All posts by Webmaster

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 .

Immaculate Conception of BVM-feast (Dec. 8, 2021)

Immaculate Conception of BVM- A holy day of obligation in the U. S. 

One page synopsis: Mary’s prophecy, given in her Magnificat, “Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of Faith about her: 1-The Immaculate Conception, 2-The Perpetual Virginity, 3-The Divine Maternity, 4-The Assumption. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. It was defined in 1854 by Pope Pius IX as a dogma of Faith through Ineffabilis Deus.

Definition: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race. (CCC #491). This means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from all the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death which are temporal penalties given to Adam. (Catholic Encyclopedia).

Basis on Sacred Tradition and the Bible: (A) From Church tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the feast of the Conception of Our Lady by the end of the 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration, and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a Feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved this in 1858 by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes, “I am the Immaculate Conception.” (B) From Holy Scripture: 1) God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother (Jer 1:5 –“Before I formed you in the womb of your mother I knew you and before you were born, I consecrated you”), and anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth as John’s mother attests. (Lk 1:43-44 – “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sins from the first moment of her origin. 2) The angel saluted Mary as “full of grace.” The greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. 3) Gn 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers; He will strike at your head while you strike at His heel.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin. (C)-Argument from reason: 1-If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. So did God. 2-The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life. “Deus potuit, decuit, fecit.” (Don Scotus).

Life messages: 1) Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy Heavenly Mother wants us to be holy and pure children. 2) Let us honor her by practicing her virtues of Faith and obedience. 3) Let us respond to God’s grace by using it to do good to others.

DECEMBER 9 in 2019: FEAST OF the IMMACULATE CONCEPTION (Gn 3:9-15, 20; Eph 1:3-6, 11-12; Lk 1:26-38)

Homily starter anecdotes # 1: The favorite name of explorers: In 1492, Columbus discovered America. He sailed in a ship called Santa Maria de Conceptio (St. Mary of the Conception). He named the first Island he landed San Salvador, in honor of our Savior. Columbus named the second island Conceptio in honor of Mary’s Immaculate Conception. The fearless French explorer Fr. Marquette who explored the 2300-mile length of the Mississippi River flowing through ten states, called it River of Mary Immaculate. In fact, all the early American Catholics were so proud of the great truth we celebrate today that the American bishops in 1829 (25 years before the promulgation of the dogma, and the year before the Blessed Mother gave St. Catherine Laboure the design for the Miraculous Medal), chose Mary Conceived Without Sin as the patroness of the United States. Hence, in the U.S., this Holy Day is the feast of the country’s Heavenly patroness.

# 2:” I am the Immaculate Conception.” Four years after the Church formally defined the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Saint Bernadette Soubirous experienced the first of her apparitions of the Blessed Mother at Lourdes. She was only fourteen years old at the time, and in the French society of that day, the reality that her family was very poor meant that she had no social standing. So when she tried to explain that she was having visions of a beautiful Lady in what we know today as the Grotto at Lourdes, no one believed her. At first not even her parish priest gave any credence to what she was saying. It wasn’t until the Lady that she was seeing identified herself, and Bernadette shared this, that people began to wonder if there were a whole lot more to the story. The Lady in the Grotto did not identify herself simply as Mary. Instead, she identified herself with words that a Pyrenean peasant girl with little theological education at the time would not have known or understood: “I am the Immaculate Conception.”

# 3: Bishop Sheen on Immaculate Conception:Just suppose that you could have pre-existed your own mother, in much the same way that an artist pre-exists his painting. Furthermore, suppose that you had the infinite power to make your mother anything that you pleased, just as a great artist like Raphael has the power of realizing his artistic ideas. Suppose you had this double power, what kind of mother would you have made for yourself? Would you not have made her, so far as human beauty goes, the most beautiful woman in the world; and so far as beauty of the soul goes, one who would radiate every virtue, every manner of kindness and charity and loveliness; one who by the purity of her life and her mind and her heart would be an inspiration not only to you but even to your fellow men, so that all would look up to her as the very incarnation of what is best in motherhood? Do you think that our Blessed Lord, who not only pre-existed His own mother but Who had an infinite power to make her just what He chose, would in virtue of all the infinite delicacy of His spirit make her any less pure and loving and beautiful than you would have made your own mother?

# 4: St. Maximilian Kolbe and the Immaculate Conception: St Maximilian Kolbe founded the Militia Immaculata in 1917 with six of his fellow- seminarians. “Its goal was nothing less that to bring the whole world to God through Christ under the generalship of Mary Immaculate, and to do so as quickly as possible. Fulfilling this mission through obedience to God’s will, in union with Mary Immaculate, was Kobe’s entire concern, his pure intention — and he sacrificed everything for its accomplishment” [Michael Gaitley MIC, 33 Days to Morning Glory (Stockbridge Massachusetts:
Marian Press, 2015), p. 50.] “In Poland, Kolbe … founded the world’s largest Franciscan monastery, which he named Niepokolanow (“City of the Immaculate”), and he continually urged the more than 600 friars there to become soldier saints for God under Mary Immaculate … because among creatures, she alone does the will of God perfectly. Therefore, when our wills are united with hers, they’re necessarily united to God’s will” (Gaitley, p. 57). Then, “in 1941, after decades of incredibly fruitful apostolic labors in Poland and Japan, Kolbe was arrested by the Gestapo and sent to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Before his arrest, his brother Franciscans had pleaded with him to go into hiding. He said he was grateful for their loving hearts but couldn’t follow their advice. Later, he explained why: ‘I have a mission — the Immaculata has a mission to fulfill.’” In the concentration camp where Kolbe was imprisoned, one of the prisoners managed to escape. In retaliation and as a deterrent to the rest of the prisoners, ten members were chosen at random by the prison authorities and told to step forward for execution. One man chosen wept and pleaded to be spared because he and his wife had small children. Kolbe stepped forward, asked to take this man’s place, and was accepted. The ten were imprisoned in a bunker to starve to death. In that bunker, Kolbe brought comfort to the others, Finally, after two weeks, the captors executed him with a lethal injection — on August 14, 1941, the day before the Feast of the Assumption of Mary, his beloved Immaculata.

Introduction: Mary’s prophecy, given in her Magnificat, “Behold all generations will call me blessed,” was fulfilled when the Catholic Church declared four dogmas of Faith about her: 1-Her Immaculate Conception, 2- Her Perpetual Virginity, 3- Her Divine Maternity, and 4- Her Assumption into Heaven after her death. The Immaculate Conception is a dogma based mainly on Christian tradition and theological reasoning. While other human beings were born without grace because we inherit original sin, Mary was conceived full of grace, completely free from original sin. The tradition was defined as Church dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX through Ineffabilis Deus: From the first moment of her conception, Mary was preserved immune from original sin by the singular grace of God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, savior of the human race.” (CCC #491). This declaration means that original sanctity, innocence and justice were conferred upon her, and that she was exempted from the evil effects of original sin, excluding sorrow, pain, disease and death, the temporal penalties given to Adam (Catholic Encyclopedia). “God freely chose Mary from all eternity to be the Mother of his Son. In order to carry out her mission, she herself was conceived Immaculate. This means that, thanks to the grace of God and in anticipation of the merits of Jesus Christ, Mary was preserved from original sin from the first instant of her conception.” (Compendium of the CCC). The Fathers of the Church from the fourth century believed and taught that the Blessed Virgin Mary had been kept free of all traces of sin by the grace of God because she was to become the Mother of the Lord Jesus. This belief kept company with the other beliefs about Mary: her perpetual virginity, her sinlessness, and her Divine motherhood. Church history makes known to us that, as early as the seventh century, there was a liturgical observance that proclaimed the Blessed Virgin Mary to be free from sin. In the year 1846, the Bishops of the United States unanimously chose Our Lady as the patroness of the United States under the title of Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception. This was done eight years before the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary was infallibly defined.

Basis in Scripture and Tradition: (A)Evidence from Church tradition: The Immaculate Conception is a dogma originating from sound Christian tradition. Monks in Palestinian monasteries started celebrating the “Feast of the Conception of Our Lady” by the end of 7th century. The feast spread as the Feast of the Immaculate Conception in Italy (9th century), England (11th century), and France (12th century). Pope Leo VI propagated the celebration, and Pope Sixtus IV approved it as a Feast. Finally, in 1854, Pope Pius IX declared the Immaculate Conception to be a dogma of Faith. Mary herself approved this four years later (1858), by declaring to Bernadette at Lourdes: “I am the Immaculate Conception.

(B) Evidence from Holy Scripture: 1- God purified the prophet Jeremiah in the womb of his mother (Jer 1:5 —“Before I formed you in the womb of your mother, I knew you, and before you were born, I consecrated you”). God anointed John the Baptist with His Holy Spirit before John’s birth, as John’s mother attests. (Lk 1:44 – “And how does this happen to me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.”). Hence, it is reasonable that God kept the mother of His Son free from all sin from the first moment of her origin.

2- The angel saluted Mary as “full of grace”. This greeting means that she was never, even for a moment, a slave of sin and the devil. In the words of Lumen Gentium (56), Mary was “filled with an entirely unique holiness,”

3- Gn 3:15 — “I will put enmity between you and the woman and between your seed and hers; He will strike at your head while you strike at His heel.” The woman stands for Mary, and the promise would not be true if Mary had original sin.

(C)-Argument from reason: 1-If we were allowed to select our mother, we would select the most beautiful, healthy and saintly lady. That’s what God did. 2- The All-Holy God cannot be born from a woman who was a slave of the devil, even for a moment in her life. Deus potuit (God could do it), decuit (found fitting to do it), fecit.” (and hence did it). [Duns Scotus]. How was Mary immaculately conceived? Theologians explain it by “prevenient grace,” the grace that, praevenit, comes before. That is, the merits of Christ’s saving life, death and Resurrection were applied to the Blessed Virgin Mary in advance of the actual events in history. Of course, as you know, with God there is no past, present or future. He lives in an eternal now. And so, in virtue of Mary’s future role as “the Mother of the Redeemer,” she was in fact redeemed in advance – in advance only from a human perspective, not from God’s. It is like giving a “preventive medicine.” You and I, and the rest of humanity, inherit original sin and its effects, and we have to submit afterwards to the medicine, which is called Baptism. God did something better for His Son’s Mother – she never had to suffer the deficiency, to begin with. When Cardinal Newman [St. John Henry Newman; canonized 2019] was trying to help Protestants understand who Mary as “the Immaculate One” is, he came up with a very clever title for Mary. He referred to her as “the daughter of Eve un-fallen.” You and I are the sons and daughters of Eve in her fallen state. Mary is the daughter of grace Eve would have been, had she not sinned.

Life messages: 1) We need to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. Every mother wants her children to inherit or acquire all her good qualities. Hence, our Immaculate and holy mother wants us to be holy and pure children. The original sin from which Mary was preserved is the original sin from which we have been freed by Baptism. The grace of Christ that was hers is the same grace of Christ that is ours. Mary is significant for us because the central factors in her life are the central factors in our own. Perhaps the lesson is that, no matter in which direction we may be facing, we need Mary Immaculate in our lives in order to remember Who Christ IS and who we ourselves are.

2) We need to be thankful and humble. Mary’s sinlessness was a gift from God, given to her right from the very moment of her conception. Equally, it is by the grace of God that we have received a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit to raise us to the level of holiness that the Blessed Virgin Mary enjoyed during her earthly life. Through Faith in Jesus and through the Sacrament of Baptism, having been born again of water and Spirit, we have been adopted into the Body of Christ in the living Hope of receiving our salvation. Through our living Faith, including the reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, God restores the righteousness of our souls. Through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we abide in Jesus and Jesus in us, this leading us towards our salvation. [Jn 6:56]. Hence, those of us who happen to be holy, who sin less than the average sinner, should regard their holiness as basically a gift of God and not something they have achieved by themselves. Our lives, then, should be characterized by two basic attitudes, thankfulness to God, and humility before those who are naturally and spiritually less-gifted, or more-gifted, than we are.

3) Like Mary, we need to say “’Yes” to God: God invites each one of us to continue Mary’s “Yes” by welcoming Jesus and making room for him in our lives. Let us ask her to obtain for us the grace to respond as generously to God’s call as she did, and to be as faithful in discipleship to her Son as she was. On this feast day, let us ask our Mother Mary to be with us, to guide us, to protect us through her prayers of intercession with her Son, and to share her privilege with us, making our bodies worthy resting places for her Son. Let us respond to God’s grace as Mary did, by using it to do good for others and to avoid evil. On this Feast of the Immaculate Conception, it is fitting that we remember the words of the intercessory prayer that is inscribed on the Miraculous Medal of Our Lady: “O Mary conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to thee.”

