosopher thought for a moment, and then named two obscure Greeks whose names Croesus had never heard before. The king was angered because he had been cheated out of a compliment, so he asked sharply for an explanation. Solon answered, “No man can be considered really happy whose heart is wedded to material things. They pass and their owner becomes a widow. To widows belongs grief. Nor can the man himself who passes away and can take none of his gold with him. Again, it is only grief.” (Frank Michalic in 1000 Stories You Can Use; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

12) The parable which transformed St. Vincent de Paul and Frederick Ozanam: September 27th is the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 16th century France, Saint Vincent de Paul observed the disparity between the rich and the poor. As a priest, he had the opportunity to experience the aristocratic life as well as the life of the destitute poor in Paris. He organized groups of women called Charities who gave their time and belongings to the poor. Some of these women chose the consecrated life and became the first female congregation to live a consecrated life “in the world,” and not in the cloister. Saint Vincent de Paul and Saint Louise de Marillac founded this congregation, named the “Daughters of Charity.”  Our first U.S.-born saint, Mother Elizabeth Ann Seton, founded the U.S. branch of the Daughters of Charity. Two centuries after Saint Vincent de Paul, a 20-year old college student, Frederick Ozanam, and five other students, witnessed the dire poverty of the lower social classes in Paris. They decided to dedicate themselves to the poor, after the example of Saint Vincent de Paul. In 1833, they established the “Conference of Charity of Saint Vincent de Paul,” soon to be called “The Society of Saint Vincent de Paul.” —  They were determined to bring not only bread but friendship to the poor. They would not ignore the Lazaruses at their door in 19th century Paris. Frederic Ozanam was beatified by Pope John Paul II in 1997. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

13) `What do they have to move?’ Dr. Leo Buscalgia tells of an experience he had in Cambodia years ago. He noticed that during monsoon season the people’s way of life changed. The great rains washed away their houses, so the people lived on great communal rafts, several families together. Dr. Buscalgia writes: “I went down there on a bicycle and there they were. I thought I’d help these people move and become part of their community. The Frenchwoman whom I was talking with just laughed. — `What do they have to move?’ she asked. `Nature has taught them the only thing they have is from the top of their head to the bottom of their feet. Themselves, not things. They can’t collect things because every year the monsoon comes.'” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

14) Near death experiences: On January 18, 1989, around 11:45 a.m., thirty-nine-year-old Larry Donald Piper’s Ford Escort collided head-on with a semi-truck. EMTs arrived shortly thereafter and pronounced him dead at the scene. Unconscious in the wrecked vehicle, Piper claims to have spent ninety minutes at the entrance to heaven, seeing deceased loved ones, hearing celestial music, and walking toward heaven’s gate. Before he entered, however, God sent him back. Piper’s book, 90 Minutes in Heaven, which recounts his near-death experience, remained on the New York Times best-seller list for more than five years and has sold over six million copies. Even more recently, in the 2010 New York Times best-selling book, Heaven is for Real, Todd Burpo relates the near-death experience of his then-three-year-old son, Colton. The book recounts Colton’s journey to Heaven, where he personally met Jesus riding a rainbow-colored horse and sat in Jesus’ lap when angels sang songs to him. Burpo’s book has since sold over 10 million copies and was adapted into a feature film, earning over $100 million at the box office. Other near-death-experiences are recorded in books like 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Weise (2006), The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven written by Kevin Malarkey (2010), and Proof of Heaven by Eben Alexander (2012). — While I think the subjective experiences of near-deathers do little to prove their claims, the sales record of books such as these certainly proves one thing—our culture is curious, even obsessed, about the afterlife. We want to know what happens after death. What will we see? What will we feel? Does Jesus really have brown hair, blue eyes, and a rainbow-colored horse!? Rather than relying on the notoriously unreliable experiences of others, Christians ought to rely on Scripture. The Bible tells us, “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him, but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit. The Spirit searches all things, even the deep things of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9-10). (Rev Scott Bayles). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

15) They have Moses and the prophets: The rich man in today’s Gospel realized only after death the full gravity of his selfishness toward poor Lazarus. Then (to his credit) he did beg “Father Abraham” to send Lazarus back to warn the deceased’s brothers to be more unselfish. But Abraham replied, “Why? They already know right from wrong. Moses and the prophets have taught them that. If they ignore Moses and the prophets they will not resopond to someone coming to them after his death. —  There is nothing more frightening to contemplate than a man stubbornly committed to sin. Misusing his free will, he has deliberately chosen what honest conscience tells him is wrong. Even God cannot rescue him from his willful blindness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

16) Leon Czolgosz is perhaps an illustration. On September 6, 1901, in Buffalo, Czolgosz assassinated U.S. President William McKinley. He was found guilty and sentenced to electrocution at Auburn Prison. Leon was of Polish Catholic background, but had become a professed atheist, anarchist, and terrorist. Prison authorities, according to custom, reminded the prisoner that he had a right to see a clergyman. He did ask for pictures of available clergy of various faiths. The pastor of Auburn’s Holy Family Church sent a sheaf of pictures to the prison, delivered by an altar boy, Patrick Byrne. Czolgosz chose Father Theophil Szadzinski, the pastor of St. Stanislaus Church in Rochester, who happened to be in Auburn. Father Theophil went to the jail accompanied by Patrick Byrne and another altar boy. The boys waited in the outer office. After a long time, the priest came out. Pat asked him anxiously what success he had had. “Paddy” said Father Theophil, “priests don’t talk about such things.”– Now it is possible that the assassin had a change of heart the moment before the switch was turned on. But there was no record that he died reconciled to God. Ironically, Paddy Byrne, the altar boy who had been so concerned about Czolgosz’s conversion himself died at the hands of another sort of atheistic radicals a half century later. Patrick J. Byrne had grown up to be a prominent Maryknoll missionary in the Far East. In 1949 Pope Pius XII made him a bishop and apostolic delegate to Korea. But one year later the Korean Communists overran the capital, Seoul, captured a host of foreigners, among them Bishop Byrne, and made them take a “Death March” across the country. Bishop Byrne died of the hardships of that forced trek on November 25, 1950. Good deeds have far-reaching effects. So, unfortunately, do evil ones. (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).  

17) Who are you in this story?  Don’t forget that just about all Gospel stories act as a “mirror,” and you can see yourself clearly if you put on your “honesty” glasses. Who do you associate yourself with: the poor old beggar Lazarus, or the rich man Dives? If you say “neither,” then you just might need to clean your eyeglasses. Too many times we fall into the “trap” of making “Self” the center of our lives. We become complacent, just like the people of Northern Israel were doing at the time of the Prophet Amos. We hear in the First Reading (Amos 6:1a, 4-7) that the rich were simply ignoring the poor, one of the worst injustices that can happen to a person or to a strata of society. Is it possible that we may think once we make out our check for the Sunday collection, we have taken care of the poor? Not necessarily so. Do you know if your Parish in turn tithes its income to the poor sector? How much, in fact, does your Parish give to the poor from that collection basket? An attitude of “Indifference” – the sin of Dives – might say, “that’s Father’s problem.” Not so! Dives represents each one of us, whenever we become indifferent to the plight of the poor in any way whatsoever. If you think rich Dives got what he deserved, take a closer look into that mirror of scripture. Recognize anyone? If not, God bless you for your generosity and kind heart! If you do recognize yourself, it is never too late to care for God’s special ones, the materially poor – that is the Good News for each one of us. A final question for us: who is “spiritually” poor in this gospel story, and in our personal life story? (Fr. Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).   L/22

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C(No. 53) by Fr. Tony:akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://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 at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  of Fr. Nick’s collection of homilies or Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in.  (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604

Suggested intercessory prayers  for Sept 25th Sunday, The Priest Day)

Having heard proclaimed the saving works of God among us, let us now bring before the God of joy and promise our needs.

For God’s holy Church: May our pope, bishops and priests continue to minister in humble justice and faithful service. Let us pray to the Lord.

For nations and their governments: May they hear the call to work toward peace, justice and equity between one another and for the people they serve. Let us pray to the Lord.

For all who have suffered abuse: May those who have suffered abuse find strength, hope and peace. Let us pray to the Lord.

For an increase in religious vocations: May men and women respond to the Christ’s call to serve the Church in the priesthood, diaconate or religious life. Let us pray to the Lord.

For all who suffer from sickness, hunger or loneliness: May they find in our communities faithful support and generous kindness. Let us pray to the Lord.

For those struggling with doubt, anxiety or fear: May the peace of Christ embrace them and lead them to his comforting light. Let us pray to the Lord.

Concluding prayer by the priest (From Serra flyer)

Weekday Homilies for September 19-24 (L-22)

Sept 19-24: Click on http://frtonyshomilies.com for missed homilies:  Sept 19, Monday: (St. Januarius, Bishop, Martyr): (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-januarius ) Lk 8:16-18: 16 “No one after lighting a lamp covers it with a vessel, or puts it under a bed, but puts it on a stand, that those who enter may see the light. 17 For nothing is hid that shall not be made manifest, nor anything secret that shall not be known and come to light. 18 Take heed then how you hear; for to him who has will more be given, and from him who has not, even what he thinks that he has will be taken away.”

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is taken from Luke’s version of Jesus’ teachings after telling the parable of the sower.  It reminds us that we are the light of the world and that our duty is to receive and radiate around us Christ’s Light of love, mercy, compassion, and forgiveness.  The image of light and lamp: Lamps help people to see, move and work in the dark, and their light prevents our stumbling and falling down. For the Jews, light represented the inner beauty, truth, and goodness of God. God’s Light illumines our lives with light, celestial joy, and everlasting peace. The glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds at Bethlehem (Lk 2:9); Paul experienced the presence of God in a blinding Light (Acts 9:3; 22:6); God “dwells in inaccessible Light” (1 Tm 6:16). That is why Jesus claims to be the Light of the world. When the Light of Christ shines in our hearts, we will be able to recognize who we are, who our neighbors are, and who God is, and to see clearly how we are related to God and our neighbors. When we live in Christ’s Light, we will not foolishly try to hide truths about ourselves from ourselves, from our neighbors, or from God. Christ’s Light will also remind us of the consequences of our loving the darkness of sinful ways and bad habits.   

The paradox of the rich getting richer: In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the comment, “for to him who has will more be given,” following the warning “Take heed how you hear….” Jesus is telling us that if we listen to Him with open minds and open hearts and walk in Jesus’  Light, the tiny bit of wisdom and understanding that we’ve already gained will grow and grow with God’s help. If, on the other hand, our hearts are closed to Jesus, even the little bit of wisdom that we think we’ve got will be lost. Jesus is not talking about money or wealth in any form. When we prayerfully immerse ourselves in the Scriptures, we are encountering God Himself. Jesus is talking about the extent and depth of our connectedness to God. If we are already deeply rooted in God, our spirits will grow larger, richer, and fuller by the day. But if our connection to the Lord is only superficial, it certainly won’t grow, and it may well not last at all.

 Life messages: As “light of the world” it is our duty 1) to remove the darkness from around us and 2) to show others the true Light of Jesus, His ideas and ideals through our model Christian life. (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.

Sept 20 Tuesday: (Saints Andrew Kim Tae-gon, Priest and Paul Chong Ha sang, and companions, Martyrs): (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-andrew-kim-taegon-paul-chong-hasang-and-companions) (Lk 8:19-21): 19 Then his mother and his brothers came to him, but they could not reach him for the crowd. 20 And he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see you.” 21 But he said to them, “My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”   

 The context: As Jesus became a strong critic of the Jewish religious authorities, his cousins,  bringing his Mother with them (as a wedge in the door, so Jesus would listen to them?) came to take him back to Nazareth by force, perhaps because they feared that he would be arrested and put to death

 Jesus’ plain statement: Today’s Gospel episode seems to suggest that Jesus ignored the request of his mother and close relatives who had traveled the long distance of twenty miles, probably on foot, to talk to him.  But everyone in the audience knew how Jesus loved his mother and had taken care of her until he started his public ministry.  Besides, Jesus’ plain answer, "My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it," was indeed a compliment to his mother who had always listened to the word of God and obeyed it. It also dismissed, without mentioning them,  all claims kindred might make which would interfere with His Messianic Mission. In other words, Jesus was declaring, “Blessed are those who heard and kept the word of God as Mary was faithfully doing" (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium, 58).  Jesus was also using the occasion to teach his listeners a new lesson in their relationship with God. Being a disciple of Jesus, or a Christian, means first and foremost having a deep, growing and personal relationship of love and unity with God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit and with all who belong to God as His children.  Jesus changes the order of relationships and shows us that true kinship is not just a matter of flesh and blood.  God’s gracious gift to us is His adoption of us as His sons and daughters.  This gift enables us to recognize all those who belong to Christ, actually or potentially, as our brothers and sisters.  Our adoption as sons and daughters of God transforms all our relationships and requires a new order of loyalty to God and His Kingdom in absolute, unquestioned, first place.  Everyone who does the will of the Father, that is to say, who obeys Him, is a brother or sister of Christ, because he or she is like Jesus who always fulfilled the will of his Father. 
 
Life messages: 1) Let us remember that by Baptism we become the children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus and members of the Heavenly family of the Triune God.  Hence, we have the two-fold obligation to treat others with love and respect and to share our love with them by corporal and spiritual works of mercy.  2) Let us grow as true disciples of Jesus by becoming hearers as well as doers of the word of God. (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.

Sept 21 Wednesday: (St. Matthew, Apostle, Evangelist): Mt 9:9-13: (https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-matthew/ 9 As Jesus passed on from there, he saw a man called Matthew sitting at the tax office; and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him.  10 And as he sat at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and sat down with Jesus and his disciples.  11 And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, “Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  12 But when he heard it, he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick.  13 Go and learn what this means, `I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.’ For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.”

The context: Today’s Gospel episode of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ apostle reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others. The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax-collector’s station to invite Matthew to become a disciple. Since tax-collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than they owed, the Jewish people, especially the Pharisees, hated and despised the tax collectors as traitors, considered them public sinners, and ostracized them. But Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. That is why, while everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy, and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because, for him, Christ’s invitation to become Jesus’ follower, was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance, and protection. Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to rejoice in his new calling by celebrating with his friends who were also outcasts. Jesus’ dining with all these outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees, for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. Cleverly, they asked, not Jesus, but the young disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?”  Jesus, coming to the rescue of the disciples, cut in, and answered the question in terns of healing: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice’” (Hos 6:6).  Finally, Jesus clarified, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.” [After the Ascension, Saint Matthew remained for over ten years in Judea, writing his Gospel there in about the year 44. Then he went to preach the Faith in Egypt and especially in Ethiopia, where he remained for twenty-three years. The relics of Saint Matthew were for many years in the city of Naddaver in Ethiopia, where he suffered his martyrdom, but were transferred to Salerno in the year 954].

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven us our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, Jesus calls us daily  through the Word and through the Church, to be disciples and, so,  to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. 2) Just as Matthew did, we, too, are expected to proclaim Christ through our lives by reaching out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with Christ’s love, mercy, and compassion. (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.

Sept 22 Thursday:  Lk 9:7-9: 7) Now Herod the tetrarch heard of all that was done, and he was perplexed, because it was said by some that John had been raised from the dead, 8 by some that Elijah had appeared, and by others that one of the old prophets had risen. 9 Herod said, “John I beheaded; but who is this about whom I hear such things?” And he sought to see him.

The context: Although King Herod respected and feared John the Baptist as a great prophet, he was not converted, and he was maneuvered into beheading John by his vengeful, intolerant, immoral, jealous wife Herodias. When his personal staff started reporting stories to Herod about the new prophet, Jesus, as the reappearance of Elijah the prophet, Herod expressed his fear that Jesus was the reincarnation of John the Baptist whom he had unjustly killed. He wanted to see Jesus — not to hear Jesus preaching of the Good News, but in order to get rid of his fear and feelings of guilt.

The haunting conscience: Herod Antipas was one of the several sons of Herod the Great, the King of Israel who had divided his kingdom among four of his sons.  Herod Antipas ruled over Galilee and Perea from 4 BC to 39 AD. The conscience of this immoral oriental tyrant Herod started destroying his peace of mind when he realized the heinousness of his crimes of an illicit and immoral relationship with his niece and sister-in-law, Herodias, in gross violation of Mosaic laws, and his cooperation in the murder of John the Baptist. His discomfort led him, not to repentance, but to the fear that John had come back from the dead to punish him, a fear that might have prompted Herod’s wish to see Jesus in person. His wish was finally realized when Jesus was dragged to him during Jesus’ trial before Pilate. But Jesus did not yield to Herod’s demand for a miracle and kept silence.

Life messages: 1) We need to keep our conscience clean by repenting of our sins and being reconciled with God and His Church. Otherwise, our sins will haunt us, making our lives miserable. 2) It is necessary that we should have a clear understanding of Who Jesus really is. We need to see, experience and accept Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior. Such an acceptance should lead us to a total adoption of Jesus’ ideas and ideals and way of life.  Otherwise, we will be like Herod, who resembled the people who flock to healing services today, looking for miracles but not for Jesus. If our following of Jesus causes in us no change that transforms our souls and radiates Jesus outward from us, our attempts to have mountain-top experiences will be meaningless and vain. (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.

Sept 23 Friday: (St. Pius of Pietrelcina or Padre Pio, Priest) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-pio-of-pietrelcina ) Lk 9:18-22: 18 Now it happened that as he was praying alone the disciples were with him; and he asked them, “Who do the people say that I am?” 19 And they answered, “John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.” 20 And he said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered, “The Christ of God.” 21 But he charged and commanded them to tell this to no one, 22 saying, “The Son of man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third  day be raised.”

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is the first of the three times when Jesus foretells His Passion, death and Resurrection.  It consists of two sections, the Messianic confession of Peter and the prediction of the Passion by Jesus.

Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior: Today’s Gospel explains the basis of our Faith as the acceptance of Jesus as the Christ, our Lord and Savior.  It also tells us that Christ Jesus became our Savior by his suffering, death and Resurrection.  According to Matthew (16:13-19), and Mark (8:27-30), this famous profession of Faith by Peter took place at Caesarea Philippi, at present called Banias, twenty-five miles northeast of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus realized that if the apostles did not know Who He really was, then His entire ministry, suffering and death would be useless.  Hence, Jesus decided to ask a question in two parts. 1) “What is the public opinion about Me? “and 2) “What is your personal opinion? “Their answer to the first question was: “Some say John the Baptist; but others say, Elijah; and others, that one of the old prophets has risen.”Peter volunteered to answer the second question, saying: “You are the Christ of God.”  But Jesus charged and commanded them to tell this to no one and predicted His Passion and death.

Life messages: Let us experience Jesus as our Lord: 1) We experience Jesus as our personal Savior by listening to him through the daily, meditative reading of the Bible, by talking to him through daily, personal and family prayers, by offering him our lives on the altar in frequent attendance at Holy Mass, by being reconciled with him every night, asking pardon and forgiveness for our sins, and by receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation whenever we are in mortal sin. 

2) The next step is the surrender of our lives to Jesus by rendering humble and loving service to others with the strong conviction that Jesus is present in every person. (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.

Sept 24 Saturday: Lk 9: 43-45: 43 And all were astonished at the majesty of God. But while they were all marveling at everything he did, he said to  his disciples, 44 “Let these words sink into your ears; for the Son of man is to be delivered into the hands of men.” 45 But they did not understand this saying, and it was concealed from them, that they should not perceive it; and they were afraid to ask him about this saying.

The context: Coming down from the mountain after His Transfiguration, Jesus healed an epileptic boy.  Today’s Gospel begins with the reaction of the crowds to this cure: “and all were astonished at the majesty of God.” But Jesus uses this occasion of high popularity to explain that, in order to reveal Jesus’ real majesty, “the Son of Man is to be delivered into the hands of men.”

Jesus’ least understood prediction: His coming suffering and death: In fact, Jesus foretold three times great suffering through betrayal, rejection, and the punishment of a cruel death. The Apostles could not take it in because they were dreaming of a political messiah in Jesus. Besides, Jesus showed His glory to three of them on the mountain and baffled everyone by instantly healing an epileptic boy whom the Apostles could not heal, so plainly, no one could do this to Jesus by their own power. In addition, Jesus’ disciples were really frightened by such a prediction, perhaps fearing the same fate for themselves. They may also have been ignorant of the “Suffering Servant” prophecy of Isaiah, where the Messiah was pictured as making atonement for sins through suffering and death. When Jesus called Himself the “Son of Man,” the Apostles got the impression of the Messiah coming in glory as described by Daniel.  

 Life messages: 1) Jesus paid the ransom for our sins by His blood and freed us from the tyranny of sin and death through the Resurrection. Hence, it is our duty to live and die as free children of God, freed from all types of slavery to sin, evil habits and addictions. 2) We should ask Jesus for help to carry our daily crosses in the same spirit of atonement for our sins and those of others that marked Jesus’ willing, sacrificial sufferings and death for all of us.  (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.

March 7-12 Weekday homilies

March 7-12: Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes:March 7 Monday: (Saints Perpetua and Felicity, Martyrs) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saints-perpetua-and-felicity March 11 Monday: Matthew 25: 31-46 : “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. 32 Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats, 33 and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left. 34 Then the King will say to those at his right hand, `Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; 35 for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’ 37 Then the righteous will answer him, `Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink? 38 And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee? 39 And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?’ 40 And the King will answer them, `Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.’ 41 Then he will say to those at his left hand, `Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; 42 for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink, 43 …46 (Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the Last Judgment and its criterion using as an image the Palestinian shepherds’ practice of the nightly separation of the over-active and less docile goats from the docile sheep. Jesus promises that he will come in all his glory as a Judge (Christ’s Second Coming), to reward the good people and punish the bad people. This will be the final and the public separation of the good people from the evildoers. The lessons: The parable teaches us that the main criterion of the Last Judgment will be the works of Christian charity, kindness, and mercy we have done for others, in whom we have actually served Christ, knowingly or unknowingly. The parable tells us that Christ, the Judge, is going to ask us six questions, and all of them are based on how we have cooperated with God’s grace to do acts of charity, kindness, and mercy for others, because Jesus actually dwells in them. The first set of questions: “I was hungry, thirsty, homeless. Did you give me food, drink, accommodation?” The second set of questions: ”I was naked, sick, imprisoned. Did you clothe me? Did you help me by visiting me in my illness or in prison?” If the answers are yes, we will be eternally rewarded because we have cooperated with God’s grace by practicing charity. But if the answers are negative, we will be eternally punished. Mother Teresa of Calcutta said, “If sometimes our poor people have had to die of starvation, it is not because God didn’t care for them, but because you and I didn’t give, were not instruments of love in the hands of God, to give them that bread, to give them that clothing; because we did not recognize Christ, when once more Christ came in distressing disguise.”

Life messages: 1) The Holy Bible, the Seven Sacraments, the Ten Commandments and the precepts of the Church are all meant to help us to practice corporal and spiritual works of charity (mercy), in this life so that we may become able to receive God’s love, our eternal reward of Heavenly bliss.