For additional information on the Immaculate Conception, visit:

1) http://www.bringyou.to/apologetics/a115.htm

2) www.catholic.com/answers/tracts/_fullgra.htm

3) http://www.philvaz.com/apologetics/ImmaculateConceptionMaryJuniperCarolMariology.htm

4) http://www.justforcatholics.org/a182.htm

5)http://www.catholic.com/library/Immaculate_Conception_and_Assum.asp

6) Catholic TV: http://www.realcatholictv.com/daily/?today=2011-12-08

7) Fr Mitch Pacwa’s video homily (EWTN): https://youtu.be/hGL0vj1Rl6Y

8) Franciscan media articles on Mary: https://info.franciscanmedia.org/blessed-virgin-mary

MARTIN LUTHER ON THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION

http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2010/09/did-martin-luther-believe-in-immaculate.html

It seems that Martin Luther, that once-Augustinian priest- turned-Revolutionary, upheld belief in the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception (even before it was declared a dogmatic doctrine in 1854 by Pope Pius IX). The doctrine of the Immaculate Conception holds that Mary was preserved from original sin at her conception and from all sin during her life — that she was conceived, lived, and died without any taint of sin. The eminent Lutheran scholar Arthur Carl Piepkorn (1907-73) has also confirmed that Luther believed in the Immaculate Conception even as a Protestant. Here is Martin Luther in his own words:

“It is a sweet and pious belief that the infusion of Mary’s soul was effected without original sin; so that in the very infusion of her soul she was also purified from original sin and adorned with God’s gifts, receiving a pure soul infused by God; thus, from the first moment she began to live she was free from all sin”

– Martin Luther’s Sermon “On the Day of the Conception of the Mother of God,” 1527.

“She is full of grace, proclaimed to be entirely without sin—something exceedingly great. For God’s grace fills her with everything good and makes her devoid of all evil.

– Martin Luther’s Little Prayer Book, 1522.

Both quotations derive from Luther’s writings after his break from Rome.

Far be it from me to approve of Luther. I only list these quotes to show how far Protestantism has come from its quasi-Catholic origin. If only Lutherans would return to this single doctrine of their founder, how quickly our Lady would turn them into true Catholics! (continue reading . . .)

Later in his life, however, Luther thought that Mary was made Immaculate not at her conception but sometime before the conception of Christ. I have suggested that his later position is more accurately called “immaculate purification.” (http://patrickmadrid.blogspot.com/2010/09/did-martin-luther-believe-in-immaculate.html) LP/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 3) by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

(Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).

 

Advent I (c) Nov 28, 2021 (L-21)

Advent I (Nov 28) Sunday Homily (Eight-minute homily in 1 page)

Central theme: Advent is a time of waiting for Christ, allowing Jesus to be reborn in our lives. It is also a time for purifying our hearts by repentance and for renewing our lives by reflecting on and experiencing the several comings (advents) of Christ into our lives. Besides coming into our world through birth, Jesus comes into our lives as we live them through His Church, its Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), the Word of God, the worshipping community, as we die, and finally, in His Second Coming

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah waits and hopes for an ideal descendant of King David Who, as Messiah of God, will bring security, peace, and justice to God’s people. Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping have been fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah’s prophecy assures us that the Lord, our Justice will fulfill His promises, and, hence, we need not be afraid, despite the frightening events and almost universal moral degradation. The Psalmist expresses the central idea of patient, vigilant, prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), praying, “Your ways, O Lord, make known to me; teach me your paths, guide me in your Truth and teach me for You are God, my Savior.” In the second reading, Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue and intensify the life of holiness and mutual love he has taught them as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.”

In today’s Gospel, Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany his Second Coming and encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant, and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.

Life messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s second coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent gives us time to make this preparation — repenting of and confessing our sins, renewing our lives through prayer and penance, and sharing our blessings with others. In Advent, we also need to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better. Let us accept the challenge of the German mystic Angelus SilesiusChrist could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”(Quoted in Messenger Of The Heart: The Book Of Angelus Silesius, With Observations By Frederick Franck (2005)

2) A message of warning and hope: The Church reminds us that we will each be asked to give an account of our lives before Christ the Judge, both at the moment of our death and at Jesus’ second coming. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives every night during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives and the setbacks in spiritual life, we must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again.

Advent I [C] (Nov 28): Jer 33:14-16; 1Thes 3:12 – 4:2; Lk 21:25-28, 34-36

Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Missing the signal! In its day, the Titanic was the world’s largest ocean-liner, weighing 46,328 tons, and it was considered unsinkable. Yet, late during the night of April 14-15, 1912, the unthinkable happened to the unsinkable. Near midnight, the great Titanic struck an iceberg, ripping a three-hundred-foot hole through five of its sixteen watertight compartments. It sank in two and a half hours killing 1,513 people. Before the Titanic sank, warning after warning had been sent to tell the crew that they were speeding into an ice field, but the messages were ignored. In fact, when a nearby ship sent an urgent warning, the Titanic was talking to Cape Race about the time the chauffeurs were to meet arriving passengers at the dock in New York, and what dinner menus were to be ready. Preoccupied with the trivia, the Titanic responded to the warning, “Shut up. I am talking to Cape Race. You are jamming my signals!” Why did so many die that night? Perhaps the crew disregarded the danger of the weather; there were not enough lifeboats on board; and the radio operator of nearby California was off duty; perhaps those responsible did not heed the warnings; they were preoccupied with other things! — Sometimes we believe that our ‘ship’ is unsinkable, our life is completely planned, and the unthinkable can never happen to us. We need to read the signs of the times; we need to pay attention to the warning signals. But if we are preoccupied with the trivial things of life we will miss the most important things till it is too late. The First Sunday of Advent gives us the warning to be watchful, waiting, and prepared. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 2: “Watch the road.” There is a beautiful anecdote given by Msgr. Arthur Tonne clarifying the message of today’s Gospel. Several years ago a bus driver in Oklahoma reached an unusual record. In 23 years he had driven a bus over 900,000 miles without a single accident. When asked how he had done it, he gave this simple answer: “Watch the road.” In today’s Gospel Jesus gives the same advice in several ways: “Be vigilant at all times,” “Stand erect,” “Raise your heads,” “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy.” This is not only a good spiritual advice for the Advent season but also a safe rule for daily life. A good football player or basketball player should always concentrate his attention on the ball and the players. A good student must be alert, awake and attentive, watching the teacher and listening to his or her words. A good Catholic in the Church must be physically and mentally alert, watching the altar and actively participating in the prayers and songs. Like the Roman god Janus, who had two faces, one looking at the past year and the other looking into future, Christians during the Advent season are to look at the past event of the first coming of Jesus into the world and expectantly look forward to Jesus’ second coming in glory. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 3: Be patient, be faithful: Be faithful. Remember Albert Einstein’s words after the Second World War: “As a lover of freedom, when the revolution came in Germany, I looked to the universities to defend it, knowing that they had always boasted of their devotion to the cause of truth; but no, the universities were immediately silenced. Then I looked to the great editors of the newspapers, whose flaming editorials in days gone by had proclaimed their love of freedom; but they, like the universities were silenced in a few short weeks. Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration for it, because the Church alone has had the courage to stand for intellectual truth, and moral freedom. I am forced to confess that what I once despised, now I praise unreservedly.” — We are Christ’s Body in the world today. Be patient. Be faithful. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

#4: The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari: It is a  fable about fulfilling your dreams and reaching your destiny by motivational speaker and author Robin Sharma. It is  is an inspiring tale that provides a step-by-step approach to living with greater courage, balance, abundance and joy. It  tells the extraordinary story of Julian Mantle, a successful and very rich lawyer forced to confront the spiritual crisis of his out-of-balance life, and the subsequent wisdom that he gains  from a Hindu hermit in the Himalayas, on a life-changing odyssey that enables him to create a life of passion, purpose and peace. (The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari Summary – Four Minute Books) The book is an inspiration for us in the Advent season to evaluate our life and make necessary alterations, practicing certain virtues which will allow Jesus to be reborn in our lives. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Introduction: Advent is a time of waiting and hoping, of renewing our trust in God’s merciful love and care, and of reflecting on the several comings (advents), of Christ into our lives. Besides Jesus’ first coming at birth, we are asked to reflect on Christ’s coming as the risen Lord at Easter, in the Sacraments (especially the Eucharist), in our everyday lives, at the moment of death, and at the end of human history (the second coming). The word Advent comes from the Latin ‘advenio‘, which literally means “come to.” During this Advent season we ourselves should consider “coming to” Christ, by “abounding in love… for all,” because Christ has already “come to” us in Baptism. Just as we ended the previous liturgical season with an apocalyptic description of the end of the world we begin the new season of Advent with similar apocalyptic warnings. The Church invites us to join a pilgrimage of Faith by showing us a prophetic vision of Christ’s first coming (advent), through the prophecy of Jeremiah, and a prophetic vision of Christ’s glorious, final Second Coming (Parousia) through the Gospel selection from Luke, while reminding us, through the second reading, of Christ’s daily coming into our lives here and now in our brothers and sisters — everyone for whom He died. She also reminds us that these are days of “joyful and prayerful anticipation of Jesus’ coming” because the Advent season is intended to fill us with great expectations of the coming of the Messiah just as parents expectantly wait for the birth of their child and make preparations for receiving the child into their family. We know that all valuable things in life – a healthy child, a loving marriage relationship, a work of art, a scientific discovery – need a period of quiet incubation.

Scripture readings summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah was waiting and hoping for an ideal descendant of King David, the Messiah of God, who would bring security and justice to God’s people. We Christians believe that Jeremiah’s waiting and hoping were fulfilled in Jesus. Jeremiah assures us that the Lord, our Justice, will fulfill His promises and, hence, that we need not be afraid, in spite of the frightening events and almost universal moral degradation. “For you I wait all day long,” sings the Psalmist, expressing the central idea of patient and prayerful waiting for the Lord in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 25), as he asks the Lord God to make known His ways to us, to guide us, and teach us. In the second reading, Paul gives instructions about how Christians should conduct themselves as they wait for “the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” He urges us to put God’s promise of peace into action by cultivating a spirit of love for others. We are told to strengthen our hearts in holiness (3:13) and abound in love for one another (3:12). In today’s Gospel (Lk 21:25-28, 34-36), Jesus prophesies the signs and portents that will accompany the end of the present world of matter, space, and time with the Second Coming of Jesus in glory as our Judge to give us the rewards our lives on earth have earned. Jesus encourages us to be expectant, optimistic, vigilant, and well-prepared: “When these signs begin to happen, stand erect and raise your heads because your redemption is at hand” (Luke 21:28). Jesus wants us to face the future with confidence in God’s providence.

First reading: Jer 33:14-16, explained: This year, Jeremiah, the prophet of hope, introduces us to our Advent season. He was from a priestly family and was born in a little village called Anathoth, close to Jerusalem. Josiah, who was king (640-609 BC), in Judah in those days, was a God-fearing man. But he was killed in a battle at Megiddo by the invading Egyptians who were attacking the Assyrians (2 Kgs 23:29-30; 2Chr 35:20-24). A later king of Judah, Zedekiah (598-587 BC), swore allegiance in the Name of the Lord God, to King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon in return for his life and continued to rule in Jerusalem, then rebelled against Nebuchadnezzar (2Chr 36:13). He faced an attack by the Babylonian (Chaldean) army which surrounded Jerusalem. The king ignored God’s advice, given through Jeremiah, to surrender and save the town and its people, and he concealed the Lord God’s message from his generals (Jer 38:17-27). As a result, the Babylonians took Zedekiah prisoner (blinding him after he had watched the execution of his sons), captured and looted the city, burned the Temple down, and sent the healthy Jews into exile leaving only some poor people (2 Kgs 25:1-21; 36:17-21; Jer 38:28–-39:10). Despite all this, Jeremiah conveyed words of hope from God to the people in exile: “I WILL BE WITH YOU.” God says through the prophet that He will fulfill this promise by raising up a “just shoot,” a righteous offspring of David, who will rule Israel in justice (see 2 Sm 7:16; Jer 33:17; Ps 89:4-5; 27-38). Jeremiah told the people that they would return to see their city and their Temple again, and that their priests would return to their Temple duties (Jer 33:17ff). Thus, through Jeremiah, the Lord God, speaking His inspiring words at such a tragic moment, kindled hope and optimism in the people. What does it mean to raise up for David a just shoot? David was this people’s first great king, and he became the standard by which subsequent kings were measured. “Shoot” is an image from farming or gardening, meaning a young growth from a mature plant. These people believed their fortunes were linked to the justice of their king. So, for them, a “just shoot for David” would have meant a new king, descended from David, whose justice would have positive effects among the people, and who would then get a new name: “The Lord, our justice.”