2) Sins of omission (in which, we fail to recognize those in need as our brothers and sisters in Christ, and we fail to serve them in love), are very serious matters leading us toward eternal punishment. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

March 8 Tuesday: (St. John of God, Religious): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-of-godMt 6: 7-15:7 “And when you are praying, do not use meaningless repetition as the Gentiles do, for they suppose that they will be heard for their 10many words. 8 “So do not be like them; for 11your Father knows what you need before you ask Him. 9 “12Pray, then, in this way: ‘Our Father who is in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. 10 ’13Your kingdom come. 14Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. 11 ’15Give us this day our daily bread. 12 ‘And 16forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. 13 ‘And do not lead us into temptation, but 17deliver us from 18evil. [For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.’] 14 “19For if you forgive others for their transgressions, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. 15 “But 20if you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive your transgressions. Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: In today’s passage from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus instructs the crowd that they should not pray like the Gentiles, repeating empty phrases. He means that true prayer is not so much a matter of the number of words as of the frequency and the love with which one turns towards God, raising one’s mind to God. So, Jesus teaches them a model prayer. Jesus’ prayer, “Our Father,” consists of two parts. In the first part, we praise and worship God, addressing Him as our loving, caring, and providing Heavenly Father and promising Him that we will do His holy will in our lives, thus remaining in His kingdom. In the second part, we present our petitions before the Triune God. First,we ask God for our present needs, food clothing and shelter, (“give us this day our daily bread”), then for our past needs, especially for forgiveness of our sins (“forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”), and finally, for our future needs, protection against the tempter and his temptations (“and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil”). In this part, we also bring the Trinitarian God into our lives. We bring in: 1) God the Father, the Provider, by asking for daily bread; 2) God the Son, our Savior, by asking forgiveness for our sins; and 3) God the Holy Spirit, the Paraclete, Who is our Guide, Advocate, Comforter, and Illuminator, by asking for protection and deliverance from evil. Special stress on the spirit of forgiveness:We are told to ask for forgiveness from others for our offenses against them, and to offer unconditional forgiveness to others for their offenses against us as a condition for receiving God’s forgiveness. Jesus clarifies, “If you forgive others their wrongs, your Father in Heaven will also forgive yours. If you do not forgive others, then your Father will not forgive you either” (Mt 6:14-15).

“For Thine is the Kingdom, the Power, and the Glory, now and forever. Amen.”The manuscripts of the Gospel of Matthew do not contain this phrase, nor do any of the Catholic translations. Martin Luther added this doxology to Our Father in his translation of Matthew’s Gospel, and the King James editions of the Biblekeep it. The doxology is actually taken from the Divine Liturgy or Catholic Mass. Known as the final doxology, it takes up the first three petitions to our Father. By the final “Amen,” which means, “So be it”, we ratify what is contained in the prayer that God has taught us. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

March 9 Wednesday (St. Frances of Rome, Religious):https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-frances-of-romeLk 11:29-32:29 When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation; it seeks a sign, but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of Jonah. 30 For as Jonah became a sign to the men of Nineveh, so will the Son of man be to this generation. 31 The queen of the South will arise at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them; for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. 32 The men of Nineveh will arise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here. Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Since there had been many false prophets and false messiahs in the past, and since their pride and prejudice did not permit them to see the Messiah in a carpenter-from-Nazareth-turned-wandering-preacher, the Jewish religious leaders demanded that Jesus should show some “Messianic” signs and miracles taken from their list. They would not accept that Jesus’ numerous miraculous healings were the Messianic signs foretold by the prophets.

Jesus’ negative response: Calling them an apostate generation who refused to believe in their own prophets and denied the hand of God in the miracles he worked, Jesus warned these religious leaders that they would be condemned on the Day of Judgment by the people of Nineveh and by the Queen of Sheba from the South. . (Sheba (or Saba) was a southern kingdom centred on Yemenor Ethiopia (and possibly including both) This is one of the instances in which Jesus held up Gentiles as models of Faith and goodness (other examples: the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15, the centurion in Luke 7, the Good Samaritan story in Luke 10; etc.). The pagan Ninevites heard the voice of the Lord God in the prophet Jonah, repented, and were spared. The Queen of Sheba recognized God’s Wisdom in King Solomon and traveled to Israel to receive more of it. Nevertheless, Jesus gave the religious leaders challenging him, “the sign of Jonah.” It was the undeniable Messianic sign of his own Resurrection from the tomb on the third day after his death, just as Jonah had spent three days in the belly of the giant fish before finally going to Nineveh to accomplish the mission God had originally given him.

 Life messages: We need to recognize God-given signs in our lives: 1) Each Sacrament in the Church is an external sign representing God’s grace. 2)  On the altar we re-present Christ’s sacrifice on the cross using liturgical signs and prayers. 3) Everyone living with us or working with us is a sign of God’s living presence in our midst, inviting us to love and honor him or her  as God’s child and the living Temple of the Holy Spirit. 4) All world events and events in our lives are signs of God’s care and protection for us, His children. 5) The Holy Bible is a sign of God communicating His message to us every day. 5) So, let us learn from these God-given signs instead of looking for signs in weeping Madonnas, bleeding crucifixes and daily messages of visionaries.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

March 10 Thursday: Mt 7:7-12:7 “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. 8 For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. 9 Or what man of you, if his son asks him for bread, will give him a stone? 10 Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a serpent? 11 If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him! 12 So whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets. Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

 The context: In today’s Gospel, taken from the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus outlines the conditions for fruitful and effective prayer.

  • The first condition is trusting Faith and confidence in the goodness and promises of a loving Father. As a loving Father, God knows what to give, when to give, and how to give, irrespective of what we ask for. As One Who knows our past, present, and future, God knows what is best for us at any given time. He is a loving Father, and He will not give us evil things as the grudging and mocking gods in Greek stories did to their worshippers. Jesus explains this with two examples. Even a bad parent would refuse to give a bread-shaped piece of limestone to his child asking for bread, or a stinging scorpion instead of a fish. So, all the experiences in our lives, including illnesses and tragedies, are permitted by a loving God with a definite purpose – to work in us for our ultimate good
  • Persistence in prayer is the second condition Patient, trusting persistence reflects our dependence on, and trust in, God. That is why Jesus asks us to keep on asking, seeking and knocking.

Life messages:  1) Let us remember that we  can’t have a close relationship with anyone, especially with God, without daily, persistent, and intimate conversation, by lifting up our hearts and minds to God.

2) We need to remember the fact that prayer is a conversation with God, by, listening to God speaking to us through the Bible and the Church and talking to God by our personal, family and liturgical prayers.

1) We need to stop giving lame excuses for not praying, like a) we are too busy; b) we believe that prayer doesn’t do that much good, other than giving us psychological motivation to be better persons; c) a loving God should provide for us and protect us from the disasters of life, such as disease or accidents, without our asking Him; or d) prayer is boring.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

March 11 Friday: Mt 5:20-26: 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21 “You have heard that it was said to the men of old, `You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, `You fool!’ shall be liable to the hell of fire. 23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar, and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go; first be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift. Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: For the Scribes and the Pharisees, the external fulfillment of the precepts of the Mosaic Law was the guarantee of a person’s salvation. In other words, a man saved himself through the external works of the Law. Jesus rejects this view in today’s Gospel passage, taken from the Sermon on the Mount. For Jesus, justification or sanctification is a grace, a free, strengthening gift from God. Man’s role is one of cooperating with that grace by being faithful to it, and using it as God means it to be used. Jesus then outlines new moral standards for his disciples.

Control of anger: Anger is the rawest, strongest, and most destructive of human emotions. Describing three stages of anger and the punishment each deserves, Jesus advises his disciples not to get angry in such a way that they sin.

1) Anger in the heart (“brief stage of insanity” Cicero): It has two forms: a) a sudden, blazing flame of anger which dies suddenly. b) a surge of anger which boils inside and lingers, so that the heart seeks revenge and refuses to forgive or forget. Jesus prescribes trial and punishment by the Village Court of Elders as its punishment.

2) Anger in speech: The use of words which are insulting (“raka“=“fool”), or damaging to the reputation (“moros” = a person of loose morals). Jesus says that such an angry (verbally abusive) person should be sent to the Sanhedrin, the Jewish religion’s Supreme Court, for trial and punishment.

3) Anger in action: Sudden outbursts of uncontrollable anger, which often result in physical assault or abuse. Jesus says that such anger deserves hellfire as its punishment. In short, Jesus teaches that long-lasting anger is bad, contemptuous speech or destroying someone’s reputation is worse and harming another physically is the worst.

Life messages: 1)Let us try to forgive,forget, and move toward reconciliation as soon as possible. St. Paul advises us “Be angry (righteous anger), but do not sin” (Eph 4:26). 2) When we keep anger in our mind, we are inviting physical illnesses like hypertension, and mental illnesses like depression. 3) Let us relax and keep silence when we are angry and pray for God’s strength for self-control , and for the grace, first to desire to forgive, and then actually to forgive, those who have injured us Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

March 12 Saturday: Mt 5:43-48: “You have heard that it was said, `You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you salute only your brethren, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Additional reflections: Click on https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel passage is perhaps the central and the most famous section of the Sermon on the Mount. It gives us the Christian ethic of personal relationship: love one’s neighbors as well as enemies and show one’s love for enemies by forgiving them and praying for them. Above all, it tells us that what makes Christians different is the grace with which they interact with others, treating them with loving kindness and mercy, especially when those others seemingly don’t deserve it. The Old Law never said to hate enemies, but that was the way some Jews understood it. Jesus commands that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us in order to demonstrate that we are children of a merciful Heavenly Father. From the cross, Jesus prayed for Mercy to God His Father for all of those who were responsible for the Crucifixion – which includes all fallen humankind, and so ourselves — saying, ‘Father forgive them; they know not what they do.’” (Lk 23:34). A Christian has no personal enemies. If we only love our friends, we are no different from pagans or atheists.

We need to love our neighbors and our enemies, too: The Greek word used for loving enemies is not storge (= affection or natural love towards family members), or philia (= friendship, love of close friends), or eros (= romance) (passionate love between a young man and woman), but agápe (= unconditional love) which is the invincible benevolence, or good will, for another’s highest good. Since agápe, or unconditional love, is not natural, practicing it is possible only with God’s help. Agápe love is a choice more than a feeling. We choose to love our enemies because Jesus loved them enough to die for them, and they, too, are the children of our God. We have in the Acts of the Apostles the example of St. Stephen, the first Christian martyr, who, like Jesus on the cross, prayed for those who were putting him to death.

Life Messages: We are to try to be perfect, to be like God: 1) We become perfect when we fulfill God’s purpose in creating us: with His help, to become God-like. 2) We become perfect when, with His ongoing help, we try to love as God loves, to forgive as God forgives and to show unconditional good will and universal benevolence as God does. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

January 10-15 weekday homilies

Jan 10-15: Kindly click onhttp://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes: Click on the link given after the name of the saint ,for a short biography.

Jan 10 Monday: Mk 1: 14-20: 14 Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, 15 and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent, and believe in the gospel.” 16 And passing along by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew the brother of Simon casting a net in the sea; for they were fishermen. 17 And Jesus said to them, “Follow me and I will make you become fishers of men.” 18 And immediately they left their nets and followed him.19 And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. 20 And immediately he called them; and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry and the call of the apostles who were to continue that ministry. Jesus started public ministry immediately after John the Baptist was arrested. Following John’s pattern, Jesus, too, invited the listeners to repent as a preparation for believing in the Gospel, or the Good News, of the Kingdom of God. Repentance means an about-face turn to God resulting in a change of mind, heart, behavior, and life. It also means sorrow for having refused God’s love and a resolution to make amends. Believingin the Gospel demands from the hearers a resolution to take Jesus’ words seriously, to translate them into action, and to put trust in Jesus’ authority. Jesus preached the Gospel, or Good News, that God is a loving, forgiving, caring, and merciful Father Who wants to liberate us and save us from our sins through His Son, Jesus. According to Mark, Jesus selected four fishermen, Andrew and his brother Simon (later named Peter by Jesus), with James and his brother John, right from their fishing boats. Jesus wanted these ordinary, hard-working people as assistants in ministry because they would be very responsive instruments in the hands of God.

Life messages: 1) In order to be effective instruments in the hands of God and to continue Jesus’ preaching, healing and saving ministry, we, too, need to repent of our sins on a daily basis and to renew our lives by cooperating with God’s grace, relying on the power of God. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 11 Tuesday: Mk 1:21-28: Then they came to Capernaum, and on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and taught. 22. The people were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one having authority and not as the scribes. 23.In their synagogue was a man with an unclean spirit; 24. he cried out, “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are – the Holy One of God!” 25. Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” 26. The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him. 27. All were amazed and asked one another, “What is this? A new teaching with authority. He commands even the unclean spirits and they obey him.” 28. His fame spread everywhere throughout the whole region of Galilee. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Jesus made the city of Capernaum on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, the center of the fishing business, headquarters for a preaching, teaching, and healing Messianic ministry. The people were impressed by the authority of Jesus’ teaching. The Old Testament prophets had taught using God’s delegated authority, and the scribes and Pharisees taught quoting Moses, the prophets and the great rabbis, but Jesus taught using Divine authority and knowledge. Perfect knowledge of God, perfect accomplishment of God’s will, and absolute confidence in God were the sources of Jesus’ authority.

The second part of today’s Gospel describes a healing by exorcism which Jesus performed in the synagogue. We are told how Jesus, using Divine authority, cast out the devil by just one command: “Be silent, and come out of him!” In first-century Palestine, most sicknesses, especially mental illness, were considered to be the result of demonic possession, and both Jewish and pagan exorcists used lengthy procedures and physical force in their exorcisms. When Jesus commanded the Evil One to depart, the evil one did so at once, and in its rush to depart, convulsed the man. Thus, Jesus demonstrated Divinity as God’s Messiah, the Savior more powerful than the demon.

Life messages: 1) Our Faith is based on the Divinity of Christ, which is proved by miracles; these, in turn, give authority and validity to what Jesus teaches and promises. Hence, let us accept Jesus’ teachings even if some of them are mysteries beyond our reach. Let us read the authoritative word of God every day and assimilate it into our lives. 2) In our illnesses, let us confidently approach Jesus, the Healer, with trusting Faith, then go to the doctors who serve as the current instruments of Jesus’ healing ministry in our midst. Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 12 Wednesday:Mk 1:29-39: 29 And immediately he left the synagogue, and entered the house of Simon and Andrew, with James and John. 30 Now Simon’s mother-in-law lay sick with a fever, and immediately they told him of her. 31 And he came and took her by the hand and lifted her up, and the fever left her; and she served them. 32 That evening, at sundown, they brought to him all who were sick or possessed with demons. 33 And the whole city was gathered together about the door. 34 And he healed many who were sick with various diseases and cast out many demons; and he would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him. 35 And in the morning, a great while before day, he rose and went out to a lonely place, and there he prayed. 36 And Simon and those who were with him pursued him, 37 and they found him and said to him, “Everyone is searching for you.” 38 And he said to them, “Let us go on to the next towns that I may preach there also; for that is why I came out.” 39 And he went throughout all Galilee, preaching in their synagogues and casting out demons. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel tells us that preaching the Good News of God’s love, mercy, and salvation and healing the sick were the means Jesus used to enable the listeners to do the will of God and thus to build up the Kingdom of God, allowing God to take control of their lives. We are also told that talking with and listening to Jesus’ Heavenly Father recharged Jesus’ spiritual batteries. Thus, preaching, healing, and recharging spiritual power by prayer were the three key points of Jesus’ public ministry.

Healing mission: Jesus was never tired of healing the sick, thus demonstrating the Heavenly Father’s mercy and compassion to every sick person who approached with trusting Faith. On finishing the day’s preaching in the synagogue on one Sabbath, Jesus went to Simon’s home and healed Simon’s mother-in-law of a fever. In the evening when the Sabbath rest was over, people brought all their sick dear ones to Jesus for healing and exorcism, and they were all healed. Jesus began the next day very early, spending time in prayer in a lonely place.

Life messages: 1) We are called to continue Jesus’ preaching mission primarily by bearing witness to Christ through our day-to-day lives, as we radiate Christ’s mercy, love, forgiveness, and spirit of humble service to all around us. 2) We can participate in Jesus’ healing mission by praying for the sick, by visiting them, and by helping and encouraging the sick and shut-ins. 3) But in order to continue Jesus’ preaching and healing mission, we, too, need to have our spiritual batteries recharged every day by prayer, as Jesus did. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 13 Thursday (St. Hilary, Bishop, Doctor of the Church): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-hilary-of-poitiersMk 1:40-45: 40 And a leper came to him beseeching him, and kneeling said to him, “If you will, you can make me clean.” 41 Moved with pity, he stretched out his hand and touched him, and said to him, “I will; be clean.” 42 And immediately the leprosy left him, and he was made clean. 43 And he sternly charged him, and sent him away at once, 44 and said to him, “See that you say nothing to any one; but go, show yourself to the priest, and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 45 But he went out and began to talk freely about it, and to spread Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes Jesus touching a man sick with a severe case of leprosy and healing him instantly. In this miracle we have all the essentials for any miracle, says, Rev. Dr. L. Parker. We have a) a leper; b) a disease, leprosy; c) recognition of the disease by the man who has it; d) the presence of Jesus; e) Faith; f) trust, and g) humility enough for the sick man to ask for help from Jesus. Biblical “leprosy” rarely indicated Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper). Mostly, the term referred to skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, skin cancer, and vitiligo. The suffering of lepers in Biblical times was chiefly due to the way they were treated by the religious society of the day (Interpreter’s Bible). They were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). In addition, lepers were treated as sinners who were being punished by God with this contagious disease. The leprosy given by God as punishment to Miriam, the complaining sister of Moses (Nm 12: 1-3, 9-13) , to Gehazi, the greedy servant of the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 5:22-27), and to the proud king Uzziah of Judah, also called Azariah (2 Kgs 15:3-5), supported the Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins. Finally, “leprosy” was considered a contagious disease, and, hence,its victims were separated from their families and society. The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus, demanded that the priest declare the leper unclean and that the leper a) keep his garments rent and his head bare, b) muffle his beard, c) cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” and d) dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. As a general rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest for confirmation that he was now clean and was permitted to mix with the general public. Here, the healed leper started evangelizing, sharing the Good News of God’s activity in his life and, so, allowing the Holy Spirit to touch the lives of others.

Life Messages: 1) The strong Faith of the sick man prompted him to violate the Mosaic Law prohibiting him from joining a crowd and approaching Jesus. The sympathy and mercy of Jesus prompted Jesus to violate the Mosaic Law which forbade anyone to touch an untouchable leper. Thus, Jesus teaches the lesson that the essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, and to forgive the unforgivable. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 14 Friday: Mk 2:1-12: 1 And when he returned to Capernaum after some days, it was reported that he was at home. 2 And many were gathered together, so that there was no longer room for them, not even about the door; and he was preaching the word to them. 3 …..1212Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel presents the last in a series of five healing stories. This one demonstrates the power of Faith, and in this particular case we learn what others can do for us if they are persons of Faith. As soon as Jesus got back to Capernaum after a preaching tour of Galilee, the crowds gathered in and around the house, so that there was no room to get in or out. Four men, carrying their paralyzed friend, tried in vain to get to the house through the crowd. Here is the wonderful picture of a man who was saved by the Faith of his friends. His friends weremen who had trusting Faith in the healing power of Jesus, and they were men with initiative, tenacity, and creativity. So they carried their friend to the roof of the house, made a hole in the roof, and lowered the man on his mat, placing him right in front of Jesus. Luke tells us that there were in the crowd Pharisees and Doctors of the Law from Galilee, Judea, and Jerusalem sent to check out Jesus, the new preacher, and to report back to the Sanhedrin.

The sick man’s paralysis was seen by the people around as a punishment for some serious sin in his own life or the lives of his parents. It was a common belief that no major sickness could be cured until sin was forgiven. For that reason, Jesus began the young man’s healing by audibly forgiving his sins, so that he might feel no longer estranged from God. Then the young man was able to receive the physical healing he and his friends desired for him. But the Pharisees thought that, in forgiving sin, Jesus had insulted God by blasphemy, because forgiving sin is the exclusive prerogative of God. Jesus asked them whether it was more difficult to command, [and be obeyed], “Your sins are forgiven,” or “Rise and walk.” Jesus posed the question so that when Jesus commanded the man to rise, take up his bed and walk, the man, his enemies must recognize that both Jesus’ authority to forgive sin, and Jesus’ healing power were from God. Getting no response, Jesus commanded the paralytic to rise and he did so, but we do not know whether any of the objectors believed in Jesus.

Life message: We are called to intercede for others and to bring them to Christ. 1) In the Old Testament, it is Moses who constantly begs God’s mercy and forgiveness for the Israelites’ sins. Later, we find the prophets interceding for the unfaithful Israelites. 2) In the New Testament, the dramatic role played by the friends of the paralyzed man in the healing story reminds us of the continuing need for, and power of, intercession for/by others. The text gives us encouragement to intercede for those who are ill or in special need. When we pray and invite God into the situation, healing takes place. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 15 Saturday:Mk 2:13-17: 13 He went out again beside the sea; and all the crowd gathered about him, and he taught them. 14 And as he passed on, he saw Levi the son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax office, and he said to him, “Follow me.” And he rose and followed him. 15 And as he sat at table in his house, many tax collectors and sinners were sitting with Jesus and his disciples; for there were many who followed him. 16 And the scribes of the Pharisees, when they saw that he was eating with sinners and tax collectors, said to his disciples, “Why does he eat with tax collectors and sinners?” 17 And when Jesus heard it, he said to them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick; I came not to call the righteous, but sinners.” USCCB video reflections:http://www.usccb.org/bible/reflections/index.cfm; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel episode, telling of Matthew’s call as Jesus’ Apostle, reminds us of God’s love and mercy for sinners and challenges us to practice this same love and mercy in our relations with others.

The call and the response: Jesus went to the tax collector’s station to invite Matthew to become his disciple. Since tax collectors worked for a foreign power and extorted more tax money from the people than the area owed, they were hated and despised as traitors by the Jewish people and considered public sinners by the Pharisees. Jesus could see in Matthew a person who needed Divine love and grace. While everyone hated Matthew, Jesus was ready to offer him undeserved love, mercy, and forgiveness. Hence, Matthew abandoned his lucrative job, because for Matthew, Christ’s call to follow Him was a promise of salvation, fellowship, guidance, and protection.

Scandalous partying with sinners. It was altogether natural for Matthew to celebrate his new calling by holding a feast for his friends. But Jesus’ dining with outcasts in the house of a “traitor” scandalized the Pharisees for whom ritual purity and table fellowship were important religious practices. But instead of asking Jesus directly, they asked the disciples, “Why does your master eat with tax collectors and sinners?” In answer to their question, Jesus stressed his ministry as healer: “Those who are well do not need a physician; the sick do.” Then, in Matthew’s own account of his conversion, Jesus challenged the Pharisees, quoting Hosea, “Go and learn the meaning of the words, ‘I desire mercy, not sacrifice.’ (Hosea 6:6).” Finally, Jesus clarified his position, “I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners.”

Life messages: 1) Jesus calls you and me for a purpose: Jesus has called us through our Baptism, forgiven our sins, and welcomed us as members of the Kingdom. In fact, He calls us daily through the Word and through His Church, to be His disciples, and to turn away from all the things that distract us and draw us away from God. Just as Jesus did for us and for Matthew, we are to reach out to the unwanted and the marginalized in society with God’s own love, mercy and compassion. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Baptism of the Lord (Jan. 9, 2022) L-22

The Baptism of the Lord [C] (Jan 9)- Eight-minute homily in one page

Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. (A homily starter anecdote may be added here)

The turning point: Jesus baptism by John was a very important event in the Messianic mission. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify Himself with His people who realized for the first time that they were sinners. (As given in the anecdotes, St. Damien, Blessed Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they served). Second, it was a moment of conviction about Jesus’ identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” God the Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son,” (Psalm 2:17), confirmed Jesus’ identity as Incarnate Son of God, and the words “with Whom I am well pleased,” (Isaiah 42:1), referring to the suffering servant), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by suffering and dying on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment. The Holy Spirit, descending and resting upon Jesus in the form of a dove, bestowed on Jesus the power to preach and heal. Fourth, receiving the approval of God, His Heavenly Father, as His Beloved Son presented Jesus with a moment of decision   to begin public ministry at the most opportune time.

Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our missiona) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action. c) to lead  holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.

BAPTISM OF THE LORD [C] (Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22) 

   Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Identification with the masses:  The film Gandhi is a three-hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted non-violent means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, protests, and civil disobedience. One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loincloth and fasted from food, almost to the point of death, was to show solidarity with the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings. This finally brought independence to India. (Vima Dasan). Marin Luther King,  too, identified with his enslaved and maltreated people and became the voice of the voiceless in the name of God. Consequently, he was maligned, beaten, jailed, and finally assassinated, though  he preached peace, justice, and non-violence on behalf of the downtrodden Afro-Americans in the U. S.  His heroic example  definitely passes as Christian living with tens of millions of the poor and alienated Afro-Americans in the U.S. and the oppressed millions worldwide. To better appreciate his struggles against the sins of our culture, particularly of our “Christian” clergy you are invited to read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” readily available on the internet (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html). — Jesus’ baptism, as described in today’s Gospel, was His identification with God’s chosen people who became aware of their sinful lives and need for God’s forgiveness. (Rev. Coman Dalton). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2:  Thomas Merton: A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?” The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend.” — Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become a Cistercian and one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton.  — Today’s Gospel on Jesus’ baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr. Phil Bloom) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 3: A tiger cub finds its identity: There is an old Hindu parable about a tiger cub raised by goats.  The cub learned to bleat and nibble grass and behave like a goat.  One night a tiger attacked the goats, which scattered for safety.  But the tiger cub kept grazing and crying like a goat without getting frightened.  The old tiger roared, “What are you doing here, living with these cowardly goats?”  He grabbed the cub by the scruff, dragged him to a pond and said: “Look how our faces are reflected in water!  Now you know who you are and whose you are.”  The tiger took the cub home, taught him how to catch animals, eat their meat, roar and act like a tiger.  The tiger cub thus discovered his true self. — Today’s Gospel seems to suggest that Jesus received from Heaven a fresh flash of realization of Who, and Whose, He really was (His identity), and of what He was supposed to do (His mission), on the day of His baptism in the River Jordan. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Introduction: The Christmas season, celebrating the Self-revelation of God through Jesus, comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Christmas is the feast of God’s Self-revelation to the Jews, and Epiphany celebrates God’s Self-revelation to the Gentiles. At His Baptism in the Jordan, Christ reveals Himself to repentant sinners. The Baptism of the Lord Jesus is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father.  It is also an event described by all four Gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

Gospel exegesis: Origin of baptism: Neither John nor Jesus invented baptism.  It had been practiced for centuries among the Jews as a ritual equivalent to our Confession.  Until the fall of the Temple in 70 AD, it was common for Jewish people to use a special pool called a Mikveh — literally a “collection of water” – as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin.  Men took this bath weekly on the eve of the Sabbath; women, monthly.  Converts were also expected to take this bath before entering Judaism.  The Orthodox Jews still retain the rite. John preached that such a bath was a necessary preparation for the cataclysm that would be wrought by the coming Messiah.  Jesus transformed this continuing ritual into the one single, definitive act by which we begin our life of Faith.  In effect, Jesus fused His Divine Essence with the water and the ceremony.

A couple of questions: 1) Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, receive the “baptism of repentance” meant for sinners?  2) Why did Jesus wait for thirty years to begin his public ministry?  The strange answer for the first question given by the apocryphal book, The Gospel according to the Hebrews, is that Jesus received the baptism of John to please Jesus’ mother and relatives.  In this humble submission, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of Jesus’ bloody death upon the cross.  Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of Jesus’ Messianic mission as God’s Suffering Servant.  Jesus accepted being  numbered among sinners, willingly submitting entirely to the Father’s will.  Out of love, Jesus consented to the “baptism” of death for the remission of our sins.  Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received John’s baptism to be identified with  the Chosen People, who, as a result of John’s preaching, for the first time in Jewish history became aware of their sins and of their need for repentance.  The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God’s chosen people, the Jewish race was holy.  Jesus might have been waiting for this most opportune moment to begin public ministry.  The Fathers of the Church point out that the words which the Voice of the Heavenly Father speaks are similar to Psalm 2:17, revealing Jesus’ identity (“This is My beloved Son) and to Isaiah 42:1 referring to the suffering servant (“with whom I am well pleased“), revealing Jesus’ mission of saving mankind by suffering and death.

The turning point: Jesus’ baptism by John was a mystical experience that Jesus felt deep within as the crucial turning point of His life. The opening of the Heavens with Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Jesus, and the Voice declaring of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased,” are God’s revelation to mankind of the Mystery that He is Triune.  The presence of the Triune God at this baptism, reveals Jesus’ true identity and mission. The Heavens’ opening also indicates that this was a moment of God’s powerful intervention in human history and in the life of His Son. So baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus.  First, it was a moment of decision.  It marked the end of Jesus’ private life, which had prepared for the public ministry.  Second, it was a moment of identification with the Chosen People in their God-ward movement initiated by John the Baptist (quality of a good leader).  Third, it was a moment of approval.  Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, which Jesus got during His baptism,  as the Father, in the presence of all, declared “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased!”(Mt 3:17).   Fourth, it was a moment of conviction.  At this baptism, Jesus also received certainties (assurances) from Heaven: a) Jesus was the “Chosen One” and the “beloved Son of God”; b) Jesus’ mission of saving mankind would be fulfilled, not by conquering the Romans, but by becoming the “Suffering Servant” of God, i.e., by the cross. Fifth, it was a moment of equipment.  When He descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (symbol of gentleness), the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus with the power of preaching the “Good News” (that God is a loving Father, Who wants to save all human beings from their sins through His Son Jesus), in contrast to the “axe” and “fire” preaching of John the Baptist about an angry God’s judgment on sinners.

Life messages: 1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity and mission.  First, it reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism we become the adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of His Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit. We become incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made sharers in the priesthood of Christ [CCC #1279].  Hence, “Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments” (CCC, #1213).  Most of us dipped the fingers of our right hand into the holy water font and blessed ourselves when we came into Church today.  Why?  This blessing is supposed to remind us of our Baptism.  And so when I bless myself with Holy Water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family, and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed, and purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

2)  Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our mission:  a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action so that our Heavenly Father may say to each one of us what He said to Jesus: “You are My beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” This  means that we are to let His Thoughts direct our thoughts, His Mind control our mind, His Concerns be our concerns.  In the Church, we all share the same intimate connection with Christ; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ; c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life, and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by reading the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and f) to be co-creators with God in building up the “Kingdom of God” on earth, a  Kingdom of compassion, justice, and love, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  In other words, God has called us to help others to see, through the love that we show and the help that we give, that God loves them, that He also invites them to be His sons and daughters and  that He wants to be their Helper and Strength through all the troubles that life in this world can bring.

3) This is the day for us to remember the graces we have received in Baptism and to renew our Baptismal promises: On the day of our Baptism, as Pope St. John Paul II explains, “We were anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, the sign of Christ’s gentle strength, to fight against evil.  Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We were then anointed with Chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father’s Anointed One.  The candle lighted from the Paschal Candle was a symbol of the light of Faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit.”  This is also a day for us to renew our Baptismal promises, consecrating ourselves anew to the Holy Trinity and “rejecting Satan and all his empty promises,” which our profane world is constantly offering us through its mass-media of communication.  Let us ask Our Lord today to make us faithful to our Baptismal promises.  Let us thank Him for the privilege of being joined to His mission of preaching the “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.

Scripture explained.

First Reading, optional in year C: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 explained

The people of Israel spent sixty years in exile, as captives of the Babylonians, from about 600 B.C.E. to 540 B.C.E. The second part of the book of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, prophesies the end of this Exile and the return of the captives to their homeland. Today’s first reading begins that section. Isaiah says that God has told him to tell the exiled citizens of Jerusalem that their “sentence” is at an end, their exile is over. Isaiah reminds them plainly that the Exile was a punishment for their sins, but that the merciful God has forgiven them.  The next few sentences of today’s reading describe how the exiles are to return home. They will return as a grand religious procession from Babylon to Jerusalem led by their own God. To pave the way, valleys and mountains are to be leveled, and a highway created in the wilderness. The exiles in the region are coming back to Judah, and within Judah, to the city of Jerusalem, and within Jerusalem, to the hill Zion where their Temple had stood. The last paragraph presents a lonely sentry who never went to Babylon but waited in Jerusalem, always looking out for the return of the exiles. He finally sees the approach of the procession described above, and he can’t contain his joy. He shouts to the city from the highest hill, “Here comes your God with power!”

Second reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7  explained: The author of this letter wants his Christian followers to behave properly, not to earn God’s love, but in response to that love freely given. The birth of Jesus, the wise men’s discovery of Jesus, Jesus’  baptism, and Jesus’ coming again in glory are all treated in Scripture, and in our liturgy, as unexpected appearances (Epiphanies) of God among us. So the Letter to Titus applies to our Baptism the themes of Divine appearance and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which is borrowed from Jesus’ own baptism. Today’s selection combines two sections, both of which we recently read at Christmas, one at midnight and one at dawn. In this passage, St. Paul teaches how God saves us by incorporating us into Christ. Among the congregation served by the early bishop, Titus, were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and tried to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, those law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation, but God gives it freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, when the Spirit is richly poured out on us. It is this, not our observance of laws, that makes us justified (right with God) and that give us the hope of eternal life.

Gospel exegesis: Who baptized Jesus and why? While there is no doubt that John baptized Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, he does it reluctantly in Matthew’s Gospel (3:13-17), and he’s already locked up in prison in Luke’s Gospel (3:20). There is no portrayal of John baptizing Jesus in John’s Gospel; all we have is the testimony of the Baptizer (1:29-34). Because each evangelist after Mark, commonly accepted as the oldest Gospel, tries to tone down or erase Jesus’ baptism by John, we must conclude that the event caused a problem near the end of the first century because many were saying that John must be the greater, since he did the baptizing. By gradually removing John from the scene, Matthew and Luke elevate Jesus. But there is little doubt that John the Baptist baptized Jesus; if he hadn’t, Matthew and Luke wouldn’t have rewritten Mark’s story. Jesus presents himself for John’s baptism in today’s Gospel, not because Jesus is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. This baptism must take place to reveal that Jesus is the Christ (“anointed one”) – the Spirit-endowed Servant. “In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians – literally ‘anointed ones.’” (Scott Hann).  “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” What this means has prompted much debate. It may be that Jesus was “fulfilling” all the Scriptural prophecies about Jesus which focused on “righteousness.” It may be that Jesus was seen as validating the rite of Baptism for all future generations of Christians. Or it may be that even the Messiah could undergo a re-orientation towards perfect righteousness, and so could repent and be baptized.

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” Mark and Luke have the words addressed to Jesus, “You are my Son….” But Matthew’s “This is my Son” makes the words relevant to the bystanders because they are an open testimony to the Father’s approval of his Son … and we should view “Son” as a Messianic title. The Heavenly Voice points to a relationship shared by no other. It is significant, it is “Good News,” that Jesus hears the Father’s declaration, “This is My “beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased”(Mt 3:17), before the public ministry begins. The Heavenly Father is much pleased with His Son’s humble submission and speaks audibly and directly to him for all to hear: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased(Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22).  The Holy Spirit, too, is present as Jesus submits to John’s baptism.  The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus for the Messianic ministry which begins that day as Jesus rises from the waters of the Jordan River.

Significance of Christ’s baptism:This exalted identity of the “Son of God” revealed at the baptism is the starting point for all that Jesus will undertake—Self-giving ministry, death and Resurrection. It is because Jesus knows Who He is that Jesus does what Jesus does. As we begin Ordinary Time, we do so knowing that, in our own Baptism, God has named us beloved sons and daughters. Like Jesus, all that we undertake must flow from who we are—God’s beloved. We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This means that we, too, must humbly submit ourselves to God’s wise and loving plan for our lives.  He, in turn, anoints us with the Holy Spirit that we may be clothed with His power and grace. According to the Navarre Bible commentary, in Christ’s baptism we can find a reflection of the way the Sacrament of Baptism affects a person. Christ’s baptism was the exemplar of our own. In it the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, and the faithful, on receiving Baptism, are consecrated by the invocation and power of the Blessed Trinity. Similarly, Heaven’s  opening signifies that the power, the effectiveness, of this Sacrament comes from above, from God, and that the baptized have the road to Heaven opened up for them, a road which Original Sin had closed. Jesus’s prayer after His baptism teaches us that, “now after baptism man needs to pray continually, in order to enter heaven: for though sins are remitted through baptism, there still remain the formes of sin assailing us from within, and the world and the devils assailing us from without.” Thomas Aquinas quoted as in  (blog.adw.org/2016/12/on-the-necessity-of-prayer/ ).Each time we dip our hand into the Holy Water font in a church to bless ourselves, we need to remember that this act is a renewal of our Baptism.

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) Baptism of a cat: Johnny’s Mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing Church” with their cat. He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water. She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!” Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

2) Three times: Too many people come to Church three times primarily. They’re baptized, they get married, and they have their funeral service at the Church. The first time they throw water on you, the second time rice, the third time dirt!

3) Baptized in luxury: When our Church was renovated, adding a Baptismal pool, we were pleased. So was our daughter. While riding in the car with my daughter and her friend, we went past a pond. My daughter’s friend proudly declared, “I was baptized in that pond.” My daughter responded with no less pride: “Oh, I was baptized in a Jacuzzi at our church.” (Pastor Davis)

4) Born again. When Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, he described himself as a “born-again” Christian. For many Americans this was an unfamiliar term. By the time of the next election primaries, nearly all the candidates were claiming to be “born-again.” Political satirist Mark Russell suggested, “This could give Christianity a bad name.”

5) A keg of beer and a case of whiskey: Before performing a Baptism, the priest approached the young father and said solemnly, “Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?” “I think so,” the man replied. “My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests.” “I don’t mean that,” the priest responded. “I mean, are you prepared spiritually?” “Oh, sure,” came the reply. “I’ve got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey.”

6)God help the fish!” Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past. Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.” Houston replied, “God help the fish!”

7) “Have I been “pasteurized?” In a Dennis the Menace cartoon, after attending a baptism Dennis asks the question, “Have I been “pasteurized?”  — We’ve all been pasteurized. We have put on Christ. In Him we have been baptized. Alleluia, Alleluia.

8) Baptism, Catholic, Baptist and Jewish style: A Catholic Priest, a Baptist Preacher and a Rabbi were sitting around drinking coffee. Someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really all that hard, that a real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another, and they decided that each would find a bear and attempt to convert it to their religion. Seven days later, they all came together to discuss their experiences. Father Flannery, who had his arm in a sling and had various bandages on his body and limbs, went first. “Well,” he said,  “I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him, I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear came after me and began to slap me around. So, I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb.” Reverend Billy Bob the Baptist spoke next. He was in a wheelchair and had an IV drip. “I went out and found me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from the Bible! But that bear came after me. We wrestled down one hill, until we came to a creek. So I quickly dunked him and baptized his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb.” The Priest and the Reverend both looked down at the Rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV’s and monitors running in and out of him. The Rabbi looked up and said: “Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start…” (Email from dcngary@hotmail.com)

 Websites of the week

(The easiest method  to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

2) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org

4) Why Jesus got baptized? Video answer by Jimmy Akin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=d1IBGudjaxs

5) Teens Encounter Christ: http://www.twincitiestec.org/Home

6) Websites for kids:  http://www.k4j.org/ , http://www.myfriendmagazine.com/

Note:  No more pictures in my homilies as  I am informed that it is illegal, involving heavy penalty, to use pictures in homilies published in any website, without prior permission. This is applicable also  to parish bulletin published in your parish website. If you would like  to get pictures to use in your emails, please  type the theme in Google Search under images, and press  the Enter button of your keyboard. 

34- Additional anecdotes 

1) Identified with victims: When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th century, the government authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish. However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Saint Damien De Veuster, asked permission from his superiors to minister to them. Straightaway he realized that there was only one effective way to do this, and that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to the lepers while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more, in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame. — Today’s Gospel tells us how, by receiving the baptism of repentance, Jesus became identified with the sinners whom He had come to save (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

2) Called to Service: The late Nelson Mandela (December 5, 2013), will go down as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th  century. He was instrumental in ending apartheid and bringing about a multiracial society in South Africa. Mandela belonged to the Xhosa people, and grew up in the Transkei. But how did he come to play such a crucial role in the history of his country? In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he tells us that all the currents of his life were taking him away from the Transkei. Yet he had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth. He says: “A steady accumulation of insights helped me to see that my duty was to the people as a whole, not to a particular section of it. The memory of a thousand indignities produced in me anger, rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, ‘Henceforth, I will devote myself to the liberation of my people’; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise” (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

3) Moment of Affirmation: When the American writer, Maya Angelou, was growing up, she didn’t see her mother very much. She was brought up in large part by her grandmother, a wonderful and saintly woman. She tells how when she was twenty years old, she took a trip to San Francisco to visit her mother. It was a particularly important yet vulnerable moment in Maya’s life; she was struggling to make her way in life and groping her way towards becoming a writer. She had quite a good meeting with her mother. When it was time to leave, her mother walked her down the hill to the waiting bus. As they parted, her mother said, “You know, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.” Years later Maya could still recall that moment vividly. She said, “Waiting for the bus, I sat there thinking, ‘Just suppose she’s right. Suppose I really am somebody.’ It was one of those moments when the sky rolled back. At times like that, it’s almost as if the whole earth holds its breath.” Maya went on to become a highly successful and respected writer and poet. She composed and delivered an inspiring poem at the inauguration of President Clinton. –Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus heard the Voice of the Heavenly Father, immediately after Jesus’ baptism, affirming Jesus as “My beloved Son”  (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

4) This is my beloved daughter, this is my beloved son”: Edward Farrell, a friend of mine, is a Catholic priest who serves an Inner City Parish in Detroit. He’s written some marvelous books. One I would especially recommend is entitled Prayer Is a Hunger. Ed is a part of a small group with whom I meet each January. I’ve told you about this group. We call it the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality. It’s an important group for me. Though we meet only for three days once a year, sharing our spiritual pilgrimages with one another, seeking to focus our minds and hearts on some growing edge, it’s an important part of my life. Ed is a part of it too. He’s one of the most genuinely humble persons I know. Serving some of God’s forgotten people in one of Detroit’s most depressed areas, he is quietly profound. I never will forget the insight he provided me about this text. He said that Jesus went to the cross so that we too could hear the same word Jesus heard at His baptism – so that you and I can hear, “This is My beloved daughter/this is My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Have you thought about it that way? Jesus’ paid the price so that for you and me, the heavens could open, and we could know the reality of God’s Spirit as a living power and presence in our lives. Jesus wanted us to know the reality of Good News in the dark days of hopelessness and despair. The Voice which named Jesus God’s beloved Son is still speaking in our souls, “You are Mine. You are unique and special. I am pleased with you. I love you. I love you so much that I gave My beloved Son for you. You are My beloved son, you are My beloved daughter.” (Rev. Maxie Dunnam). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

5)  Two sources of inspiration: Among the millions of Jews imprisoned by the Nazis in the death camps of the ’30’s and ’40’s was Victor Frankl. In spite of the horrors and the odds, he survived. Around him, next to him, each day of his ordeal, dozens, hundreds, thousands of fellow-Jews and others died. Most of them died in the ovens, of course, but there were others who died simply because they gave up hope and lost heart, overwhelmed by horror, fear, and hopelessness. Frankl survived, he said, because two forces sustained him: one was the certainty of his wife’s love. The other was an inner drive to rewrite the manuscript of a book he had completed after years of labor — which the Nazis had destroyed. Frankl’s imprisonment was lightened by having daily imaginary conversations with his wife and by scrawling notes for his book on all the bits and scraps of paper he could find. Now Frank has written eloquently of these two insights to cope with life: first, the discovery and certainty of being loved, and, second, having a clear and controlling purpose in life. [Nate Castens, Chanhassen, Minnesota, via Ecunet, Gospel Notes for Next Sunday, #2815] — Both are the messages we receive in Christian Baptism. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

6) You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. On January 19, AD 383, the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius named his son Arcadius as co-emperor. It was during a period in Church history when the Arian Heresy was spreading throughout the Roman Empire. The Arian Heresy held that Jesus Christ was not fully God. Theodosius called for a truce between Christians and Arians and called for a conciliatory conference. One Christian Bishop who was not willing to compromise his faith in Christ’s deity was Amphilochus of Iconium. So he had to suffer persecution from the Arians. On the coronation day Bishop entered the reception hall, bowed to the emperor, ignored his son and made a poignant speech and turned to leave. “What!” said Theodosius, “Do you take no notice of my son the co-emperor? Is this all the respect you pay to a prince that I have made equal dignity with myself?” At this the bishop gave Arcadius a blessing and replied, “Sir, do you so highly resent my apparent neglect of your son because I do not give him equal honor with yourself? What must the eternal God think of you, who have allowed His coequal and coeternal Son to be degraded in His proper Divinity in every part of your Empire? Remember God the Father’s proclamation on the day Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

7)  Identity of the peanut scientist: In one of his books, Fr. Bill Bausch describes George Washington Carver, the great black agricultural scientist who did a lot of research work on the commercial and medical uses of the lowly peanut. Carver built a great industry through his scientific endeavors.  In January, 1921, he was brought to Washington, D.C., to the Ways and Means Committee to explain his work on the peanut.   As a black man, he was last on the list and so, after three days of waiting, he finally walked up the aisle to speak, ignoring the racial comments and ridicule.  Later he wrote in his autobiography, “Whatever they said of me, I knew that I was a child of God, and so I said to myself inwardly, ‘Almighty God, let me carry out Your will.’”  He got to the podium and was told that he had twenty minutes to speak.  Carver opened up his display case and began to explain his project.  So engaging was his discussion that those twenty minutes went all too quickly, and the chairman rose and asked for an extension so he could continue his presentation, which he did for an hour and three-quarters.  They voted him four more extensions so he spoke for several hours.  At the end of his talk they all stood up and gave him a long round of applause.  And all that happened because he knew who, and Whose, he was and because he refused to be defined by the labels of his culture. — The feast of the Baptism of our Lord reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

8) America’s fast-growing non-religious community: One in five Americans (19 percent), now claims no religious affiliation, up from 6 percent in 1990. The so-called “nones” include unbelieving atheists who staged a massive “Reason Rally” in Washington, but two-thirds of the unaffiliated say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Almost nine in 10 say they’re just not looking for a faith to call home. An April study found that among the under-30 set, the only religious group that was growing was the “unaffiliated,” with an increasing tide of young Americans drifting away from the religion of their childhood. By year’s end, a study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that there are about as many religiously unaffiliated people in the world (1.1 billion) as there are Catholics, and they’re the third-largest “religious” group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims. (http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/ ) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

9) Gods Press Conference: When likable Lou Holtz was announced as the new head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, he was touted as one who would restore the school’s football program to its tradition of excellence. Whenever a new leader appears on the scene, whether it is the new coach of a team or the new president of a corporation, a press conference is usually held to proclaim that leader’s qualifications and potential. Such press conferences usually create some excitement about the leader’s identity, and arouse our expectations with glowing promises about what this leader will accomplish. — Today’s event of our Lord’s baptism is something like this. It’s as if God Himself called a press conference to reveal His Son Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and to give us a preview of what His mission would accomplish (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

10)  On the right road in the wrong direction: A friend of mine vouches for the truth of the following incident. He was traveling down the country one day. His journey brought him along some by-roads, where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, he was unsure if he was on the right road, so he decided to ask the first person he saw. Eventually he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking. He stopped the car, and asked him if he was on the right road to Somewhere, just to give the place a name. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the right road. My friend expressed his thanks, and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a very nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!” — Today’s reflection on Jesus’ baptism challenges us to examine whether we are on the right road and moving in the right direction for our eternal destiny. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