Second Reading, 1 Thes 3:12-4:2, explained: Readings in early Advent always carry forward from the last Sundays of the previous liturgical year the theme of Jesus’ coming again. At the time Saint Paul wrote to the Thessalonians (rather early in his apostolic career), he and they believed Jesus was to return soon. Jesus’ coming would mean the end of history and the judgment of all peoples. But some Thessalonian Christians began to doubt the promise of Christ’s second Coming because it was indefinitely delayed. Hence, Paul gave them some clarification, emphasizing proper behavior in this part of his letter. “May the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, just as we have for you, so as to strengthen your hearts, to be blameless in holiness before our God and Father at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all His holy ones.” Paul tells them that what they do while they’re waiting is just as important as the event for which they’re waiting. Hence, he prays for their transformation. He prays that they, and we, will abound in love and that our hearts will be strengthened.

Gospel exegesis: Two versions of the end time events: Today we move from the year of Mark (B) to the year of Luke (C). In fact, today’s Gospel is Luke’s version of the Gospel we read two weeks ago from Mark. Luke seems to be the first evangelist who believed that everyone in his community would die a natural death before Jesus triumphantly returned in the Parousia or Second Coming. Many years after Mark’s Gospel, Luke also wrote about the Parousia. Comparing Mk 13:24-32 which we read two Sundays ago with Lk 21:25ff, which we read today, we note that Luke has reduced the scope of the spectacular celestial events of the Last Days and has omitted Mark’s description of the Son of Man. The reason for these changes may lie in the events filling the years between Mark’s Gospel (AD 69), and Luke’s work (AD 80). Mark wrote his Gospel sometime before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 when the Jewish Christians believed that the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple would coincide with the end of the world and the second coming of Jesus. But when Jerusalem and the Temple were destroyed, the world did not end. Perhaps taking this into account, Luke, completing his Gospel in A.D. 80, dissociated the destruction of the Temple from Jesus’ prediction of the end of the world. In today’s Gospel passage, Jesus warns us to keep watch for His return in glory, drawing on Old Testament images of chaos and instability – turmoil in the heavens (see Is 13:11,13; Ez 32:7-8; Jl 2:10); roaring seas (see Is 5:30; 17:12); distress among the nations (see Is 8:22; 14:25) and terrified people (see Is 13:6-11).

The context: The fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple created a major crisis of Faith for the early Christians. Since the expected end of the world did not come, many Christians gave up their belief in the Second Coming of Christ, abandoned their Faith and began living lives of moral laxity. It may have been in order to address these needs that Luke continued with the second half of today’s Gospel, Jesus’ exhortation to all of His disciples, then and now, to be on their guard against“dissipation and drunkenness and the worries of this life(21:34).

Jesus’ warning:Neither Paul nor the evangelists prepared their readers for Christmas. Instead, they were helping these Christians to boost their spirits while they waited for Jesus to accomplish things in their lives that would give them a share in His risen life. Luke advised his readers on how they were to wait and prepare for the Lord in their present situation of indefinitely waiting for Christ’s second coming. They had to shift their attention and energies from future fulfillment to present service and commitment. They must prepare themselves by watchfulness and prayerfulness. That’s why, after reminding his community about the signs which would precede Jesus’ Second Coming, Luke gives them Jesus’ warning: “Be on guard lest your spirits become bloated with indulgence and drunkenness and worldly cares. Pray constantly for the strength to escape whatever is in prospect and to stand secure before the Son of Man.” Since our own transformation is an ongoing process, we move yearly through the liturgical celebration of the mystery of our salvation. While Advent is set aside to commemorate Jesus’ coming in the flesh as well as Jesus’ final coming in glory, it is also a time for us to open ourselves to the Lord’s coming into our lives and our world today. In order to do this, we must read the signs of the times and adjust our lives accordingly. Jesus also gives us the assurance that no matter what terrors the future holds, Jesus will be present, caring for His followers. Jesus calls us all to watchfulness, as we Hope in Jesus Second Coming in glory (CCC #2612). Not only does an active Hope give us joy, it also keeps our prayer life alive and ready to resist temptation (CCC #2725). The virtue and gift of Hope keeps our focus on our eternal goal, and humble before the Giver of this gift. For each of us is called to be watchful, to be ready, and to be actively prepared — not just to keep waiting with passive indifference for the Lord — and this is the Good News of today.

Life messages: 1) We need to prepare ourselves for Christ’s Second Coming by allowing Jesus to be reborn daily in our lives. Advent gives us time to make this preparation by repenting of our sins, by renewing our lives through prayer and penance, and by sharing our blessings with others. Advent also provides an opportunity for us to check for what needs to be put right in our lives, to see how we have failed, and to assess the ways in which we can do better. 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.” Jesus must be reborn in our hearts and lives, during this season of Advent and every day of our lives, in our love, kindness, mercy, and forgiveness. Then only will we be able to give people Jesus’ hope by caring for those in need, give them God’s peace by turning the other cheek when we are provoked, give them Jesus’ love by encouraging those who are feeling sad or tired, and giving them God’s joy by encouraging and helping those who feel at the end of their strength, showing them that we care and that God cares as well. When, with His grace, we do these kinds of things we will receive hope, peace, love, and joy in return. Then we will know that when the King, returns on the clouds of glory, we will be ready to receive our Lord Jesus fully in eternal bliss.

2) A message of warning and hope: The Church begins the Advent season of Liturgical Cycle C by presenting the second coming of Christ in glory, in order to give us a vision of our future glory in Heaven and to show us the preparation needed for it. She reminds us that we are accountable for our lives before Christ the Judge. Today’s readings invite us to assess our lives during Advent and to make the necessary alterations in the light of the approaching Christmas celebration. Advent gives us time for improving o our lives and for deepening the sincerity of our religious commitment. It is a call to “look up” to see that Christ is still here. We must raise our heads in hope and anticipation, knowing that the Lord is coming again. Luke reminds us to trust in Jesus amid the tragedies that sometimes occur in our daily lives. Our marriage may break up; we may lose our job, discover that we have cancer or some terminal illness or become estranged from our children. In all such situations, when we feel overwhelmed by disaster and feel that our lives have no meaning, Jesus says: “Stand up, raise your heads, because your salvation is near” (Lk 21:28). Two significant Advent values are Hope and Humility – and it can’t be coincidental that they are listed consecutively in the Glossary to the Catechism (p.882). Hope enables us to desire and expect eternal life with God (CCC #1817), as we humbly and trustingly await the return of the Lord Jesus in glory (CCC #840).

JOKE OF THE WEEK: #1: Who came up with this? A woman was in the mall doing her Christmas shopping. She was tired of walking through every aisle of every store to find just the right present. She was stressed out by the mounting debt on her credit card. She was tired of fighting the crowds and standing in lines for the registers. Her hands were full and when the elevator door opened, it was full. “Great!” she muttered and the occupants of the elevator, feeling her pain, graciously tightened ranks to allow a small space for her and her load. As the doors closed she blurted out, “I think whoever came up with this Christmas junk ought to be found, strung up, and shot!” A few others shook their heads or grunted in agreement. Then, from somewhere in the back of the elevator came a single voice that said, “Don’t worry. They already crucified Him.”

#2: Sign on a Church bulletin board: “Merry Christmas to our Christian friends. Happy Hanukkah to our Jewish friends. And to our atheist friends, good luck.”

#3: “We don’t have time for that!” 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 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!”

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) Your Catholic Voice www.yourcatholicvoice.org 2) Catholic Goldmine: http://www.catholicgoldmine.com/, 3) KIM AND JASON (Fun for all age groups): http://kimandjason.com/blog/ 4) Text Week homilies on Advent I ©: http://www.textweek.com/mtlk/lk21b.htm 5) Resources for Catholic Educators: http://www.4catholiceducators.com/index.htm 6)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c

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

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

9) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs:

10) Lectio reflections(Bishop David Walker & Co) https://youtu.be/tjeQWiN586A

A BIT OF SERIOUS ADVENT THOUGHT: An Advent Examination (Edward Hays, A Pilgrim’s Almanac, p. 196): “Advent is the perfect time to clear and prepare the Way. By reflection and prayer, by reading and meditation, we can make our hearts a place where a blessing of peace would desire to abide and where the birth of the Prince of Peace might take place. Daily we can make an Advent examination. Do we have any feelings of discrimination toward [people because of] race, sex, or religion? Is there a lingering resentment, an unforgiven injury living in our hearts? Do we look down upon others of lesser social standing or educational achievement? Are we generous with the gifts that have been given to us, seeing ourselves as their stewards and not their owners? Are we reverent of others, of their ideas and needs, and of creation? These and other questions become Advent lights by which we may search the deep, dark corners of our hearts. May this Advent season be a time for bringing hope, transformation, and fulfillment into the Advent of our lives.”

24- Additional Anecdotes

1) Waiting is no fun: A man was in a restaurant. A waiter was passing by. “Excuse me,” said the man, “but how long have you been working here?” “About a year,” replied the waiter. The man said wearily, “In that case it couldn’t have been you that took my order.” — Advent season reminds us that we celebrate the first coming of Jesus and we keep waiting for his second coming in glory. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

2) Would we keep arranging deckchairs on a sinking ship?  On the night of April 15, 1912, the Titanic hit an iceberg in the North Atlantic and sank.  Over 1,500 people lost their lives in one of the worst sea disasters in history.  A few years ago a magazine recalled the great disaster and asked its readers this shocking, almost blasphemous, question: “If we’d been on the Titanic when it sank, would we have arranged the deckchairs?”  At first we say to ourselves, “What a ridiculous question!  No one in his right mind would ignore wailing sirens on a sinking ship and rearrange its deck chairs!  No one with an ounce of sanity would ignore the shouts of drowning people and keep arranging deck chairs!” But as we continue to read the magazine, we see the reason for the strange question.  And suddenly we ask ourselves, “Are we perhaps, rearranging the deckchairs on a sinking ship? —  For example, are we so caught up with material things in life that we are giving a back seat to spiritual things?  Are we so busy making a living that we are forgetting the purpose of life?  Are we so taken up with life that we are forgetting why God gave us life?” (Mark Link in Sunday Liturgies). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

3) Waiting for the call of the Prime Minister:Lord Reith, the founder of the BBC, says that he spent virtually the entire period of World War II by the telephone, waiting for Winston Churchill to call him. He never [called]. And think of all the [ordinary] people waiting today at the airport, at the bus depot, at the doctor’s, at the amusement park, at the bowling alley, at the post office, the ticket office, the unemployment office, the Social Security office. Society has become a vast waiting room.” — As Christians, we give a spiritual dimension to our waiting by waiting for Christ’s, the Messiah’s, second coming because much of the New Testament is devoted to the second coming of Christ. [Sherwood Wirt, in Freshness in the Spirit (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1978).] (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

4) “No, I am not going to kick him off.” I like John Cooper, football coach for The Ohio State University team, for many reasons, but especially for this one. As he was being interviewed once about a player who was in trouble with the law, a reporter asked if Cooper was going to kick the player off the team. He said, “No, I am not going to kick him off, because if I kick him off I can’t help him. We are in the business of helping young people grow up, and you can’t do that by turning them away when they make a mistake.”  –That is good news for those growing up, and that attitude is especially good news at Advent. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

5) The city had reached 284th Street, far exceeding their expectations! Be prepared for Christ’s coming. Be prepared if Jesus  should come today; be prepared if Jesus should tarry another thousand years or more. Be prepared at any cost, for we simply do not know what tomorrow may bring. Nothing is more unpredictable than the future. If there is one lesson from history, it is that. I read recently that when the city fathers of the grand metropolis New York City planned for the future growth of their city, they laid out the streets and numbered them from the center outward. When they began, there were only six or seven streets. In their planning maps, they projected how large they thought the city might grow. Reaching beyond their wildest imagination, they drew streets on the map all the way out to 19th Street. They called it “Boundary Street” because they were sure that’s as large as New York City would become. At last count, the city had reached 284th Street far exceeding their expectations! (Rev. Adrian Dieleman, http://www.trinitycrc.org/sermons/eph3v20-21.html) — Be careful when you try to predict the future! Today’s experts turn out, sometimes,to be tomorrow’s fools. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