11) Part of the ritual:  The story is told about the Baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. Sometime during the rite, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. “Why did you suffer this pain in silence, the Saint wanted to know. The king replied, “I thought it was part of the ritual.” (Knowing the Face of God, Tim Stafford, p. 121ff). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

12) “Agnes, youve been a real jinx! John was an old man, and he lay dying. His wife of many years was sitting close by. He opened his eyes for a moment, and saw her and said, “There you are Agnes, at my side again.” She smiled faintly and fluttered her eyes and said, “Yes, dear, here I am.” Then John said, “Looking back, I remember all the times you were at my side. You were there when I got my draft notice and had to go off to fight in the war. You were there when our first house burned to the ground, and we lost everything we had. You were there when I had that accident that destroyed our car, and I was seriously injured. And you were there when my business went bankrupt, and I lost every cent I had.” Agnes again smiled faintly and fluttered her eyes and said, “Yes, Dear, I have been – by your side – all the time.” Then the old man sighed and said, “I’ll tell you what, Agnes, you’ve been real bad luck!” (Norman Neaves, “Are You Ready to Take the Big Step?”).  — That’s not what Agnes expected to hear. The experience is ridiculous, but makes the point. Any experience may be perceived differently by those involved. Today we look at one of the pivotal experiences in Jesus’ life: His baptism. How do we look at it? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

13) “Have you found Jesus?” A drunk stumbles across a Pentecostal Baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river.  He proceeds to walk down into the water and stand next to the Preacher.  The minister turns and notices the old drunk and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”  The drunk looks back and says, “Yes, Preacher. I sure am.”  The minister then dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asked.  “No, I didn’t!” said the drunk.  The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” “No, I did not, Reverend.”  The preacher in disgust holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him out of the water and says in a harsh tone, “My God, have you found Jesus yet?”  The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher… “Are you sure this is where he fell in?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

14) Salvation by Christian Baptism or Jewish Circumcision? There is a funny story about a Catholic Priest, a Baptist Preacher, and a Rabbi who were good friends. They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk in a coffee shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really all that hard – a real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another, and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it. Seven days later, they all came together to discuss their experience. Father Flannery, who had his arm in a sling, was on crutches, and had various bandages on his body and  limbs, went first. “Well,” he said, “I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him, I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my Holy Water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb.  The Bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation.” Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, had one arm and both legs in casts, and had an IV drip. In his best fire-and-brimstone oratory, he claimed, “WELL, brothers, you KNOW that we don’t sprinkle! I went out and I found me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God’s HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So I quickly DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus. Hallelujah!” The priest and the reverend both looked down at the Rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IVs and monitors running in and out of him. He was in really bad shape. The Rabbi looked up and said: “Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

15) Wash Off the Stuff of the Day: One of the most successful and personable people on television is Oprah Winfrey. Movies, book clubs, she does it all- huge business operations. While all the other talk shows on television are tearing people apart and putting all their illnesses out for public humiliation, Oprah is helping put people and families back together again. . . In a Newsweek magazine interview the interviewer asked her, “How do you separate yourself from work?” Answer, “I take a hot bath. . . My bath is my sanctuary. [Listen to this] It’s the place where I can wash off all the stuff of the day” (Jan 8, 2001, p. 45). — Baptism is a huge symbol — it’s the water of creation. . . .we are born anew. . . . life in the Spirit . . . all the “stuff” of the day is washed off. All of that is true. But at its basic level, Baptism is the death of the old self. Before anything new can be born, the old has to pass away. (Brett Blair; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

16) Watershed” moment. Because of a devastating childhood illness at nineteen months, Helen Keller (1880-1968) was left both blind and deaf. Her life was rightly written up as a “miracle story” and became a play called The Miracle Worker (1957) with Anne Bancroft starring in the Broadway production (1959). But the “miracle” Helen Keller experienced was not any return of hearing or vision. The “miracle” she received was the miracle of her committed, loving family, and of her relentlessly optimistic and patient teacher Anne Sullivan.  When Helen was seven years old, trapped in a world where she could only communicate through a few hand signals with the family cook, her parents arranged for a twenty-year old, visually impaired teacher to come and work with their daughter. Using American Sign Language, Anne Sullivan spent months “spelling” words into Helen’s hands. Everything Helen touched, everything she ate, every person she encountered, was “spelled out” into her hand. At first Helen Keller didn’t get it. These random motions being pressed into her palm did not connect with experiences she felt. But Sullivan refused to give up. She kept spelling words. She kept giving “tactile-verbal” references for everything Helen encountered.  Finally there was a “watershed” moment, which was indeed water-powered. Helen’s breakthrough moment was as she was having water pumped over her hands and Anne Sullivan kept spelling the word for “water” over and over into her palm. Suddenly Helen “got it.” Suddenly she realized those gestures meant something real and tangible. They were naming what she was experiencing.  The world of communication, reading, literature, —  human interaction — was made possible to one person through the gift of another person. The “miracle” Helen’s teacher Anne Sullivan worked was the miracle of patience. She simply kept on and kept at it, showing Helen there were “words” for “things,” and there was true meaning behind all Helen’s experiences. (Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

17) Washed Away in a New Beginning: Some of you may have seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? This is a whimsical retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi. Three hapless escaped convicts–Everett, Pete and Delmar–are hiding out in the woods, running from the law. There they encounter a procession of white-robed people going down to the lake to be baptized. As they move toward the water they sing, “Let’s go down to the river and pray.” As the Baptism ceremony begins, Delmar is overwhelmed by the beauty and the mystery of this rite. He runs into the water and is baptized by the minister. As he returns to his companions, he declares that he is now saved and “neither God nor man’s got nothing on me now.” He explains that the minister has told him that all his sins have been washed away. Even, he says, when he stole the pig for which he’d been convicted. “But you said you were innocent of that,” one of his fellow convicts exclaims. “I lied,” he says, “and that’s been washed away too!” Later the three convicts steal a hot pie from a window sill. The one who felt that his sins had been washed away returns and places a dollar bill on the window sill. –Delmar wasn’t made perfect by his Baptism any more than any of the rest of us are made perfect by our Baptism. But he was conscious that it was time for him to make a new beginning. That is why in understanding Baptism we begin with the washing away of our sins. (Rev. King Duncan; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

18) Baptism: Take My Good Name: French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.” — The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God’s will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things  in a different way  than we did before. We see other people in a different way than we did before. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because He was baptized. And we are able to love as He loved. Such identification is life-changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us. (Billy D. Strayhorn) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

19) Initiation Rite: Remember the initiation rites of our ancestors? In some places, as in the Sepik even today, they lock teenage boys in an enclosure for a month of isolation. Here their bodies, especially their backs are cut and bled. They are taught to bear pain. They are taught all the labors of the clan. After four weeks they are let out of the spirit house, and now they enter into a new life. That is the life of an adult. Now they can marry. In one place on the Sepik the boys crawled out of the initiation enclosure through the jaws of the imitation crocodile. This is symbolic for being born again into a new life. — Baptism means the same thing: entry into a new life; it also gives us a new status, more than  what the initiate has achieved, for each of us is now  a child of God, an heir of heaven,  a member of the Church etc. (Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

20) Called by Name: One of the most dramatic moments in Alex Haley’s novel, Roots, is the “eight day” ceremony when Omorro gives his new-born son, Kunta Kinte, his name, and the child becomes a member of his tribe. In the culture of western Africa, the name given a child is both a gift and a challenge. Haley describes the naming rite: “Omorro lifted up the infant and as all watched, whispered three times into his son’s ear the name he had chosen for him. It was the first time the name had ever been spoken as the child’s name; for Omorro’s people felt that each human being should be the first to know who he was.” That night the father completed the ceremony: “Out under the moon and stars, alone with his son that eighth night, Omorro completed the naming ritual. Carrying little Kunta in his strong arms, he walked to the edge of the village, lifted his baby up to the heavens and said, softly, ‘Behold the only thing greater than yourself.”– Jesus received His calling from His Father. Jesus is greater than all creation, and Baptism makes us one with Jesus. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22b

21) A most important date: An old gentleman walked into a fashionable florist shop. “I want a beautiful corsage,” he said, “not a big one, but just about the prettiest one you can make.” He smiled broadly, “It’s for my granddaughter, and she is having her first date tomorrow.” The florist was all curious. “How old is the young lady?” he asked, eyeing his flowers speculatively. “Two weeks,” replied the grandfather. The florist turned in utter amazement. “Did you say, a date… a corsage…two weeks old?” “Precisely,” said the old gentlemen. “And I want the corsage that’s exactly right. She’ll never have more important date than she has tomorrow. My little granddaughter will be baptized.” (Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

22) New president’s inaugural speech: When  a president is  inaugurated in the United States, there is an  official oath of office taken and a speech given, intended to inspire and set the course of the nation for the next four years. Occasionally some of these speeches or inaugural addresses have been memorable; quoted again and again, the words stir the hearts of those who hear them with a renewed sense of purpose. In his second inaugural address (delivered 4 March 1865), Abraham Lincoln invited the nation to live “with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right. Let us strive on to finish the work we are in.” In representing his ideas to the nation, Franklin D. Roosevelt noted, “In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor“ (Inaugural Address, 4 March 1933). John F. Kennedy, in his January 1961 inaugural declared, “Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” Sadly, each of these men died while in office, Roosevelt of illness, Lincoln and Kennedy at the hands of their assassins. — Jesus’ baptism could be compared to an inauguration in that it prefaced a ministry that did indeed have political as well as religious repercussions in the world in which Jesus lived. Jesus’ inaugural address was given later in the local synagogue at Nazareth. Like Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, Jesus also died by violence, of course, for a nobler cause, while in the process of realizing His inaugural ideals 

23) Birthday celebration on the day of Baptism: The 13th century king of France, St. Louis IX (1226-70), insisted that the grand celebration of his birthday should be held on the day of his Baptism, and not on his birthday proper.  His argument was that Baptism was the beginning of a life that would continue for eternity in the everlasting glory of Heaven. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

24) Manager working in the production line: The manager of a manufacturing company often visited the production area of the factory unannounced.  Sometimes he would take off his coat and tie, roll up his sleeves, and help on the assembly line.  One of the bolder employees asked him one day, “Why do you do come down from your air-conditioned office to get dirty down here?” The manager replied, “I don’t know of a better way to find out what the workers think and feel and whether everyone is happy doing their job.  This is a good way of seeing things from their point of view.” When he returned to the quiet of his office, he did so with new insight into the ordinary people who were an important part of his company, his world.  What is more, the “ordinary people” got to see the manager from a whole new perspective. — Jesus’ baptism was a sort of “going down to the production line.”  Jesus was baptized to show everyone  that Jesus was human and  understood all about sin and its effect on people’s lives. (Rev. Vince). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

25) Pain Is Part of Baptism: Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a very devout Catholic evangelist. One of the stories that grew out of his ministry concerns a time when he was baptizing new converts in a river. He would wade out waist-deep into the water and call out for new Christians to come to him, one by one, to receive the sacrament. Once he baptized a mountain chieftain. Saint Patrick was holding a staff in his hands as the new converts made their way into the water. Unfortunately, as he was lowering the chief down under the water three times, he also pressed his staff down into the river bottom. Afterwards the people on the riverbank noticed their chief limp back to shore. Someone explained to Patrick that, as he pressed the wooden staff into the riverbed, he must have also bruised the foot of the chief. Patrick went to the chief at once and asked, “Why did you not cry out when I stuck you in the foot?” Surprised the chief answered, “I remembered you telling us about the nails in the cross, and I thought my pain was part of my Baptism.” —  When I read that I could not but think how many of us would have been baptized if we knew pain was a part of the process! (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

26) St. Margaret prepared for the apparition: In the late seventeenth century, Jesus appeared multiple times to a French nun named St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and that was the beginning of the Church’s universal devotion to the Sacred Heart. The first time Jesus appeared to her was in the middle of the night. She was suddenly woken up by an inner voice that told her to go down to the chapel. Now, St. Margaret Mary was a Visitation nun. Visitation nuns at that time wore very elaborate habits: a long, black, multi-layered garment and a complicated headdress with a tall white wimple and a flowing black veil. When the saint sensed that God wanted her to go down to the chapel in the middle of the night, she didn’t just put on a bathrobe on over her pajamas. Instead, she took fifteen minutes to change out of her pajamas and into her full habit. Only then did she go down to speak with the Lord. And that night she had her first apparition of the Sacred Heart. She, like John the Baptist, understood that Christ was both her closest and best Friend, and also her Savior, Redeemer, and God, worthy of loving respect. — The sincerity of our reverence towards God is a good thermometer of our spiritual maturity. If we come into a Church and genuflect sloppily, in a rush, it could mean that we don’t even remember why we are doing it. If we chit-chat loudly inside the Church before and after Mass while people are trying to pray, it could mean that we have forgotten Whose House this is. If we make the sign of the cross as if we were swatting mosquitoes, it may mean that we are falling into routine in our friendship with Christ, whose death on the Cross is the source of our hope for forgiveness, meaning, and eternal life. (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

27) Soldier praying before the child’s cradle: There is legend about a Roman legionary from the Age of Persecutions. (That was the first 2½ centuries of the Church’s existence, when the Roman Empire repeatedly tried to destroy it.) He went off on a long war campaign, leaving his wife with child. While he was gone, she gave birth. Soon thereafter, she converted to Christianity, was baptized, and had her baby baptized as well. Meanwhile, the legionary also met some Christians and heard their explanations of what it meant to be baptized into this new Faith. However, he could not be baptized before the campaign ended and he returned home. His wife was overjoyed upon his arrival, but apprehensive about what his reaction would be to her Baptism. She decided to break the news gradually. First she showed him their child, and only then mentioned that she had had him baptized. Immediately the husband became quiet, pensive. He looked again at the child, then knelt down beside the crib. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and silently began to pray. His wife was puzzled. She knelt next to him and asked, “My love, what are you doing?” At first he continued to pray, then he opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “My love,” he answered, “if our son has been baptized, he has himself become a holy temple. For Christ the Lord, His Father the Creator of all, and the living Holy Spirit have made their home in his heart, so we can pray to God there.” (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

28) Total commitment: A pig and a chicken were out for a walk one day. The pig wasn’t too bright and tended to repeat everything that others said or suggested. The chicken remarked, “Those are very nice people down in that house down there.” “They are indeed” replied the pig, “they are very nice people.” “They are very good to us” continued the chicken. “They are indeed” replied the pig, “they are very good to us.” “Do you know what I was thinking? asked the chicken. “No” said the pig. “What were you thinking?” “I was thinking we should do something for them.” “That’s a very good idea”, replied the pig, “I think we should do something for them. What did you have in mind?” “I was thinking” said the chicken, “that we should give them something.” “A brilliant idea” said the pig, “I think we should give them something. What did you have in mind?” “I was thinking” said the chicken, “we should give them bacon and eggs.” The pig stopped in his tracks, and said “Definitely not! For you that’s only a slight inconvenience, but for me it’s total commitment!” –- Baptism is intended to lead us to a total commitment, and our acts of Christian charity should be seen as anything but slight inconveniences. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth!) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

29) Your Baptism is your tattooCalifornia police and the courts have discovered the tattoos on teenagers are often more than a cosmetic decoration. A few years ago, a juvenile court judge in California observed that a large number of teenagers appearing before him had tattoos – tattoos on the hands, fingers, and faces. The tattoos, he learned, identified the bearer as a member of some particular gang and, frequently as a user of a particular drug. Many of these tattoos were self-inflicted by youth who were desperate to “belong.” The judge also discovered that teenagers with visible tattoos were virtually excommunicated from the job market, since potential employers equated the tattoos with crimes and incompetency and refused to hire the youth. The judge asked the Los Angeles County Medical Association if there might be among its members, a plastic surgeon who, at no charge, would remove the tattoos from juvenile delinquents. Dr. Karl Stein, a well-known Los Angeles Plastic surgeon, was the first to volunteer. Since 1981, Dr. Stein has turned around the lives of hundreds of his young patients through surgically removing the tattoos by excision, laser, and virtually every other known method. – Your Baptism is your tattoo, indelibly imprinted, identifying you as a disciple of Jesus. Would your neighbors see this in your daily life? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

30) Risking life to save: The Eagle Has Landed is a book by Jack Higgins set during World War II. Hitler proposed the idea of capturing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Steiner was forced to accept the mission. Steiner and his men were relocated to an airfield on the north western coast of Holland, there they were to familiarize themselves with the British weapons and equipment. The team would be air dropped into Norfolk. The commandos outfitted themselves as Polish troops. Their plan was to infiltrate the village, Studley Constable, complete their mission, and make their escape. At first, the plan went off without a hitch. Then, one day one of Steiner’s men saw two local children fallen in a water wheel. His first instinct was to jump into the river to rescue them. But, he knew that his action would reveal who they were and would defeat their mission. Any attempt to rescue them was risking his life and the life of his fellow soldiers. The sight of the children being drawn to the water wheel could not hold him back. He jumped into the water and rescued them. During the rescue operation he was killed and his German uniform, worn under the Polish uniform, was seen by the local people. That revealed the identity of Steiner and his men. All of them were shot dead in the encounter that followed. — The German soldier risked his life in order to give life to two of the local children. The Baptism of Jesus was the public announcement that Jesus was going to risk his life to give life to the whole of humanity. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

31) Power Source: The Greatest is a film about Muhammad Ali’s career as heavyweight boxing champion. It shows both his natural gifts of agility and strength, and how he trained extensively with rigorous workouts and diets. But Muhammad Ali said one time that although all these things helped, the real secret of his power source was a set of inspirational tapes to which he listened. The tapes were recorded speeches of a Black Muslim leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. They dealt with self-knowledge, freedom, and potential. Muhammad Ali would listen to these tapes when he got up in the morning, when he ate his meals during the day, and when he retired at night. He claimed that these inspirational messages gave him the power to fight for his black people, not only for their glory in the ring, but also for their civil rights in the arena of life. — In today’s Gospel, we see revealed the secret of the power of another man, Jesus Christ. The baptism scene drawn for us is another epiphany episode following last week’s epiphany experienced by  the Magi. Three signs accompany our Lord’s baptismal experience to reveal Who Jesus  is. First, the Heavens were opened to symbolize a new Divine intervention in human history. Second, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, signifying the presence and power of God. Third, a Voice was heard saying of  Jesus “This is My Beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

32) “What’s your purpose in life? An executive hirer, a “Head-hunter” who goes out and hires corporation executives for other firms, once told me, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question. “Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on his desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, ‘What’s your purpose in life, Bob?’ And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to Heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless!” The baptism of Jesus enabled him to realize his identity as the Son of God and mission of saving mankind from sin by  suffering, death and Resurrection. (Josh McDowell from ‘Building Your Self-image’’ quotedFr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

33) “What do you think I am doing now?” A wealthy businessman was horrified to see a fisherman sitting beside his boat, playing with a small child. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the businessman. “Because I caught enough fish for one day, “replied the fisherman.  “Why don’t you catch some more?”  “What would I do with them?” “You could earn more money,” said the businessman. “Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe three boats. Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.” “Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman. “Then,” said the businessman, “you could really enjoy life.” The fisherman looked at the businessman quizzically and asked, “What do you think I am doing now?” —  Receiving the baptism  into Jesus means dying to our self-centered endeavors and being raised into a life marked by grace and love. When we live out our Baptism in Jesus, we touch the hearts of others and help open them to the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ. Are you living and growing in the new life you have been given? (Paul Peterson, The Waters of Death). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

34) God shows no partiality: Some of the early Spanish conquistadores came to Latin America not to help the American Indians, but to help themselves. The kings of Spain seriously desired to add the Americas not only to their own kingdoms but to the kingdom of God. But the conquistadores, greedy for gold, enslaved the Indians, claiming that, anyhow, they were mere animals, quite incapable of understanding and embracing the Christian faith. Pope Paul III heard about this wildly selfish attitude and realized that it presented a major obstacle to Christ’s command, “Teach all nations.” So on June 2, 1537 he published an official declaration to the contrary, addressed to all faithful Christians. It is Satan and his satellites, the Pope said, who are encouraging the view that American natives are “dumb brutes created for our service … incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.” As chief shepherd of the Church, despite his own unworthiness, he said he was duty-bound to state “that the Indians are truly men, and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith, but according to our information they desire exceedingly to receive it.” He therefore commanded that no American Indian be henceforth deprived of property or liberty. This bull of Paul III, known as Sublimis Deus, was a pioneer papal denunciation of racism. The future experience of missionaries to the American Indians was to prove Paul III correct. If even today many red men have refused Christianity, many others have shown themselves receptive to it, and capable of real holiness. The outstanding example, of course, is the Iroquois maiden, Kateri Tekakwitha. (Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012.) Born in central New York State in 1656, converted in 1676, she died near Montreal in 1680 with a reputation of true sanctity among Indians and Whites as well. When John Paul II declared her “Blessed” in 1980, he was confirming not only the words of Paul III but also those of St. Peter in today’s second reading: “I begin to see how true it is that God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34). -Father Robert F. McNamara. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 L/22

Scriptural Homilies Cycle C (No. 10) by Fr. Tony: 

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies or under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for the website versions.  (Vatican Radio website completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

Christmas – 2021 Additional Anecdotes (L-21)

   

Please visit first : Homiliy no  1) Christmas – a thematic homily &
No 2: Four Lectionary based homilies

56 Additional Christmas anecdotes (L-21)

Note:  No more pictures in my homilies as  I am informed that it is illegal, involving heavy penalty, to use pictures in homilies published in any website, without prior permission. This is applicable also  to parish bulletin published in your parish website. If you would like  to get pictures to use in your emails, please  type the theme in Google Search under images, and press  the Enter button of your keyboard. 

1) Origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture, Saturn. Later the Kalends of January were observed to celebrate the triumph of life over death. The entire season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun., or Saturnalia.  Since December 25th was around the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing.  When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness.  Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December.  It claims that the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th.  Since the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.    Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times, the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass said at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in the Old English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas. (Fr. Tony Kadavil) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Thanks for listening: In the Cable TV episodes Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton invites celebrities – famous actors, writers and directors – to talk about their careers and how they do what they do. And he always ends each episode the same way, with one particular question: “If you believe that God exists, what do you think He will say to you when you finally see Him?” It’s a good question, by the way, to ask ourselves periodically. It can make for an interesting examination of conscience. Anyway: on this episode, the person James Lipton was interviewing was Steven Spielberg. Lipton asked him that final question: “What do you hope God will say to you when you finally see Him?” And Spielberg thought for a moment and smiled. He replied: “’Thanks for listening.”  — So much of the Christmas story is, truly, about listening. When Gabriel arrives to bring Mary the news that she will bear a child…she listens. When the angel tells Joseph in his dreams what is about to happen…he listens. The shepherds listen when the angel announces the “good news of great joy.” Two thousand years later, we confront this stunning message – “tidings of comfort and joy,” as the carol describes it – and our hearts swell with the sentiment of the season. We hear. But are we paying attention? Are we listening? Christmas invites us to listen. (Deacon Greg Kandra). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” Have you heard about the little boy who loved going to Church? He enjoyed the music, the stained-glass windows, the homily, and the fellowship. The only part about going to Church that the little boy didn’t like, were those long personal prayers which the pastor added to the intercessory prayers! Then on Christmas, the little boy’s parents invited the pastor home for lunch… and would you believe it, his mom asked the pastor to pray the prayer of thanksgiving before the meal. “Oh, no,” thought the little boy, “We will never get to eat. I am starving, and he will pray forever.” But to his surprise, the pastor’s prayer was brief and to the point. He said, “O Lord, bless this home. Bless this food, and use us in your service, in Jesus Name. Amen.” The little boy was so astonished by the pastor’s short prayer that he couldn’t help himself. He looked at the pastor and blurted out what he was thinking: “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” — Well, I don’t want to “mess around” on this Christmas Day because I know that whether we realize it or not… we are hungry. We are all hungry for God. We are all hungry for our Savior. We are all hungry for Christmas… because, you see, this is precisely what Christmas is all about. We need a Savior, we are starved for a Savior, a Savior is given in Jesus, and the name “Jesus” means literally “The Lord is Salvation,” or “Yahweh Saves,” or “Savior.” Jesus came at Christmas to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to save us from our sins. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “And all mankind will see God’s salvation.” Every year, the former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura used to send out a Christmas card with a Bible verse on it. For Christmas 2001, when the country was still coming to terms with the September 11th attacks, the Bushes decided to choose a verse that conveyed their Faith and Hope. They picked this verse from the Psalms: “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [An interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Ellen Levin, Good Housekeeping (Jan. 2002), pp. 105, 130.] That is the promise of Christmas. Isaiah put it like this: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'” –That is the hope that sustains us in good times and bad. We shall see God’s salvation. Christ came because the world needed saving. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “We’ll all be home for Christmas.” Senator John McCain spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s. During that time, he was frequently tortured or held in solitary confinement. He reports that his lowest point came on Christmas Eve 1969. McCain was giving up hope of ever getting out of Vietnam alive. To compound his homesickness, the captors played the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” over the PA system. Just then, McCain heard tapping on his cell wall. This was the communication code the POWs used to communicate with one another. On the other side of the wall was Ernie Bruce, a Marine who had been imprisoned for four years already. In spite of his dire situation, Bruce was tapping out, “We’ll all be home for Christmas. God bless America.” These simple words of comfort restored John McCain’s hope. [Senator John McCain, “The tapping on the Wall,” Ladies’ Home Journal (July 2002), pp. 107-111.] — The message of Christmas is always one of Hope. This world needs saving, but God began that process of salvation two thousand years ago with the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem. There’s something about Christmas that elevates us. Christmas is about hope of a better world to come. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Camel on the roof of royal palace: The king of Balkh (northern Afghanistan) named Ebrahim ibn Adam was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well. One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: “Who’s there?” “A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my camel.” Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: “You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?” “You fool!” the voice from the roof answered. “Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?”  The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint. — Every Christmas Jesus asks the same question to each one of us: “Where are you looking for Me? In the majestically adorned and illuminated cathedrals or in the stables of the poor and the needy?” Tonight’s Scripture readings tell us where to look for Christ the Savior. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “No Room in the Inn: The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The Shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One late evening while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box in the dark , and he had some workers to remove it and put it in a common storehouse. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket that had been carelessly kept in a common store along with useless articles.  The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction. [Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families (Tyndale House: Wheaton, 1998), 122, & “Story of Christless Christmas,” taken from Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, pp. 131-132.] –This seemingly unrealistic ancient legend is a painfully relevant parable of the way some people celebrate Christmas today.   Sometimes we become so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the One we are honoring.  Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all: “No Room in the Inn.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) The golden rice grains: There is a beautiful poem by the mystic poet of India, Rabindra Nath Tagore, extolling the reward of generous giving.   It tells the story of a king who regularly visited his people, passing through the streets in a chariot.  One morning as the king was passing by, a beggar woman who planned to ask him for alms, stood on the roadside with her begging bowl.   As the king approached her, however, he descended from his chariot and stretched out his hand as though he was expecting a gift from the woman.   Excited and surprised, the woman put her hand in the cotton bag on her shoulder, took out a pinch of rice, and with trembling hands gave it to the king.  The king was well pleased; he smiled at her put her offering in his pocket and gave her back a pinch of grains from his other pocket.   When the woman returned to her small hut that evening and examined the grains, she had gotten that day, she was surprised to find a few grains of gold in the rice.   You can imagine both her surprise and despair when she realized she should have given all her rice grains to the king. — We are here to offer our gifts to Child Jesus in the manger as His birthday gift.  Let us remember that Jesus does not want our material gifts as much as He wants ourselves, with all our weakness and temptations, our merits and demerits. Let our Christmas gift to him be a heart full of love and a strong and sincere resolution to share it generously with others. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “I want somebody who has skin on.” Leonard Griffith, the outstanding pastor in Toronto, tells the story of a mother who was putting her little daughter to bed in the midst of a thunderstorm. She told her daughter that she did not need to be frightened, that her mother and father were close by in the living room. The girl replied to her mother, “Mommy, but when it thunders this way, I want somebody who has skin on.” — This simple, homely story, in essence, is the essential truth of our text. The invisible spirit of God did clothe himself in skin, flesh, and blood and came to dwell among us with grace and truth. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) God’s Christmas Gift:  Would you like to know what is on record as the most expensive Christmas gift in the world? It is the Phoenix 1000. This is a 213-foot personal luxury submarine. Maybe there is a couple out there that lives on Lake Lanier and this is something you could buy to impress all of your friends. This is the single largest private underwater vehicle ever built that has a total interior area of 5000 square feet. It can make transatlantic crossings at 16 knots. A small automobile can be kept in the aft section of this submarine; it even has a mini sub complete with its own docking area that can take your guests down to 2000 feet. Wrap it up and bring it home for only $78 million dollars! — The Phoenix 1000 may be the most expensive Christmas gift in history, but it is not the most valuable Christmas gift, nor even is it the costliest. The Christmas gift that I want to talk about tonight is God’s Christmas Gift. It is His Son Jesus as our Savior. Though it is the most valuable and most costly gift ever given – get this – it is absolutely free. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is all about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean banker who hoards all his money, and goes around saying, “Bah! Humbug!” On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. Then he wakes up on Christmas morning, and finds out he’s been given a second chance. He buys the biggest goose for Bob Crachett and Tiny Tim, is reconciled with his family, serves everyone, and loves everyone for the rest of his life. — What makes this such a great story is that Scrooge wakes up on Christmas and decides to spend his life consciously loving and serving others, to live every day as if it were Christmas, loving and serving Christ in everyone. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12)  “I Wish I could Be a Brother Like That:” Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. “Is this your car, Mister?” he asked. Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you nothing? Boy, I wish…” He hesitated. Of course, Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. “I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”   Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, “Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?” “Oh yes, I’d love that.” After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. “Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. “There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And someday I’m gonna give you one just like it…then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.” Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride. — That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: “It is more blessed to give…” [Dan Clark. From Chicken Soup for the Soul (1992), pp. 25-26.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Erik’s Jesus in rags: A Christmas story: [“Erik’s Old Man,” by Nancy Dahlberg. From Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul (1997), pp. 307-309.] It was Sunday, Christmas Day. After the holidays in San Francisco we were driving back home to Los Angeles.  We stopped for lunch in King City.  The restaurant was nearly empty.  We were the only family and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, my one-year-old, squeal with glee.  “Hithere,” the two words he always thought were one.  “Hithere,” and he pounded his fat baby hands- whack, whack, whack – on the metal highchair.  His face was alive with excitement, his eyes were wide, gums bared in a toothless grin.  He wriggled and giggled. Then I saw the source of his merriment: an old, dirty smelly bum in rags.  He spoke to Erik:  “Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy, I see ya, Buster.”  My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.”

Our meal came, and the banging and the noise continued.  Now the old bum was shouting across the room and Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hithere.”  Every call was echoed.  Nobody thought it was cute.  The guy was a drunk and a disturbance.  I was embarrassed.  My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Dennis went to pay the check, imploring me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot.  “Lord, just let me get out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” and I bolted for the door.  It soon was obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man on my way out, Erik, with his eyes riveted on his new friend, leaned over my arm, reaching up with his in a baby’s “pick-me-up position.”  In the split-second of balancing my baby, I came eye-to-eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide.  The bum implored me:   “Would you let me hold your baby?” There was no need for me to answer since Erik propelled himself from my arms into those of the bum. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship.

Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.  The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath the lashes.  His aged hands, rough and worn from hard labor, gently cradled and stroked my baby.  I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment.  Then he opened his eyes, looked into mine, and said in a firm voice: “You take care of this baby.”  And somehow, I managed to say, “I will.” At last the bum handed Erik to me.   As I held my arms open to receive my baby, the old man said, “God bless you, Ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.”  I said nothing more than a muttered “thanks.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car.  Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly.  And why I was saying, “My God, forgive me.  Forgive me” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Will you take Christ home with you this Christmas?  When a little boy named Davis came to Christmas morning Mass with his parents, he was surprised to find that baby Jesus was not in the Nativity Set. His parents immediately went into the sacristy and asked the pastor who had removed the Baby Jesus. The pastor rushed to the crib only to realize that some miscreants had stolen the Baby from the manger after the Midnight Mass.  Later, during the morning Mass, the pastor informed the congregation of the theft and told them that he couldn’t understand the motive behind such a callous act. Then, he asked them to see that the Baby Jesus was returned. The manger, however, remained empty.

Later that afternoon, depressed and sad, the pastor was walking through the wintry streets when he saw his neighbor, little Tommy. Shabbily dressed against the cold, Tommy was proudly walking with a new, bright red wagon.  The pastor knew how much his parents must have scrimped and saved to buy him the wagon.  With a surge of Christmas spirit, the pastor wished Tommy a Merry Christmas and congratulated him on his beautiful Christmas gift. It was then that he noticed that Tommy’s new red wagon wasn’t empty. The Baby Jesus stolen from the church lay on a pillow in the wagon. The pastor was disappointed. He told Tommy that stealing was wrong, and that the entire parish had been hurt by his action. Wiping from his cheeks the flowing penitential tears, Tommy said, “But, Father, I didn’t steal Jesus! It wasn’t like that at all.  I’ve been asking Jesus for a red wagon for Christmas for a long time, and, you see, I promised Him when I got it, He’d be the first one I took out for a ride. I kept my promise and now I am on my way to the church to bring Baby Jesus home!” —  Each Christmas invites us to take Jesus to our home, because the only inn where He cares to find shelter is the inn of our hearts.   If, like the pastor in our story, we have misjudged others, we can take Jesus home with us by asking their forgiveness. If   someone has hurt us, we can forgive him or her. Let’s make this a Christmas of reconciliation, love, peace and joy. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) O Henry’s story of sacrificial Christmas sharing: “Gift of the Magi”:   A brief retelling of this old, but touching story is as follows:   It was Christmas Eve, during the days of the Depression of the 1930’s.  Della and James, a newly married couple, were very poor.  They loved each other dearly, but money was hard come by.  In fact, as Christmas approached, they were unhappy because they had no money to buy presents for each other. They had two possessions that they valued deeply:  James had a gold watch which had belonged to his father, and Della had long and beautiful brown hair.   Della knew that James’ watch had no matching chain–only a worn-out leather strap.  A matching chain would be an ideal gift for her husband, but she lacked the money to buy it. As she stood before the mirror, her eyes fell on her long tresses.  She was very proud of her beautiful hair, but she knew what she had to do.  She faltered a moment, but nothing could stand in the way of love.  She hastened to the “hair-dealers,” sold her hair for twenty dollars, and went around shop after shop, hunting for the ideal gift.  At last she found it: a matching chain for her husband’s watch.  She was very happy and proud of the gift.  She knew he would love it, the fruit of her sacrifice. James came in, beaming with love, proud of the gift he had bought for Della.  He knew she would be very happy with the gift.  But when he saw her, his face fell.  She thought he was angry at what she had done.  She tried to console him by saying that her hair would grow fast, and soon it would be as beautiful as before.  That is when he gave her his gift.  It was an expensive set of combs, with gem-studded rims.   She had always wanted them for her hair!  She was very happy, but with a tinge of sadness.  She knew it would be some time before she could use the precious gift. Then, with tears in her eyes, she presented him with the gift she had bought.  As he looked at the beautiful chain, he said with a sigh: “I guess our gifts will have to wait for some time.  The combs were very expensive; I had to sell my watch to buy the combs!” –These were the perfect gifts:  gifts of sacrificial love.  Both James and Della were very happy for, like the Magi, they had discovered LOVE through self-sacrifice. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) Two babies in the manger?  In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage.  About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. It was nearing Christmas and the missionaries decided to tell them the story of Christmas.  It would be the first time these children heard the story of the birth of Christ.  They told the children about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem.  Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the Baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.  Throughout the story, the children and the orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened.  When the story was finished, the missionaries gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger.  Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that the missionaries had brought with them since no colored paper was available.  Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown discarded by a tourist, were used for the baby’s blanket.  A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them.  It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6-year-old boy named Misha.  He had finished his manger.  When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.  Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger.  Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously.  For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the Baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib.  He made up his own ending.  He said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him, ‘I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay.  Then Jesus told me that I could stay with Him.  But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like the shepherds and the magi did.  But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift.  I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift.  So I asked Jesus, “If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?”  And Jesus told me,  ‘If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.’  So I got into the manger and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him – for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that
splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone Who would never abandon nor abuse him, Someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS.  — Today we celebrate the great feast of Jesus the Emmanuel – “God with Us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) A Christmas Parable written by Louis Cassels:  Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which Churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to Church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So, he hurried back to the house for breadcrumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn. “They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .” Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.”  (Quoted by Fr. Tommy Lane) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Did you see the queen? Remember that nursery rhyme?

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?”

“I’ve been to London to look at the queen.”

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?”

“I frightened a little mouse, under her chair.”

The pussy cat went to see the queen, but it saw only a mouse. — We have come to Christmas to see Jesus coming to our lives as our Lord and personal Savior. But do we see only the lights, the statues in the manger scene and the poinsettias around the altar? We have come to experience the Light of the world shine on us. But do we see only the darkness of our lives and that of the world? God has communicated His love for us and His desire to be with us through the Babe in the manger. Do we get the Message? Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Christmas Reconciliation.  A young woman drove a rented car slowly up a snow-covered mountain road on a cold Christmas Eve.  She was going to see her father, whom she had not seen in twelve years.  She had been sixteen when her father and mother divorced after his affair with a woman at work.  Neither she nor her mother had ever been able to forgive him.

The affair had not lasted, and her father had soon given up his corporate job in an eastern city and moved to Colorado — “to rest my weary soul in the solitude of the mountains” was what he had written in the first letter he sent after he left home.  He had taken a job with the National Park Service for the summer and hoped he might find something at a ski resort in the winter.  That was all she knew about his life for all of those years.  Letters had come regularly from the same address in a town called Ward, and she had carefully saved each one, unopened, in a cookie tin on the back shelf of the large walk-in closet in the bedroom of her townhouse. She had done well for herself, ironically, in the same company that had once employed her father.

The last line of that one letter she had read flashed into her mind, as it had so many times before, as she saw the road sign for Ward with an arrow pointing to the right.  “I hope you will be able to forgive me some day, Gracie.  I love you.” Could she forgive him?  Was that why she had come?  Even after the long flight and the equally long drive from the airport on unfamiliar mountain roads, she still didn’t know.

Grace and her mother had always spent Christmases together, vacationing in Florida or the Caribbean.  It was a way of distracting themselves from what they had lost.  Now that her mother was remarried, there was no place to go.  They had invited her for Christmas, her mother and Ted, but she hadn’t wanted to intrude on their first holiday together.  So, here she was on the road to Ward.

Grace could see the lights of the little town shimmering below her, shiny and yellow against the snow, like the gold that had once been mined from the mountain.  She turned off the main highway and shifted into low gear.  The road down to the village was steep and narrow and snow-covered.  Sand had been spread on the curves, but she still had to go slowly.  She wondered in which of the thirty or forty houses and old miner’s shacks she would find her father.  She pulled up in front of the general store.  The porch light was on and the door was open.  A young woman about her own age, dressed in bib overalls with braided hair hanging down to her waist, was crocheting behind the counter near a small wood-burning stove.  Candy bars, cigarettes, and several brands of cough medicine lined the shelves behind her.  The woman smiled at Grace and said, “Good evening.  What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for my father,” Grace said.  The plaintive tone of her own voice surprised her.  She told the woman her father’s name and immediately saw a knowing look of recognition.  “Old Jim.  He comes in here all the time.  You must be Grace.  He told me about you.”  It seemed strange to hear her father called old.  Grace remembered him as middle-aged. Of course, he would be older now, in his late sixties.  It pleased Grace to know he had spoken of her.

“Almost everybody is up at the Church,” the woman said.  “I saw your dad go up about a half-hour ago. A retired preacher comes up from Nederbet every Christmas Eve.  It’s about the only time they have services here.  You can leave your car out in front.  It’s easier to walk from here.” Grace slowly made her way over the footbridge spanning the ice-covered stream that wound through the center of the town.  She could see the small clapboard Church about 200 yards up the mountain.  On top of the steeple there were green, blue, and red Christmas lights flashing in the form of a star.  They appeared to be attached to the cross.  Her hands trembled as she opened the door of the Church.  Would her father be glad to see her after all these years?  Would he recognize her?

She spotted him, sitting by himself in one of the back pews.  “Old Jim.”  The woman at the store was right.  His hair was thin and completely gray.  He was much heavier now. He looked tired, and, the thought pained her, very much alone. The congregation stood up to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”  The words of the familiar carol rang in her ears as she slipped into the pew beside her father.  “Glory to the newborn King, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” She squeezed her father’s hand and a smile came over his face in the same instant he turned to see her.  “Grace,” he said, “I’m so glad to see you.”

“Daddy,” was all she was able to say. When the pastor gave the invitation to come forward for receiving Jesus in the Christmas Holy Communion, Grace and her father walked up the aisle hand in hand.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) “God has revealed Himself in his Son.” Theologian Karl Barth stood before students and faculty at Princeton in 1963 during his Princeton Lectures. A student asked: “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity?” Barth stunned many who were present when he thundered, “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Christmas trees are a big business (as you can imagine) in this country. Thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced in this country every year and more than one million acres of land have been planted in Christmas trees. Over 100,000 people work full time in the Christmas tree industry. More than 1 million acres of land in this country are dedicated just to planting Christmas trees. Roughly 21% of United States households will have a real tree in their home this year versus 48% that will have a fake tree. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Shuttle service to Heaven: The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis, wrote a thought-provoking book called The Great Divorce. It is not about the divorce that occurs between husband and wife. It is about the divorce that occurs between our souls and God. In this book, C. S. Lewis gives us a picture of Hell as a big city, with all its pressures and problems. In this big city, the weather is always cold and wet with a heavy rain. The light is always grey and murky. The people in this city of Hell become more and more aware of the great divorce that has taken place between their soul and God, and they sink deeper and deeper into their dismal surroundings. Except … there is a way out! There is a way out of this terrible condition! God has provided a shuttle-bus service from Hell to Heaven: regular bus service. All you need to do is get on the bus and let the power of God carry you into the light. The incredible thing about the story is that very few people get on board the buses, even though they are arriving and departing all the time. The people find all kinds of excuses for putting the journey off to some vague future time — and they miss the opportunity to be carried by the power of God from death to new life; from the misery of being estranged from God to the joy of being in union with God. —  Though we may stand in the darkness of the “great divorce,” the Christmas Promise of God is that He will carry us into the light if only we are willing to get on the bus. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) Jesus sells: One never tires of Jesus as a subject. The cover stories of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report regularly mark His nativity. One reason for featuring Him so often is that their circulation invariably increases. Born twenty centuries ago, Jesus still sells. Mel Gibson broke all records with his DVD version of The Passion of the Christ. He sold nine million copies in three weeks at $22 a clip. The first book published by Pope Benedict XVI is called Jesus of Nazareth. It quickly found a home on the Best Seller list of The New York Times. Artists at their easels struggle to paint His portrait again. Have you seen Andy Warhol’s Nativity? Composers struggle to salute Him with a fresh musical score. — Will it ever be otherwise? I believe not. Tell others of Jesus. But first, allow Him to be born in you. He can’t be born again, but we can. (Fr. James Gilhooley). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) “But I did show up”:  A story is told of an old woman who lived all alone. Each year as Christmas drew near, she would sigh and lament her loneliness, wishing that some people would visit her. Since nobody would visit her, she decided to pray to the Baby Jesus and His mother requesting that they pay her a visit. Finally, the baby Jesus appeared to her in a dream and told her that her prayer had been heard and that the Holy Family would visit her on Christmas Day. Oh, how excited she was! She began cleaning and polishing everything in her house squeaky clean in preparation for the Divine visitor. She cooked her best dish and baked her best cake in readiness for the visit of Jesus and his mother. Who knows, maybe if she pleased them well enough, they might decide to stay on and live with her!

When Christmas Day finally arrived, her house was squeaky clean. Everything was in place to give her sacred guests a befitting welcome. She sat by the door and read a book, just to make sure the visitors would not have to ring the doorbell twice before she would open the door and let them in. It was a cold and rainy day. At about noon she spotted a gypsy couple in the rain making their way to her house. The man was dirty and disheveled. The thinly clad woman was nursing a baby who was crying in the rain. “Why can’t these gypsies just get a decent job,” she said to herself. Then she screamed at them, “Turn back, turn back immediately. Come another day if you like. Today, I am expecting very important visitors.” The gypsy family turned back and left. The woman continued to wait. She waited all day and no divine visitors showed up. At sunset she fell asleep on the chair, and there in her dream was Jesus. “Jesus,” she screamed, “how could you disappoint me? You said You were coming to visit me for Christmas, and I waited all day, and You never showed up.” “But I did show up,” replied Jesus. “I came with My father and mother in the rain, and you turned us away.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) You’re a good man.” In Alan Paton’s beautiful novel, Cry the Beloved Country, there is a young man who was born late in his parents’ lives. He left his home in the hill country and went down to the city. He never wrote or sent back news. Finally, his elderly father decided to go to the city to find his boy. Because he hadn’t spent much time in the city, the father had a hard time of it there. He was bewildered and confused, and he didn’t know where to begin. Then he was befriended by a city minister who heard his story and resolved to help him. The old man moved in with the minister who went out of his way, spending time trying to help the father pick up clues, to get on the trail of his son. And when they seemed to be making progress, the old man, with tears in his eyes, was trying to thank the minister for all he had done. He couldn’t quite find the words and said simply, “You’re a good man.” The minister replied, “I’m not a good man. I am a sinful and a selfish man. But Jesus Christ has laid His hands on me, that’s all.”–  A good man is hard to find. But God sent one — one good Man — to show us the answer to the supreme riddle of life. One good Man who will never fail us. For, as St. Paul has written, “Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8). (Voicings.com). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Your God Is Too Small. JB Phillips authored a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. One of the great reasons for Advent is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and explore the BIGNESS of our GREAT God. The irony of Christmas is this: the bigness of God can be seen in a tiny Baby. According to Paul in Colossians 1:15-23 this tiny Baby is the dynamic, omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the universe! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 27) He jumped into the hole: A student asked a Christian professor how Confucius and Buddha would differ from Christ. He responded with a parable. A woman fell into a deep hole. Try as she might, she could not climb out. Confucius looked in. He told her, “Poor woman, if you had paid attention to me, you would not have fallen in there in the first place.” Then he disappeared. Buddha approached. He too spotted the woman. He said to himself, “If she can just manage to get out of that hole, I can give her genuine aid.” He continued his journey. Along came Jesus. He spotted the woman. He was moved with pity. He jumped into the hole immediately to assist her out. — This story illustrates the Incarnation. We gather here to celebrate the concern of God for each of us. His willingness to parachute into enemy-occupied territory in human form for our sakes is illustrated by the birth of His Son today. (CS Lewis). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

28) Ancient Christmas reading from the Roman Martyrology: Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 brought together the Roman Martyrology. “The customary reading for Christmas from the Roman Martyrology, often proclaimed prior to the celebration of Christmas Mass at Midnight:  In the year 5199 since the creation of the world, when God made Heaven and earth; in the year 2759 since the flood; in the year 2015 since Abraham’s birth; in the year 1510 since the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt under the guidance of Moses; in the year 1032 since David was anointed king; in the 65th week of years according to Daniel’s prophecy; in the 194th Olympiad; in the year 732 after the building of Rome; in the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus, when there was peace in the whole world; in the 6th era of the world’s history; Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desired to sanctify the world by His gracious coming. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now after nine months (all kneel) He is born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah as Man from the Virgin Mary. THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE FLESH. (Fr. Cusick). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) The face of God: I heard the story once of a great Cherokee wood carver. He took a log and sat it on a stump outside his back door and sat in front of that log sometimes for hours just staring at it. Finally, he would pick up his carving tools and start carving the most beautiful of things out of the wood. He was known for his intricate details in feathers of eagles, or the look of sadness in the eyes of the faces he carved. A tourist once asked him how he decided what to carve, and the young man said that he looked for the picture that is already in the wood, then just took the excess wood away, leaving the beautiful finished image. He said people would continually ask him how he came up with the ideas as to what he was going to carve. — People are curious about everything. For hundreds of centuries, people wanted to know what God looked like, too. Many thought He might have the face of a demanding judge or strict disciplinarian. It seems we always put the face on God that we fear the most. On a Christmas Eve, some 2,000 years ago, God took off His mask and showed the world what He looked like. He let us see Him how He really looks. We have all heard what we call “the Christmas Story”, and we all feel very comfortable with Jesus in a manger, don’t we? (Rev. Diane Ball). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 30) But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all:  Take the year 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. Nobody then cared about babies. But the world was overlooking some terribly significant births. For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England’s finest statesman. That same year, Alfred Tennyson was born to an obscure minister and his wife. The child would one day affect the literary world in a marked manner. On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And not far away in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe began his eventful, albeit tragic, life. It was also in that same year that a physician named Darwin and his wife named their child Charles Robert. And that same year produced the cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby’s name? Abraham Lincoln. If there had been news broadcasts at that time, I’m certain these words would have been heard: “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today.” But history was actually being shaped in the cradles of England and America. — Similarly, everyone thought taxation was the big news–when Jesus was born. But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all: the birth of the Savior. Adapted from Charles Swindoll. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) You left your palace and your glory to visit me:  Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often, he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their ruler. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, “I am your king!” The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!” — The King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself to you and me. The Bible calls Him, “the unspeakable gift!” Source Unknown. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

32) Christ is born anew within. On the wall of the museum of the concentration camp at Dachau is a large and moving photograph of a mother and her little girl standing in line leading to a gas chamber. The child, who is walking in front of her mother, does not know where she is going. The mother, who walks behind, does know, but is helpless to stop the tragedy. In her helplessness she performs the only act of love left to her. She places her hands over the child’s eyes so she will at least not see the horror to come. –When people come into the museum they do not whisk by this photo hurriedly. They pause. They almost feel the pain. And deep inside I think that they are all saying: “O God, don’t let that be all that there is.” — God’ hears those prayers, and it is in just such situations of hopelessness and helplessness that His almighty power is born. It is there that God leaves His Treasure, in Mary and in all of us, as Christ is born anew within. (Sermon Illustrations, 1999). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

33) Jesus pitched his tent among us: The custom of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no Churches. Priests hid in the forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetime a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass. For this grace they hoped and prayed all through the year. When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a church for Christmas. To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people explained that they burned the candles and kept the doors unlocked so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, would find their way to their home and be welcomed with open hearts.  — The candles in the windows have always remained a cherished practice of the Irish, although many of them have long since forgotten the earlier meaning.
(William Barker in Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide; quoted by Fr. Botelho) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

34) A Legend from Russia: “A Legend from Russia” is a poem by Phyllis McGinley about Christmas. The poem begins as the old grandmother, Babushka, is about to retire for the evening: “When out of the winter’s rush and roar, /came shepherds knocking upon her door. /They tell her of a royal child a virgin just bore/ and beg the grandmother to come and adore.” Babushka is good-hearted, but she likes her comfort, and so her reaction is to go later: “Tomorrow,” she mutters. “Wait until then.”/ But the shepherds come back and knock again. /This time they beg only a blanket “with comforting gifts, meat or bread,”/ and we will carry it in your stead.”/ Again Babushka answers, “Tomorrow.” And when tomorrow comes, she’s as good as her word. She packs a basket of food and gifts: “A shawl for the lady, soft as June, /For the Child in the crib a silver spoon,” Rattles and toys and an ivory game.  / but the stable was empty when she came.” (Anonymous. Quoted by Fr. Botelho) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 35) Every one of us is going to have a Baby this Christmas! During a pastoral call, a three-year-old boy climbed in the lap of a pastor and whispered confidentially, “I know a secret!” The pastor asked, “Will you tell me your secret?” “Yes,” the little fellow giggled delightedly, “but you mustn’t tell my mamma.” When the pastor promised not to tell, the boy continued, “My mamma’s going to the hospital to have a baby. But don’t tell her. Me and Daddy want her to be surprised!” — Would you be surprised if someone told you that you were going to have a baby? Women over 50 would say, “Who do you think you are kidding?” When an angel came to the Virgin Mary, it was a surprise when he told her that she was to have a baby. The fact is that regardless of sex or age, every one of us is going to have a Baby this Christmas! (Fr. Tony Kadavil) (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

36) Christmas gift of the first ride for Baby Jesus: Once, the people of a very poor parish set their hearts on acquiring an expensive set of figures for their Christmas crib. They worked hard and managed to get a set of rare porcelain for their crib. The Church was left open on Christmas day so that the people could visit the crib. In the evening when the parish priest went to lock up, to his consternation he found the baby Jesus was missing. As he stood there, he spotted a little girl with a pram entering the Church. She made straight for the crib, took the baby Jesus out of the pram and put him lovingly in the crib. As she was on her way out the priest stopped her and asked her what she was doing with the Baby Jesus.  She told him that before Christmas she had prayed to baby Jesus for a pram. She had promised Him that if she got the prom, he would have the first ride in it. She had got her pram so she was keeping her side of the bargain. –Christmas evokes generosity in all people, especially in children. What is our gift to him? (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

37) Christmas in the Vietnam jail: In 1967, during the Vietnam War, John McCain was captured by Vietnamese Communist forces and spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war. He survived beatings, malnutrition, and torture, and was eventually released. McCain went on to great success in life and became a U.S. Senator in 1986. In an interview with television host Larry King, Sen. McCain told about his experiences in the Vietnamese prison camps. One year, the American prisoners wanted to celebrate Christmas. McCain secured a Bible and found another prisoner who could sing some Christmas hymns. The prisoners gathered together to hear Scripture passages about the birth of Jesus and to sing a few hymns together. As John McCain looked around, he saw tears of joy and tenderness in the men’s eyes. In the midst of this hellhole of a prison camp, these men still found hope in the story of Jesus. [Larry King with Rabbi Irwin Katsof, Powerful Prayers (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998), pp. 213-214.] — And why shouldn’t they find Hope in Christmas? They were celebrating the birth of One Who knew what it was like to be a prisoner–Who knew what it was to be beaten–Who knew what it was to die for others. People of every generation of every imaginable condition have found a soul-mate in the Baby in the Manger. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

38) The heart and soul of Christmas: Each Christmas season, Charles Krieg, a pastor in New Jersey, takes his mother into New York City to look at all the decorations and to visit Santa at Macy’s Department Store. The windows of the department store were unforgettable one year. The first window had a scroll which read, “The Smell of Christmas is in the Kitchen.” The scene was an old-fashioned kitchen with a black stove and food cooking on it; it was so life-like you could almost smell the food. The second window was titled, “The Taste of Christmas is in the Dining Room.” There was a long table laden with food. The third window showed a beautiful tree decorated with ornaments and lights, little toys and popcorn strings. The scroll read, “The Color of Christmas is in the Tree.” The fourth window scroll said, “The Sound of Christmas is in the Carols.” This scene was a group of animated figures singing Christmas carols. Then came the store’s main entrance. If you ignored the entrance and kept on going, you would have seen one more window. The scroll in this window proclaimed: “But the Heart and Soul of Christmas is Here!” In this window was a stable with shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger. (Source unknown). — Here is not only the heart and soul of Christmas. Here is the heart and soul of the universe. God knows what it is to walk where we walk. God offers us new life in Him by Faith in Jesus Christ. It is the most remarkable story ever told: The Great Physician who took all humanity’s infirmities upon himself, that by his stripes, we might be healed. (Fr. Tony Kadavil) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

39) A metronome at Christmas-rush aerodrome security check-in: Tom Ervin, Professor of Music at the University of Arizona was attending a conference for music teachers in New York. While at the conference he purchased a talking metronome. A metronome is a device for counting the beats in a song. Before Tom and his son boarded their flight home, Tom hefted his carry-on bag onto the security-check conveyor belt. The security guard’s eyes widened as he watched the monitor. He asked Tom what he had in the bag. Then the guard slowly pulled out of the bag this strange looking device, a six-by-three-inch black box covered with dials and switches. Other travelers, sensing trouble, vacated the area. “It’s a metronome,” Tom replied weakly, as his son cringed in embarrassment. “It’s a talking metronome,” he insisted. “Look, I’ll show you.”  He took the box and flipped a switch, realizing that he had no idea how it worked. “One . . . two . . . three . . . four,” said the metronome in perfect time. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  As they gathered their belongings, Tom’s son whispered, “Aren’t you glad it didn’t go ‘four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . ‘?” (Timothy Anger) —  For the past few weeks we have been counting down the days until Christmas. Now we could count the hours until the dawning of a New Year. But we need to linger with Mary and Joseph for a little while longer, because what happened immediately after Christmas is a stark reminder of the world in which we live. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

40) “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” Years ago a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ rest room carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd. This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run? When calmness finally settled in, he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man, breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby? — In a way, each of us, is in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold My Baby for Me, please?” and then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. (1) — And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this Baby?” But an even deeper question is, just “Who is this Baby?” If we look at Scripture, we find all kinds of titles and names for this baby we hold in our arms. Emmanuel, “God with us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus. (King Duncan). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

41) Where Does God Fit In? I just read a story about a schoolteacher in England who supervised her students’ construction of a manger scene in a corner of her classroom. The students were excited and enthusiastic as they set up the little barn and covered the floor with real straw and then arranged all the figures of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the Wise Men and all the animals. The students had all the characters facing the  little crib in which the tiny Infant Jesus lay. One little boy just couldn’t get enough. He was absolutely enthralled. He kept returning to it, and each time stood there completely engrossed but wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The teacher noticed him and asked, “Is anything wrong? Do you have a question? What would you like to know?” With his eyes still glued to the tiny manger scene, the boy said slowly, “What I’d like to know is, it’s so small, how does God fit in?” (Rev. King Duncan). == God fits in because, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work, no matter what our intentions in life are, somehow, we just get it wrong. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

42) Early American Christmas Celebrations:  Back in the early 1700s, when the United States were the Colonies, the settlers in Williamsburg, capital of Colonial Virginia, celebrated Christmas with customs they had brought from England. They had no Santa Claus (a Dutch tradition), no Christmas trees (a German tradition), no Nativity crèche (an Italian tradition), and no chimney stockings (an American tradition).  Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was primarily a holy day, but the atmosphere was not solemn. Churches and homes were decorated with greens, while candles burned in all the windows to welcome carolers.  There was a public celebration, too. Musicians played special concerts, and fireworks were set off and cannon were shot to heighten the general merriment. Feasting was in order with dishes of roasted fowl and hare, marrow pudding, ham, oysters, sausage, shellfish, often capped by whole roast boar on a platter. Some gifts were given then as part of the Christmas celebration, but not nearly on the present-day scale. (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

43) How could I possibly leave them? I was a part of them.”: In Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation, a story is told of Mary Wilson, presently of Dallas, Texas. You would never know by looking at this modest woman that she was the recipient of the Silver Star and she bore the nickname “The Angel of Anzio.” You will recall that when the Allies got bogged down in the boot of Italy during World War II, they attempted a daring breakout by launching an amphibious landing on the Anzio Beach. Unfortunately, the Allies got pinned down at the landing site and came dangerously close to being driven back into the ocean. It looked like another Dunkirk was in the making. Mary Wilson was the head of the fifty-one army nurses who went ashore at Anzio. Things got so bad that bullets zipped through her tent as she assisted the surgeon in surgery. When the situation continued to deteriorate, arrangements were made to get all of the nurses out. But Mary Wilson would have none of it. She refused to leave at the gravest hour. As she related her story years later, she said: “How could I possibly leave them. I was a part of them.” — Our God is a good God. He does not desert us in our hour of need. He hears the cries of Israel. He hears the cries of the Church. He hears the cries of His children. Christmas is about God’s eternal identification with the human dilemma. (Staff, www.Sermons.com). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

44) The Harvest of Love by Helen Keller: Helen Keller once wrote: “Christmas is the harvest time of love. Souls are drawn to other souls. All that we have read and thought and hoped comes to fruition at this happy time. Our spirits are astir. We feel within us a strong desire to serve. A strange, subtle force, a new kindness animates man and child. A new spirit is growing in us. No longer are we content to relieve pain, to sweeten sorrow, to give the crust of charity. We dare to give friendship, service, the equal loaf of bread and love.”  — May His peace, His power and His purpose dwell in our hearts. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

45) How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Although I’ve never read the tale or seen the film, reliable sources tell me that Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about a jealous critter, posing as Santa Claus, who steals all the gifts set aside for children. A little girl spies the theft; the rest the children, undaunted by their loss, celebrate Christmas anyway. — There are all sorts of Grinches who steal Christmas. Just think of the moves to call it “Xmas” or of Christmas stamps without the Madonna and Child. Less overtly, we are treated to phrases like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings.” In a way, that’s robbery. After all, the only reason we are celebrating is a Baby whose birth changed the course of history. Even some theologians seem to steal Christmas away with pronouncements that such a miracle could never have happened. If the Roman emperor insisted on having his birthday celebrated, the little people decided that they would celebrate the birth of Jesus. If the cultural powers worshiped the sun god at the year’s end, Christians would exalt the Son of God. The high and mighty eventually caught on. By the year 500, the church made Christmas a special feast. Three decades later, the Roman Empire followed suit. Commemorating the birth of Jesus spread throughout Europe. By the sixteenth century, however, with its political, national, and ecclesiastical wars, Christmas was disappearing from many places. The Puritans condemned and abolished Christmas as something pagan and idolatrous. They even tried to make observing it a sin. In 1642 services were banned. No decorations were allowed. Two years later Christmas was declared a time of fast and penance. In 1647 the British Parliament, that corporate Grinch, totally banned Christmas. Although Christmas was outlawed in New England until 1850, and people were forced to work that day while their children were ordered to school, subversive practices from olden times persisted. Like the young girl and all her friends in the story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the little ones—the little people—somehow celebrate Christmas anyway. Perhaps that’s how Christmas celebrations actually got started in the early fourth century. (John Kavanaugh, SJ). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

46) The Inner Galaxy: The story is told of Franklin Delano Roosevelt entertaining guests at the White House. After a late dinner he invited his guests outside to walk beneath the brilliant nighttime sky. After a silent, reverent stroll Roosevelt said, “I guess we’ve been humbled enough now. Let’s go inside.”  — And that’s what Christmas Eve is all about: stargazing toward the Infinite to be humble in our finiteness. So in response to the angel chorus and the angel announcement, the simple, rustic, stargazing shepherds said, “Let us go even now into Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened….” And they went inside the stable and beheld in the manger the inner galaxy — the interior meaning of the universe. And what did they experience? (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

47) Our Greatest Need: If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; but our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

48) Next Time It Will Be Different

The First Time Jesus Came
He came veiled in the form of a child.
A star marked His arrival.
Wise men brought Him gifts.
There was no room for Him.
Only a few attended His arrival.
The Next Time Jesus Comes
He will be recognized by all.
Heaven will be lit by His glory.
He will bring rewards for His own.
The world won’t be able to contain His glory.
Every eye shall see Him.
He will come as Sovereign King and Lord of all.
– John F. MacArthur Jr. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

49) St. Augustine’s Reflections: In this poem written some fifteen centuries ago, Augustine, the great theologian,  tried to capture the mystery of the Incarnation:

Maker of the sun,
He is made under the sun.
In the Father he remains,
From his mother he goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise,
He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at his mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
And small in the form of a servant. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/)

50) Some Christmas Reminders

* May the Christmas GIFTS remind us of God’s greatest gift, His only Son.
* May the Christmas CANDLES remind us of Him who is the “Light of the world.”
* May the Christmas TREES remind us of another tree upon which he died.
* May the Christmas CHEER remind us of Him who said, “Be of good cheer.”
* May the Christmas FEAST remind us of Him who is “the Bread of Life.”
* May the Christmas BELLS remind us of the glorious proclamation of His birth.
* May the Christmas CAROLS remind us of the song the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
* May the Christmas SEASON remind us in every way of Jesus Christ our King! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

51)  The Christmas Problem: Once upon a Christmas Eve, a man sat in reflective silence before the fireplace, pondering the meaning of Christmas. “There is no point to a God who becomes man,” he mused. “Why would an all-powerful God want to share even one of His precious moments with the likes of man? And even if He did, why would He choose to be born in an animal stall? No way! The whole thing is absurd! I’m sure that if God really wanted to come down to earth, He would have chosen some other way.” Suddenly, the man was roused from his reverie by a strange sound outside. He went to the window and saw a small gaggle of blue geese frantically honking and aimlessly flopping about in the snow. They seemed dazed and confused. Apparently they had dropped out in exhaustion from the flight formations of a larger flock on its way from the Arctic Islands to the warmer climes of the Gulf of Mexico. Moved to compassion, the man tried to “shoo” the poor geese into his warm garage, but the more he “shooed” the more they panicked. “If they only realized I’m only trying to do what’s best for them,” he thought to himself. “How can I make them understand my concern for their well-being?” Then, this thought came to him: “If for just a minute, I could become one of them, an ordinary goose, and communicate with them in their own language, they would know what I am trying to do.” — And suddenly … suddenly, he remembered Christmas and a smile came over his face. Suddenly, the Christmas story no longer seemed absurd. Suddenly, he pictured that ordinary-looking infant, lying in the manger, in that stable in Bethlehem, and he knew the answer to his Christmas problem: God had become one of us to tell us that He loves us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

52) Some Gifts to Give: Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone, “I love you.” Give something away–anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy. – Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, pp. 400-1. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

53) The Ten Commandments for Christmas: The following item appeared in a church newsletter and contains some good advice that will help us keep selfishness in check this Christmas:

  1. Thou shalt not leave “Christ” out of Christmas, making it “Xmas.” To some, “X” is unknown.
  2. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Spend not so much on gifts that thy soul is forgotten.

III. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus robbing the day of its spiritual reality.

  1. Thou shalt not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and the merchant with complaints and demands.
  2. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gift. This will increase its value a hundred-fold, and he who receives it shall treasure it forever.
  3. Thou shalt not value gifts received by their cost. Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless than silver and gold.

VII. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Share thy blessings with many who will go hungry and cold unless thou art generous.

VIII. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its services highlight the true meaning of the season.

  1. Thou shalt be as a little child. Not until thou hast become in spirit as a little one art thou ready to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let Him be at the top of thy Christmas list. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

54) “One Solitary Life” He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. — Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

55)  Born for what? In his depiction of the Nativity, the 16th-century Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto painted a crucifix into a niche in the background behind the kneeling figure of St. Joseph. Christ was born for this, Lotto seems to tell us — for the Cross. In Liz Lemon Swindle’s beautiful Madonna and Child — titled “Be It Unto Me” — Mary looks out with a certain apprehension into a future beyond the viewer’s sight, while the Child’s raised eyebrows wrinkle his forehead. One artist’s crucifix in the niche parallels the other’s Cross on the horizon. For over the peaceful scene of the Nativity falls the shadow of the Cross. The Christian tradition has almost universally seen in the harsh circumstances of Christ’s birth “at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold” a prefiguring of the brutal circumstances of his death on the Cross. “Ox and ass before him bow; and he is in the manger now.” But in the future the wood of the Cross will take the place of the wood of the manger.– Be it done unto to me, indeed. He willingly embraces the Cross for our sakes, by His perfect obedience erasing the deadly effects of our disobedience. “He hath opened heaven’s door, and man is blest forevermore.” “Christ was born for this,” we sing, “Christ was born for this.”(Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

56) Bad timing for delivering Good News: A married woman who decided to go on her own private vacation to Europe. She went from the Midwest to London, and then she was planning to go to Paris, Rome, and Vienna. When she got to London she called her husband back home in the Midwest and said, “How are you doing?” Her husband said, “I’m doing fine but our cat Lucy died.” So his wife starts bawling her eyes out on the phone. But when she regains her composure, she says, “You insensitive brute of a man, why did I ever marry someone like you? You just have no concern about my feelings.” The husband said, “Well, what was I supposed to have said?” The wife thinks for a moment and she says, “Well, when I got to London and I called you as I just did, you could have said, ‘Lucy, our cat is on the roof.’ When I got to Paris you could have said, ‘Lucy, our cat fell down from the roof.’ When I got to Rome you could have said, ‘Lucy’s not doing so well.’ When I got to Vienna you could have said, ‘Lucy died.'” Then the wife said, “By the way, how is mother?” The husband responded, “She’s on the roof.” That wife thought her husband had bad timing  in delivering news. (Rev. Haddon Robinson).L/21

 Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

 (“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-C by Fr. Tony   (akadavil@gmail.com)

Christmas – 2021 (4 Lectionary-Based Homilies) LP-21

Christmas- 4 Lectionary-based Homilies-2019 (L-19)

Christmas Vigil: Is 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt 1:1-25 [1:18-25] (1-page summary)

Introduction: The Scripture readings for the Christmas Vigil Mass remind us  how God showed His Mercy to mankind  by choosing Abraham and adopting his descendants as His Chosen People, disciplining them by slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon, making them a prosperous nation under God-fearing kings, disciplining them again when they turned unfaithful by using Greek and Roman conquerors, and finally giving them the promised Savior-King in the form of the Baby Jesus at Bethlehem.  Thus today, at this Christmas Vigil Mass, we are celebrating the fulfillment of our God’s prophecies about sending His own Son to save a sinful world.

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies that the God of Israel will honor the desolate and forsaken Jerusalem and land of Israel by espousing her as a man marries a virgin and makes her a mother. Yahweh does this by sending His long-awaited Messiah into Israel to possess it and rule over it.  The Messiah will vindicate Israel and save her. Through His prophet Isaiah, the Lord God wished to inspire the hopeless Israelites, returned from the Babylonian exile, to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile and prosperous so that Israel might be able to hold up her head again among the other nations.   In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. God showed His mercy to His chosen people of Israel by fulfilling the prophecy about His long-awaited Messiah. He sent His Son as the Savior and the descendant of David. The Gospel reviews the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17), tracing his descent from Abraham through David as foretold by the prophet, then describing his birth as our Savior at Bethlehem (1:18-25), through the working of the Holy Spirit.   The Gospel also shows how God resolved the doubts of Joseph by sending His angel, first to reassure Joseph, then to instruct him to name the child Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yehosua, which means ”Yahweh is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (the successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) would save them from their sins.

Life messages: 1) We need to allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives.   .  Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me. (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius).   So, let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2020 and every day of the New Year 2021. Let us also show the good will and generosity of sharing with others Jesus, our Savior reborn in our hearts, as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and humble service. 2) We need to experience Christmas as it takes place at Christ’s Mass on our altars. Jesus becomes present on our altars as our spiritual food, to nourish our souls so that we may become God’s healthy children. Let us worship God by our active participation in the Holy Mass as the angels, shepherds and wisemen worshiped Jesus, God Incarnate, in the gospel story. 3) We need to have a Christmas gift for the Christ-child because we are celebrating his birthday. Hence instead of focusing our full attention on giving Christmas gifts to family members, let us give our hearts to Jesus today, filled with sacrificial love, overflowing mercy, selfless caring, and unconditional forgiveness for others.