6) False messiahs: “The Holy Spirit Association for the Unification of World Christianity” is a religious movement founded in South Korea in 1954 by the late Sun Myung Moon. It is more commonly known as the Unification Church. Since its inception, the Church has expanded to most nations of the world, with an uncertain number of members. But we don’t see many signs nowadays of the Moonies. Their founder Rev. Moon and his Unification Church have faded into the background. At one time he boasted considerable political support. He invested heavily in the elections of Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan. Rev. Moon built an empire by putting young people out on the streets selling flowers. Moon preached that a new messiah was soon to come. This new messiah was already on earth. He was a man born in Korea in the 20th century. Wonder who he could be? Surely not Moon himself! —  In today’s Gospel, Jesus gives us the warning that false messiahs will be forever with us. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

7) Jesus’ admonition is to be faithful. Some of you remember the ancient epic poem by Homer called the Odyssey. It is the story of Odysseus who traveled the world pursuing many adventures. Meanwhile back home, his beautiful wife Penelope was being pursued by various suitors trying to take advantage of Odysseus’ twenty-year absence. In order to keep these suitors at bay, Penelope announced that when she finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law, she would choose among these persistent suitors. There was something these suitors did not know, however. Each night Penelope undid the stitches that she put in during the daytime, and so she remained faithful to Odysseus until he returned. — That is our call to be faithful. While we wait for Christ’s return, we are his Body in the world, called to do his work. The Church has been serving the world in Christ’s Name for some two thousand years. Now is not the time to let up! (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

8) The Poseidon Adventure:  One of my favorite movies was The Poseidon Adventure from 1972. You might remember that a cruise ship was turned upside down by a big wave. Everything was turned upside down. Reality was turned “upside down.” The way out was up to the bottom and back to the front. The survivors had to go to the bottom of the boat, which was now the top, to get out. A whole group of people were not willing to follow the lead of the pastor to crawl up a Christmas tree to get out of the ballroom, to safety. He said: “Everybody is dead who was above us when the ship turned over. Now they’re underneath us. It’s up to us to get out of here.” The people who waited for help drowned, but those who were willing to risk, to have Faith eventually were saved — not all, but most. The pastor was indeed the Christ-figure for those people. They eventually trusted in him and were saved. — For us it is no different, “But not a hair of your head will perish.” Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your souls.” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

9)”It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’” Humorist Lewis Grizzard writes about a man in his hometown named Luther Gilroy. Luther claimed he was out plowing his field and saw a sign in the sky that said THE END IS NEAR. So Luther let his mule and his cow out of their pens, gave all his chickens away, and climbed on top of his house to await the end. When it didn’t come, he pouted and refused to come down off the roof. Finally, his wife called the deputy sheriff, who came over and said, “Luther, you idiot, I saw that same sign. It didn’t say, ‘The end is near.’ It said, ‘Go drink a beer.’ Now come down off that roof before you fall off and break your neck.” [Lewis Grizzard, Chili Dawgs Always Bark at Night (New York: Villard Books, 1989), p. 52.] — From Jesus’ day to the present, people have speculated about when the world would end. Over the centuries, people have made calculations and predictions, sold or given away all their belongings, and gathered at appointed places to wait for the end of the world and for Jesus to return. Obviously, the world has not yet come to an end, and Jesus has not returned. Still, we wait. We look around at the world in which we live, a world filled with violence and crime and racial tension. We read about child abuse, spouse abuse, drug and alcohol abuse, and we say, “Things just can’t keep on going the way they’re going.” Times of uncertainty and crisis trigger thoughts about the end of time. And people always want to know when. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

10) “Joy to the World!” Consider the story of one young man. He was often sick as a baby. He was always small, puny some would say. As a youth he was always frail and delicate. He was not able to play sports with the other boys his age. Eventually he entered the ministry. But his health was so fragile, he was unable to serve his growing congregation. Amazingly, he did not dwell on his troubles. In fact, his spirit soared. His only real complaint was the poor quality of the hymns of his day. He felt they did not convey hope and joy. Someone challenged him to write better ones. He did. He wrote over 600 hymns, most of them hymns of praise. When his health collapsed completely in 1748, he left one of the most remarkable collections of hymns the world has ever known. His name was Isaac Watts.– In a few weeks we will be singing one of his most famous hymns, “Joy to the World!” Isaac Watts discovered joy in his life because he knew that God would never desert him. He was able to live his life with all sorts of health problems, feeling close to God and Jesus. He had joy deep in his heart. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

11) The Light meant Redemption: King Alexander the Great of Macedonia, who in his day conquered land after land, used to observe a certain procedure. Whenever his army was encamped outside a heavily walled city or fortress, he would have a lighted lamp hung up where it was visible by day and night. He would then have the besieged inhabitants know that as long as the lantern kept burning, they had a chance to change their minds. But if the lantern was smashed and its light extinguished, then the city and all it contained would be mercilessly destroyed. And he kept his promise. If the lantern was smashed to pieces, all hope was gone. The Macedonians would storm the city, kill any person who could bear arms, and then ransack and destroy the city. The time of grace was over. – The lamp is still burning for us; this is a time for grace- but it will end! [Willi Hoffsuemmer; quoted by Fr. Botelho.] (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

12) Are we coming or going? A man was running down the pier, heading for the ferryboat, afraid he was not going to make it. Here was a man of some status, a man who was concerned about his dignity. He wore pin-striped trousers, a black Morning Coat, carried a black umbrella in one hand and a black bowler hat in the other, with which he was waving at the ferry boat, and yelling at the boat to stop so that he could get on it. He ran all the way to the end of the pier, furiously jumped and landed safely on the deck of the boat. Very proud of himself, he straightened his tie, and recovered his dignity. It was then that he discovered that the boat was not going out; it was coming in! — Today is the first Sunday of Advent, and there is that kind of confusion about Advent and Christmas. Are we coming or going? Christmas is the celebration that Christ has come; Advent is the celebration that Christ is coming. Advent is preparation for Christmas. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

13) Smile please: A story is told of the photographer taking a picture. He says to the woman, “Smile pretty for the camera.” A moment later, “OK, madam, you can resume your usual face.” — Whether you and I will have a successful Advent these next four weeks will depend on the attitude or “face” we bring to it today. We must stay awake, as Jesus advises us in this Gospel and practice self-control.  The Greek philosopher, Plato, who lived out his life several centuries before Christ, wrote, “The greatest victory in the world is the victory of self-conquest.” (Fr. James Gilhooley). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

14) Time expired: A dramatic picture appeared in a newspaper. It was a young man dead from a drug overdose in his cherry-red Corvette. The car was parked beside a parking meter that read “TIME EXPIRED.” — But so, too, is my clock expiring. So is yours. No wonder Jesus says today, “Stay awake.” An auto decal reads: “Jesus is coming back. Look busy.” Today’s Gospel affirms He will return for each of us. Were a scientist to warn us that an earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale was fast approaching, we would take every precaution imaginable. Yet, unhappily, the Master’s prediction that He shall return does not move us to make even incidental changes in our lives. But, given the on-target correctness of the prophecies of His first arrival told in Micah 5:2-6 and Isaiah 9: 6-7, one would think we would be smart enough to act accordingly. Should we decide not to do so, we can hardly fault the Early Warning System God has today put in place in Luke’s Gospel. “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy…” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

15) Watch and Prepare: In the Royal Air Force Museum in Hendon, England, there is an exhibition of the memorabilia of Lord Dowding.  He was appointed Commander-in-Chief of the RAF in 1936 to take on the challenge of expanding the RAF’s fighting force to meet the Nazi threat. Dowding had less than four years to prepare the RAF for the epic Battle of Britain, while at the same time helping France as much as possible.  Lord Dowding’s accomplishment in getting the RAF ready is summed up on a plaque: “It has been given to few men so to employ so short a time that by their efforts they saved a civilization.”  Lord Dowding’s vigilance and preparation while waiting for the Nazi attempt to invade Great Britain played a key role in England’s victory in the early 1940’s (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). — Vigilance and preparation while waiting are part of the theme of today’s Advent Gospel.  (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

16)  Promise of Things to Come! It was about mid-November of 1979 in Dublin. One morning we woke to find that overnight a layer of fine dust had fallen.  It was very noticeable.  It covered cars, windows, clotheslines…..  In some areas it was heavier than others.  One man went out to look for his blue car, but so thick was the dust that he had difficulty finding it.  The dust caused quite a sensation. People reacted immediately.  What was it and where did it come from?  Many were worried, fearing that it was caused by a fall-out of dangerous chemicals or radio-active materials.  There was a deluge of phone calls to the police, to weather centers, and motoring organizations.  Finally the explanation came: it was sand from the Sahara Desert!  This came as a great relief.  It was still a nuisance but was readily accepted because the Southerly winds that had brought it, also heralded the warmest November in fifteen years. — In today’s Gospel, after foretelling the endtime events we get such an assurance of his “second coming” from Jesus (Flor McCarthy, in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

17) The Watchman: There is an old Hasidic tale about Rabbi Naftali. It was the custom of the rich men of his city, whose homes were on the outskirts and sort of isolated, to hire men to watch over their property at night. Late one evening, as was his custom, Rabbi Naftali went out for a walk and met one such watchman walking back and forth. The Rabbi asked, “For whom do you work?” The guard told the rabbi who had hired him, and then the guard inquired, “And for whom do you work Rabbi?” The watchman’s words struck at the heart of the rabbi, who replied, “I am not sure whether I work for anyone or not.” The rabbi walked along with the watchman for some time in silence. Then he asked, “Will you come and work for me?” “Oh Rabbi, I should be honoured to be your servant,” said the watchman, “but what would be my duties?” Rabbi Naftali answered quietly, “To keep reminding me with that question.” —  Like that rabbi, we need help if we are to remember for Whom we work and for what we live our lives. Advent helps us to ask that question of ourselves. “Watch and pray” are the watchwords, they remind us that God is in charge. (Anonymous; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

18) Advent waiting: A blind man and I were standing in the middle of a throng of travelers at Port Mores by airport. “You just stand here.” I told him. I wanted to spare him the disturbance of being jostled about, so I left him in a protected corner. I then went my way to buy a ticket, post a letter, and check on the plane arrivals and departures. At one stage I turned around and looked back at him. He just stood there. People milled around him. A child stared at him. A porter drove his baggage cart around him. A newspaper boy could not understand why he did not even look at the paper. The blind man just stood there. The shuffling feet around him, the unknown voices and all the various noises of humans going and coming had no meaning for him. He just stood and waited for me to come back. He patiently waited, completely content that I would come back. There was no shadow of doubt on his face. Instead, there was an air of expectation about him: I would return and take him by the hand and we would go on. — That look of the blind man with closed eyelids standing there put in mind the Advent face of a Christian.
(Willi Hoffsuemmer; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 

19)

O Henry’s story the “Last Leaf” brings out the significance of Hope. The story begins as Johnsy, near death from pneumonia, lies in bed waiting for the last leaf of an ivy vine on the brick wall she spies through her window to fall. She counted the falling of all leaves. Now only the last one is left. She is sure that she will die as the last leaf falls. The night witnessed torrential rain and powerful storm. In the morning Johnsy looked out of the window before breathing her last. But to her surprise she saw that the last leaf had survived the rain and wind. It stuck to the vine. She began to show signs of improvement, and recovered in a few days. An artist who lived below her apartment understood the thought of Johnsy. That night he had gone out with his set of brush and paint. The last leaf was the creation of Behrman. Outside Johnsy’s window were a ladder, a lantern still lighted “some scattered brushes, and a palette with green and yellow colors mixed on it . . . it was Behrman’s masterpiece–he painted it [a leaf] there the night that the last leaf fell.” — The sight of the last leaf rekindled the hope of Johnsy. And she survived. At the end of every sorrow there is some joy awaiting us.

St. Paul assures us: “… suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us” (Romans 3:3-5). (Fr. Bobby). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

20)But with a good ship, you can always ride it out.” Dr. Norman Vincent Peale once told of encountering a hurricane while on a cruise in the Atlantic. After the captain managed to sail around the danger, he and Dr. Peale were visiting with one another. The captain said he had always lived by a simple philosophy namely that if the sea is smooth, it will get rough; and if it is rough, it will get smooth. He added something worth remembering: “But with a good ship,” the Captain said, “you can always ride it out.” — Our ship is our Faith in Christ. With a good ship, you can always ride it out. Life is unpredictable. God is with us. “But not a hair of your head will perish,” Jesus says, “By your endurance you will gain your souls” (Luke 21:18). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

21) “What time is it Mr. Wolf?” We played a game when I was a child.  Perhaps you played it too.  It worked best just at twilight.  We would let the “wolf” hide somewhere, and then we would walk together as a group toward the “wolf”, unable to see him or where he was hidden, but knowing that he was there and that he was near.  “What time is it, Mr. Wolf?”  we would cry, and he would tell us the time, later the closer we got, until he cried out “Twelve o’clock midnight, hope to see a ghost tonight!” And then he would chase us and we would flee toward the goal and safety, trying not to be caught by the “wolf.” — That is also the point of the Gospel Lesson this morning.  There is a day coming which will be unlike any other, for it will not be followed by any other.  We don’t know when, exactly, but we know it grows ever closer.  The end of the world, the final day of reckoning, the day of our salvation or the day of our doom, is coming.  Jesus tells us how we should stand in readiness for that great and terrible day, always being alert to the signs of the times. (Rev. Robin Fish). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

22) Making Still Greater Progress: All the saints have been heroic. That is the definition of “Saint”. But God has had a harder time in making heroes out of some than others. They have had more “un-heroism.” Saints like Aloysius Gonzaga, for instance, became heroes so fast – such was that goodwill – that their flight for heaven seems to have been a snap. When Aloysius died aged only 23, his three confessors testified of this radiant young man that they honestly believed he had never committed a serious sin. On the other hand, St. Camillus DeLellis, born in 1500 (just a decade or so before Aloysius) had a far more twisted and rocky road to heaven. A soldier at seventeen, six foot two in his stocking feet, he developed a quarrelsome temper and a yen for gambling that was a real addiction. Once, for instance, he literally gambled away all he owned, losing even the shirt off his back. Add to this, he had a running sore that never cleared up and gave him a short fuse. Nevertheless, Camillus for all his violence really wanted to behave better. After trying in vain to enter a religious order or even get employment as a servant in a religious house, he was inspired to found an order of his own. It was an order of nursing brothers – very much needed in those days before there was a real nursing profession. Urged by St. Philip Neri, Camillus studied for the priesthood and was ordained (a belated vocation, he had to attend Latin class with giggling teen-age seminarians). Now this man dedicated his strengths and his weaknesses to serving the ailing and wounded. He taught his “Ministers of the Sick” to see in each patient, no matter how crotchety, Christ Himself.– Today, St. Camillus DeLellis is the Church’s official patron saint of nurses. That is because, as St. Paul puts it today, he had forged ahead despite his flaws, so as “to make still greater progress” (IThes 4:1. Today’s second reading). -Father Robert F. McNamara. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

23) The difference between waiting and watching: Some Navy men were returning from a long voyage on the seas and, as the boat approached shore, the men were all looking for their wives and girlfriends on the shore … eager to see them again! As the men looked over the crowd of women lined up, the air of excitement and expectancy grew. One man however was all alone as all the other men found their wives and girlfriends and they all embraced … his wife wasn’t there! Worried, he hurried home and found a light on in his house. As he entered he was relieved to see his wife, she quickly turned and said, “HONEY, I’VE BEEN WAITING FOR YOU!” His response showed his disappointment however: ‘The other men’s wives and girlfriends were watching for them!‘ — The difference between waiting and watching was only too clear! (Fr. Lakra).

 24) Serve Christ in his many comings : Mother Teresa recognized and welcomed Christ in the needy, the hungry, the homeless, and the forgotten. Jesus’ words about serving His needs in God’s poor ones were seared into her soul. She was one of those rare figures that can shine a new light on Gospel teachings and actually live according to Jesus’ word and example. We can emulate her example. Mother Teresa was certain that prayer could be the powerhouse of our lives. Through prayer, she said, one could recognise Jesus in and among us.  — Of course, we cannot force these moments; all we can do is to be prepared. One saint said that life should be lived in ‘attentive expectancy’, the way one waits for the phone, for one’s child, or spouse or the doctor to call. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21  L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 1) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

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 https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony 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

Nov. 1-6 (L-21)

Nov 1-6: Nov 1 Monday (All Saints Day): Mt 5:1-12: (Not a Holy Day of Obligation in the USA) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/solemnity-of-all-saints/ The feast and its objectives: All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is intended to honor the memory of countless unknown and uncanonized saints who have no feast days. Today we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. This feast is observed to teach us to honor the saints, both by imitating their lives and by seeking their intercession for us before Christ, the only mediator between God and man (I Tm 2:5). The Church reminds us today that God’s call for holiness is universal, that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. We grow in holiness when we live wholesome lives of integrity, truth, justice, charity, mercy, and compassion, sharing our blessings with others.

Reasons why we honor the saints: 1- The saints put their trust in Christ and lived heroic lives of Faith. St. Paul asks us to serve and honor such noble souls. In Paul’s Epistles to the Corinthians, to Philip, and to Timothy, Christians are advised to welcome, serve, and honor those who have put their trust in Jesus, for, as Jesus remarks to Philip at the Last Supper, ”Whoever has seen Me has seen the Father.” So, whoever belives in, trusts, loves, and serves Jesus, at the same time believes in, trusts, loves, and serves the Father as well. The saints enjoy Heavenly bliss as a reward for their Faith in Jesus. Hence, they deserve our veneration of them. 2- The saints are our role models. They teach us by their lives that Christ’s holy life of love, mercy and unconditional forgiveness can be lived by ordinary people from all walks of life and at all times.

3- The saints are our Heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us. (Jas 5:16-18, Ex 32:13, Jer 15:1, Rv 8:3-4,).

4- The saints are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the staff of Moses (Ex), the bones of the prophet Elisha (2Kgs 13:21), the towel of Paul (Acts: 19:12), and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15,) to work miracles.

Life messages: 1) We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us: “Be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect” (Mt 5:48). St. Augustine asked: “If she and he can become saints, why can’t I?” (Si iste et ista, cur non ego?).

2) We cantake the short cuts practiced by three Teresas: i) St. Teresa of Avila: Recharge your spiritual batteries every day by prayer, namely, listening to God and talking to Himii) St. Therese of Lisieux: Convert every action intoprayer by offering it to God for His glory and for the salvation of souls and by doing God’s will to the best of one’s ability. iii) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): Do ordinary things with great love. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections; Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Nov 2 Tuesday: Jn 6: 37-40: (All Souls Day):All Souls’ Dayisa day specially set apart that we may remember and pray for our dear ones who have gone for their eternal reward, and who are currently in a state of ongoing purification.

Ancient belief supported by Church tradition: People of all religions have believed in the immortality of the soul and have prayed for the dead:

1) The Jews, for example, believed that there was a place of temporary bondage from which the souls of the dead would receive their final release. The Jewish catechism, Talmud, states that prayers for the dead will help to bring them greater rewards and blessings too. Prayer for the souls of the departed is retained by the Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that he/she may be purified.

2) First century practice: Jesus and the apostles shared this belief and passed it on to the early Church. “Remember us who have gone before you, in your prayers,” is a petition often found inscribed on the walls of the Roman catacombs (Lumen Gentium-50).

3) The liturgies of the Mass in various rites dating from the early centuries of the Church include “Prayers for the Dead.”

4) The early Fathers of the Church encouraged this practice. Tertullian (AD 160-240) wrote about the anniversary Masses for the dead, advising widows to pray for their husbands. St. Augustine (AD 354 – 430) remarked that he used to pray for his deceased mother, remembering her request: “When I die, bury me anywhere you like, but remember to pray for me at the altar” (St. Augustine of Hippo, Confessions, Book 9, Chapter 11, Section 27).

5) The Synods of Nicaea, Florence, and Trent encouraged the offering of prayers for the dead, citing Scriptural evidences to prove that there is a place or state of purification for those who die with venial sins on their souls.

Theological reasoning: According to Rv 21:27: “…nothing unclean shall enter Heaven.” Holy Scripture (Prv 24:16) also teaches that even “the just sin seven times a day.” Since it would be contrary to the mercy of God to punish such souls with venial sins in Hell, they are seen as entering a place or state of purification, called Purgatory, which combines God’s justice with His mercy. This teaching is also contained in the doctrine of the Communion of Saints.

Biblical basis: 1) II Mc 12:46 is the main Biblical text incorporating the Jewish belief in the necessity of prayer and sacrifice for the dead. The passage (II Mc 12:39-46), describes how Judas, the military commander, “took up a collection from all his men, totaling about four pounds of silver and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering” (II Mc 12:43). The narrator continues, “If he had not believed that the dead would be raised, it would have been foolish and useless to pray for them.” 2) St. Paul seems to have shared this traditional Jewish belief. At the death of his supporter Onesiphorus, he prayed: “May the Lord grant him mercy on that Day” (II Tim: 1:18). Other pertinent Bible texts: Mt 12:32, I Cor 3:15, Zec13:19, Sir 7:33.) The Church’s teaching: The Church’s official teaching on Purgatory is plain and simple. There is a place or state of purification called Purgatory, where souls undergoing purification can be helped by the prayers of the faithful (Council of Trent). Some modern theologians suggest that the fire of Purgatory is an intense, transforming encounter with Jesus Christ and His Fire of Love. They also speak of Purgatory as an “instant” purification immediately after death, varying in intensity from soul to soul, depending on the state of each individual.

How do we help the “holy souls”? The Catechism of the Catholic Church recommends prayer for the dead in conjunction with the offering of the Eucharistic Sacrifice, and encourages “almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead” (CCC #1032). Let us not forget to pray for our dear departed, have Masses offered for them, visit their graves, and make daily sacrifices for them. God can foresee and apply the merits of our prayers, penances, and works of charity, done even years after their death, in favor of our deceased dear ones at the moment of their deaths. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections; Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Nov 3 Wednesday (St. Martin De Porres, Religious) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-martin-de-porres : Lk 14:25-33: 25 Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and He turned and addressed them, 26 “If anyone comes to me and does not hate his own father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. 27 Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple. 28 For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it? 29 Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.’ 31 Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand? 32 And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace. 33 So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Jesus was making his final journey to Jerusalem, and both the apostles and the common people, thought that the Master was going to overthrow the Roman government by using miraculous powers. Hence, a big crowd was following along. Jesus thought it was necessary to clarify for them the real cost involved in Christian discipleship.

The teaching: Today’s Gospel passage from Luke challenges us to make a total commitment to the will of God by putting Him first in our lives. Jesus reminds us to count the cost of being a Christian, because the cost is high. Christian discipleship requires one to “renounce” both possessions of the earth and possessions of the heart (i.e., one’s relationships). Jesus lays out four “trip wires” challenging true Christian discipleship: i) attachment to family; ii) attachment to possessions; iii) the hard consequences of discipleship which may involve even losing one’s life; and iv) the cost involved. Using the examples of a watch tower in a vineyard, left uncompleted due to lack of funds, and the example of a foolish king facing defeat by going to war without assessing the strength of the enemy, Jesus warns his would-be followers to count the cost and calculate the consequences before becoming disciples.

Life messages: 1) We need to accept Jesus’ challenge of making a total self-gift to Him in our commitment in true Christian Discipleship: “A religion that gives nothing, costs nothing and suffers nothing, is worth nothing.” (Martin Luther). Jesus’ challenge can be accepted only if, with God’s grace, we practice the spirit of detachment and renunciation in our daily lives. Real Christian discipleship also demands a true commitment both to the duties entrusted to us and to loving acts of selfless, humble, sacrificial love offered to God in all His children around us. 3) This is possible only if we rely on His grace, on the power of prayer and on the guidance of the Holy Spirit through a) daily prayer, b) devout participation in the Sunday Mass c) diligent study of the Bible, d) service in and beyond the parish, e) spiritual friendships, and f) giving time, talents, and resources to the Lord’s work. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Nov 4 Thursday (St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop): Lk 15:1-10: 1 Now the tax collectors and sinners were all drawing near to hear him.2 And the Pharisees and the scribes murmured, saying, “This man receives sinners and eats with them.” 3 So he told them this parable: 4 “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost, until he finds it? 5 And when he has found it, he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing. 6 And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and his neighbors, saying to them, `Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ 7 Just so, I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance. 8 “Or what woman, having ten silver coins, if she loses one coin, does not light a lamp and sweep the house and seek diligently until she finds it? 9 And when she has found it, she calls together her friends and neighbors, saying, `Rejoice with me, for I have found the coin which I had lost.’ 10 Just so, I tell you, there is joy before the angels of God over one sinner who repents.” 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 passage, taken from chapter 15 of Luke’s Gospel, is known as the “Gospel in the Gospels,” or the “distilled essence of Christ’s Good News.” In this chapter, using three parables, Jesus answers two accusations made by the Scribes and Pharisees, namely, that Jesus is mingling with the sinners and sharing their meals. These parables teach us that our God is a loving, patient, merciful, and forgiving God. He is eager to be merciful toward us, not vengeful and punishing. He is always in search of His lost and straying children.

The parables: Since the self-righteous Pharisees who accused Jesus of befriending publicans and sinners could not believe that God would be delighted at the conversion of sinners, Jesus told them the parable of the lost sheep and the shepherd’s joy on its discovery; the parable of the lost silver coin (a drachma, worth about a denarius, a farm worker’s “daily wage”), and the woman’s joy when she found it; and the parable of the lost son and his Father’s joy at His repentant son’s return. Besides presenting a God Who is patiently waiting for the return of sinners, ready to pardon them, these parables teach us God’s infinite love and mercy. Christianity is not about man seeking God, but rather about a Holy God seeking a sinful man. In other words, in salvation, as in forgiveness, the initiative is always God’s. These three parables defend Jesus’ alliance with sinners and respond to the criticism leveled by certain Pharisees and scribes at Jesus’ frequent practice of eating with and welcoming tax collectors and sinners.

Life messages: 1) We need to meet the challenge for self-evaluation and return to God’s mercy: If we have been in sin, God’s mercy is seeking us, searching for our souls with a love that is wild beyond all imagining. God is ready to receive and welcome us back as Jesus welcomed sinners in his time. 2) Let us get reconciled with God, through the Sacrament of Reconciliation when we are in mortal sin, and in asking His forgiveness for our sins every night before we sleep. We also need to ask God for the courage to extend this forgiveness to others who have offended us. As we continue with the celebration of the Holy Mass, let us pray as well for God’s Divine Mercy on those who have fallen away from grace. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Nov 5 Friday: Luke 16:1-8: 1 He also said to the disciples, “There was a rich man who had a steward, and charges were brought to him that this man was wasting his goods. 2 And he called him and said to him, `What is this that I hear about you? Turn in the account of your stewardship, for you can no longer be steward.’ 3 And the steward said to himself, `What shall I do, since my master is taking the stewardship away from me? I am not strong enough to dig, and I am ashamed to beg. 4 I have decided what to do, so that people may receive me into their houses when I am put out of the stewardship.’ 5 So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, `How much do you owe my master?’ 6 He said, `A hundred measures of oil.’ And he said to him, `Take your bill, and sit down quickly and write fifty.’ 7 Then he said to another, `And how much do you owe?’ He said, `A hundred measures of wheat.’ He said to him, `Take your bill, and write eighty.’ 8 The master commended the dishonest steward for his shrewdness; for the sons of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own generation than the sons of light. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: In today’s Gospel, Jesus tells us the strange parable of a steward who was a rascal to teach us that serving God is a full-time job, not a part-time job or a spare-time hobby. Jesus also teaches us that, in matters spiritual and eternal, we should use the same ingenuity and planning which business people show in the business world. The parable challenges us to use our blessings — time, talents, health, and wealth — wisely and shrewdly, so that they will count for our reward in eternity. We are on the right road only if we use our earthly wealth to attain our Heavenly goal. The parable: In the parable, Jesus tells us how the slave-steward of an absentee landlord, caught red-handed in misappropriating his master’s wealth, ingeniously cheated his master by his unjust manipulation of the master’s business clients. His tricks were intended to make him the friend of his master’s debtors and gave him the prospect of becoming rich by working for them (or blackmailing them?) when he was fired by his master from the stewardship.

Life messages: 1) We need to be faithful in the little things of life: As Saint John Chrysostom said, “Faithfulness in little things is a big thing.” Our future opportunities in the eternal service of God largely depend on our stewardship in handling the little opportunities we have had on earth. As Mother Teresa used to recommend, “Do little things with great love.” 2) We have to act shrewdly, trusting in the power and assistance of God. Let us make use of our resources — like Hope in God’s justice, Faith in God’s assistance, and Trust in God’s grace, celebrating the Mass and the Sacraments as sources of Divine grace and prayerfully studying the Holy Bible as the word of God for daily meditation. 3) Let us remember that as God’s stewards we need to be prepared to give an account of our lives at any time (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Nov 6 Saturday: Lk 16:9-15: 9 And I tell you, make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations. 10 “He who is faithful in a very little is faithful also in much; and he who is dishonest in a very little is dishonest also in much. 11 If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous mammon, who will entrust to you the true riches? 12 And if you have not been faithful in that which is another’s, who will give you that which is your own? 13 No servant can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.” 14 The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all this, and they scoffed at him. 15 But he said to them, “You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts; for what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: After telling the parable of the rascally steward as an example of shrewdness and as a warning against using unjust means for gain, Jesus advises his listeners to make friends with the poor by almsgiving and to be faithful and honest in the little things entrusted to them by God.

The teaching: Jesus advises his followers to imitate the shrewd steward who used money generously to make friends for himself. Jesus suggests that his disciples should show their generosity and mercy by almsgiving: “sell your possessions and give alms” (Luke 12:33). The recipients immediately become friends of the kind donor.It is God’s generosity which makes one rich, and, hence, the money we have is unrighteous in the sense that it is unearned and undeserved. So, God expects us to be generous stewards of His generous blessings. Generosity curtails our natural greed, making almsgiving an act of thanksgiving to God for His generosity. Then Jesus tells us that what we get in Heaven will depend on how we have used the things of the earth and on how faithful we have been in the little things entrusted to us. A slave is the exclusive property of his master, and our Master, God, is the most exclusive of masters. So, serving Him cannot be a part-time job or spare-time hobby; it is full-time job. Finally, Jesus warns the Pharisees that material prosperity is not a sure sign of one’s goodness and God’s blessing, but a sign of God’s mercy and generosity.

Life messages: 1) We need to share our blessings with others. Since all our blessings are God’s generous loans to us, we need to be equally generous with others. 2) We need to serve God full-time: Since God owns us totally, we are expected to be at His service doing His holy will all the time. Hence, there is no such thing as a part-time Christian. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

All Saints Day (November 1, 2021) L-21

ALL SAINTS DAY (NOVEMBER 1, 2021) One-page synopsis: L/21

The feast and its objectives: All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is intended to honor the memory of countless unknown and uncanonized saints who have no feast days. Today we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. This feast is observed to teach us to honor the saints, both by imitating their lives and by seeking their intercession for us before Christ, the only mediator between God and man (I Tm 2:5). The Church reminds us today that God’s call for holiness is universal, that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. We grow in holiness when we live wholesome lives of integrity truth, justice, charity, mercy, and compassion, sharing our blessings with others.
Reasons why we honor the saints: 1- The saints put their trust in Christ and lived heroic lives of Faith. St. Paul asks us to serve and honor such noble souls. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, to Philip, and to Timothy, he advises Christians to welcome, serve, and honor those who have put their trust in Jesus. The saints enjoy Heavenly bliss as a reward for their Faith in Jesus. Hence, they deserve our veneration of them.
2- The saints are our role models. They teach us by their lives that Christ’s holy life of love, mercy, and unconditional forgiveness can be lived, with God’s grace, by ordinary people from all walks of life and at all times.
3- The saints are our Heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us. (Jas 5:16-18, Ex 32:13, Jer 15:1, Rv 8:3-4,).
4- The saints are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the staff of Moses (Ex), the bones of the prophet Elisha (2Kgs 13:21), the towel of Paul (Acts 19:12), and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) to work miracles.
Life messages: 1) We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us: “Be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect” (Mt 5:48). St. Augustine asked: “If she and he can become saints, why can’t I?” (Si iste et ista, cur non ego?).
2) We cantake the short cuts practiced by three Teresas: i) St. Teresa of Avila: Recharge your spiritual batteries every day by prayer, namely, listening to God and talking to Himii) St. Therese of Lisieux: Convert every action intoprayer by offering it to God for His glory and for the salvation of souls and by doing God’s will to the best of one’s ability. iii) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): Do ordinary things with great love.

All Saints Day (Nov 1, 2021): Rv 7:2-4, 9-14; 1 Jn 3:1-3; Mt 5:1-12a

Homily starter anecdotes:1) A pumpkin story: “What is it like to be a Christian saint?” “It is like being a Halloween pumpkin. God picks you from the field, brings you in, and washes all the dirt off you. Then he cuts off the top and scoops out the yucky stuff. He removes the pulp of impurity and injustice and seeds of doubt, hate, and greed. Then He carves you a new smiling face and puts His light of holiness inside you to shine for the entire world to see.” This is the Christian idea behind the carved pumpkins during the Halloween season. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

2) Diversity of Saints One thing that strikes you first about the Saints is their diversity. It would be very difficult to find a single pattern of holiness, a single way of following Christ common to all. There is Thomas Aquinas, the towering intellectual, and John Vianney (the Curé d’Ars), who barely made it through the seminary. There is Vincent de Paul, a saint in the city, and there is Antony who found sanctity in the harshness and loneliness of the desert. There is Bernard kneeling on the hard stones of Clairvaux in penance for his sins, and there is Hildegard of Bingen singing and throwing flowers, madly in love with God. There is Albertus Magnus, the quirky scientist, half-philosopher and half-wizard, and there is Gerard Manley Hopkins, the gentle poet. There is Peter, the hard-nosed and no-nonsense fisherman, and there is Edith Stein, secretary to Edmund Husserl and colleague to Martin Heidegger, the most famous philosopher of the twentieth century. There is Joan of Arc, leading armies into war, and there is Francis of Assisi, the peacenik who would never hurt an animal. There is the grave and serious Jerome, and there is Philip Neri, whose spirituality was based on laughter. How do we explain this diversity? God is an artist, and artists love to change their styles. The saints are God’s masterpieces, and He never tires of painting them in different colors, different styles, and in different circumstances. What does this mean for us? It means we should not try to imitate any one Saint exactly. We need to look to them all, study their unique holiness, but then find that specific color God has intended for our lives and holiness. St. Catherine of Siena was right: “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” (Fr. Robert Barren). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

The feast and its objectives: The feast gives us an occasion to thank God for having invited so many of our ancestors to join the company of the saints. May our reflection on the heroic lives of the saints and the imitation of their lifestyle enable us to hear from our Lord the words of grand welcome to eternal bliss: “Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joys of your master” (Mt 25:21). Today is also a day for us to pray to the saints, both the canonized and the uncanonized, asking them to pray on our behalf that we may live our lives in faithfulness like theirs, and so receive the same reward. All baptized Christians who have died and are now with God in glory are considered saints. All Saints Day is a day on which we thank God for giving ordinary men and women a share in His holiness and Heavenly glory as a reward for their Faith. In fact, we celebrate the feast of each canonized saint on a particular day of the year. But there are countless other saints and martyrs, men, women, and children, united with God in Heavenly glory, whose feasts we do not celebrate. Among these would be our own parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters who were heroic women and men of Faith. All Saints Day is intended to honor their memory. Hence, today’s feast can be called the feast of the Unknown Saint, in line with the tradition of the “Unknown Soldier.” According to Pope Urban IV, All Saints’ Day is also intended to supply any deficiencies in our celebration of feast of saints during the year. In addition, the feast is observed to teach us to honor the saints, both by imitating their lives and by seeking their intercession for us before Christ, the only mediator between God and man (I Tim. 2:5). Today, the Church reminds us that God’s call for holiness is universal and that all of us are called to live in His love and to make His love real in the lives of those around us. Holiness is related to the word wholesomeness. We show holiness when we live lives of integrity and truth, that is, wholesome and integrated lives in which we are close to others — all God’s children — while being close to God.

Halloween and All Saints’ Day. All Saints Day is a universal Christian feast honoring all Christian saints – known and unknown. The feast is celebrated by the Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, and Anglican churches. “Halloween,” celebrated in the United States, England, Ireland, and France on the eve of the Day of All Saints, got its name from “All Hallows Eve” or the vigil of All Saints Day. The Celtic people, who lived in England, Scotland, Wales, Ireland and northern France before the Christian era, believed that their god of death (Samhain) would allow the souls of the dead to return to their homes for a festal visit on this day. People also believed that ghosts, witches, goblins and elves came to harm the people, particularly those who had inflicted harm on them in this life. The Druid priests built a huge bonfire of sacred oak branches and offered animal and even human sacrifice to protect people from marauding evil spirits on the eve of Samhain feast. This belief led to the ritual practice of wandering about in the dark dressed in costumes indicating ghosts, witches, hobgoblins, fairies, and demons. But some historians believe that the pumpkin-carving and trick-or-treating are recent customs, reminiscent of Irish harvest festivals, brought to the United States by Catholic immigrants from Ireland and England.

Historical note: A common commemoration of the saints, especially the martyrs, appeared in various areas throughout the Church after the legalization of Christianity in A.D. 313. The primary reason for establishing a common feast day was the desire to honor the great number of Christians martyred during the persecution of Emperor Diocletian (284-305). In the East, the city of Edessa celebrated this feast on May 13; the Syrians, on the Friday after Easter; and the city of Antioch, on the first Sunday after Pentecost. Both St. Ephrem (d. 373) and St. John Chrysostom (d. 407) attest to this feast day in their preaching. The earliest observance of the holiday was recorded in the early fourth-century. But it did not get woven into the Church’s Liturgy until the early seventh century under Pope Boniface IV, who consecrated Rome’s Pantheon to the Virgin Mary and all the Martyrs on May 13 in 609 AD (www.diffen.com). Pope Gregory IV made All Saints’ a holy day in the mid-eighth century and moved it to November 1. Some observe All Saints’ Day by leaving offering of flowers to dead relatives. Others light candles in remembrance and visit the graves of deceased relatives.

Reasons why we honor the saints:1- The saints put their trust in Christ and lived heroic lives of Faith. St. Paul asks us to serve and honor such noble souls. In his Epistles to the Corinthians, to Philip, and to Timothy, he advises Christians to welcome, serve and honor those who have put their trust in Jesus. The saints enjoy Heavenly bliss as a reward for their Faith in Jesus. Hence, they deserve our veneration.

2- The saints are our role models. They teach us by their lives that Christ’s holy life of unconditional love, mercy, and forgiveness can be lived with His grace by ordinary people, of all walks of life and at all times.

3- The saints are our heavenly mediators who intercede for us before Jesus, the only mediator between God and us. (Jas 5:16-18, Ex 32:13, Jer 15:1, Rv 8:3-4).

4- The saints are the instruments that God uses to work miracles at present, just as He used the staff of Moses (Exodus), the bones of the prophet Elisha (II Kgs 13:21), the towel of Paul (Acts: 19:12) and the shadow of Peter (Acts 5:15) to work miracles.

For Roman Catholics, the Orthodox, and to some extent, the Anglicans, “All Saints Day” is a day, not only to remember the saints and to thank God for them, but also to pray for their help. It is, as well, a day to glorify Jesus Christ, Who by His holy life and death has made the saints holy. This feast offers a challenge to each one of us: anybody can become a saint, regardless of his or her age, lifestyle or living conditions. St. Augustine accepted this challenge when he asked the question: “If others can become saints, why can’t I?” (Si iste et ista, cur non ego?).

Today’s Scripture: The first reading, taken from the Book of Revelation, speaks of John’s vision of saints in their Heavenly glory: “a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, robed in white, with palm branches in their hands” (Rv 7:9). All Saints Day reminds us that we are called to be a part of that vast multitude of holy ones whose numbers are so great they cannot be counted. Offering us the Beatitudes in today’s Gospel, the Church reminds us that all the saints whose feasts we celebrate today walked the hard and narrow path of the Beatitudes to arrive at their Heavenly bliss. The Beatitudes are God’s commandments expressed in positive terms. They go far beyond what is required by the Ten Commandments, and they are a true and reliable recipe for sainthood: Poverty of spirit is knowing our need for God. Mourning is embracing the inevitable sufferings of life and alleviating the sorrows of others. Meekness is docility to God’s will and patient gentleness with others, even in the face of sufferings, disappointments, and insults. Hunger for justice is the longing to see everyone enjoy the peace, happiness, justice, and healing promised by Christ. We obtain mercy by extending it to others. Purity of heart is that right intention or sincerity that puts God first and judges everything else in relationship to God. Real peace is reached when enemies become trustworthy friends. Suffering for doing what is right is accompanied by deep happiness even now. http://www.frnick.com/homilies/doctrinal_outlines

As the second reading suggests, saints are people who have responded generously to the love God has showered on them. St. John tells us that to be “saints” means to be “children of God”—and then he adds: “so we are”!

Life messages: 1) We need to accept the challenge to become saints. Jesus exhorts us: “Be made perfect as your Heavenly Father is Perfect” (Mt 5:48). St. Augustine asked: “If she and he can become saints, why can’t I?” (Si iste et ista, cur non ego?). On the feast of All Saints, the Church invites and challenges us to walk the walk of the saints and not just talk the talk: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in Heaven” (Mt 7:21). 2)

2) We cantake the short cuts practiced by three Teresas: i) St. Teresa of Avila: Recharge your spiritual batteries every day by prayer, namely, listening to God and talking to Himii) St. Therese of Lisieux: Convert every action intoprayer by offering it to God for His glory and for the salvation of souls and by doing God’s will to the best of one’s ability. iii) St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa): Do ordinary things with great love.

Joke of the week: “Both of us are Halloween!”: Two little neighbor girls about the same age, one Christian and one Jewish, were constant companions. After one Easter holiday, the grandfather of the Christian girl asked her what her friend had received for Easter. The girl looked at her grandfather in surprise, and said, “But Grandpa, you should know that Becky is Jewish and she wouldn’t get anything for Easter.” Then she went on to explain patiently, “You see, I’m Easter and she’s Passover. I’m Christmas and she’s Hanukkah.” Then with a big smile, she added, “but I’m really glad that both of us are Halloween.” [Buddy Westbrook in
Loyal Jones: The Preacher’s Joke Book (Little Rock, Arkansas: August House, 1989), p. 26.]

Websites of the week

1) Oscar Romero film in YouTube: Story of a modern martyr

https://youtu.be/ZPH3R0aqcuk?list=PLG6axl3bJCzyHFvq1KstnRiMaNb6RW1eX

18 Additional anecdotes:

1. Pekapoo puppy: William Hinson recalls the time when his children were younger and one child’s pet died. Dr. Hinson says that he practiced “replacement therapy.” When one pet died it was replaced by another pet. One time his youngest daughter Cathy’s cat died. Together they went to find another pet. Cathy selected a tiny peekapoo puppy. When they got home Dr. Hinson agreed to build a doghouse for the new pet to live in. “The only kind of dog I knew very much about was a really big bird dog,” he recalls, “so when I built the doghouse, I built a very large house.” In fact the house was too large for the small dog. The size of the doghouse scared the little peekapoo puppy. No matter what they did the little dog would not go near the doghouse. In disgust, Dr. Hinson went inside, and sat down in the den while his daughter, Cathy, stood outside crying over her dad’s impatience and the refusal of her puppy to cooperate. After a while, Cathy got down on her hands and knees and crawled into the doghouse herself. When she crawled into it something wonderful happened. That little puppy trotted right in beside her and stretched out on the doghouse floor. Before too long the dog was taking a nap. All the shadows now stood still for him, and all the fear was taken out of the darkness, because the one whom he loved and trusted had preceded him into that dark and frightening place. It no longer caused him fear. [William H. Hinson. Triumphant Living in Turbulent Times (Nashville: Dimensions for Living, 1993), pp. 119-120.]. —  There’s a lesson here for us. We can surrender our wills to God’s will, knowing that God loves us. Wherever He leads us, He will be with us. We don’t have to enter dark doghouses alone. Saints trust in God and God alone. Saints submit their will to God’s will. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).      

2)Never forget what this cross means:” When Margaret Helminski was seven, she received a gift from her grandmother. It was a tiny cross on a wisp of gold chain, so fine its weight was barely perceptible. “Never forget what this cross means,” her grandmother said as she fastened it carefully around Margaret’s neck. Over the years, Margaret says, that cross became a part of her, like the lone freckle on her left cheek. She could look at herself in the mirror and not even see it. As a graduate psychology student, Margaret took a job tutoring at a school for emotionally disturbed children. Suddenly surrounded by children who expressed their displeasure by kicking, biting, and screaming, she was terrified, though determined not to let it show. On her first night there, the head counselor said that three of the boys had asked to escort her to dinner. Alone! How would she handle it if all three decided to act out at once? She swallowed hard. She desperately needed this job so she fought back the panic and walked with her charges to the dining hall. They passed through the cafeteria line as tantrums and fights erupted around them. Fortunately none of her boys exhibited any kind of behavioral outburst. They made their way to a table in the center of the busy cafeteria and the boys took their seats. Margaret picked up her fork and was about to take the first bite when she noticed that all three boys were staring at her. “What’s the matter?” she asked. Aren’t you going to ask a blessing?” asked eight-year-old Peter. “I didn’t think I was supposed to,” she responded. “This is a state school, isn’t it?” “Yes,” said David, his blue eyes brimming, “but you wear a cross.” Her grandmother’s words surged to the surface of her memory. “Never forget what this cross means,” her grandmother said. “We thought that meant something,” said Roman, clearly disappointed. “It does. Thank you for reminding me,” Margaret said, as she bowed her head, no longer afraid. [Catholic Digest (Feb. 92), p. 64] — Margaret learned something about sainthood that day. Saints trust in God and God alone for their ultimate security. Saints submit their will to the will of God. Saints stand firm and witness to their faith. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

3) Is your definition of a saint a nice person who abides by all the rules?  Francis of Assisi bears the title of Saint but according to Mark Galli, in an article in Christianity Today, Francis wasn’t always a nice guy to be around. For example, he had this thing about money: his friars were not to touch it. And he did not mean the “You can touch money but just don’t let it grip your heart” stuff. One day a worshiper at the Church of Saint Mary of the Portiuncula, Francis’s headquarters, left a coin as an offering at the base of the sanctuary cross. This was a common offering of gratitude to God in that day, but when one of Francis’ friars saw the money, disturbed by its presence at the cross, or perhaps knowing Francis’s revulsion of money he tossed it over to a window sill. When Francis learned the friar had touched money, he did not take the errant brother aside, explain his point of view, and then hug him so as to be sure there were no hard feelings. Instead, Francis rebuked and upbraided the brother. He then commanded him to lift the money from the window sill with his lips, find a pile of donkey dung outside, and with his lips place the coin in the pile. Was that nice? How could a saint be so nasty? Is he an exception to the larger guild of saints? Actually, when compared to the hundreds of stories of saints that can be culled from the Bible and Church history, Francis was merely fulfilling his job description. [“Saint Nasty,” Christianity Today (June 17, 1996), pp. 25-28.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

4) Sainthood is not for weaklings! A traveler reported a sign on the wall of a restaurant in Wyoming, “If you find your steak tough, walk out quietly. This is no place for weaklings.” Felix Adler put it like this: “The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by. The saint is the man who walks through the dark paths of the world, himself a light. [Quoted in Daily Guideposts (1996).] Sainthood is not for weaklings! [John Bardsley. Quote is from Emphasis (Nov/Dec 1993), p. 21.] Sainthood is not for weaklings!  Saints are people we look up to. They are people of integrity who will stand their ground regardless of the standard the world may set. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

5) Saints are people of integrity: Though his name might not be well known today, in 1972 and 1973 Stan Smith was known throughout the world for being the best of the best in the world of tennis. But many of those who knew of his athletic prowess were unaware that Stan Smith was also a Christian, a gracious, friendly man, and a person of integrity. Stan Smith was good friends with another man of great character and integrity, Arthur Ashe. One year, Arthur and Stan were competing against one another in the World Champion of Tennis competition. The winner would gain instant fame and a great deal of money. The two men were well matched in skill, and the score was tied at match point. Arthur hit a very tricky drop shot that just barely cleared the net. To the crowd’s amazement, Stan caught the shot and returned it in time, winning the game. But the umpires were not convinced that Stan had hit a legitimate shot. If the ball were “up,” still in play, then Stan won the match. But if the ball had bounced twice before Stan reached it, then his hit was illegitimate, and Arthur won the match. The angle and nature of the shot made it almost impossible to see it clearly. Review of the videotape didn’t provide a conclusive answer. Neither the umpire, nor Arthur Ashe had a clear view of the ball. According to the rules of tennis, the umpire asked Stan if the ball had been up when he hit it. He replied that it had been. Stan won. A minor controversy arose over this matter, and Arthur Ashe was asked many times why he had not contested the call in some way. Arthur answered, “If Stan says it was up, it was up.” —  He believed in the integrity of his friend so much that he trusted his honesty in a close situation. [Bob Briner, Lambs Among Wolves (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1995), p.124-126.] As far as I know Stan Smith is not a candidate for sainthood. But he did bear one of the characteristics. His words and his actions were one. Sainthood is a lifestyle. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

6) Monumental statues of West Point Military Academy: West Point Military Academy just up the Hudson River from New York City, has a beautiful campus. The style of architecture is military Gothic, the grounds are well-groomed and immaculate, and the views of the Hudson River valley can be breathtaking, especially during autumn, when the leaves are changing color. Among the most impressive aspects of the campus decoration are the monumental bronze statues of famous West Point graduates. All the great American generals are there, in one form or another: McArthur, Eisenhower, Grant… The statues are placed in conspicuous locations, and each hero is depicted in uniform, in a posture that expresses his greatness. They serve as a constant reminder to the young cadets that they are called to greatness, to self-sacrifice, to do worthwhile deeds of valor for the sake of their homeland. — For us Catholic Christians, our heroes are not military or political. Rather, they are those who have done great deeds of valor for the sake of our eternal homeland: The Kingdom of Christ, the ChurchThey have not necessarily received exceptional natural talent from God, developing and using that talent energetically, responsibly, and courageously, as military and political heroes have. Rather, they are the ones who have let God tend the garden of their souls, as the First Reading puts it. They welcomed God’s grace through the Sacraments, prayer, and obedience to God’s will, as explained by the Church, and a well-formed conscience. And as a result, truly supernatural virtues took root, grew, and bore fruit in their lives. And this is why images of the saints abound in Catholic churches and homes, just as those bronze statues decorate West Point. Keeping the saints in mind, studying and contemplating their example, can give direction, hope, and energy to our lives, just as the statues of great generals do for the West Point Cadets. (E- Priest) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

7) Julius Caesar and St Ignatius Loyola: Julius Caesar, the founder of the Roman Empire, history’s most expansive and longest-lasting Empire, was a selfish, dissipated, mediocre government bureaucrat until he was 40 years-old. At that time he was stationed in Spain. One day he was walking across the city center to his offices, and he noticed a statue of Alexander the Great, the young Macedonian who had single-handedly conquered and ruled the entire Near East, from Greece to Turkey to Palestine to Egypt to Arabia to Afghanistan, all the way to India, before he was 33-years-old. For some reason, seeing the noble statue of that amazing man on that particular day made Julius Caesar think about what little he had done with his own life. And that was the beginning of his incomparable military and political career, one that helped forge the civilization we still enjoy. He needed an ideal to strive for, and he found it in Alexander that Great. — As human beings, we all need an ideal to strive for; otherwise our lives stay mediocre. As Christians, following Christ is our ideal, and the saints are the ones who show us how to follow Christ. St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits, began his remarkably fruitful spiritual journey while he was stuck in bed recovering from a second surgery following a cannonball wound. He had nothing to do but read, and the only books in the house were a biography of Christ and the Lives of the Saints. As he read, the thought came to him: “If St. Francis and St. Dominic did it, why can’t I?” And thus was born one of the most influential saints who ever walked the earth. He discovered God’s plan for him by studying the lives of the saints. We can do the same. (E- Priest). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

8) “How can I blaspheme my king who saved me?” St.  Polycarp lived about 200 years after the Christian church was founded. Polycarp was Bishop of the Church at Smyrna (in present-day Turkey). Persecution broke out in Smyrna, and many Christians were fed to the wild beasts in the arena. The bloodthirsty crowd would not be satisfied until they had killed the leader of the Christian Church and sent a search party to find him. Polycarp was brought before the Roman authorities and told to curse Christ and he would be released. He replied, “Eighty-six years have I served Him, and He has done me no wrong: how then can I blaspheme my King Who saved me?” The Roman officer replied, “Unless you change your mind, I will have you burnt alive.” But Polycarp said, “You threaten a fire that burns for an hour, and after a while is quenched; for you are ignorant of the judgement to come and of everlasting punishment reserved for the ungodly. Do what you wish.” It was as much a day of victory as it was a day of tragedy. Polycarp illustrated the power of knowing Jesus, intimately enough to follow Him into the flames. As Jesus said, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

9) “A saint is somebody that the light shines through.” Here is a children’s story. The pastor was explaining the pictures of his Church’s stained-glass windows to the third graders. The first stained window is really red, the next window is really blue, the next window is really green, and the next window is really yellow. The sun has come up in the south and wonderful light is coming through these four windows. The pastor says, “This first window with all the reds is dedicated to St. Matthew and it has a picture of St. Matthew on it. The second window with all the blues is dedicated to St. Mark and it has a picture of St. Mark, the second of our Gospels. The third window with all the greens is dedicated to St. Luke and has a picture of St. Luke on it. The fourth window with all the yellows is dedicated to St. John and has a picture of St. John in it. All the windows are so beautiful, especially with the sunlight shining through them.” And one of the little girls says, “Do you know what a saint is?” “Yes,” replied the pastor. “A saint is somebody that the light shines through.” Yes, the light of God shines through the lives of the saints. It is not your light that is shining; it is the light of God shining through your lives. The windows sparkle and inspire your lives. . (Rabbi Edward F. Markquart). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

10) Saints inspire us to become better Christians: their lives inspire us and lift us up to be better people. A saint doesn’t say, “I want you to be a Christian. I am going to try to subtly force you to be a Christian. I am going to drag you to Church today.” No. By the nature of their lives, these saints inspire us to be holy. Let me explain by means of a famous example from the lives of Dr. David Livingston and Henry Stanley. Dr. David Livingston was a famous missionary in Africa who had been there in the heart of Africa and had disappeared into the jungles. Henry Stanley went on a search for Dr. Livingston after he had long disappeared, and,  after a lengthy search, finally found Dr. Livingston. Stanley greeted Livingstone with the now- famous line from history, “Dr. Livingston, I presume?” The two men lived together for three months. Some time later, Henry Stanley wrote his memoirs, and he said: “Dr. Livingston made me a Christian, and he didn’t even know he was doing it. He inspired me and didn’t even try to.” Saints inspire you to live a life of holiness. (Rabbi Edward F. Markquart). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

11) “But that’s the man you could be.” A story is told of a traveling portrait painter who stopped in a small village hoping to get some business. The town drunk — ragged, dirty and unshaved — came along. He wanted his portrait done and the artist complied. He worked painstakingly for a long time, painting not what he saw but what he envisioned beneath that disheveled exterior. Finally, he presented the painting to his customer. “That’s not me,” he shouted. The artist gently laid his hand on the man’s shoulder and replied, “But that’s the man you could be.” — Today’s feast reminds us that we all can become saints. St. Augustine asked: “ If he and she can, why can’t I?” (Al Carino). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

12) Little Way of the Little Flower: St. Therese was a young, sickly Carmelite contemplative. She was the apple of her father’s eye but when she obtained permission to enter the convent at the age of 15, he happily brought her there. As a contemplative, she did not do anything extraordinary. Like the rest, she followed the daily and ordinary routine of the monastery. But there was something special in her. She did the ordinary in an extraordinary way. How? By doing them out of a single motive — love for God — and whatever she did, she presented to her Beloved as little flower offerings. She called her way of doing little things out of love for God her “Little Way.” She died of tuberculosis, September 30, 1897, at the age of 24. She was beatified April 29, 1923 and canonized a saint May 17, 1925, just 28 years after her death, by Pope Pius XI. In 1927 he named her co-patron of the missions with St. Francis Xavier. In 1998, Pope St. John Paul II added one more title, Doctor of the Church, and two years later made her patroness of the 2000 Jubilee Year celebrations, because of her writings on her “Little Way,” that is, the doing of the ordinary in an extraordinary way. (Wikipedia). — To be this kind of a saint, we do not have to do anything extraordinary. Rather, we just do ordinary things. But what is asked of us is to do these ordinary things in an extraordinary way — for love of God. (Al Carino). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

12) Halloween is the ultimate holiday of “pretending.” On Halloween we dress up and “pretend” to be someone or something other than ourselves. On Halloween we “pretend” to believe that the people jumping out at us and scaring us in the “haunted houses” we paid $25 to get into are monsters and zombies. On Halloween we happily “pretend” that the scariest stuff in life are those things that “go bump in the night.” — On Halloween we revel in “pretend” bumps instead of bumping into the terrifying realities of evil and cruelty that appear on any street, in any office, at any school, in broad daylight, on any given day – and that’s just a rundown of the terrors of the last two weeks. The day after “All Hallows Eve” is known in the liturgical calendar as “All Saints Day.” “All Saints” is a celebration and commemoration of those who were never about pretense, but who devoted their lives to expressing true faithfulness and genuine piety. The Church lives, not by the majesty of its beliefs but by the manifestation of its manifold witness through the magnificence of its “Communion of Saints.” (Fr. Kayala). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

13) In their footsteps:  St Jerome says in his writings that as a boy he and his friends used to play in the catacombs. Centuries after St Jerome, Roman boys still played in the catacombs. One day a group of boys was wandering through the maze of tunnels. Suddenly their only flashlight gave out. The boys were trapped in total darkness with no idea of the way out. They were on the verge of panic when one boy felt a smooth groove in the rock floor of the tunnel. It turned out to be a path that had been worn smooth by the feet of thousands of Christians in the days of the Roman persecutions. — The boys followed in the footsteps of these saints of old and found their way out of the darkness into sunlight and safety. (Mark Link in  Sunday Homilies; quote by Fr. Kayala). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

14) All that is necessary to be a saint is …:  Thomas Merton was one of the most influential American Catholic authors of the twentieth century. Shortly after he was converted to Catholicism in the late 1930s, Thomas Merton was walking down the streets of New York with a friend, Robert Lax. Lax was Jewish, and he asked Thomas what he wanted to be, now that he was Catholic. “I don’t know.” Merton replied, adding simply that he wanted to be a good Catholic. Lax stopped him in his tracks. “What you should say,” he told him, “is that you want to be a saint!” Merton was dumbfounded. “How do you expect me to be a saint?” Merton asked him. Lax said: “All that is necessary to be a saint is to want to be one. Don’t you believe that God will make you what He created you to be, if you consent to let Him do it? All you have is to desire it.” —  Thomas Merton knew his friend was right. (John Payappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Kayala). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

15) God’s Noblest Creation –The Saints: In the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC, under the commanding mosaic of Christ in glory, are six pillars. Atop each is a statue of a Saint. There, side-by-side, are the figures of a queen (St. Elizabeth), a vagrant (St. Benedict Joseph Labre), a cook (St Zita), a doorman (St. Conrad), a Mystic (St Gemma), and a parish priest (St John Vianney). For some of them, the road to holiness was easy, for others very hard. Some saints had gifts of great natural talent; others seemed devoid of it. Some saints were fiery, others gentle. Some were gregarious, others loners. There are old saints (such as St. Anthony of the Desert, who lived to be 105) and young saints (such as Aloysius Gonzaga and Maria Goretti). There were brilliant saints (such as Thomas Aquinas) and dense saints (such as Joseph Cupertino). There were tough saints (such as Teresa of Avila) and emotional saints (such as Therese of Lisieux). There were innocent saints (such as Dominic Savio) and reformed sinners who became saints (such as Augustine). There are also saints who did not always agree with each other, such as Jerome and Augustine, who had a running battle of words for years. Nevertheless, the saints belong together. They all responded to God’s invitation to sainthood commemorated in today’s liturgy. (Harold Buetow in God Still Speaks –Listen!; quoted by Fr. Botelho).Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).      

16) Street sweeper can become a saint, how? Six months before he was assassinated, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke to a group of students at Barratt Junior High School in Philadelphia on October 26, 1967. Part of his “What Is Your Life’s Blueprint?” speech is the tale of the street sweeper. It is inspiration that regardless of what we do we should always aspire to be the best we can at what we do. It is the secret of living saintly lives as well. “If it falls to your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, sweep streets like Beethoven composed music … Sweep streets like Shakespeare wrote poetry. Sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say: Here lived a great street sweeper who swept his job well.” (Martin Luther King). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).      

17) Saint in heaven saving his child: “Her husband had died a few years before, and she had a young son who was born just before his father’s death. One day when her son was at a neighbor’s house, she suddenly sensed her husband was speaking to her. He seemed to be telling her that their son was drowning in a swimming pool. She ran next door to the neighbor’s and found her son drowning in the pool, exactly as she sensed her husband telling her. She pulled her son out of the pool, just in time to save his life. — Why does this story move us so deeply? A story about a child’s life being saved is certainly moving, but this story contains something more. A dead father is still there for his child, at the moment when he is needed most.” (From Healing the Greatest Hurt page 144 by Matthew & Denis Linn and Sheila Fabricant and published by Paulist Press). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

18) Contacting extraterrestrials: For some time now, scientists have been sending signals into the cosmos, hoping for a response from some intelligent being on some lost planet. The Church has always maintained a dialogue with the inhabitants of another world — the Saints. That is what we proclaim when we say, “I believe in the Communion of Saints.” Even if inhabitants outside of the solar system existed, communication with them would be impossible, because between the question and the answer, millions of years would pass. With the Saints,  though, the answer is immediate because there is a common center of communication and encounter, and that is the risen Christ. (Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa, OFM Cap, Vatican) . Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).     

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 59) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com