CHRISTMAS VIGIL: Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 [1:18-25] L-19

Anecdotes: 1) Consider Christmas Again: When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today? In 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi used a nearby cave to set up a manger filled with straw, and his friend, Vellita, brought in an ox and a donkey, just like those at Bethlehem, nobody saw how that novel idea was going to evolve through centuries. When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today? There is an unproved legend that Martin Luther is responsible for the origin of the Christmas tree. This story says that one Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through the snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of the snow glistening on the trees. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a small fir tree and shared the story with his children. He decorated the Christmas tree with small candles which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth. — In 2021, as we walk through Advent again in the midst of all the excitement, elaborate decorating, and expensive commercialization which batter and drown the Reality of Christmas today, we are given another opportunity to pause, to consider again the event of Christmas and the Person whose birth we celebrate. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Kierkegaard has a fable of a king who fell in love with a maid. A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When he asked his counselors, “How shall I declare my love?” they answered, “Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiments before the maid’s humble dwelling, and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours.” But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love, he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love’s truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid’s cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey, not God’s power, but God’s love. God wants not submission to His power, but in return for His love, our own(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The Scripture lessons for today focus on the first Christmas. In the first reading, Isaiah shows us the vindication of Israel by the Lord God. This vindication has found its fulfillment, for all of us, in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. That mercy has culminated in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah for Whom the Jews have been waiting for centuries. The Gospel reviews the genealogy of Jesus, tracing His descent from David, then recounts the story of His birth in Bethlehem as our Savior.

The first reading, Isaiah: 62:1-5 explained. After their exile in Babylon, the Jews returned to Judah where they had a difficult time restoring their old institutions, their economy, their capital Jerusalem and their Temple on Mount Zion. They were quite discouraged when the prophet Isaiah received this prophecy from God to restore their fallen spirits (Chapters 56-66.) Just as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, so Isaiah looked forward to God’s breaking the silence of many years. In today’s text, Isaiah uses imagery to describe the conversion of Israel from gloom to joy. Isaiah compares the dispirited Jewish people to a woman who had thought she would never marry. But she suddenly has found a suitor! It’s Israel, the land of the Jews that the Lord proposes to marry, and, by extension, to make fertile. The prophecy’s goal has been to inspire the hopeless people to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile. Now, the Lord God says through Isaiah, Israel will be able to hold up her head again among the other nations, who will see her vindication.

Second Reading, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25 explained: This reading is taken from the account of Paul’s first missionary journey, which began in Syria and took him to Antioch in Pisidia. This is the first of the several speeches of St. Paul in which he tells the Jews that the Christian Church is the logical development of Judaism. When St. Paul delivered this speech, the Jews had 1800 years of history behind them. Paul takes advantage of their knowledge to show that the coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of all history.

Exegesis: The genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17): While Paul presents Jesus as a descendent of David in our second reading, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham. This genealogy not only shows Jesus’ human ancestry, but also indicates that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three groups, of 14 patriarchs, 14 kings and 14 princes. The three groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son’s human genealogy to emphasize God’s grace, to give us all hope, and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. Thus, God’s powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. From the beginning, Matthew’s account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness. Luke’s account shows us another example of this kind of challenge. The royal child, heir to King David’s throne and bearer of wonderful titles, is born in poverty. He is laid in a manger because there is no room in the inn.

The three-step marriage: Engagement, betrothal and marriage proper were the three stages of the Jewish marriage ceremony. The engagement was often made through the parents when the couples were only children. The betrothal was the ratification of the engagement into which a couple had previously (been) entered. It made the young man and woman husband and wife, legally married, but without cohabitation and conjugal rights for one year. The third stage was the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal. It was during the betrothal period that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus. The essence of God’s story in Matthew is that, in the birth of Jesus, the Spirit of God was seen operating in the world as He had never done before.

Joseph the “father” of Jesus (Mt. 1:18-25): While Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the role of Mary, Matthew’s brings Joseph to the forefront. Joseph is important to Matthew’s Gospel, because Jesus came from David’s lineage through Joseph (1:1-17). The Davidic descent of Jesus is shown as both legal and natural. In other words, Jesus is descendant of Abraham and David not only by physical descent but also by God’s supernatural action. The Davidic descent of Jesus is transferred not through natural paternity but through legal paternity. Matthew carefully constructs verse 1:18 to avoid saying that Jesus was the son of Joseph. As Mary’s legal husband, Joseph became the legal father of Jesus. Later, by naming the child, Joseph acknowledged Him as his own. The legal father was on par with the biological father as regards rights and duties. Since it was common practice for couples to marry within their clan, probably Mary also belonged to the house of David. Several early Church Fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin and Tertullian, testify to this belief, basing their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition. Joseph is presented as a righteous man (v. 19), who chose to obey God’s command rather than to observe rigidly a law that would have required him to divorce Mary publicly. He resolved to divorce Mary quietly in order that he might not cause her unnecessary pain. In doing so, he serves as a model of Christ-like compassion. He also demonstrates a balance between the Law of Torah and the Law of Love. While Luke tells the story of the Archangel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), Matthew tells us only that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The Divine intervention through the angel: Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew tells us of Joseph’s obedience. This is the first of four occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action, and Joseph obeys. He is told not to be afraid of his fiancée’s pregnancy, nor of the opinion of his neighbors, nor even of the requirement of the Torah that Mary be punished. He is not to hesitate, but is to wed Mary. “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 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.

Jesus the Savior as the fulfillment of prophecy: The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) will save them from their sins. The Jews, however, did not expect a Messiah Who would save them from their sins, but one who would deliver them from their political oppressors. Matthew stresses the fact that the birth of Jesus as Savior is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah (7:14): “’Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” The fulfillment of the prophecy is important to Matthew’s first audience, Jewish converts, which is why Matthew mentions the fulfillment of eleven prophetic statements about Jesus in his Gospel. The context of the verse taken from Isaiah is the dilemma of King Ahaz in the eighth century BC. Jerusalem was under siege, and it appeared that both the city and the nation might be destroyed. Isaiah’s prophecy was that a boy-child would be born and that, by the time he reached maturity, the threat from the enemy would have passed. We do not know that boy’s identity, but the city and nation were both spared.

Emmanuel born of a Virgin: The NRSV correctly translates ho parthenos as “the virgin” rather than “a virgin.” In other words, the original uses the definite article. Isaiah referred to a young woman (almah), but Matthew’s ho parthenos clearly refers to a virgin. That is why the Church has always taught Mary’s perpetual virginity. “‘They shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God. Immanu-El, therefore, means “God with us,” a meaning which Matthew spells out for non-Hebrew readers. Emmanuel is not a second name by which friends and neighbors will know Jesus. “Jesus” is Our Lord’s true name, and Emmanuel describes his role. Thus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the promise that Jesus’ role-name means “God-with-us.” He will end his Gospel with Jesus’ own promise that He will be with us “always, to the end of the age” (28:20).

Life messages: 1) We need to look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons. During the Christmas season we, like the Magi, must give our most precious gift, our lives, to Jesus. We will learn to discover Him in the most unlikely places and in the most distasteful people –- in those who live in suffering or in distress, in poverty or in fear. The message of Christmas is that we can truly find Jesus if we look in the right places –- in the streets, in the slums, in the asylums, in the orphanages, in the nursing homes –- starting in our own homes, workplaces and town. We need to look for Him in people that we might otherwise ignore: the homeless, the sick, the addicts, the unpleasant people, the rebels, or the people of different culture and lifestyle from us. True Christmas is about celebrating the coming of God among the poor, the homeless and the disadvantaged, with a message of hope and liberation for these sufferers in our world. It is about our responsibility to be part of that liberating process. It is about working to remove from our world the shameful blot of poverty, discrimination and exploitation that is the lot of too many in our environment of prosperity. God challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame their fear in order to seek out Jesus, or like the Wise Men who traveled a long distance to find Him. Then we will have the true experience of Christmas – the joy of the Savior.

2) We need to allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives. . Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”( https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius). So, let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2021 and every day of the New Year 2022. How should we prepare for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives? As a first step, John the Baptist urges us to repent daily of our sins and to renew our lives by leveling the hills of pride and selfishness, by filling up the valleys of impurity, and by straightening the crooked paths of hatred. Our second step in preparing for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives is to cultivate the spirit of sacrifice and humility. It was by sacrifice that the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi were able to find the Savior. They were humble enough to see God in the Child in the manger. We, too, can experience Jesus by sharing Him with others, just as God shared His Son with us. Let us remember that the angels wished peace on earth only to those able to receive that peace, those who possessed the good will and largeness of heart to share Jesus our Savior with others in love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) A 4-year-old boy was asked to give the blessing before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food. He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes– even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited–and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?”

2) Mrs. Oppenheimer decided to get away from the often inclement weather of New York and spend Christmas in the Deep South. Being unfamiliar with that part of the world she wandered into a “restricted” hotel and said “Hi. I’m Mrs. Oppenheimer and I’d like a room for the next week.” “I’m very sorry,’ said the manager, “but all our rooms are taken.” Just as he said these words a customer came to the desk and unexpectedly checked out. “How lucky!” responded Mrs. Oppenheimer, “Now you have a room for me.” “Look, I’m very sorry,” said the manager, “but this is a restricted hotel. Jews are not allowed here.” “Jewish! Whaddya mean Jewish? I am a Catholic.” “That takes some believing,” said the manager. “Tell me, Who was the Son of God?” “Jesus.” she replied “Where was he born?” “In a stable in Bethlehem….. simply because some schmuck like you wouldn’t rent a room to a Jew.”

3) A family celebrated Christmas every year with a birthday party for Jesus. An extra chair of honor at the table became the family’s reminder of Jesus’ presence. A cake with candles, along with the singing of “Happy Birthday” expressed the family’s joy in Jesus’ presence. One year on Christmas afternoon a visitor to the home asked the five-year-old girl, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “No, but it’s not my birthday, It’s Jesus’ birthday!”

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-i by Fr. Tony (akadavil)

Summary of Christmas Midnight homily on: Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Introduction: Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, in the writings of the prophets, and they identified Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

Scripture readings: Following the death of the Assyrian monarch in the late 8th century B.C., the Lord God, through His prophet Isaiah, promises relief for both the northern and the southern kingdoms of Israel through a new king and his descendant in the line of David, in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the child Isaiah’s prophesy calls the “prince of peace” The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of His birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels. Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!

Life messages: We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folk in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life, and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely, is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus as Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God seeking us out; God coming alongside us; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, and guidance — God dwelling within us. Each one of us has, deep down in our soul, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is, indeed, with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So, let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT: Full text: Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Anecdote: 1) “Don’t go! You can have my room.” Nine-year-old Wally was in second grade when most children his age were fourth graders. He was big for his years, a clumsy fellow, a slow learner. But Wally was a hopeful, willing, smiling lad, a natural defender of the underdog, and he was well-liked by his classmates. His parents encouraged him to audition for the annual parish Christmas play. Wally wanted to be a shepherd. Instead, he was given the role of the innkeeper. The director reasoned that Wally’s size would lend extra force to the innkeeper’s refusal of lodging to Joseph. During rehearsals, Wally was instructed to be firm with Joseph. When the play opened, no one was more caught up in the action than Wally. And when Joseph knocked on the door of the inn, Wally was ready. He flung the door open and asked menacingly, “What do you want?” “We seek lodging,” Joseph replied. “Seek it elsewhere,” Wally said in a firm voice. “There’s no room in the inn.” “Please, good innkeeper,” Joseph pleaded, “this is my wife, Mary. She is with child and is very tired. She needs a place to rest.” There was a long pause as Wally looked down at Mary. The prompter whispered Wally’s next line: “No! Be gone!” Wally remained silent. Then the forlorn couple turned and began to slowly move away. Seeing this, Wally’s brow creased with concern. Tears welled up in his eyes. Suddenly, he called out, “Don’t go! You can have my room.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The season of Advent is past, and the period of anticipation is complete. Now it is time to commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined the writings of the prophets to discover foreshadowings of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Today’s first reading is one of these, taken from one of the greatest of the prophets, Isaiah. The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of his birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels.

First reading, Isaiah 9:1-6: In the late eighth century BC, God’s people in the Promised Land had become divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. Assyria was the dominant power in the region, particularly oppressing the northern kingdom. In the eighth century BC, the source of the “darkness” was the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-Pilesar III. But following the death of the Assyrian monarch, the prophet declares that in the darkness, light has shone! Hope for endless peace, justice, and righteousness has been kindled and burns brightly. Isaiah prophesies relief for both northern and southern kingdoms in the person of the new king who will come to the throne in the southern kingdom, Judah, and will see to the reunion of the north and south and the expulsion of the Assyrians from the north. The king whom Israel saw as fulfilling the prophecy is, interestingly, Hezekiah, the successor of King Ahaz. So “the people once in darkness” are the dwellers in Israel oppressed by Assyria. The “child/son born to us” was the new king in Jerusalem in Judah. Hezekiah inherited the throne of David whose glorious reign, roughly four centuries earlier, was still the source of national pride and hope. Some 2700 years later, we see Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and Son of David, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, as the final fulfillment of the prophecy of this promised King.

Today’s passage in Isaiah 9 completes a prophecy begun in Isaiah 8:1. In spite of all the doom and gloom that surround Israel and the evil that darkness portends, there will eventually be light and restoration for Israel. The yoke and bar, (verse 4), represent enslavement and oppression. Those will be cast off vigorously as in the days of Gideon and the Midianites (Judges 8:10-12; Psalm 83:9-11). The prophecy concludes with the now-famous words: “For a child has been born for us, a son given for us…..” What follows is a description of the yet-to-be-realized Kingdom of Christ (verse 6). Notice the many titles given to the coming child: Wonderful Counselor — counsel, as in advice; Mighty God — an image of power and majesty; Everlasting Father — one Who will not diminish, expire, or fade away: an eternal relationship of nurture and trust; Prince of Peace — not war-like, but reconciling.

Second Reading, Titus 2:11-14:The books of Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy are called “pastoral letters” because they are instructions to the pastors dealing with Church life and practices. This reading is an interesting choice for Christmas Midnight Mass because it focuses on the other coming of Jesus, at the end of time, and on the changes that we are called to make in our lives. It reminds us that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future by the saving power of God in Christ. The theological plainness and moral starkness of this letter make it a worthy counterpoint to the sentimentality that dominates Christmas.

Exegesis:The origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, a feastestablished by the Roman Emperor, Aurelian, in AD 274. Since December 25th was near the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again, showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing. When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness. Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. It claims that the Annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th. Since the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th, leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.

The Christmas event: While Matthew places the birth of Jesus against the background of Herod’s reign, Luke places it against the background of the Roman Empire. It is generally accepted that Jesus was born in 4 B.C. Luke begins by making a subtle contrast between Caesar Augustus who failed as an inaugurator of peace, and Jesus the Savior and bringer of peace. Both Tertullian and Justin Martyr (c. 165) state that in their time the records of the 4 B.C. census still existed along with those of 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D. In the Roman Empire, a census was taken periodically with the double object of assessing taxation and of discovering those who were subject to compulsory military service. Another hidden aim was to find out the true descendants of King David who had a claim to the throne as the king of the Jews. Luke’s purpose in mentioning the census was to provide God’s reason for, and means of, getting Mary and Joseph the roughly eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, wherein the promised heir of David was to be born, as prophesied by Micah (5:1). Bethlehem was commonly thought of as the city of David because of David’s birth and childhood there. Since travelers brought their own food, the innkeeper provided only fodder for the animals and a fire for cooking along with a spot to sleep within his walls. A manger is a feeding trough (food box), and it symbolizes the sacrificial meal that Jesus becomes, which provides sustenance for the whole world. Father Raymond Brown in his masterful book on the Infancy Narratives says that these stories are theologumena, not so much literal history as stories with a theological point – the other gratuitous and revolutionary impact of Jesus’ birth, life, and death. The important thing to remember is that they are stories of God’s love and Jesus’ role in history and that’s what counts, not historical details.

The first visitors: Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs which were meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world! Shepherding was a lonely, dirty job, and shepherds found it difficult to follow all the obligatory religious customs. Hence, they were scorned as non-observant Jews. So Baby Jesus selected these marginalized people to share His love at the beginning of his earthly ministry. The shepherds expressed their joy and gratitude by “making known what had been told them” (v. 17). Just as very ordinary people would later become witnesses to the Resurrection, very ordinary shepherds became witnesses to the Incarnation. Other than the angels, they were the first to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Once we have been privileged to experience God’s presence, we, too, have the responsibility and the privilege of sharing that experience with other people – of spreading the word – of proclaiming the Gospel.

Good News of great joy: But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is the Messiah, the Lord.’” Perhaps because Luke was a Gentile convert, he establishes at the beginning of this Gospel that Jesus is for all the people — not just for the people of Israel: “… a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (v. 11). The Romans thought of Augustus as savior. However, Augustus’ peace was fragile. After his death, other men would assume power — men like Nero and Caligula whose names would be synonymous with treachery and cruelty. The angels introduced a different kind of Savior — a Savior who would continue His saving work throughout human history. The Savior of the First Century is also the Savior of the Twenty-first Century. The Savior of Israel is also the Savior of the World.

Glory to God and peace on earth: The angels welcomed Jesus’ birth singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (v. 14). Later, the crowds would welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38). That peace is the shalom of God – life experienced in all its fullness, richness, and completeness, in accord with the will of God. The angelic song conveys the message that true peace on earth is available only to those able to receive it, that is with the good will to do the will of God, and thus to give Him glory.

Christmas is not just one day, but a season which lasts for twelve days, concluding on Epiphany (Twelfth Night). The extension of the feast should remind us to continue to share our joy at the comings of the Messiah – the first some 2000 years ago, the last at our death or at the Parousia, the “Second coming,” for which we all pray (Eucharistic acclamation – “We proclaim Your Death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again”), and all those occurring between the two, as we live our daily lives. As we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word of God this Christmas, we might make a conscious effort both to remember that Jesus is always with us in our hearts and in the Eucharist and to share our joy in His presence with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folk in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus the Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God seeking us out; God coming alongside us; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength,  and guidance; God dwelling within us. Each one of us has, deep down in our souls, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) A few days before Christmas, two young brothers were spending the night at their grandparent’s house. When it was time to go to bed, anxious to do the right thing, they both knelt down to say their prayers.
Suddenly, the younger one began to do so in a very loud voice. “Dear Lord, please ask Santa Claus to bring me a play-station, a mountain-bike and a telescope.”
His older brother leaned over and nudged his brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.”
“I know,” he replied. “But Grandma is!”

2) The 3 stages of man:

He believes in Santa Claus.
He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
He becomes Santa Claus.

3) A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He noticed a young man who showed up in the Church for Christmas and Easter as Poinsettias and Easter Lilies do. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. Pastor said, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” My friend said, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.” Pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I’m in the Secret Service.” (L-19)

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iiby Fr. Tony (akadavil)

Summary of the homily for Christmas Dawn Holy Mass (Lk 2:15-20)

Introduction: The main theme of this Mass at dawn is an invitation to savor, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior.  St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son that whoever who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in His Son, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus,  in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews that their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of eternal life. Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to be Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas. Hence, let us leave “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us accept the challenge of the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.” So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness, and compassion to give away. Let us help all those around us to experience the newborn Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love, in the form of compassionate words, unconditional love and forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds, and overflowing generosity.

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and to respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did to these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, heard that inner voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not? (L-19)

MASS AT DAWN: Is 62:11-12; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20 (L-21)

(The theme: The joy and peace of the Savior through sharing love)

Anecdote: #1) Sharing the sorrow of chemotherapy: An 11-year-old boy with cancer lost all the hair on his head as a result of chemotherapy. When the time came for him to return to school, he and his parents experimented with hats, wigs, and bandanas to try to conceal his baldness. They finally settled on a baseball cap, but the boy still feared the taunts he would receive for looking “different.” Mustering up courage, he went to school wearing his cap – and discovered to his great surprise that all of his friends had shaved their heads to share their solidarity with their friend. It was their way of expressing their love and sympathy. No wonder God became man to express His love for mankind!(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction:The main theme of this Mass at dawn is an invitation to savor, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior. St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” God shows His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in the form of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus, in turn, saves us by His suffering, death and Resurrection. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of everlasting life. Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

First reading, Isaiah 62:11-12: Around 600 BC, the Babylonians took the Jews out of the Promised Land and kept them in exile (the Babylonian Captivity), for about 70 years. When Cyrus, a new Persian emperor, conquered Babylon, he sent the Jews home. This reading is set in that troubled period, when Judah was trying to put herself back together after returning from Exile. Daughter Zion means (the people of) the city Jerusalem. This was Judah’s capital, in the center of which stands Mount Zion where the Temple had been built. The gist of this short passage is that the people should keep up their spirits because soon they and their city will enjoy prosperity and international renown again, and their city will frequently be visited by tourists instead of remaining a ghost city. In other words, God’s own people will experience the saving and providing love of their God.

Second Reading, Titus 3:4-7: This passage is classic Pauline teaching, showing us that God saves us by incorporating us into Christ which is the real cause of Christian, and Christmas, joy. Among the congregation served by the early bishop Titus were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation; God gives it to us freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, Baptism, during which the Spirit is richly poured out on us. This, not our observance of laws, makes us justified (right with God) and gives us a starting place for living the Christian life from which our good works will flow; it is that “justification” which gives us the hope of eternal life.

Exegesis: The shepherds — the first visitors and the first missionaries: The orthodox Jews in Jesus’ time despised the shepherds because these men were quite unable to observe the ceremonial laws in all their details. In addition, shepherds had no spare time to take part in synagogue services nor to study Torah because shepherding was a full-time job. These shepherds with whom Jesus chose to share His love on Christmas day might have been the special shepherds in charge of the Temple sheep, which were set aside for the daily morning and evening sacrifice of unblemished lambs. If so, no wonder their shepherds were blessed with the unique privilege of seeing the divine Child – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! They responded to this great privilege by bearing witness to God, by praising God and by spreading the news of the birth of a Savior. “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.” Christmas, the feast of Emmanuel – God is with us – challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame fear to find Him, or like the Magi who traveled and searched for Him. We should have the generosity and good will to search for Him and find Him in unlikely places and persons. That is made possible for us only if we welcome Jesus of Bethlehem into our lives by allowing Him to be reborn in us. Then we will have the real experience of Christmas – and the joy of the Savior.

The angelic choir and their angelic message: Normally when a boy was born into a Jewish family, the local musicians congregated at the house to greet him with country music. Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. The angel told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come: “Don’t be afraid. I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people. This very day in David’s town, your Savoir was born – Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin. We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires, and habits. We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases, and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.

Saviors and the Savior: History tells us that there has been no shortage of false liberators and pseudo-saviors, who have deceived generations of people all around the world. The Greek philosophers believed that education and knowledge would liberate the world. Later, rationalists like Voltaire and Rousseau taught that mere human reason, alone, provided an antidote for all human ills. Revolutionary movements, such as Communism, have offered mankind the dream of an earthly paradise. Today, many people advocate science as the solution for all human problems, while others turn to liquor, drugs, or other pleasures to escape their troubles. Our century has witnessed the uncontrolled use of sex as a false liberating instrument, and Eastern mystical experiences or modern psychological techniques as routes to peace of mind and heart. Despite the claims of these various panaceas, however, the true remedy for our ills, as every Christmas reminds us, is Jesus, our Divine Savior Who, alone, can give us both true liberation and lasting peace and joy.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others. This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son. We respond to His love joyfully by using our health, wealth, talents and blessings for Him as He dwells in everyone we encounter. Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we too are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the “good will” of which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.

Life messages: 1) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas. Hence, let us leave “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us accept the challenge of the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.” So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness, and compassion to give away. Let us help all those around us to experience the newborn Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and to respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did to these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, heard that voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not?

JOKE OF THE DAY

1) A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one Church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. “Isn’t that beautiful?” said the little girl’s grandmother. “Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.” “Yes, Grandma,” replied the granddaughter. “It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isn’t Baby Jesus ever going to grow up…? He’s the same size he was last year!”

2) Some children were asked what love is. The responses were quite interesting and instructive for us adults. One said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy and takes a little taste before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.” Another said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.” Another response was, “You really shouldn’t say, ’I love you’ unless you really mean it, but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they call your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” And finally, seven-year-old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

3) Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee, “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iiiby Fr. Tony (akadavil

Summary of the homily for Christmas Day Holy Mass (Jn 1:1-18)

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. He presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. Viewing Jesus’ birth from God’s perspective, John clarifies the truth that Incarnation of God to save mankind was the Divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation. While the synoptic Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas and Jesus’ infancy narratives, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God.

Scripture lessons: The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His Chosen People to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God, Who had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets, has now sent His own Son so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives us a profoundly philosophical and theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. John presents Jesus as the “Word of God.” In Jewish thought, this phrase describes God taking action as in His act of creation of the world. The Greeks understood “logos” or the Word of God as an intermediary between God and humanity. In the Biblical Christian theology, the word Logos came to be equated with the Second Person of the Trinity. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, John leaves no doubt as to the reality of Jesus’ human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He records later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16). John tells us that God pitched His tent among us, meaning that God makes his home with us, He accompanies us, He lives with us, He shares our joys and our struggles, He eats with us, He becomes a meal for us in the Eucharist. The God who “pitched His tent” among us in Bethlehem and continues to live with each of us in our home, our apartment, our religious community or our retirement home, continues to dwell within us. That is why we rejoice, celebrating Christmas. A student came to a rabbi and said, ‘In the olden days there were people who saw the face of God. Why don’t they anymore?’ The rabbi replied, ‘Because nowadays no one can stoop that low.’ God keeps company with us. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (Jn 1.14)

Life messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward, because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ comes to us every day through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Bible and the worshipping community. We are asked to inaugurate Christ’s kingdom in our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth to build His kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable beings who desperately need the gifts of love and grace which God so lavishly gives us through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and during our prayers.

CHRISTMAS DAY: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9 (L-19)

Anecdotes: 1) A vision test: Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question: “How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?” One of the disciples answered, “When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close,” the Rabbi responded, “but not quite.” Another disciple ventured a response, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome.” “Not bad,” the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different. When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared.” This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) God is Light and in him is no darkness at all: Eight-year-old Benny died of AIDS in 1987. CBS made a movie drama about the trauma called Moving Toward the Light. As Benny lies dying in his mother’s arms, he asks, “What will it be like?” His mother whispers softly in his ear, “You will see a light, Benny, far away — a beautiful, shining light at the end of a long tunnel. And your spirit will lift you out of your body and start to travel toward the light. And as you go, a veil will be lifted from your eyes, and suddenly, you will see everything … but most of all, you will feel a tremendous sense of love.” “Will it take long?” Benny asks. “No,” his mother answers, “not long at all. Like the twinkling of an eye.” Many families have been devastated by AIDS. Amid the darkness and despair an eight-year-old boy and his mother witnessed to the sustaining power of the light of God’s presence. They have touched the lives of a multitude of people. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. — 1 John 1:5 (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Jesus pitched his tent among us:The custom of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no Churches. Priests hid in the forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetime a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass. For this grace they hoped and prayed all through the year. When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows, so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a Church for Christmas. To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people explained that they burned the candles and kept the doors unlocked so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, would find their way to their home and be welcomed with open hearts. The candles in the windows have always remained a cherished practice of the Irish, although many of them have long since forgotten the earlier meaning. (William Barker in Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, the father of God’s people, and Luke’s genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry goes all the way back to Adam, thus embracing the whole human race, John’s goes back to God Himself. John is the only Gospel writer who does not stop at Bethlehem to explain the “reason for the season.” John is more concerned with the WHY and WHO of Christmas than with the WHERE of Christmas. So he travels to eternity to reveal the Person of Jesus Christ. This is a great passage because it gives us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God. He was present at creation; He is actually the One through Whom all things were made. The Prologue to the Gospel of John and the prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading are superb affirmations of the Person of Jesus Christ, expressed in beautiful theological words and metaphors. The first reading gives us the assurance that just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus the Savior will restore mankind to the kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God Who conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets has sent His own Son so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of Christ’s human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He records later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).

First reading, Isaiah 52:7-10:This prophetic passage dates from the return of the Jews to their homeland at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The setting is the desolate city, Jerusalem, awaiting the return of the exiles from Babylon. The city is personified; rhetorically, it is called “Zion,” after the hill in its midst where the Temple stood. Isaiah first imagines that the city can hear, even at a distance, the footsteps of her returning children. The returnees are pictured as singing exultantly, “Your God is King!” Then Jerusalem’s sentinels raise the cry of recognition and join in the praise of God. Finally, the joyful people declare that all the earth will recognize the hand of God at work in their restoration. This return to Jerusalem, like the Exodus from Egypt centuries earlier, was a type or a foreshadowing of the greater redemption that was to come through Jesus the Messiah. The re-possession of the land of Canaan for a few years and the restoring of Jerusalem and Judah were but pale shadows of the great restoration and the possession of our eternal promised land which were to be given by the Messiah in the days to come, not only to Israel but to all nations. “Today’s feast celebrates the Christ-event. In fact, the glad tidings of the Deutero-Isaiahan messenger were only fully actualized, only fully heard and made comprehensible in the event of Jesus Christ. In the event of the Incarnation, Yahweh truly returns and restores Jerusalem; in the event of the Nativity, Yahweh draws near to comfort and console his people. In the event of Christ-made-flesh, God’s message of salvation achieves its utmost clarity.” (Celebration).

Second Reading, Hebrews 1:1-6:The addressees of the Letter to the Hebrews were Christian Jews who were beginning to feel the pain of separation from their fellow-Jews who had refused to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The Christian Jews needed to be reminded that their relationship with Jesus more than filled the gaps in their religious lives caused by the loss of Temple ritual and the like, particularly as they were suffering the temptation to change back to the old Law and the Jewish religion because of persecution from Judaizers. In the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains to them how superior the New Covenant is to the old. The letter begins with a comparison of how God formerly spoke to their ancestors and how God has now definitively spoken to them through Jesus. These six verses from the Letter’s first chapter were chosen for today’s reading because of the clear, definite and emphatic declaration of the Divinity of Christ and His equality with God, which they contain. Paul asserts that the Baby who was born in a stable in Bethlehem, lived and died in Palestine, rose on the third day from the grave and ascended to Heaven forty days later, was also God, equal to the Father in all things. This is a mystery beyond our human comprehension, yet it is a fact, stated by Christ Himself, believed and preached by the Apostles, and accepted by the Church for two thousand years. The whole reading is about the superiority of Jesus to everything and everyone else ,and God’s final Self-Revelation through Jesus as superior to the Old Testament Revelation of God. Specifically, the reading declares that Jesus is superior to angels. That Jesus is also, necessarily, superior to the institutions of Judaism, from which the Hebrew Christians were cut off and for which they were feeling nostalgic, is implied in the passage.

Exegesis: The prologue of John’s Gospel: From the time of the earliest lectionaries, the Prologue to John’s Gospel (Chapter 1) was the traditional assigned Gospel for Christmas Day because it is one of the most magnificent (and theologically profound) passages in the entire New Testament. For several centuries, this passage was familiar to Catholic parishioners as the “Last Gospel,” since it was directed to be read at the conclusion of each Mass, as the final thought that would accompany God’s people as they left the Church and returned to their homes and daily occupations. It has been taken as the litmus test of theological orthodoxy regarding the reality of Christ’s Incarnation, and lies behind some of the wording of the Nicene Creed. “John’s Gospel highlights the deity of Jesus Christ, without minimizing His humanity.” (Rev. Bob Deffinbaugh; online at www.bible.org). Many scholars believe that the Prologue is an insistent rebuttal of certain Gnostic ideas, which denied the reality (or the possibility) of a Divine Incarnation. This Gnostic idea was later condemned as a heresy, called Docetism, which taught that the physical reality of Jesus was merely an “appearance” or a “façade,” and not inherent in who and what Jesus was.

The paradox of the Incarnation: Against later theories that Christ was somehow merely a “super-creature,” or an exemplary human being who had simply been subsequently “adopted” by God, John wants to make clear that the Son—unlike every creature born in time—pre-existed all things, and was, in fact, an active part of the Divine creative process. John the Evangelist proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity, in the immortal words of his Prologue, making the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God. Unlike most Jewish genealogies, this one traces Jesus’ origins to the Eternal Divinity. Between the beautiful Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, there lies the great paradox of the Christian Faith, the paradox of the Incarnation, the entering of God into the human story, in human form. The Prologue of John’s Gospel (1:1-18), can be divided into three sections: a) the Word’s relationship to the Creator and Creation (1:1-5), b) the Word’s relationship to John the Baptist (1:6-9) and c) the Word’s relationship to the world (1:10-18).

The theology of the Word made flesh:And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” According to almost all interpreters, this is the climax of John’s poetic Prologue—the culmination of his gradual theological “crescendo,” and the “key” to everything else in the Gospel. It is such a simple phrase, and yet is contains within it the promise, hope and challenge of Christianity in a nutshell! Within thirty years of Jesus’ death, the Christian Faith had traveled all over Asia Minor and Greece and had arrived in Rome. By AD 60, there must have been a hundred thousand Greeks in the Church for every Jew who had become a Christian. But Jewish ideas like the Messiah, the center of Jewish expectation, were completely strange to the Greeks. Hence, the very category in which the Jewish Christians conceived and presented Jesus meant nothing to the Greek Christians. The problem which John faced was how to present Christianity to the Greek world around him in the Greek city of Ephesus where he lived. He found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, there existed the concept of the “word.” For the Eastern peoples, words had an independent, power-filled existence. The Greek term for word is Logos which not only means word, but also reason. Hence, whenever the Greeks used Logos, the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. That is why John introduces Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in poetical prose, in the very beginning of his Gospel. In his Prologue, John deals with the major themes like the pre-existence of the Word, God/Word and Father/Son as distinct Persons but, at the same time, one God; of Jesus as God, Life and Light; of the struggle between Light and darkness; of the power of the Light over darkness. According to John, the Word of God, Jesus, gives Life and Light. Thus, the Prologue of John’s Gospel summarizes how the Son of God was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed. One of the Fathers of the Church (St. Irenaeus) once said, “Gloria Dei, homo vivens,” (“the glory of God is a person fully alive”). If that can be said of any of us, how much more must it be true of the Word made Flesh? Here in this prologue, the evangelist enunciatesChrist’s superiority not only to everyone else as the One mediator between God and humanity but also to the Law.

John the Baptizer’s role:John the Baptizer’s coming renewed Israel’s prophetic tradition after four hundred years of silence. Since John’s ministry was so powerful, some people thought of him as the Messiah. Hence, John’s Gospel makes a number of references to John the Baptizer, always clearly establishing that he was subordinate to Jesus. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (vv. 7-8). John’s mission was to bear testimony to the Light (Jesus) — to serve as a witness to the Light (v. 7). John died as a martyr because he showed the courage of his prophetic convictions by correcting Herod the king for his immoral life.

The Messiah rejected by his own people:He came to what was His own, and His own people did not accept Him” (1:11). Jesus “came home” to Israel, where the people should have known Him. And it was the homefolk, “His own,” the Israelites, the Chosen People, who did not receive Him. God had prepared them for centuries to receive the Messiah into their midst, but they rejected him. This rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people is restricted neither to the time of Jesus nor to that of the Fourth Gospel. Much of the world today is still in rebellion, “preferring darkness to Light, because its deeds are evil” (3:19-20). That is true of all of us at certain points in our lives, but we are not imprisoned in those moments. We can, as long as we are alive, turn to Him, repentant and believing, and become His own again. “But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God” (v. 12).

“The Word became Flesh and lived among us” (v. 14): The Word becoming flesh is the zenith of God’s Self-revelation. God Who spoke earlier through the prophets now speaks through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2), and lives among us. The Word Who dwelt with God now dwells with “us,” becoming a human being like us and thus bridging the great chasm between God’s world and our world. Verse 14 declares that the God Who once dwelt among them in the Tabernacle and the Temple, now chooses to dwell among them in the Person of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Moses was not allowed to see the face of God. Now, however, we are allowed to see Jesus’ glory — and His face. Thus, the Father is fully revealed to us, because, “Whoever has seen (the Son) has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). The other Gospels depict the glory of God coming upon Jesus at the Transfiguration. John does not relate this incident, both because he sees the glory of God in all Jesus says and does, and because the hour for Jesus to be glorified is the crucifixion.

“We have all received, grace upon grace.” (v. 16):The Word is full of grace and truth – attributes of God – attributes that the Word shares with God as the “Father’s only Son” (v. 15). It is from this One Who is “full of grace and truth” that we receive “grace upon grace.” In other words, we draw grace from the total resources of God, an inexhaustible storehouse. Regardless of our need for grace, the supply is greater. Let us imagine ourselves standing on the seashore, watching the waves roll in. They come every few seconds, and the supply never fails. That is how God’s grace comes to us. Let us at this Christmas time try to count just some of those “graces showered on us.” Verse 17 identifies the Word as Jesus: “The Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The gift that is the Truth surpasses and perfects the former gift of the Law given through Moses. Note the contrasts between Moses and Jesus: We received the law through Moses, but we receive grace and truth through Jesus Christ (v. 17). John’s Prologue begins by declaring that that the Word was God (v. 1), and concludes (v.18), by proclaiming that the Son is God.

Life messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. However, Christ is not going to return as a Child but as a Warrior, a Judge, a mighty Savior. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. So we are looking back and remembering the past coming of Jesus as our Savior, and looking forward and preparing for His future coming in glory as Judge to reward and punish. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ is here now, Christ is present, Christ comes to us today, and Christ comes to us every day. Christmas is actually a celebration intended to heighten our awareness of the fact that Christ has been born, Christ lives, and Christ is present now in our lives. Christmas reminds us, through the lives of the people in the Christmas narrative, of the importance of helping to bring the presence of Christ to the world around us and of being sensitive to that presence when the Lord comes to us in the least expected people, and in unexpected places and situations. We are asked to welcome Christ’s Kingdom into our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth with His grace to build His kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) It was Christmas Eve in a supermarket and a woman was anxiously picking over the last few remaining turkeys in the hope of finding a large one. In desperation she called over a shop assistant and said “Excuse me. Do these turkeys get any bigger?” “No” he replied, “They’re all dead”.

2) Just before Christmas, an honest politician, a generous lawyer and Santa Claus were riding in the elevator of a very posh hotel. Just before the doors opened they all noticed a $20 bill lying on the floor. Which one picked it up?
Santa of course, because the other two – an honest politician, a generous lawyer – don’t exist!

3) To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology. (Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991). L/21

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iv (Cycle C)by Fr. Tony (akadavil)

56 Christmas anecdotes are appended as No 3

Note:  No more pictures in my homilies as  I am informed that it is illegal, involving heavy penalty, to use pictures in homilies published in any website, without prior permission. This is applicable also  to parish bulletin published in your parish website. If you would like  to get pictures to use in your emails, please  type the theme in Google Search under images, and press  the Enter button of your keyboard. 
(Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).

On this Christmas Day, May God put the Spirit of the Shepherds and the Spirit of the Wise Men and the spirit of Mary and Joseph in us. But, most important of all, May God put the Spirit of Jesus in us. He wants to do that…. He wants to come into our hearts, but we have to let Him in

akadavil. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony’s homilies and under Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in for other website versions. (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

Christmas – 2021 (1-Thematic Homily) LP-21

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)

Christmas- a thematic homily (1-page summary)L/21

(Give an anecdote) Why do we celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing?

1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior: God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as True God and true man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindus believe in ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.”  We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a Baby today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin  and atoned for our sins by His suffering, death and Resurrection. 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. Christmas 2021 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 judgmental, cruel, punishing God. He 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 humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”( https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius) 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 abiding  Holy Spirit, residing in us and thus making us   His “Temples.” 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.

Mother Teresa: “It is Christmas when you let God love others through you.”

Five Christmas homily starter anecdotes:

Christmas homily starter anecdotes: 1) Three Christmas questions answered:

 A) Is Christmas the greatest feast celebrated in the Church? The answer is no. Easter is feast #1, Pentecost is #2 and Christmas is #3. The Roman Church started celebrating Christmas only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion.

B) Was Jesus born on December 25th? Some early Fathers of the Church held that as the Church’s traditional belief. Around 204, Hippolytus of Rome argued for December 25th. This is the earliest record we have of Jesus’ birth being December 25. In 386, St. John Chrysostom preached a homily on December 20, in which he noted that “the day of Christ’s birth in the flesh” is about to arrive in “a period of five days,” or on December 25 (On the Incomprehensible Nature of God6:23, 30). Finally, around 408, St. Augustine writes that “according to tradition he [Jesus] was born on December 25” (The Trinity4:5). .But some other Fathers of the Church thought that Jesus was born on January 4th, in 4 B.C. before the death of King Herod the Great. Around A.D. 194, Clement of Alexandria speculated that Christ was born on November 17, 3 BC!   Some Bible scholars fix Jesus’ birth in the month of September during the Feast of the Tabernacles when people travelled and when the sheep were in the field at night.Based on Roman census records and the report about the occurrence of a comet in the sky, they fix it on September 11, B. C. 3.  But some Church historians argue that  December 25th was fixed by Pope Julius in A.D. 353 as a part of baptizing or Christianizing pagan feasts so that the converted pagans might celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Dec 25th instead of celebrating the birthday the Sun-god during winter solstice, while converted Roman soldiers might celebrate Christmas instead the birthday of Mitra, the Roman god-of-virility (Deus Solus Invictus).  The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture, Saturn. Later the Kalends of January were observed to celebrate the triumph of life over death. The entire season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun., or Saturnalia. It was Emperor Julianus who declared Christmas as a national holiday in the 6th century. Most of the present-day Christmas symbols like the Christmas carols and gifts, Christmas tree and Christmas lights are also remnants of the pagan celebrations. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first introduced the manger or Christmas crib in the 13th century. ( For detailed critical study, visit the Catholic Answers article by Jimmy Akins,  https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/was-jesus-born-december-25th).

C) Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times, the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas.

2) The first live Christmas crib: In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi inaugurated a pious practice that today has become so common that many think that it always existed. This great saint, as he was traversing the rolling hills of central Italy one December to proclaim the Gospel, noticed that few of his countrymen were taking the mysteries of the Faith seriously. Many were not even preparing for Christmas. Of those who were getting ready to celebrate the Lord’s birth, they looked at it as an event tied exclusively to the past. The mysteries of the Faith had become sterile. The central persons in the drama had become stale and lifeless, incapable even of stimulating his contemporaries’ imaginations — and therefore no longer capable of inspiring them to a greater relationship of mutual love with God in the present. To counteract these tendencies, St. Francis set up the first crèche in recorded history on Christmas Eve, 1223, in the town of Greccio. He brought in live animals — an ox and an ass. He recruited a newborn baby and a set of young parents. Hay and a manger were brought in. There was even the attempt — with hundreds of burning torches — to create the luminescence of a bright star. And Francis could not have been happier with the results. People came from all over to see the living nativity. Through all the sounds, sights and even smells, the multitudes became convinced that Christmas was not just a cute story, but a real event, one that was not just PAST, but something which they were called to enter in the present. Soon living crèches like this spread throughout Italy and into other parts of Europe. The phenomenon soon extended into art, as artists started to paint nativity scenes with all the main characters dressed anachronistically in 13th century garb — to emphasize that Christmas is not just a bygone event, but, more important, one very much in progress, in which every believer is called to “go now to Bethlehem” and “pay [Christ] homage.” As St. Francis’ first biographer wrote, “The Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of God’s grace, [the child Jesus] was brought to life again through his servant Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.” (Fr. Roger Landry) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Silent Steps is one the most lyrical poems of Rabindranath Tagore included in “Gitanjali,” the 45th in a collection of 103 poems, for which he receives the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The focus of the poem is the Almighty God, Creator, Soul of the universe etc. He visits His creation all the time and does not let them suffer alone in their miseries. The repetition of the line “he comes, comes, ever comes” intensifies God’s concern and love for the human being. This poem strengthens the conceptions: God is Omnipresent (all-pervasive) Omnipotent (all-powerful) and Omniscient (all-knowing). And this idea helps overcome the fear of suffering and pessimism. As we celebrate the first coming of God in human flesh two thousand years ago, Tagore reminds us of His daily coming into our lives.

Have you not heard his silent steps?

He comes, comes, ever comes.

Every moment and every age,

every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes.

Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,

but all their notes have always proclaimed,

‘He comes, comes, ever comes.’

In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he comes,

comes, ever comes.

In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of clouds

he comes, comes, ever comes.

In sorrow after sorrow, it is his steps that press upon my heart,

and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021

4) Summarizing theology in one sentence: Karl Barth, one of the great Protestant theologians was asked to be a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School. At the end of a captivating closing lecture, the president of the seminary announced that Dr. Barth was not well and was quite tired. “Therefore, I will ask just one question on behalf of all of us.” He turned to the renowned theologian and asked, “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of them all? “It was the perfect question for a man who had written literally tens of thousands of pages of some of the most sophisticated theology ever put into print. Karl Barth closed his tired eyes, and he thought for a minute, and then he half smiled, opened his eyes, and said to those young seminarians, “The greatest theological insight that I have ever had is this: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Christmas is the celebration of this great Divine Love for us sinful humans. (Rev. Bill Adams) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Abnormal birth: After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research, she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I was very sad to find out that there has not been a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.” (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior born of a virgin. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Christmas Jokes

1) “How many people attend your Church?” one pastor asked another. “Sixty regular, and about three hundred C and E.” “What’s C and E?” the first asked. Came the quick answer: “Christmas and Easter. We affectionately call these Christmas-Christians Poinsettias, and Easter-Christians Easter Lilies.”

2) “God gets an A; you get an F.” Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Across the same paper the professor wrote: “God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year.”

3) A beautiful diamond ring for Christmas: A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. A friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles.” “She did,” he replied. “But where in the heck was I gonna find a fake Jeep?”

4) “Your mother and I are getting a divorce”: An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells. “We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”. Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”

5) “Didn’t You Get My E-Mail?”As a little girl climbed onto Santa’s lap, Santa asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The child stared at him open-mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped, “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”

6) “I’ll return when you’re sober:” At Christmas a man came to see me with a problem. Sniffing the air, I said ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you. Mick– it’s because of the drink. Can you please come back later?’ ‘That’s okay, Father Paddy,’ he replied. ‘I’ll return when you’re sober’ (Rev. Paddy O’Kane) L/19

YouTube Christmas :1) Christmas: Christian or Pagan by Jim McClarty. HISTORY (1/3)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=XvnZq_a8BqE

2) Silent Monks Sing the Hallelujah Chorus: https://youtu.be/pRhjWdr-LAA

3)Christmas song & dancing Olate dogs in Christmas costumes: https://youtu.be/aXFXGEtpi3k

4) Release from prison on Christmas: https://youtu.be/vVoVRro0R2I

“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-C by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

Note:  No more pictures in my homilies as  I am informed that it is illegal, involving heavy penalty, to use pictures in homilies published in any website, without prior permission. This is applicable also  to parish bulletin published in your parish website. If you would like  to get pictures to use in your emails, please  type the theme in Google Search under images, and press  the Enter button of your keyboard. 

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .