Category Archives: Homilies

O. T. III (C) Jan 23rd Sunday homily

OT III [C] Word of God Sunday (Jan 23) (Eight-minute homily in one-page) (L-22)

Central theme: Today’s Gospel, presenting Jesus’ “inaugural address” in the synagogue of Nazareth and outlining his theology of total liberation, marks a great moment in Jesus’ ministry. The Scripture readings for today focus our attention on the importance and liberating power of the Word of God as “sacramental,” making God present in our midst. The readings challenge us to listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, then put it into practice as we live out our lives, thus liberating ourselves and others from all types of bondages.

Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading, taken from Nehemiah, and Luke’s Gospel both describe a public reading of Sacred Scripture which challenges the hearers to make a “fresh beginning” with a new outlook. In the first reading, after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra leads the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony by reading and interpreting the Law. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19) sings the praises of the Law of the Lord and its effects on those who accept it. The Second Reading, taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, reminds us that “together we are Christ’s Body, but each of us is a different part of it.” This suggests that, as different parts of Christ’s Body, each of us has a share, as instruments in God’s hands, in bringing the freeing and saving mission of Christ to our world in our times.

Today’s Gospel describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in the synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah and his mission. Jesus claims that he is One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. To the great amazement and disbelief of his own townsmen, Jesus declares that Isaiah’s prophecy is being fulfilled at that very moment “in your hearing,” because the prophecy foretells and describes Jesus’ own mission and ministry. Jesus’ mission is still to give liberation to everyone who will listen to his “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that surprise and admiration were the initial reactions of the people who were astonished at the power and eloquence. of this son of their soil

Life messages: 1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others: As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we have to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces.

2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and then be ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.

OT III [C] (Jan 23) (Neh 8:2-4, 5-6, 8-10; I Cor 12:12-30; Luke 1:1-4; 4:14-21)

Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: Saint Oscar Romero’s “option for the poor.” Speaking in the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus used Isaiah’s prophetic terms, long since seen as referring to the coming Messiah, to describe his own mission “to bring Good News to the poor.” The success of Jesus’ mission, particularly with the poor who had no political power except that conferred by their sheer numbers, made Jesus a “dangerous” person to the religious authorities of Israel and eventually resulted in crucifixion.The Christian Gospel is still dangerous when its truth is really put into practice. This is clearly seen in the case of Archbishop Oscar Romero of El Salvador, who was assassinated while he was celebrating Mass because, like Jesus, he reminded people of the needs of the poor and the oppressed in El Salvador. The story began in 1979 when a young priest, Father Grande, was shot and killed on the streets of El Salvador. His “crime” was that he spoke out against the government, which brutally suppressed all forms of protests and executed thousands of innocent people using its notorious “Death Squads.” When Fr. Grande’s great friend, Bishop Oscar Romero, was chosen to be the new Archbishop, the authorities thought he would keep quiet on the question of the oppressed poor in that country. Instead, Archbishop Oscar Romero became an outspoken defender of the poor and a critic of the state-supported “Death Squads.” To honor the memory of his martyred friend, Romero refused to appear in any public ceremonies sponsored by the army or the government. He soon became the voice and conscience of El Salvador. His words and actions were reported throughout the whole world, so that everybody knew the atrocities happening in El Salvador. Romero’s fight for human rights led to his nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize. On March 24, 1980, at 6:25 PM, as the Archbishop was offering Mass in a hospital Chapel, a shot from the back of the Church struck him in the chest, killing him instantly. Thus, Archbishop Oscar Romero died a martyr for the Gospel of Christ. He was beatified May 23, 2015 by Cardinal Angelo Amato representing Pope Francis and canonized by Pope Francis October 14, 2018, with the designation “Bishop and Martyr.” — As we reflect today on Jesus’ words about his mission, let us remember Saint Oscar Romero and continue to strive to live out faithfully in our world and in our daily lives the “dangerous” truths of the “Good News” which is Jesus’ gift to us today. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2: God’s surprise message to three powerful presidents: There is a story about God calling the world’s three most powerful Presidents for a meeting: Presidents coming from Russia, China and U.S.A. God told them one thing: “The world will end by the year 2023 The three Presidents went to their respective countries and told their people about what God had told them. The Russian President said: “My dear people, I have two messages to give, both of them are bad news. First, God is real and second, the world will end by the year 2023.” The President of China announced to his people, “My dear people, I have two important messages for you, one unbelievable and one horrible. The unbelievable message is that God is real. The horrible message is that this God is so fed up with our world that He wants to destroy it.” The American President appeared in the national television to speak to the Americans. He said: “My dear people I have three messages to convey to you, all of them are good news. First, God is still in control of the world. Second, He talked to your President directly. And the third is, our world will end by the year 2023 and all our problems will be over.”– In today’s Gospel Jesus stands up in his native synagogue and announces the Good News of a loving, liberating and saving God. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 3: Liberation theology of Martin Luther King, Jr: As a Christian pastor, King’s main influence in his fights for the liberation of his people was Jesus Christ and the Christian Gospels, which he would almost always quote in his religious meetings, speeches at Church, and in public discourses. King’s Faith was strongly based in Jesus’ commandment of loving your neighbor as yourselves, loving God above all, and loving your enemies, praying for them and blessing them. His nonviolent thought was also based in the injunction to “turn the other cheek” in the Sermon on the mount, and Jesus’ teaching of putting the sword back into its place (Matthew 26:52). In his famous Letter from Birmingham Jail, King urged action consistent with what he describes as Jesus’ “extremist” love, and also quoted numerous other Christian pacifist authors, which was very usual for him. In another sermon, he stated: “Before I was a civil rights leader, I was a preacher of the Gospel. This was my first calling, and it still remains my greatest commitment. You know, actually all that I do in civil rights I do because I consider it a part of my ministry. I have no other ambitions in life but to achieve excellence in the Christian ministry. I don’t plan to run for any political office. I don’t plan to do anything but remain a preacher. And what I’m doing in this struggle, along with many others, grows out of my feeling that the preacher must be concerned about the whole man.”— King, 1967In his speech “I have been to the Mountain top“, he stated that he just wanted to do God’s will. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martin_Luther_King,_Jr.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Note: In his motu proprio of 30th September 2019, Aperuit Illis, Pope Francishas declared that the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time is to be devoted to the celebration, study and dissemination of the Word of God).(ORDO-2021-22 page 45).

Introduction: The Scriptures for today focus our attention on the importance and power of the Word of God and its challenge for us today. The Word of God is called “sacramental,” in the sense that when it is spoken, read or heard, God becomes present in our midst. For that to happen to us, we must listen to the Word, accept it into our hearts, and then put it into practice as we live out our lives.

Scripture lessons summarized: Both today’s first reading, taken from Nehemiah, and Luke’s Gospel, describe the public reading of Sacred Scripture which challenges the hearers to make a “fresh beginning” with a new outlook. In the first reading, after rebuilding the Temple and restoring the city, Ezra leads the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony. In this ceremony, with the active assistance of a few Levite helper-priests, Ezra reads and interprets the Law to the Jews gathered before the Water Gate from early in the morning till mid-day on the first day of the Jewish year. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 19) sings the praises of the Law of the Lord and its effects on those who accept it, ending with the prayer, “Let the words of my mouth and the thought of my heart/find favor before You, O Lord, My Rock and My Redeemer!” Taken from Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, the second reading reminds us, “Together we are Christ’s Body, but each of us is a different part of it,” suggesting that, as different parts of Christ’s Body, we each have a share, as God’s instruments, in bringing the freeing and saving mission of Christ to our world in our times. Hence, we need to work together like the different parts of a body, offering our time, talents and treasures to each other as well as to all we encounter in our lives in fulfillment of our Baptismal calling and promises. It is in mutual giving and receiving as one Body that we assist each other to experience the true freedom which Jesus offers us and wishes us to have, that is, freedom from our common legacy, the effects of Adam’s original choice of himself for god, namely, sin, darkness and the power of the evil one. Today’s Gospel describes how, on a Sabbath, Jesus stood before the people in synagogue of his hometown, Nazareth, reading and interpreting what Isaiah had prophesied about the Messiah. Jesus rooted and grounded his mission and ministry in the written word of Isaiah, particularly in the passage in which the Spirit sends the prophet to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. These words had long since been seen as applying to the coming Messiah. To the great amazement and disbelief of his own townsmen, Jesus declared that Isaiah’s prophecy was being fulfilled at that very moment because the prophet was foretelling and describing Jesus’ mission and ministry. Jesus’ mission would be to give liberation to everyone who would listen to his “Good News,” accept it, and put it into practice.

First reading, Nehemiah 8:2-4a, 5-6, 8-10, explained: After defeating Babylon, King Cyrus of Persia decreed that the exiled Jews, who had spent seven decades of exile in Babylon, could return home to Jerusalem. The Jews who returned rebuilt their ruined Temple (Ezra 6:15-17), and finished rebuilding the city walls under Ezra the priest, their spiritual leader, and Nehemiah, the Governor appointed by Persia (Nehemiah 6:15). The Lord gave an important mission to both men. They were to teach the Hebrew Scriptures and inspire the people to the high ideals of their ancestral religion. In today’s reading, Ezra is leading the people in a “Covenant renewal” ceremony. In this ceremony, with the active assistance of a few Levite helper-priests, Ezra reads and interprets the Law for the Jews gathered before the Water Gate, from early in the morning till mid-day on the first day of the Jewish year (Nehemiah 8:8). The Torah, thus, becomes a living Word of power, grace and forgiveness for these exiles. It evokes from them a dramatic response. They have come to realize the many ways in which they have failed to keep God’s Commandments in their lives. Hence, with tears of repentance in their eyes and joy in their hearts, the people respond with a great “Amen!” Israel, as we sing in today’s Psalm, was rededicating itself to God and His Law. The passage describes the birth of preaching: the first homily took place at an assembly of the Chosen People of God during the 5th century BC! In today’s Gospel, Jesus, too, reads from the Scriptures and interprets them by identifying himself with the messianic figure and mission depicted in the reading — “The spirit of the Lord is upon me…He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and glad tidings to the poor”—”Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing!”

Second Reading, 1 Corinthians 12:12-30, explained: The Christian community in the Greek seaport of Corinth was a mixture of people of various ethnic groups, a combination which occasionally caused divisions that threatened its unity. Paul was worried that the community might break apart into factions. So, in order to help them build up the Body of Christ in Corinth, he wrote about the need for them to have unity and mutual love. In today’s selection from that letter, Paul addresses a Christian community blessed with diverse manifestations of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Prophets, preachers, healers, teachers – you name it, the Spirit had bestowed the job on someone in Corinth! These folks often exercised their gifts in spectacular, ecstatic ways that drew a lot of attention, much as they can do today among people who attend revivals and the crusades of some Faith-healers. And that could have caused trouble. So Paul spends chapters 12, 13 and 14 of this letter trying to get the Corinthians to enjoy and express their gifts in ways that will give strength and unity to the community and glory to God rather than cause divisions by competition among them. Paul insists that the Corinthians must use their spiritual gifts to glorify God, not themselves. This particular passage tackles the unity-of-the-Church issue with the metaphor of the parts of the body. Each member of the Church is compared to one of the parts of the body, who with God’s special gifts is making a unique contribution to the health of the whole. Hence, Paul urges the Spirit-gifted Corinthian Christians to find Jesus in their community by recognizing Jesus in one another. The same plea is being addressed to us in our day. Even if the Spirit has not granted us the gift of speaking in tongues or that of healing powers, we can always choose to exercise the gift of love, which we have all been given, and which Paul ranks higher than all the rest. Paul, one of the earliest Christian authors, believes that it is essential for all Jesus’ followers to understand and appreciate the necessity of their own presence and of their freeing role in the ongoing life of Body of Christ.

Gospel exegesis: Synagogue worship: The Jews had only one main Temple, located in Jerusalem and used for offering sacrifices to God and celebrating the major feasts. Throughout the rest of the country, however, there were synagogues, one for every ten families or more, where the community, particularly the men, could offer Sabbath prayers and study the Scriptures. It was customary for the men to sit in the central part of the synagogue, where the scrolls were kept. The women and children sat in a separate area on the side of the synagogue. It was the Jewish custom for the reader to stand while reading, and to sit down while teaching (Mt 13:54; Mk 6:1). The prayer began with “Shema’’ prayer followed by the recital of the “Eighteen Blessings,” praising and thanking God. Then seven passages from the “Torah” the book of Law and three passages from the “Prophets” were read and interpreted. Finally, the prayer was concluded by a priest or the synagogue president blessing the assembly using the blessing from the Book of Numbers (6; 22 ff). (Visit: https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/he-went-to-synagogue for details).

Jesus’ reading and interpretation: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus participated in the Sabbath prayer of the synagogue in his native place in Nazareth with a band of disciples. The synagogue Liturgy of the Word was based on seven readings. The first four were from the Law (the Torah or the Pentateuch) followed by explanations given by the rabbi who was the teacher of the Law. The second set of three readings, taken from the prophets, could be read and interpreted by any circumcised male over thirty years of age. It was in this second capacity that Jesus read and preached on the passage from Isaiah (61:1-2a). Since Jesus did not belong to Aaron’s family, he could not be a Jewish priest. But as a popular lay teacher, he was given the chance to read and explain the portion from the Scroll of the Prophet Isiah. Naturally, the people of his native place were curious to hear from this carpenter-turned-prophet who had grown up among them, and had worked miracles throughout Galilee. Luke reports that Jesus returned to Galilee in the power of the Spirit, and news of him spread throughout the whole region. “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me,” Jesus said, “because He has anointed me…” This “power of the Spirit” was absolutely essential in order for Jesus to complete his mission.

“Theology of liberation”: The reading from Isaiah describes a kind of Messianic figure. In Isaiah 61:1-2, the prophet explicitly uses the language of “Messiah” or “Anointing”, “Anointed One.” Jesus identifies as that figure and declares that the mission and ministry and declares that the mission and ministry prophesied are his mission and his ministry. In other words, Jesus declares that Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in him, and this Scripture, about the Messiah, and the Jubilee, that we just heard, is fulfilled. Jesus claims that his messianic mission is similar to the mission given to Moses in Exodus 3:7-10, and that Jesus has been sent to Israel: (1) to bring glad tidings to the poor; (2) to proclaim liberty to captives; (3) to give recovery of sight to the blind; (4) to free the oppressed, and (5) to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord. [“An acceptable year,” in this context, suggested the ancient “Jubilee Year.” In the book of Leviticus 25, God says there is, at the end of seven times seven-year cycle, that is,  after 49 years, the 50th year will be a Jubilee year. It’s going to be a Jubilee year because in that year all debts are to be forgiven, all slaves are to be set free, and any land that has been appropriated, (family land which had been lost through debt), is to be returned to the original owners. Isaiah meant that the period of his ministry would open for all Israel the long-desired restoration of Zion which the Lord God Himself would accomplish, giving Israel His forgiveness and restoring her to His love and favor. In selecting this Messianic passage (“This Scripture has been fulfilled today, in your hearing”), Jesus sums up both the source of his power and authority and the nature of his freeing and saving ministry.  First, Jesus claims the power of God’s Spirit as the source of his work. Second, Jesus makes this proclamation in the context of Judaism – on the Sabbath, from the Scriptures, and in the synagogue. Third, Jesus identifies his work, the work  of the Messiah, with that of the Suffering Servant of Yahweh (see Isaiah 42:1-4, in particular), who brings   Good News to the poor, proclaims release to the oppressed and recovery of sight to the blind — figuratively and literally. Fourth, this agenda begun in Nazareth is to extend to all places where the Word of God will be heard and understood.

Life messages: 1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it out, and pass it on to others:  As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. However, even after we have chosen to believe in Jesus, to accept his teachings and to live them out in our lives, we are still in bondage. We are captives of sin, and only Christ can set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Pride and prejudice can make us blind to the needs of the less-fortunate, prompting us to fear and avoid them, rather than to love and help them. We can also be blind to the presence of God within ourselves and others. We are often not free to listen to a lonely, heart-broken neighbor. We can be prisoners of materialism and consumerism, chained to pleasure, power, money and control of everyone and everything in our world. Accordingly, we need to be freed and raised to a higher, richer level of life. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we need to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives — in our families, communities, parishes and workplaces.  

2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and to be ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because he was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus promised the same Spirit to his disciples: “I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Counselor to be with you forever—the Spirit of truth…. He lives with you and will be in you” (Jn 14:16-17). To this very day, the Holy Spirit is available to all believers who sincerely ask Him to dwell in their hearts. If we fail to receive, and then to use, His power and His gifts, we are left with nothing but our natural abilities, and we will be unable to be used as instruments in His freeing miracles. Miracles occur every day through weak human instruments, although they may be less spectacular than the ones Jesus performed. People whose minds are ravaged by fear and hatred can be miraculously filled with peace and kindness. Those whose hearts are crippled with bitterness and anger can be made gentle and peaceful. Perhaps others, whose relationships with their spouses are strained, can be miraculously healed by love and faithfulness. These are true miracles, performed by the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, often making use of human instruments. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom.

3) We need to make Bible reading and study a part of our daily Christian life.  Bible reading enables us to know Jesus more and to love him better. That is why we should set apart a time in the morning and in the evening to read a part of the Bible, giving priority to the Gospels and the Epistles. This reading should be an integral part of the evening family prayer. Children should be encouraged to read the Bible with the adults explaining to them what they read. We need to read the Scriptures as books inspired by God that teach us about God and how we should live our lives. We also need to ask for God’s grace to interpret what we read. God gives us inspiration so that we may understand the text and apply its lessons fruitfully to our lives. Five or ten minutes each day will make it possible to read the entire New Testament easily at least twice each year.

Jokes of the week:

1)Liberation theology” of obesity: And God created the earth with broccoli and cauliflower and spinach, green and yellow vegetable of all kinds, so Man and Woman would live long and healthy lives. And Satan invented McDonald’s. And McDonald’s invented the 99-cent double-cheeseburger. And Satan said to Man, “You want fries with that?” And Man said, “Super-size them.” And Man gained pounds. And God created the healthful yogurt, that woman might keep her figure that man found so fair. And Satan discovered chocolate. And woman gained pounds. And God said, “Try My crispy fresh salad.” And Satan invented ice cream. And woman gained pounds. And God said, “I have sent you heart-healthy vegetables and olive oil with which to cook them.” And Satan invented a chicken-fried steak so big it needed its own platter. And Man gained pounds and his bad cholesterol went through the roof. ………..And Man went into cardiac arrest. And God sighed and created quadruple bypass surgery. And Satan invented HMOs

2) “ I’ve been looking for these for 3 years!” A door-to-door salesman from a publishing house asked a lady if she owned a copy of the Bible. “I certainly do!” she replied with some pride. To his next question, did she read it regularly, she responded, “Oh, yes!” and sent her little daughter to get the Bible from the table drawer. As she showed it to the man, her spectacles fell from between the pages. Without thinking, she exclaimed, “Oh, here are my glasses! I’ve been looking for these for 3 years!”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK 

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. Brant  Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C 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) https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/12/16/third-sunday-ordinary-time-reading-scripture-242054

5)YouTube video of Jewish prayer: https://youtu.be/zyZ0qQLYr_w

6) Synagogue prayer service: https://www.thattheworldmayknow.com/he-went-to-synagogue  

7)Catholic Web Internet links: http://www.cin.org/linkoth.html

8)The Navarre Bible Commentary on the Readings: https://thejoecatholic.wordpress.com/category/navarre-bible/ 

9)William Barclay’s Daily Bible Study https://barclay-s-daily-study-bible.soft112.com/  & https://daily-kjv-study-bible-with-william-barclay-commentary-ios.soft112.com/download.html

      

25-Additional anecdotes:

1) U.S. Presidents’ Inaugural Addresses: Every single Inaugural Address from George Washington’s to Joseph Biden’s has been preserved. In these speeches, presidents have laid out for the country their dreams, goals, and aspirations. Here is a part of the speech given by our first president, George Washington (April 30, 1789), when he bravely acknowledged the role of God in his administration: He said, “It would be improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being Who rules over the universe, Who presides in the councils of nations, and Whose providential aids can supply every human defect.” Franklin Roosevelt said on March 4, 1933, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly.” Americans remember the role of citizens outlined in President John F. Kennedy’s Inaugural Address (January 20, 1961), “In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. …. And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country. My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” More recently we call to mind Ronald Reagan’s American Song theme in 1985: “hopeful, big-hearted, idealistic – daring, decent and fair. That’s our heritage, that’s our song… we raise our voices to the God who is the author of this most tender music.” No doubt you were able to identify several of the presidents by the historical references or by the famous lines, and while all of these Inaugural Addresses are important, some are moving, inspiring and worthy of remembrance. — Today in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 4, we have listened to an “inaugural address” delivered not to a Nation but to a synagogue congregation; not in an American city but in a poor village, Nazareth, in Galilee; and not by a man elected by the power of the people but by the God-man Jesus, anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit; Jesus outlines his mission, vision and dreams in this famous reflection and teaching. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

2)  Liberation theology: A woman in Nicaragua gets eleven cents for sewing together a pair of blue jeans that are sold by an American company for $14.95. That company made $566 million in profits on those jeans in one year. One out of every five Ugandan children will not live to age five because they do not have simple, primary health care. –This disparity between rich and poor occurs not just in Nicaragua and not just in Uganda. There are hurts to heal in our cities. There are poor people here. There are homeless people here. There are addicted people here. There are lonely people here. There are oppressed and captive people here. There are hurts that need to be healed! And you ask, “What can I do? Is there anything I can do? Can I be one who stands in the gap between the way things are and the way things can be? Can I be a bridge over which other people can travel in that journey from the way things are and the way things can be?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

3) “Poverty for us is a freedom”: St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) thinks so. There was a beautiful article about her in Time magazine. She was asked about the materialism of the West. “The more you have, the more you are occupied,” she contends. “But the less you have, the more free you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is a joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house…and it is for the guests. But we are happy. I find the rich poorer,” she continues. “Sometimes they are more lonely inside…The hunger for love is much more difficult to fill than the hunger for bread…The real poor know what is joy.” When asked about her plans for the future, she replied, “I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus.”–  Is there anyone in this room as rich as Mother Teresa? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

4) The Lake Wobegon effect. A scandal is brewing in the hallowed halls of Academe. It has to do with test scores given to our young people. A West Virginia doctor noticed some time back that all 50 states claim that their students score above average on standardized test scores. That, of course, is impossible “for everyone to be above average.” Someone has even given this scandal a thoughtful name, “the Lake Wobegon effect.” Lake Wobegon is author Garrison Keillor’s mythical town where, “All the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average.” Obviously, by definition it is impossible for everyone to be “above average.” Average is what most people are. Nobody, though, wants to admit it. — What has Jesus got to do with the Lake Wobegon effect? Just this. How can I look across our congregation, we who have so much, who are so well-fed, so well-clothed, so surrounded by the good things of life, how can I look across our congregation and say that Jesus came to save the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed? That’s not us! We are winners. We are stars. We’re “all above average.” This is one text we can skip over. It’s for someone else. Still, it’s there. Maybe we ought to listen. “The Spirit of the Lord is on me,” says Christ, “because He has anointed me to preach Good News to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” What, if anything, is Christ saying to you and me? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

5) Jesus the prophet: In one of his books, David Buttrick tells about a cartoon in a magazine. The cartoon showed three men sitting in a row behind a long table. A microphone has been placed in front of each of them. One man was pictured in long flowing hair and a draped white robe. Another was battered, a wreath of jagged thorns on his head. The third was swarthy, with dark curly hair and a pointed nose. The caption said, “Will the real Jesus Christ please stand?”
Everybody sees Jesus from a different angle, including the writers of the New Testament. For Matthew, Jesus is the Teacher of Righteousness. For Mark, Jesus is an exorcist, constantly battling the powers of evil. Even after Evil nails Jesus to a cross, Jesus emerges from the tomb to continue his saving work. But for Luke, the word that best summarizes the person and work of Jesus is the word “prophet.” In the story we heard today, Jesus is a different kind of prophet. The prophet Jesus says, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” When the prophet Jesus says, “Today the Scripture is fulfilled,” he turns memory into mission and transforms a hope into an assignment, claiming the beautiful poetry of Isaiah as his job description. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

6) What is the mission of our Church? Rachel Carson, in The Sea Around Us,  describes the microscopic vegetable life of the sea, which provides food for many of the ocean’s smallest creatures. She tells how these little plants drift thousands of miles wherever the currents carry them, with no power or will of their own to direct their own destiny. The plants are named plankton, a Greek word that means “wandering” or “drifting.” Plankton describes the wandering plant life of the ocean. [Robert A. Raines, New Life in the Church (San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1961).]–  Plankton may also be a good way to define the life of the Church today. We are wandering adrift. What is our mission as a Church? Why do we exist? From my studies of Jesus’ ministry and teachings, I believe we exist for two reasons: one is to reach individual people with the Good News of God’s love as revealed in Jesus Christ; the second is to influence society to the point that the kingdoms of this earth more closely resemble the Kingdom of God. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

7) “The 2% Rule.” I don’t know if you are familiar with the 2% concept or not, but it is based on the findings of sociologist and educator Robert Bellah, author of the best-selling book, Habits of the Heart (1985). Bellah was for a long time a sociologist at the Institute for Advanced Studies at Princeton University. While there, he came to this conclusion: “We should not underestimate the significance of the small group of people who have a vision of a just and gentle world . . . The governing values of a whole culture may be changed when 2% of its people have a new vision.” Think of that! All you need is 2% of the people, according to Bellah, and you can change an entire culture. (http://www.keepbelieving.com/sermon/1996-05-26-A-Few-Good-Men/). I wonder if we realize just how powerful we potentially could be. But first we need to define our mission. Jesus called his followers salt . . . he spoke of the Kingdom as leaven. What Jesus was saying is that we should be having an impact on our surrounding culture. A vital Church understands its mission. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

8) Liberation starts in individuals: In 1835, Elijah Lovejoy saw a man lynched. It changed his life. He cut back on his career as a Presbyterian pastor and as a schoolteacher. He went back to his earlier training as a newspaper editor and began to write anti-slavery tracts. He delivered speeches and aroused hostility. People persecuted him, beat him, and finally burned him out of his home. He was injured in combating the fire, and after only two years, he was killed. Elijah P. Lovejoy lived  a life cut short. A young attorney in Elijah’s home state of Illinois read Elijah P. Lovejoy’s materials and was deeply influenced. Twenty-six years later, that young attorney signed the Emancipation Proclamation. — One person! One! Will you be one? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

9) “Don’t you want to be free?” In his book Ghost Soldiers, Hampton Sides tells the story of a dramatic mission during World War II. On January 28th, 1945, 121 hand-selected Army Rangers slipped behind enemy lines in the Philippines in an attempt to rescue 513 American and British POW’s who had spent three years in a hellish prison camp near the city of Cabanatuan. Hampton Sides describes the first effects of liberation as chaos and fear. The prisoners were mentally too brittle to understand what was taking place. Some even scurried away from their liberators. One particular prisoner, Bert Bank, refused to budge, even when a Ranger walked right up to him and tugged his arm. “C’mon, we’re here to save you,” he said. “Run for the gate.” Bank still would not move. The Ranger looked into his eyes and saw they were vacant, registering nothing.” “What’s wrong with you?” he asked. “Don’t you want to be free?” Finally, a smile formed on Bank’s lips as the meaning of the words became clear, and he reached up to the outstretched hand of the Ranger. The Rangers searched all the barracks for additional prisoners, then shouted, “The Americans are leaving. Is there anybody here?” Hearing no answer, they left. The freed prisoners marched 25 miles and boarded their ship home. With each step, their stunned disbelief gave way to soaring optimism. — In today’s Gospel, Jesus presents to his fellow-townsmen his mission of bringing them  God’s saving freedom, to their great astonishment and, for some, their disbelief. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

10) Liberation attempts in parishes: One average-sized church in Brooklyn, New York, decided that it would fight a popular clothing company and, in doing so, ended the sweatshops in El Salvador. It was just an average-sized Church that stood up and said, “We are against the exploitation of children.” The Faith Network of Children decided that it would conduct a campaign and close the sweat shop in El Camino, California, where 72 people from Thailand, behind barbed wire, were being paid $1.60 an hour and working eighteen hours a day because somebody stood up and said, “Wait a minute! We are against the exploitation of women.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

In 1977, both Jews and Christians marched in silence during Holy Week in an effort to protest against the most luxurious hotels of California, and particularly Los Angeles, because they were paying slave-labor wages to the people who were making their guests feel luxurious. Some of them had been working there over twenty years and still had no benefits or any health care. Because they got some people’s attention, fourteen of the most luxurious hotels in Los Angeles banded together and signed a commitment that they would pay their employees a living wage and try to provide for them benefits that would be an example for hotels all over the world to follow. This happened because Christians and Jews marched together, silently, during Holy Week.

11) Princess Diana’s “liberation theology”: Before her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana was championing the cause of those who had been victims of land-mine explosions. In the weeks following her funeral, the video footage of her last visit to Bosnia ran again and again on televised news programs. Featured in the footage was the Princess, reaching out in compassion to those who had survived the explosion but who would have to live the rest of their lives maimed by the loss of one or more of their limbs. —  Her care for these wounded members of society was a poignant reminder of what Paul teaches in today’s second reading. Just as every part or member of the human body is necessary to the well-being of the whole person, so is every member of the human family necessary to the well-being of the Body of Christ. Therefore, each member must be cherished, valued, respected and protected by all the other members. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

12) Let me tell you about a commencement speech that was addressed to Harvard’s Senior Class. On the morning of their graduation, seniors gather in Memorial Church to hear the minister offer words of solace and encouragement as they leave “the Yard” to take their places in the world.
The 1998 senior class heard the unvarnished truth from the Rev. Peter Gomes, minister at Harvard and the author of several books on the Bible. Doctor Gomes took no prisoners that day. He began: “You are going to be sent out of here for good, and most of you aren’t ready to go. The president is about to bid you welcome into the fellowship of educated men and women and,” (and here he paused and spoke each word slowly for emphasis), “you know just – how – dumb – you – really – are.” The senior class cheered in agreement. “And worse than that,” Doctor Gomes continued, “the world – and your parents in particular – are going to expect that you will be among the brightest and best. But you know that you can no longer fool all the people even some of the time. By noontime today, you will be out of here. By tomorrow you will be history. By Saturday, you will be toast. That’s a fact – no exceptions, no extensions.  Nevertheless, there is reason to hope,” Doctor Gomes promised. “The future is God’s gift to you. God will not let you stumble or fall. God has not brought you this far to this place to ABANDON you or leave you here alone and afraid. The God of Israel never stumbles, never sleeps, never goes on sabbatical. Thus, my beloved and bewildered young friends, do not be afraid.” — What Doctor Gomes did for the senior class at Harvard, Isaiah does for Israel. This is the wonderful part of Isaiah’s ministry. It’s true that he told them they would be destroyed. But he also preached a message of restoration. He stood on the steps of the Temple in Jerusalem and told them there was hope. There would be a year of Jubilee. There would come a time when God would forgive. Listen to Isaiah’s words in chapter 14: “The Lord will have compassion on Israel; once again He will choose His people and settle them in their land. And the house of Israel will possess the nations.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

13) “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” The story is told of Noelene Martin, a Franciscan monk in Australia assigned to be the guide and “gofer” for St. Teresa of Calcutta (Mother Teresa) when she visited New South Wales. Thrilled and excited at the prospect of being so close to this great woman, he dreamed of how much he would learn from her and what they would talk about. But during her visit, he became frustrated. Although he was constantly near her, the friar never had the opportunity to say one word to Mother Teresa. There were always other people for her to meet. Finally, her tour was over, and she was due to fly to New Guinea. In desperation, the Franciscan friar spoke to Mother Teresa: “If I pay my own fare to New Guinea, can I sit next to you on the plane so I can talk to you and learn from you?” Mother Teresa looked at him. “You have enough money to pay airfare to New Guinea?” she asked. “Yes,” he replied eagerly. “Then give that money to the poor,” she said. “You’ll learn more from that than anything I can tell you.” Mother Teresa understood that Jesus’ ministry was to the poor, and she made it hers as well. She knew that they more than anyone else needed Good News.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

14) Liberation from hate: The Walt Disney TV movie, Ruby Bridges, told the story of Ruby Bridges, a six-year-old African-American girl, who was the first person to integrate the schools in New Orleans. Every day the federal marshals escorted her into the schoolhouse, because both sides of the sidewalk would be lined with people who were screaming threats. Robert Coles, a noted Harvard psychiatrist, volunteered his time to work with young Ruby. Every day he would talk with her, trying to help her weather the crisis. On the news one night, he noticed her walking up the sidewalk and the people were screaming and throwing things, but suddenly she stopped and said something and started backing down the sidewalk. Then the marshals picked her up and took her into the building. That night, Cole asked her what she said to the marshals. She said, “I was not talking to the marshals.” He said, “Yes, you were. I saw you on the news. I saw your lips moving. You were talking to the marshals.” She said, “I was not talking to the marshals.” He said, “Well, what were you doing?” She said, “I was praying for those people who were hollering at me. I had forgotten to pray and I was trying to go back and pray for them as I walked to the school building.” Cole shook his head and said, “You were praying for the people who were screaming at you?” She said, “Yes, my mama taught me that when people speak mean of you, you pray for them just like Jesus prayed for the people who spoke mean of Him.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

 15) The “Cult of the Spectator.” Our philosophers of history have pointed out to us that one of the sure signs of the disintegration of a society – the decay of a culture – is the growth of the Cult of the Spectator, the Cult of the Stadium, where most of the people never play the game. They just sit in the stadium and watch it. They also state that the test of a religion is its effect on such a culture. The more we recognize the similarities between our culture and that of decaying Ancient Imperial Rome, the more we can see the significance of one of the great passages in Boris Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago. I thought of his words, as a few months ago, I stood on the highest rim of the Colosseum and allowed my mind to stray back 2,000 years to imagine what it had looked like then. Pasternak said, “Rome is a flea market of borrowed gods and conquered people, a mass of filth convoluted in a triple knot, as in an intestinal obstruction. Heavy wheels with no spokes, eyes sunk in fat, sodomy, double chins, illiterate emperors, fish fed on the flesh of learned slaves, all crammed into the arches of the Colosseum, and all wretched. And then, into this tasteless heap of gold and marble, HE came, Light, clothed in an aura, emphatically human, deliberately provincial, the Galilean, the Christ. And at that moment, gods and —  Yes, there was vitality in the early Christian culture, so that a handful of slaves and outlaws could easily dump over the whole imperial facade without even raising a weapon. It is the power of the Good News of liberation preached by Jesus, officially starting at Nazareth. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

16) Surprise, surprise! A man wrote into Reader’s Digest with an embarrassing story about his former boss. This gentleman was just stepping out of the shower one evening when his wife called and asked him to run down to the basement and turn off the iron she had accidentally left on. Without bothering to grab a towel or robe, the man headed down to the basement. Just as he reached the bottom stair, the lights came on and a dozen friends and colleagues jumped out and shouted, “Surprise!” His wife had planned a secret party for the man’s 40th birthday. [“Life in These United States,” Readers Digest (Mar. 1997), p. 84.] — Not all surprises are good ones, at least at first glance. Jesus had an uncanny ability to take people by surprise–and they weren’t always pleased about it. Take, for instance, the surprise Jesus sprang on the Nazarene congregation in our Bible passage for today. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   

17) Observing or profaning the Sabbath? Under the blue laws of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, Puritans administered religion to unwilling subjects by means of the whipping post, the ducking stool, the stocks, fines, and imprisonment. Mrs. Alice Morse Earle’s history, The Sabbath in Puritan New England has such examples: “Two lovers, John Lewis and Sarah Chapman, were accused and tried for sitting together on the Lord’s Day under an apple tree. A Dunstable soldier, for wetting a piece of old hat to put on his shoe to protect his foot, was fined forty shillings for doing this heavy work. Captain Kemble of Boston in 1656 was put in public stocks for two hours for his ‘lewd and unseemly behavior’ which consisted of kissing his wife in public on the Sabbath on the doorstep of his house after his return from a three-year voyage. A man who had fallen into the water [and so had) absented himself from Church to dry his only suit of clothes was found guilty and publicly whipped.”– In today’s Gospel Jesus offers us his theology of liberation in contrast to the  Puritan Blue laws.   (Anthony Castle in More Quotes and Anecdotes) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

 `18) The Courage to Change: In November of 1984 on one of his PBS Late Night America Shows, Dennis Wholey confessed that he was an alcoholic. He went on to describe a book he had put together entitled The Courage to Change: Personal Conversations about Alcoholism with Dennis Wholey. The book contains frank and revealing conversations with a wide variety of celebrity alcoholics such as rock singer Grace Slick, baseball player Bob Welch, actor Jason Robards, comedian Shecky Greene and Catholic priest Vaughan Quinn. Also, there are heartfelt conversations with Rod Steiger and Jerry Falwell, who are children of alcoholics; and Sybil Carter, whose husband Billy is an alcoholic. Four years earlier, Dennis Wholey confronted his own problem with alcohol and now is on a mission with his book to help other victims of what is sometimes called “the most treatable untreated disease in this country.” — Dennis Wholey’s message about The Courage to Change matches our Lord’s message of liberation given in today’s Gospel. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by  Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

 

19) Homeland: Edgar Reitz, the German film director, tells the story of how he went home with a friend to visit his mother, and while they were there his mother told a story he had never heard before. The story was of a man from their town who had left his house one day saying he was going up the road to the local inn for a drink. But he never returned home, and no one ever heard of him again. Reitz was intrigued by the story because he was interested in what would make someone leave home without telling anyone, and what would keep him from ever coming back. He was interested in what makes people leave the place they belong to, and what makes some of them come back. Why do some people leave home never to return? What draws some people back – if only to rediscover why they left? Reitz decided to make a film on the theme. He has called it Heimat, which means “homeland”, and it lasts for 15 hours and 36 minutes! The film is a chronicle of one family and one small village in Germany from 1919 until 1982. One of its many appeals is how it depicts the great sense of belonging the people have in the small village of Schabbach when they are born into a place their family have lived for generations. They are born into a particular memory that associates them with people and places and little stories. They are able to call on all this, which gives them a sense of belonging and a hold over their identity. The film shows how, in the passage of time that sense of belonging slowly disappears. But no matter how far people travel from home, perhaps there is always some hope that they can go back. As one character in a poem by Robert Frost says: “Home is the place where, when you have to go there, They have to take you in.” — In today’s Gospel, Jesus returns to Nazareth where he has been brought up, the place which gives him the identity of Jesus of Nazareth. (Dennis McBride in Seasons of the Word”; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

20) The 2006 release Amazing Grace. This film tells the moving story of William Wilberforce and his life-long struggle against slavery in the Parliament of England. This young man of unusual ability and noteworthy power relentlessly appealed to the consciences of sophisticated people to stop what no normal person could stand to embrace. He literally gave his life trying to set people free. What the movie does not include is the fact that slavery was finally, fully outlawed in England on July 26, 1833. William Wilberforce died July 29, 1833. Lest we think slavery to be a problem of the past, there are eighteen to twenty thousand people trafficked in the U.S. each year for forced labor or prostitution. There are twenty-seven million enslaved people worldwide, eighty percent of them women and over half, children under eighteen. A sub-plot of Amazing Grace is the life of John Newton, the preacher behind Wilberforce. A former slave trader himself, Newton lived out the latter years of his life with the ghosts of twenty thousand slaves haunting him in the night. But as he proclaims in the movie, “I am a great sinner, but I found a Great Savior.” I don’t think I’ll ever sing about the “amazing grace that saved a wretch like me” in the same way again. Jesus Christ can do that for you and me.

— The values of Jesus proclaim the year of God’s favor for all. This kind of talk got Jesus kicked out of town. But let us not be too quick to judge. These Nazarenes liked the idea of a year of Jubilee. Who wouldn’t be in favor of a little Heaven on earth that grants forgiveness of debts and return of land to original owners? It was the sweet dream of all God’s children in Israel. They hoped Jesus would make it happen. So their hopes rose with this hometown boy. But Jesus led no revolution against Rome. Jesus fit no image of their expected Messiah. Jesus was not elected the Chief Rabbi of Galilee and worst of all, He told the home folks that the Jubilee would be for widows and foreigners and lepers, as well as, you and me. Talk like that gets you in big trouble. So our story ends with Jesus between a mob of angry people and the precipice of a huge cliff. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

21) At the crossroads: The Stranger, novel by Albert Camus, introduces us to Meursault, a young man who commits a murder. The dramatic prosecutor theatrically denounces Meursault to the point that he claims Mersault must be a soulless monster, incapable of remorse and that he thus deserves only to die for his crime. Although Meursault’s attorney defends him and later tells Mersault that he expects the sentence to be light, Meursault is alarmed when the judge informs him of the final decision: that he will be decapitated publicly. Now the young man stands at a crossroads. He has only two ways open in front of him. One is to accept the message of peace, repent and be exonerated. The other is to perish in his obstinacy. — Dear friends, God’s laws instruct us, educate us and lead us forward. Finally, we are placed in a situation where only two roads are open before us. There we have to make an ultimate choice: to follow God’s precepts and attain freedom or to discard them and end up in doom. The first reading presents a beautiful scene. Ezra the priest is reading the Law of the Lord to the people. Upon listening to the Law they must choose whether to accept or reject it. Repentant, they decide to follow the precepts of the Lord. (Fr. Bobby Jose). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

22) Dictionaries stolen, Bible safe: The Sanford Hotel in San Francisco reports that it never lost a single Bible in the 15 years it placed them at the bedside as a service to the guests. But, in one month after it started putting dictionaries in the rooms as well, 41 dictionaries disappeared. –Now, I don’t know whether you can draw a solid conclusion from that, but on the surface, it seems obvious that persons apparently place a greater value on human words than they do the Word of God. So, there are words and The Word. Of course, the Bible is the Word above all other words. But we go even further than that in the Christian Faith. Jesus is the Word — the Word become flesh — and by the Word that He is, we assess all other words including the Bible. (Maxie Dunnam). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

23) Rehabilitation: In the nineteenth and twentieth centuries and due in no small measure to advances in science and technology, a new methodology dealing with society’s physical, psychological, ethical, moral, and social ills has been developed. Foremost among these methods is that of rehabilitation. From the Latin re, which means again, and habilitare, which means to enable, rehabilitation has been defined as the process whereby: (1) a handicapped or otherwise incapacitated person is restored to useful life through education and therapy; (2) the good name of a person is reinstated; (3) the rank, privileges and rights of a person are restored; (4) a person is returned to his/her former state or condition. Criminal offenders who were once simply relegated to prison to protect society are now being rehabilitated through treatment and training so as to be rendered capable of returning to society and functioning as law-abiding members of the community. Persons with addictions to gambling, drugs and/or alcohol, people with eating disorders, people with other compulsive behaviors, etc., now have hope for rehabilitation by participating in extensive programs offered at special centers by qualified therapists and counselors. Patients with physical challenges suffered as a result of accident or illness (stroke, heart/lung disease, etc.) can also benefit from courses of rehabilitation therapy. In the past few decades some inner-city neighborhoods that had been allowed to degenerate into urban jungles have been rehabilitated through the cooperative efforts of caring citizens. — In today’s Scripture readings, Ezra in the first reading and Jesus in the Gospel reading both invite a gathered assembly to appreciate and become participants in another sort of rehabilitation, viz., that which is freely offered to all people through the power of the Word of God. In the second reading, Paul notes that since all believers are members of the same body of Christ,  the rehabilitation of each of us is inextricably bound to the rehabilitation of all of us. At the outset of this new year, believers in Jesus are called to be rehabilitated by the power of the Word of God and to participate in the Church’s mission of rehabilitating all of humankind.  (Sanchez files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

    24) Rehab of Bosnian handicapped: Before her tragic death in 1997, Princess Diana was championing the cause of those who had been victims of land mine explosions. In the weeks following her funeral, the video footage of her last visit to Bosnia ran again and again on televised news programs. Featured in the footage was the Princess, reaching out in compassion to those who had survived the explosion but who would have to live the rest of their lives maimed by the loss of one or more of their limbs. Her care for these wounded members of society was a poignant reminder of what Paul teaches in today’s second reading. Just as every part or member of the human body is necessary to the well-being of the whole person, so every member of the human family is necessary to the well-being of the body of Christ. Therefore, each member must be cherished, valued, respected and protected. — Perhaps Paul’s exhortation can also be understood as an appeal to contemporary believers to offer similar admiration and acceptance to the sanitation worker, teacher and short order cook as to the professional athlete, movie star and media mogul.  (Sanchez files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  

25) Weeping at the word of God: Long before Madison Avenue invented “best seller” book lists, the Bible, as the “word of God” was the perennial best seller. Even today it is more widely circulated and more widely read in public as well as private, than any other book. Certainly, the word of God is heard more than it is heeded. Still when problems arise that make us lonely with doubt or dismay, we often turn back for light instinctively to the Book of Books – whether to the actual volume or to its verses long since engraved in our memory. If we then open our minds to these familiar works, we often find in them uncanny answers to our own problems. — In the fifth and sixth centuries, BC the Jews who had been led off into captivity in Babylon were finally able to return to their home-city Jerusalem. Today’s first reading deals with this exciting homecoming. Once the former exiles had rebuilt the city walls, their leading priest Ezra gathered them all together and slowly read to them the first five books of the Old Testament. This was the Torah, the Law, given the Israelites under Moses to govern the pattern of life of God’s chosen people. The crowd listened to Ezra carefully and began to weep. “Do not weep,” Ezra urged them, “Rejoicing in the Lord must be your strength.” — Centuries later, St. Francis of Assisi, though lately called by God, was in a quandary as to what God wanted him to do. On the feast of St. Matthias he listened carefully to the Gospel read at Mass. The passage contained Christ’s instructions to his apostles,  when he sent them on their first experimental mission. “Provide yourselves with neither gold nor silver no copper in your belts, no traveling bag, no change of shirt, no sandals, no walking stick. The workman, after all is worth his keep.” Though these words had not been addressed to Francis personally, he took them as his own. From then on, as his friars set out on their mission of preaching penance, they went forth poor, barefoot and penniless. With God’s help, the Franciscans would try to live the gospel literally. If we, like the Jews back from exile and the pioneers of the Franciscan order, try to make the scriptures a part of ourselves, we will never lack the guidance and joy of their Divine Author along our pilgrim way. (Father Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22   L/22

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 12) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of 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 .

 

                 

Ruins of a synagogue

O. T. III (Jan 23-C) ( Lk 1. 1-4_ 4. 14-21)L-22.docx

Jan 17- 22 weekday homilies

Jan 17-22: Kindly click onhttps://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes.

Jan 17 Monday (St. Anthony, Abbot): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-anthony-of-egypt Mk 2:18-22: 18 Now John’s disciples and the Pharisees were fasting; and people came and said to him, “Why do John’s disciples and the disciples of the Pharisees fast, but your disciples do not fast?” 19 And Jesus said to them, “Can the wedding guests fast while the bridegroom is with them? As long as they have the bridegroom with them, they cannot fast. 20 The days will come, when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast in that day. 21 No one sews a piece of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; if he does, the patch tears away from it, the new from the old, and a worse tear is made. 22 And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but new wine is for fresh skins.” 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 gives Jesus’ reply to the question raised, perhaps by some well-meaning Pharisees, disciples of John the Baptist, asking why Jesus’ disciples ate and drank and feasted, while they (John the Baptist’s disciples), and the Pharisees in general, fasted and prayed. Prayer, fasting, and almsgiving were the three cardinal religious practices — the “good deeds”– of Jewish religious life.

Jesus’ reply: Jesus responded to their sincere question using three metaphors: the metaphor of the “children of the bridal chamber,” the metaphor of patching torn clothing, and the metaphor of wineskins. First, Jesus compared his disciples with the children of the bridal chamber. These were the selected friends of the bride and groom who feasted in the company of the bride and groom during a week of honeymoon. Nobody expected them to fast. Jesus assured the questioners that his disciples would fast when he, the Bridegroom, was taken away from them. In other words, fasting is necessary when we sin and our union with Christ begins to fade, as happens when we get addicted to evil habits and evil tendencies, leading us to sin. As Catholic Christians, we are uniquely blessed to experience Jesus’ presence in the Eucharist. In the same way, we are to welcome both the joys of Christian life and the crosses it offers us. But Joy is the chief characteristic of a Christian – joy even in tribulation. Using the comparisons of the danger of using new, unshrunken cloth to make a patch for an old garment, or old wineskins to store new, still-fermenting wine, Jesus told the questioners that they must have more elastic and open minds and larger hearts to understand and follow his new ideas which were, in many cases, different from traditional Jewish teachings. Jesus is challenging us to be open to radical transformation so that we may receive him and, with his grace, reflect his love, mercy and forgiveness to others.

Life message: 1) We need to be adjustable Christians with open and elastic minds and hearts. The Holy Spirit, working actively in the Church and guiding the teaching authority in the Church, enables the Church to put into practice new visions, new ideas, new adaptations and new ways of worship in place of old ones. So, we should have the generosity and good will to follow the teachings of the Church. 2) At the same time, we need the Old Testament revelations, the New Testament teachings, and the Sacred Tradition of the Church as main sources of our Christian Faith. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 8 Tuesday:Mk 2:23-28:23 As Jesus was passing through a field of grain on the Sabbath, His disciples began to make a path, picking the heads of grain. 24 And the Pharisees said to him, “Look, why are they doing what is not lawful on the Sabbath?” 25 And he said to them, “Have you never read what David did, when he was in need and was hungry, he and those who were with him: 26 how he entered the house of God, when Abiathar was high priest, and ate the bread of the Presence, which it is not lawful for any but the priests to eat, and also gave it to those who were with him?” 27 And he said to them, “The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath; 28 so the Son of man is lord even of the Sabbath.” 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 gives Jesus’ teaching on the purpose of the Sabbath and on its proper observance. This was his response to a criticism and a silly accusation made by Pharisees against his disciples. On a Sabbath, to satisfy their hunger, they had plucked ears of grain from a field, removing the husks by rubbing the grain between their palms and blowing away the chaff. The Pharisees accused them of violating Sabbath laws by performing three items of work forbidden on the Sabbath, namely, harvesting, threshing and winnowing. God Himself, the originator of the Sabbath (Gn 2:3), ordered the Jewish people to avoid certain kinds of work on this day (Ex 20:8-11; 21:13; Dt 5:14) to leave them free to give more time to God. As time went by, the rabbis complicated this Divine precept. By Jesus’ time they had extended the list to 39 kinds of forbidden work (Navarre Bible Commentary).

Counter-arguments: According to Matthew, Jesus gives three counter-arguments from Holy Scripture defending the apostles. But Mark gives only one of those arguments. Jesus argues that basic human needs, like hunger, take precedence over Divine worship and Sabbath observance. In other words, the commandment to keep the Sabbath holy does not come before the duty to seek basic sustenance. Jesus cites from Scripture the example of hungry David and his selected soldiers. They approached Abiathar (Mk 2: 26), the high priest of Nob (or his father, priest Ahimelech — 1 Sm 21:1-6) who gave them for food the “bread of the Presence” which only the priests were allowed to eat. The bread of the Presence consisted of twelve loaves or cakes placed each morning on the table in the sanctuary, as homage to the Lord from the twelve tribes of Israel (cf. Lv 24:5-9). The loaves withdrawn to make room for the fresh ones were reserved to the priests (Navarre Bible Commentary).

Life message: Like the Jewish Sabbath, the Christian Sunday is to be: 1) a day of rest and refreshment with members of the family; 2) a day for thanksgiving and the recharging of spiritual batteries through participation in the Eucharistic celebration (for Catholics); 3) a day for parents to teach religious Faith and Bible to their children; 4) a day to do works of charity in the neighborhood and in the parish; 5) a day for socializing with family members, neighbors, and fellow-parishioners. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 19 Wednesday: Mk 3:1-6 1 There was a man there with a withered hand. 2 And they watched him, to see whether he would heal him on the Sabbath, so that they might accuse him. 3 And he said to the man who had the withered hand, “Come here.” 4 And he said to them, “Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?” But they were silent. 5 And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart, and said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was restored. 6 The Pharisees went out, and immediately held counsel with the Herodians against him, how to destroy 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 a miraculous healing done by Jesus on one Sabbath as a public violation of Sabbath law to prove that God’s intention for the Sabbath was to do good and to save life rather than to do evil or to destroy life.

The incident and the reaction: Ex 20:8 and Dt 5:12 instructed the Jews to keep the Sabbath holy. But the Scribes and the Phariseeshadamplified God’s law on the Sabbath by misinterpreting it and had made it burdensome for the common people through man-made laws. Jesus wanted to demonstrate in public the original intention of God in declaring the Sabbath holy. For Jesus, the Sabbath was a day of rest to be used in adoring God, learning and teaching His laws, and doing good to/for others. Hence, Jesus took the liberty of granting healing to a man with a withered hand in the local synagogue immediately after the worship service, thus infuriating the scribes and the Pharisees.

Life messages: 1) Our Christian Sabbath, that is, Sunday, observance of participating in the Eucharistic celebration is meant to recharge our spiritual batteries for doing good to/for others and avoiding evil. 2) Our Sunday observance is also meant to be an offering of our lives to God on the altar, to ask God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins, to present our needs before the Lord and to participate in the Divine Life by Holy Communion. 3) It is also a day for us to spend time with the members of the family and to participate in the activities of our parish and neighborhood. Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 20 Thursday (St. Fabian, Pope, Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-fabian ; (St. Sebastian, Martyr): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-sebastianMk 3: 7-12: 7 Jesus withdrew with his disciples to the sea, and a great multitude from Galilee followed; also from Judea 8 and Jerusalem and Idumea and from beyond the Jordan and from about Tyre and Sidon a great multitude, hearing all that he did, came to him. 9 And he told his disciples to have a boat ready for him because of the crowd, lest they should crush him; 10 for he had healed many, so that all who had diseases pressed upon him to touch him. 11 And whenever the unclean spirits beheld him, they fell down before him and cried out, “You are the Son of God.” 12 And he strictly ordered them not to make him known. 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 how both Jews and Gentiles from Galilee and all surrounding areas gathered around Jesus practically every day of his public ministry of preaching and healing. Jesus preached the Good News of God’s love and demonstrated by his healing ministry the mercy and compassion of God his Father .

Jesus’ mission was universal, attracting Jews and pagans alike. He exercised his Divine power of healing, using his human body to demonstrate to people that he was both God and man. Jesus instructed the healed ones not to publicize him, as the expected Messiah because he did not want to bring his public life to a premature end. The ordinary Jews believed that the expected Messiah would declare himself King of the Jews after overthrowing the Roman rule. Hence, it was dangerous to let people regard him as the Messiah.

Life messages: 1) Jesus continues to preach the Good News and heal the sick through the Church and through us, his followers. He welcomes our response to him and calls us to come to Him through the Sacraments, and especially through our participation in the Eucharistic celebration, with trusting Faith and confident expectation. 2) “The holy human nature of our Lord is our only route to salvation; it is the essential means we must use to unite ourselves to God. Thus, we can today approach our Lord by means of the sacraments, especially and pre-eminently the Eucharist. And through the sacraments there flows to us, from God, through the human nature of the Word, a strength which cures those who receive the sacraments with faith (cf. St. Thomas Aquinas, “Summa Theologica”, III, q. 62, a. 5). Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 21 Friday (St. Agnes, Virgin, Martyr) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-agnes : Mk 3: 13-19: 13 And he went up on the mountain, and called to him those whom he desired; and they came to him. 4 And he appointed twelve, to be with him, and to be sent out to preach 15 and have authority to cast out demons: 16 Simon whom he surnamed Peter; 17 James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James, whom he surnamed Boanerges, that is, sons of thunder; 18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddeus, and Simon the Cananaean, 19 and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him. Then he went home. (& Lk 6: 12-16) 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 gives a short account of the call and mission of the Apostles. Jesus is the first missionary, sent by his Father with the “Good News” that God, his Father, is a loving, merciful, and forgiving Father Who wants to save everyone through His Son Jesus. Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus selects and empowers twelve future missionaries as apostles, giving them his own mission along with a share of his power to preach, and to heal the sick as proof of the truth of their message. Then, Jesus sends them in pairs to the Jewish towns and villages as heralds, to prepare the people to receive the Good News.

Special features: Jesus selected very ordinary people, most of them hard-working fishermen with no social status, learning, or political influence, because he was sure that they would be very effective instruments in God’s hands. It was a strange mixture of people. Matthew was a hated tax-collector for a foreign power, while Simon the Cananaean was a Zealot and fanatical nationalist who belonged to a militant group determined to destroy Roman rule by any means. The others were mostly professional fishermen with a lot of good will, patience and stamina. At first it was only their admiration and love for Jesus that united them. Jesus selected them after a night of prayer and gave them his own powers of healing and exorcism and his own mission of preaching the “Kingdom of God.”

Life message: 1) As Christians, we have the same mission that Jesus entrusted to his apostles: to proclaim the word of God to all the world. We fulfill this mission primarily by living out Jesus’ teachings and by promoting and helping the world-wide missionary activities of the Church with prayer, moral support, and financial aid. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/22)

Jan 22 Saturday: Mk 3: 20-21: Then he went home; 20 and the crowd came together again, so that they could not even eat. 21 And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for people were saying, “He is beside himself.” 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 how Jesus’ relatives and fellow villagers wrongly judged him as out of his mind and consequently tried to take him by force back to Nazareth to his safe, secure job as a good carpenter. That might be one reason why Jesus once remarked, “a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household.” (Mt 10:36). However, Jesus met opposition with grace and with determination to fulfill his Father’s will.

There were five reasons why Jesus’ family thought he was mad and attempted to dissuade him from his preaching and healing mission. First, Jesus had abandoned his safe, secure job as a much-needed village carpenter with a steady income to become a wandering preacher with no residence or steady income. Second, Jesus had chosen a band of fishermen with no political or social influence, a hated tax-collector and a fanatic zealot among his disciples. Third, Jesus had begun to criticize the power lobby – the chief priests, elders, scribes and Pharisees – in the Jewish religious headquarters, Jerusalem, labeling them hypocrites. Jesus’ relatives might really have been afraid that Jesus would be arrested, and they would be persecuted with him for criticizing those in power. Fourth, Jesus had indirectly claimed to be the long-awaited Messiah and had worked miracles to support his claim. Fifth, they might have been jealous of Jesus’ huge popularity throughout Palestine.

Life messages: 1) Since Jesus experienced rejection by his own relatives, he can sympathize with the hurt and rejection we receive from our family members and console us in our pain. 2) Let us learn to forgive the modern “liberal-minded” people who find our Christian beliefs and practice “crazy,” and face them with the courage of our convictions based on Christ’s Divine authority and the reliability of his doctrines and promises. 3) Let us remember that many saints, following Christ’s example, have been taken for madmen–but they were mad with love, mad with love for Jesus Christ, their God. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/ (L/22).

Jan 17-22 (L-22).docx

O. T. II (C) Sunday (Jan 16th) homily

1-page Homily notes on II C (Jan 16th) Sunday 

 Central theme: 1) God is presented as a loving, providing and faithful spouse of His people. 2) The first miracle of Jesus is recorded as protecting a young couple from shame on their wedding feast by miraculously providing wine for their party. 3) Wedding is presented in the Bible as a symbol of God’s intimate relationship with His people, by describing Adam’s wedding in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and marriage supper of the “ Divine Lamb” in the last Book of Revelation.

Anecdote: I have two wives” (Patrick Cooney’s article in Readers’ Digest). That is why I wear two wedding rings. He started wearing his mother’s wedding ring when his mother gave it to him after his father’s funeral, after 50 years of marriage, to honor his parents.

First Reading: Isiah presents God as a loving & faithful spouse of His chosen people Israel. So, He disciplines them for their sins & infidelities by sending them to Babylon as exiles and then lovingly returns them to Israel, calling them as “My delight” “ My espoused one.”

Second reading: Jesus lavishes His Spirit and the gifts of his Holy Spirit on his spouse, the Church and its members, instructing that the spouses should accept each other as God given gifts. New wine is the symbol of the Holy Spirit.

 Gospel: Jesus, as invited guest at the wedding feast of Cana,  saves the young couple from shame of a lifetime, by honoring the request of his mother, Mary and prematurely working his first miracle.  

Life messages: 1) Let us invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes. They will fill our drying hearts with love, enliven our shattered dreams and make our daily lives worth living. Let us keep them in our homes by our daily prayer, Bible reading and sacrificial, forgiving lives, sharing agape love.  

2) Let us follow Mary’s fist, last and the only instruction: “Do whatever He tells you.”

3) Let us use our God-given gifts to serve others and help them. 

 4)  Let us appreciate the daily miracles God works in our lives, by protecting us and providing for us.  

O T II (Jan 16): Is 62:1-5; I Cor 12:4-11, Jn 2:1-11

Welcome back to Ordinary Time, the longest of the Church Seasons! This is our base line, our normal; the other seasons celebrate something (Christmas, Easter) or anticipate something (Lent, Advent). But good old Ordinary Time is when we cover most of the day-to-day the story of Jesus’ life — preaching, using parables, doing “mighty works,” – with the day-to-day struggles and successes.

Homily starter anecdotes # 1: “Make sure you invite Jesus and Mary!” Johnny Carson (who hosted the Tonight Show for 30 years), was interviewing an eight-year-old boy one night. The young man was asked to appear on the Late Show because he had rescued two friends from a coal mine outside his hometown in West Virginia. As Johnny questioned him, it became apparent that the boy was a Christian. Johnny asked him if he attended Sunday School. When the boy said he did, Johnny inquired, “What are you learning in Sunday School?” “Last week,” the boy replied, “our lesson was about how Jesus went to a wedding and turned water into wine.” The audience burst into laughter and applause. Keeping a straight face, Johnny asked, “And what did you learn from that story?” The boy squirmed in his chair. It was apparent he hadn’t thought about this. But then he lifted up his face and said, “If you’re going to have a wedding, make sure you invite Jesus and Mary!” — And that is precisely the message of today’s Gospel: make sure you invite Jesus and Mary wherever you live and wherever you go – they are the only ones you’ll ever need. In other words, today’s Gospel lesson is about the sufficiency of Jesus in our lives and the power of Jesus’ Mother’s intercession. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2:Transformation at the hand of Christ: It is said that the writer Leo Tolstoy experienced that kind of transformation. He told about it in a book titled, My Conversion. Tolstoy wrote, “[When] Faith came to me, I believed in Jesus Christ, and all my life suddenly changed. I ceased to desire that which previously I had desired, and on the other hand, I took to desiring what I had never desired before. That which formerly used to appear good in my eyes appeared evil and that which used to appear evil appeared good.” Before his conversion, Tolstoy had acquired fame and fortune through his great writings. But he was dissatisfied. “I fought duels,” he wrote. “I gambled, I wasted my substance, wrung from the sweat of peasants and deceived men. Lying, robbery, adultery of all kinds, drunkenness was my life.” His conversion, one of the most dramatic of modern times, gave his life a new purpose, a new meaning and, he affirmed, an abiding satisfaction. [William E. Thorn, Catch the Little Foxes That Spoil the Vine (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Co., 1980).] All of us remember the story of the old alcoholic who ended his addiction. When asked about Jesus’ miracle of turning the water into wine replied, “I don’t know about that, but I do know that in my house Jesus changed whiskey into furniture.” — Many millions of people over the centuries have experienced that kind of transformation at the hand of Christ. The miracle of Cana gives us that lesson. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 3: “I have two wives:” There was an article in Reader’s Digest recently by a man named Patrick Cooney titled, “Why I Wear Two Wedding Bands.” Cooney says that he has worn two wedding rings for more than a dozen years. When he’s asked about them, he responds, “I have two wives.” He’s kidding, of course. One day a stranger would not let him off with this glib answer about why he wears two rings. So, Cooney spilled the whole story. He explained his father died in 1999. As they were saying their final farewells at his funeral, his mother, who had been married to his father for 50-plus years, removed his father’s wedding ring and handed it to Patrick. Surprised, he placed the gold ring on his left middle finger, next to his wedding ring. There it has remained. He told the stranger that he wears his father’s wedding ring to honor his father and his parents’ marriage. He also wears it to remind himself to be the son, brother, husband, and dad that his father wanted him to be. He is now 60 years old and has been married for 30 years. The stranger walked away, then turned back and said, “Sir, you know, I have my father’s wedding ring in my sock drawer at home, and beginning today, I am going to start wearing it.” — Powerful story. But isn’t it true of all our relationships? It’s important not only to be faithful and attentive to our spouse, but to our children or our parents and our friends. I can tell you right now, without any hesitation at all, that it is God’s will for us to take care of our relationships. Jesus demonstrated this by honoring Mary’s wish and saving the family reputation of the bridegroom at Cana. (Adapted Rev. by King Duncan in www.Sermons.com and quoted by Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Introduction: This is a season of “epiphanies,” in which the Liturgy shows us God’s revelation of Jesus as the Messiah to the shepherds, the Magi, King Herod, John the Baptist, and those gathered around John at the Jordan. This week we are at a wedding where Jesus reveals Divine power by turning water into wine. Pope St. John Paul II gave us a beautiful gift when he introduced the Luminous Mysteries into the Rosary. The second “ephiphany” is the subject of today’s Gospel, the Wedding. In John’ s Gospel, the miracle at Cana is the first of seven “signs” – miraculous events by which Jesus showed forth Divinity. Mary, Jesus, and the apostles, were guests at the wedding feast. When the wine “ran short,” Jesus’ mother told Jesus about it. At first Jesus seemed to refuse to do anything about it. But later Jesus told the servants to fill six large stone jars with water and take some to the headwaiter. When they did so, the water had become wine, better wine than that which had run out. The Bible begins with one wedding, that of Adam and Eve in the Garden (Gn 2:23-24), and ends with another, the Marriage Supper of the Lamb (Rv 19:9, 21:9, 22:17). Throughout the Bible, marriage is the symbol of the Covenant relationship between God and His Chosen People. God is the Bridegroom and humanity is His beloved Bride (see II Cor 11:2). We see this beautifully reflected in today’s first reading, where Isaiah uses the metaphor of spousal love to describe God’s love for Israel. God’s fidelity to His people is compared to a husband’s ideal fidelity to his wife. The prophet reminds God’s people that their God rejoices in them as a Bridegroom rejoices in His Bride, and that He will rebuild Israel, if they will be reconciled to Him, repairing their strained relationship with Him. By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to her Bridegroom. Anticipating the joy of this wedding, the Psalmist in today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 96), urges us, ”Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all you lands. Sing to the Lord; bless His Name.” In today’s second reading, St. Paul reminds us that the new wine that Christ pours out for us is the gift of the Holy Spirit, given to Christ’s Bride. Jesus’ first sign at Cana and Paul’s advice to the Corinthians, taken together, challenge us to become more sensitive to the many signs of God’s power and glory around us, to open our eyes and hearts to perceive them as coming from God, and to give glory to God for them.

First reading: Is 62:1-5, explained: There is a clear connection between the First Reading (Isaiah 62:1-5) and the Gospel (John 2:1-11), by way of the marriage imagery used in both cases. In today’s wedding scene, the abundance of new wine provided miraculously by Jesus is a sign that points to Christ’s Divinity. Abundance is a traditional symbol for God’s salvation, which Jesus brings, as indicated in the miracle Jesus performed. The underlying message is that Jesus is replacing a Jewish purification ritual; from that point on, cleansing from sin would take place through Jesus , the Lamb of God. The reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah also suggests one possible meaning for Jesus’ first sign at Cana. Here, Isaiah predicts God’s salvation of Jerusalem and visualizes it as a wedding between God and Jerusalem. After reminding the exiles who have returned from Babylon that their forced departure from their homeland and subsequent detainment in Babylon was the just punishment for their disobedience to God, Isaiah gives them the assurance that their God is now wholly with them. Through their infidelities, the Chosen People and their land earned the names “Forsaken” and “Desolate” (v. 4). But God is a faithful Partner and offers His Bride a vision of restoration. Forgiven and rehabilitated, Israel will be restored to her status as the espoused and beloved of God. Israel, who has been scorned and mocked by the nations will be called Hephzibah (My Delight) and Beulah (Espoused). Jesus’ provision of abundant wine for the wedding feast in Cana (120 to 180 gallons of it), signifies that the day foreseen by Isaiah has arrived. By our Baptism, each of us has been betrothed to Christ as a bride to her Bridegroom (see II Cor. 11:2).

Second reading: I Cor 12:4-11, explained: Paul reminds the members of the Corinthian community that each of them is endowed by the Holy Spirit with distinctive gifts. The Holy Spirit gives each of them particular gifts—special to them—for the benefit of the others, and all point to the glory of Jesus and Jesus’ Heavenly Father. Since the Holy Spirit is the very Life of God, the outpouring of the Spirit and His charisms upon us who believe in Jesus is a participation in the Life of God. In addition, each gift has been given for the sake and well-being of others in the family of believers, and in order to bear witness to God’s power and glory. There are many gifts but only one Giver; there are different gifts but only one goal, i.e., the common good of the whole believing community. Paul reminds us that “to each person is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:6), not for personal profit. Hence, we must use our gifts to build up, protect and nourish the ties that bind us in Christ, because we are united to God as in a marital relationship. Espoused to God, we are bound also to one another, much as “in-laws” are interlinked through loving familial bonds. In the context of today’s Gospel report of the wedding at Cana Paul is telling spouses to accept each other, just as they are, as God’s gifts, to each other.

Gospel exegesis:The setting for the miracle: Christ’s first miracle, which John refers to as a “sign,” takes place in the village of Cana in Galilee, the hometown of the disciple Nathaniel but an otherwise insignificant town, located some eight miles northeast of Nazareth. This miracle is the first in John’s series of seven signs by which Jesus manifested Divine power and glory during public ministry. Presumably, the “disciples” who accompanied Jesus were Andrew, Simon Peter, Zebedee’s sons James and John, Philip, and Nathaniel. Jesus’ mother Mary was also present. Joseph is not mentioned in the story; he may well have died already. It is also possible that Mary was in some way related to the bride or groom and may have been serving as an assistant to the wedding director. According to a version recounted in the Coptic Gospels, the bridegroom was Simon of Cana, Jesus’ disciple and the brother of Jacob and Judah. He was the son of Joseph’s brother Cleophas (Helpai) and Mary’s elder sister, and, hence, the nephew of both Mary and Joseph. Such weddings usually began on Wednesdays with the celebration lasting for seven days. During this period, guests arrived each day bringing gifts and participating in the joy of the occasion.In verse 3, we readthat, in the course of the celebration, “the wine ran short.” This was a difficult situation for the young couple, and may indicate that they came from poor families. Among the Jews of that time, wine was not only considered a staple food item, but was also frequently used in times of celebration. To run short of wine at a wedding feast was certainly a serious problem, particularly damaging to the reputation of the host and an ill omen for the newly-married couple.

Mary’s intervention: When Mary pointed out the problem to Jesus, the reply seems, on the surface, to be a bit sharp. This, however, is to misunderstand the passage. Although Jesus addressed his mother as “Woman” or “Dear Woman,” the term was roughly equivalent to our word “lady” or “madam”, and was not, in itself, unnecessarily harsh. It was, in fact, a term of respect and is the same word Jesus used in addressing Mary from the cross, saying of John, “Woman, behold your Son.” Besides, by calling her “woman,” Our Lord is linking the Blessed Virgin Mary to Eve. In the Protoevangelium in Genesis, God revealed that the demonic serpent would be defeated by the seed of the woman. I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel. (Gn 3:15). Jesus’ next words are also easily misunderstood. Hd asked Mary, “What is it to Me. and to you?” This implies no rudeness on Jesus’ part. Probably, it means, “We are guests, and guests are not expected to supply the things needed at a feast.” Jesus further protested, “My hour has not yet come,” The “hour” of Jesus includes the Passion, death, Resurrection and Ascension taken as one great event. In spite of Jesus’ detachment from the problem, Mary instructs the waiters, “Do whatever He tells you,” showing Faith that her Son would do what the newlyweds and their families really needed. The Church uses the account of this miracle to remind us that, by virtue of her position as the Mother of God and our Heavenly Mother, Mary’s intercession for us with God has great power.

Symbolic meaning of the miracle as seen by the Fathers of the Church: The love of God is manifested at its most powerful in the love between husband and wife, in sacramental marriage, that is, in a marriage in which Christ is the always-present Wedding Guest. As ministers of the marriage Sacrament, husbands and wives, in their love for one another, mirror for all of us the great love of God in our midst. The symbols used and their meaning: 1) The fruit of the vine is used in the Old Testament as an emblem of the joy associated with the Messianic age, and as a gift and blessing from God (Dt 7:13; Prv 3:10, Ps 105). The water in the jars represents the old order of Jewish law and custom (Jer 31:12, Hos 14:7, Amos 9:13), which was to be replaced with something better, namely Jesus’ sweet and inspiring Gospel. 2) The fact that the abundant wine (120 gallons) provided by Christ was of such superior quality and taste also reveals the glory, satisfaction, sufficiency, and lavishness of the grace Divine Life), He provides for sinners. Since it is God Who provides, we will lack nothing; however, to receive this gift from Him, we must be emptied, giving all we have to Him. This is an anticipation of the “Wedding Supper of the Lamb,” in Heaven where God will give us every good thing forever. Indeed, the Catechism tells us that Heaven is “wholly communion and feast”. There are three steps found in the text which lead us to the sufficiency of Christ: a) Ask God for help (v 3). b) Obey His commands (vv 7-8). c) Expect Him to be glorified as He provides (v 11). 3)Mary’s comments, “They have no wine” (v. 3) and “Do whatever He tells you” (v. 5), can be understood as a reflection on the barrenness of the Jewish purification rituals, and as a directive to look to Jesus as the new means of salvation. 4)The new wine made by Jesus signifies the “new rich wine” of the Gospel, and it points to the “wine of the New Covenant” and the “Bread of Life” which Jesus provides for the apostles at the Lord’s Supper, the Eucharist. The wine that Jesus had to offer, i.e., Jesus’ words and works, was far superior to any other teaching or wisdom. This first sign is the manifestation of the grace and truth that has come through Jesus Christ (Jn 1:17), and serves as a summons to all of us to join in the celebration. This sign also points to the Messianic banquet which Jesus will provide at the end of the age when He comes again in glory.

He Has Kept the Best Wine to Last: In today’s reading Isaiah looks for signs of God’s full restoration of Israel as God’s people. In the Old Testament wine was often used as a sign or symbol of the gifts of God. The Book of Proverbs speaks of Lady Wisdom providing good wine for those who follow her, and the prophets often speak of good wine as a characteristic of the Messianic kingdom promised by God. John’s Gospel reflects that image by using the gift of the best wine as the first miracle of Jesus’ public life. Just as Jesus gave wine as a gift to the newlyweds, so Jesus gives us gifts. St Paul tells us that God gives each of us different gifts so that we, too, can be signs of God’s goodness and love when we use our gifts according to His will and for the good of others. The Church sees in the Cana miracle the confirmation of the goodness of marriage between a man and a woman and sees marriage between a man and a woman as an effective sign of Christ’s presence (CCC #1613).

Life messages:1) We need to “invite Jesus and Mary to remain with us in our homes.” St. John Mary Vianney suggests this as the solution for many of our family problems. He used to encourage parents to create an atmosphere of prayer, Bible-reading, mutual love, mutual respect, and sacrificial service at home, so that the presence of Jesus and Mary might be perpetually enhanced and experienced in the family.

2) We need to obey the only command of Mary, “Do whatever He tells you.”This is the only recorded command of Mary in the New Testament, and it is a prerequisite for miracles in our families. The Bible tells us how to do the will of God and effect salvific changes in our daily lives.

3) We need to learn to appreciate the miracles of God’s providence in our lives. God, often as an uninvited guest in our families, works daily miracles in our lives, protecting us from physical and moral dangers, providing for our needs, inspiring us, and strengthening us with His Holy Spirit.

4) Just as Jesus filled the empty water jars with wine, we need to fill the empty hearts around us with love. By the miracle of Cana, Jesus challenges us to enrich the empty lives of those around us with the new wine of love, mercy, concern and care.

5) We need to appreciate the miracle of the Real Presence of the Lord on the altar. The same Jesus, Who transformed water into wine at Cana, transforms our gifts of bread and wine into Jesus’ own Body and Blood, Soul, and Divinity, under the appearances of consecrated bread and wine, in order to give us spiritual nourishment. If our families have lost the savor of mutual love, let us renew them at the altar with the invigorating power of the Holy Spirit.

Joke of the Week:1) “Then why did you marry my mother?” Little Tommy was so impressed by his oldest sister’s wedding that he announced. “I want to have a wedding just like Linda had.” “That sounds great,” said his father. “But whom will you marry?” Tommy announced: “I want to marry grandma because she loves me and I love her.” “You can’t marry grandma,” his father said. “Why not?” Tommy protested. “Because she is my mother.” ”Well,” reasoned Tommy. “Then why did you marry my mother?”

2) Whisky: A Congressman was once asked about his attitude toward whiskey. “If you mean the demon drink that poisons the mind, pollutes the body, desecrates family life, and inflames sinners, then I’m against it. But, if you mean the elixir of Christmas cheer, the shield against
winter chill, the taxable potion that puts needed funds into public coffers to comfort little crippled children, then I’m for it. This is my position, and I will not compromise.”

3) The same service? A man who had been a husband for ten years was consulting a marriage counselor. “When I was first married, I was very happy. When I came home from a hard day at the shop, my little dog would race around barking and my wife would bring me my slippers with a heart-warming smile. Now after all these years everything is changed. Now when I come home, my dog brings me my slippers and my wife barks at me.” “I don’t know what you are complaining about,” said the counselor. “You are still getting the same service.”

4) Countdown! One woman asked the other, “You were always my first marriage was to a millionaire; my second marriage was to an actor; my third marriage was to a preacher; and now I’m married to an undertaker.” Asked the friend, “What do those marriages have to do with a well-planned life?” “The first marriage was for the money, the second for the show, the third to get ready and the fourth to go!”

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. Brian Pitre’s commentary on Cycle c 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) Daily gospel reflections: https://www.bibleclaret.org/word-alive/

5) Catholic Internet directory:http://www.catholic.net/

6) Catholic Culture: www.catholicculture.org

7) Relevant radio: http://www.relevantradio.com/Page.aspx?pid=534

8) Once Catholic: http://www.oncecatholic.org/

20- Additional anecdotes: 

1) The chicken soup is a sacrament: J. D. Salinger’s third book Franny and Zooey (1961), was originally a series of two stories in The New Yorker in 1955 and 1957. There is a scene in the book in which Franny, a 20-year-old theology major, has just come home from college for a long weekend in November 1955. She’s a nervous wreck. Her concerned mother, Bessie Glass, brings her a cup of chicken soup. Franny, unhappy, impatient, depressed, pushes the steaming cup of soup away. Franny’s brother Zooey sees this rejection and is indignant. “I’ll tell you one thing, Franny,” he says. “If it’s theology and religious life you’re studying, you ought to know that you are missing out on every single religious action that’s going on in this house. You don’t have enough sense to drink of cup of consecrated chicken soup, which is the only kind of chicken soup that Mom ever brings to anybody!” What was Franny missing? The kitchen is the Church. The mother is the Priest. The soup is  the Sacrament –an external sign of God’s healing grace. The pouring out of the soup is a healing. “Mom’s chicken soup” is “poured out” as a Sacrament to sooth the soul, to quash the queasiness, of a depressed daughter. –That is why we read in today’s Gospel that when the first cup of wine was poured out at the Cana wedding and offered to the steward of the banquet, the wedding feast was transformed. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

2) What happens when you run short of wine in your family life? Three men were sitting together bragging about how they had given duties to their new wives when the week-long honeymoon was over. The first man had married a [Baptist] woman and had told her that she was going to do the dishes and housecleaning. It took a couple days, but on the third day he came home to a clean house and dishes washed and put away. The second man had married a [Presbyterian] woman. He had given his wife orders that she was to do all the cleaning, dishes, and the cooking. The first day he didn’t see any results, but the next day he saw it was better. By the third day, he saw his house was clean, the dishes were done, and there was a huge dinner on the table. The third man had married a [a Catholic] woman, a black belt holder in karate. He told her in a commanding voice that her duties were to keep the house cleaned, dishes washed, lawn mowed, laundry washed and hot meals on the table for every meal. He said the first day he didn’t see anything, the second day he didn’t see anything, but by the third day some of the swelling had gone down from below his eyes which received karate punches from his new wife and he could see a little out of his left eye, enough to fix himself a bite to eat and load the dishwasher. — We laugh to keep from crying, don’t we? (http://kentcan.xanga.com/376404947/item/). The moral: We need Jesus’ presence in the family for its smooth running. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

3) The Touch of the Master’s Hand:” I suppose at one time or another we have all heard Myra Brooks Welch’s poem “The Touch of the Master’s Hand.” She was called “The poet with the singing             soul.” The poem goes, “’Twas battered and scarred, and the auctioneer thought it scarcely worth his while / to waste much time on the old violin, but held it up with a smile; /  ‘What am I bidden, good folks,’ he cried, ‘Who’ll start the bidding for me?  / A dollar, a dollar; then two! Only two? Two dollars, and who’ll make it three? / Three dollars, once; three dollars twice; going for three.’ But no, / from the room, far back, a gray-haired man came forward and picked up the bow; / Then, wiping the dust from the old violin, and tightening the loosened strings, /  he played a melody pure and sweet as a caroling angel sings. / The music ceased, and the auctioneer, with a voice tha’ And he held it up with the bow. /’A thousand dollars, and who’ll make it two? Two thousand! And who’ll make it three? / Three thousand, once, three thousand, twice, and going and gone,’ said he. / The people cheered, but some of them cried, ‘We do not quite understand. /What changed its worth?’  Swift came the reply: ‘The touch of a master’s            hand.’ /And many a man with life out of tune, and battered and scarred with sin, / is auctioned ‘mess of pottage,’ a glass of wine; a game – and he travels on. / He is ‘going once,’ and ‘going twice,’ He’s ‘going and almost gone.’/ But the Master comes, and the foolish crowd never can quite understand / the worth of a soul and the change that’s wrought by the touch of the Master’s hand.“ — Jesus touches the wedding and lifts it, not just with the miracle but also by being present. Jesus takes this ordinary wedding, and transforms it into that which is extraordinary. Jesus also takes a fisherman by the name of Peter and transforms him into the rock on which the Church is built and the great preacher of Christendom. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

4) Powerful Guest: Some time ago a woman wrote a fascinating article about redecorating her family home. Things went well until her husband overruled the interior decorator and hung a 16-by-20 inch picture of Jesus in the most prominent place in the house. She tried to get her husband to reconsider, but he absolutely refused. Then during a discussion with him, she recalled those words of Jesus: “Everyone who acknowledges me before others I will acknowledge before my Heavenly Father.” That settled it. Her husband won. Now she says she is glad her husband won, because she thinks that picture of Jesus had a remarkable effect on her family and on visitors. The picture’s most striking impact is on conversations, says the woman. It inevitably draws them to a higher level. The woman ends her article by saying she knows people will smile at her remarks and even ridicule them, but she doesn’t care. “This much I know,” she says. “When you invite Jesus into your home, you’re never the same again.” —  It is the message of the miracle of Cana. (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

5)  “The best is yet to be”: In a drama written for television entitled Love Among the Ruins, Lawrence Olivier and Katharine Hepburn star as two old friends who were childhood sweethearts forty years ago. Still a single man, Lawrence Olivier is now a prominent lawyer near the age of retirement. Katharine Hepburn is now a widow who comes by chance to Olivier’s office for some legal help. Their old romance flares up again, and this time Olivier gets enough courage to ask Hepburn to marry him. To convince her to say ‘yes’ he quotes these verses from Robert Browning’s poetry: “Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be. The last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hands.” — This television drama about love and marriage, and about “the best is yet to be,” throws some light on today’s Gospel story about the wedding feast at Cana. In his book, John: The Different Gospel, Fr. Michael Taylor points out that, unlike the other evangelists, John calls Jesus’ works of wonder signs instead of miracles. John does this because these miracles reveal in a visible way the inner spiritual identity of Jesus. Further, the other symbol in the Cana story, The Old Testament, symbolized by the water, is not being cast aside; it is being transformed by Jesus into something better –- the new wine of the New Testament. Indeed, this hour that has finally come is the best that is to be in human history because it is characterized by the abundance and excellence of God’s glory being revealed in Jesus (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

6) His presence a blessing: Francis Thomson in his poem “The Hound of Heaven” very beautifully expressed the fear of a soul challenged to yield to God. He writes that he fled from God. “Down the nights and down the days; and the labyrinthine ways of my own mind…” and at one point he writes, “For though I knew God’s love Who followed / Yet I was sore distressed, / Lest having Him, I must have nothing besides.” –- We often have an unexpressed and hidden fear that God’s presence in our lives may become a hindrance or an embarrassment. We have a fear that, having God, we may have to give up many good things in life. Does God make the world grey with His breath? No! Not at all. Jesus is never an inconvenience. He is never an embarrassment in our lives. His presence is always a blessing (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

7) And “they lived happily ever after”: In The Odyssey, Homer (ca. 850 BC) wove an epic poem of 24 books around the wanderings and adventures of the mythic Odysseus, King of Ithaka. With his ships scuttled and lost at sea after the Trojan War, Odysseus angered the sea-god, Poseidon, who blocked his every attempt to return to Ithaka, forcing him to roam the earth. While he encountered and coped with one calamity after another, his faithful wife Penelope remained in Ithaka awaiting his return. Years passed with no word from Odysseus.  At last, Telemachus, their only son, had grown to manhood. Suitors, wishing to take for themselves Odysseus’ wealth and kingdom had been seeking Penelope’s hand in marriage. In an effort to fend them off, Penelope promised that she would choose one of them after she had finished weaving a shroud for her father-in-law. Still hoping for her husband’s return, Penelope stalled for time by secretly unraveling each day’s weaving during that evening. Eventually, but only after years of suffering and separation, the loving couple was reunited. — Current statistics in western countries give us the impression that “happily ever after” endings now exist only in the world of myth. In the book The Moral Compass, William J. Bennett says, “In recent history, marriage has devolved from being a Sacrament to a contract to a convention to, finally, a convenience,   and the wedding vow changed from ‘as long as we both shall live’ to ‘as long as we both shall love.’” — Today’s Gospel teaches us that if Jesus and Mary are invited into the marriage and are permanently, honorably retained in the family, they will help us solve the tough problems of our family life. (Sánchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

8) Lady, are you rich? They huddled inside the storm door, two children in ragged outgrown coats. “Any old papers, lady?” I was busy. I wanted to say no-until I looked down at their feet. Thin little sandals, sopped with sleet. “Come in and I’ll make you a cup of hot cocoa.” There was no conversation. Their soggy sandals left marks upon the hearthstone. I served them cocoa and toast with jam to fortify them against the chill outside. Then I went back to the kitchen and started again on my household budget…The silence in the front room struck through to me. I looked in. The girl held the empty cup in her hands, looking at it. The boy asked in a flat voice, “Lady … are you rich?” “Am I rich? Mercy, no!” I looked at my shabby slipcovers. The girl put her cup back in its saucer — carefully. “Your cups match your saucers.” Her voice was old, with a hunger that was not of the stomach. They left then, holding their bundles of papers against the wind. They hadn’t said thank you. They didn’t need to. They had done more than that. Plain blue pottery cups and saucers. But they matched. I tested the potatoes and stirred the gravy. Potatoes and brown gravy, a roof over our heads, my man with a good steady job-these things matched, too. I moved the chairs back from the fire and tidied the living room. The muddy prints of small sandals were still wet upon my hearth. I let them be. I want them there in case I ever forget again how very rich I am (Marion Doolan in Stories for the Heart). — May we discover how rich we are because we have invited Jesus into our lives! (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

9) When wine runs out: Carlos Baker records it in his biography of Hemingway in this way: Sunday morning dawned bright and cloudless. Ernest awoke early as always. He put on the red “Emperor’s robe” and padded softly down the carpeted stairway. The early sunlight lay in pools on the living room floor. He had noticed that the guns were locked up in the basement, but the keys, as he well knew, were on the window ledge above the kitchen sink. He tiptoed down the basement stairs and unlocked the storage room. It smelled as dank as a grave. He chose a double-barreled shotgun with a tight choke. He had used if for years to shoot pigeons. He took some shells from one of the boxes in the storage room, closed and locked the door, and climbed the basement stairs. If he saw the bright day outside, it did not deter him. He crossed the living room to the front foyer, a shrine-like entryway five feet by seven feet, with oak-paneled walls and a floor of linoleum tile. He slipped in two shells, lowered the gun butt carefully to the floor, leaned forward, pressed the twin barrels against his forehead just about the eyebrows and tripped both triggers. — It happens in our own lives. The wine runs out. We become strangers to our selves and we have nowhere to go. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 10) An additional set of vows : Larry Davies in his book, Sowing Seeds of Faith in a World Gone Bonkers, tells about a wedding he performed once on a wooden boat dock over a beautiful pond in Amelia county, Virginia. To his surprise, on the night before the wedding the bride (we’ll call her Pamela) called to ask him to read a special set of marriage vows to her new husband after the formal ceremony was through. She would give him a copy of the vows just before the service started. The next morning, the groom (we’ll call him Paul) also pulled Davies aside and handed him a set of vows to be read to his new wife. This was going to be interesting. The people were in place and the simple ceremony began without a hitch. Then, after the formal ceremony was over and as he was instructed, Pastor Davies pulled out the additional set of vows written by the bride for her new husband. “Paul,” the vows began,

“. . . do you agree to cook steak and potatoes on Friday?
“. . . do you agree to cut the grass and take out the trash?
“. . . do you agree to keep the truck and the car clean?
“. . . do you agree to have my coffee ready when I awake?
“. . . do you agree to take me shopping once a week without complaining?”

Davies’ next instructions were to have the bride take the groom by the hand, look into his eyes and repeat the vows the groom had written for her: “I, Pamela, agree to lovingly serve you breakfast in bed every Saturday morning and to learn how to bake homemade pies and cobblers. I will also never insist that you go shopping with me for more than one hour at a time.” Afterwards, Davies commented: “They don’t need a minister. They need a lawyer to work out this agreement.” A proper ending, he decided would have been for him to push both the bride and the groom in the pond and declare them both insane, but he resisted the impulse. — Then, as he had a chance to reflect on this unusual ceremony, he decided he admired a couple who could laugh in the midst of such a seri­ous commitment. “If they can hold on to this ability to joke and poke fun at each other, there is hope for the survival of their marriage,” he wrote. “Maybe this same lesson can apply to each of us.” (Amelia Court House, VA: ABM Enterprises, Inc., 1996, pp. 75-76) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

11) It would have been a miracle.” There’s an old story about a skeptic who continually harassed the local pastor. His one delight in life seemed to be making the pastor appear inadequate intellectually. The pastor bore those challenges to his theology and faith with great restraint. One day the skeptic was heckling the pastor about his views on miracles. “Give me one concrete example of a miracle,” the skeptic taunted. “One concrete example.” This pastor hauled off and kicked the skeptic in the shin as hard as he could. The skeptic couldn’t believe it! “What did you do that for?” The pastor asked, “Did you feel that?” “Yes,” the man said as he nursed his sore leg. “Well, if you hadn’t,” said the pastor, “it would have been a miracle!” —  I’m not sure that was the best way to explain miracles, but there have been times when I’ve wanted to explain things that way. Today we look at the very first miracle performed by Jesus as recorded in John’s Gospel. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

12) Love isn’t love till……Quite a while ago, there was a famous singer named Mary Martin who, on one occasion, was to perform in the popular musical, South Pacific. Moments before the show, she was given a note from the composer, Oscar Hammerstein himself, who was on his deathbed. This is what it said: “Dear Mary, A bell is no bell till you ring it, A song’s not a song till you sing it. Love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” Inspired by these words, Mary Martin went on to give one of her finest performances. After the curtain call, all the other actors and actresses warmly congratulated her, saying, “Mary, your performance is always very good. But today it was just extraordinary.” Bringing out Oscar Hammerstein’s note, Mary confessed that it was the inspiring words of the famous composer that made all the difference: “A bell is no bell till you ring it. A song’s not a song till you sing it. The love in your heart is not put there to stay. Love isn’t love till you give it away.” — All this is clearly shown in the miracle at the wedding feast at Cana. Somebody had inadvertently failed to provide an adequate supply of wine for the week-long celebration. And just one person noticed: Mary. Something had to be done urgently, and only Mary knew the only One who could do it. Like her, Jesus, too, was concerned about the happiness of the couple and their reputation and promptly and marvelously miraculously transformed water into wine. — That was a touching and notable demonstration of true love, both by Mary and Jesus. (James Valladares in Your Words O Lord, are Spirit and They Are Life; quoted by Fr. Botelho).v

13) Love: What it is: In a scene of the stage play and movie, Fiddle on the Roof, the hero Tevye on one occasion keeps nagging his wife Golda, asking her whether she loves him or not. He keeps pestering her to say she does…. But she is in no romantic mood and brushes him off, until finally she turns to him and says, “Look at this man…. Look at you….. I am your wife, I cook your meals, wash your clothes, milk the cows, raise half a dozen daughters for you, my bed is yours, everything I have and am, I share with you – and after all that, you want to know whether I love you? Oh, well… I guess I do…..” — Most grown-up people, religious included, don’t go telling people they love them…. even if Jesus tells us we have to love one another. But they do express this love by what they do for those people around them every day. (Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Let’s invite Jesus into the ordinary events of daily life; Jesus  can make them new!  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 14) “What hast thou to give me?”. Rabindranath Tagore describes the reward for total surrender in Gitanjali. The beggar went from door to door on the village path. Then he saw the golden chariot of the king in distance. His hopes rose high. He thought his evil days were at an end, and he stood waiting for alms. The chariot stopped where he stood. The king came with down from the chariot with a smile. The beggar felt that the luck of his life had come at last. Then suddenly the king held out his right hand and asked, “What hast thou to give me?”. The beggar was confused and then from his wallet he slowly took out the least little grain of corn and gave it to him. At day’s end he emptied the bag on the floor he found a little grain of gold among the heap. He regretted that he had not given the whole thing to the King. — Dear friends whatever is submitted to God is turned into something precious. The insignificant city, Cana, the stone jars, the insignificant people at Cana all became significant with the presence of Jesus. “The only condition is to fill them to the brim”- total and unconditional submission without any reservation. (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

15) Where did you get that much money?” : Mother Teresa of Calcutta told this story: “A few weeks ago two young people came to our house and gave me a quite sum of money to feed the poor. In Calcutta, we cook for 9,000 people every day. The two of them wished their money to be used to feed these hungry people, I then asked them, ‘Where did you get that much money?’ They answered, ‘Two days ago we were married. Before our wedding, we decided that we would not spend any money on special wedding clothes nor would we have a wedding banquet. We wanted the money we would spend on these things to go to the poor.’” For high caste Hindus, to act like this was a scandal. Their friends and relatives found it unthinkable that a couple from such outstanding families should get married without bridal gowns and a proper wedding feast. So Mother Theresa asked them, “Why did you give all this money?” They gave her this surprising answer: “We love one another so much that we wanted to make a special sacrifice for each other at the very start of our married life.” — In today’s Gospel Jesus works his first miracle to save a marriage. (Fr. Benitz). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

16) Logic: The popular belief that “Jesus was not a teetotaler,” but a moderate drinker of fermented wine who even “miraculously ‘manufactured’ a high-quality (alcoholic) wine at Cana” and instituted the Last Supper with alcoholic wine, has, no doubt, influenced the drinking habits of millions of Christians around the world more than anything else that the Bible says about drinking.– The reason is simple. The example and teachings of Christ are normative for Christian belief and practice. If Christ made, commended, and used fermented wine, then there can hardly be anything intrinsically wrong with a moderate drinking of alcoholic beverages! Simply stated, “If wine was good enough for Jesus, it is good enough for me!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

17) What Are You Going to Do When the Wine Runs Out?  The Nobel Prize author Earnest Hemmingway, well known for his book, The Old Man and The Sea, was a person who went for it all. A newspaper reporter, he was involved in the Spanish Civil War, became ambulance driver during WWII,  was a friend to bullfighters as well as authors–he did it all. And, when he did it, he did it to the fullest. In a manner of speaking he enjoyed the wine of life. But there came a day when the wine ran out. Carlos Baker records it in his biography of Hemmingway in this way: Sunday morning dawned bright and cloudless. Ernest awoke early as always. He put on the red “Emperor’s robe” and padded softly down the carpeted stairway. The early sunlight lay in pools on the living room floor. He had noticed that the guns were locked up in the basement, but the keys, as he well knew, were on the window ledge above the kitchen sink. He tiptoed down the basement stairs and unlocked the storage room. It smelled as dank as a grave. He chose a double-barreled shotgun with a tight choke. He had used it for years to shoot pigeon s. He took some shells from one of the boxes in the storage room, closed and locked the door, and climbed the basement stairs. If he saw the bright day outside, it did not deter him. He crossed the living room to the front foyer, a shrine-like entryway five feet by seven feet, with oak-paneled walls and a floor of linoleum tile. He slipped in two shells, lowered the gun butt carefully to the floor, leaned forward, pressed the twin barrels against hi– What are you going to do when the wine runs out? (Brett Blair, www.Sermons.com) Fr. Kayala. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

18) Is Vodka Allowed? There is a legend which states that in the late middle-ages, the Russian Czar had come to the conclusion that in order to unite his country, there would have to be one state religion to which everyone should belong. He considered carefully all of his options. Finally, he settled on a short list of three, Islam, Buddhism, or Christianity. He called representatives from each of the three religions to his court in Russia, and asked them each to state the case for their religion before himself and his advisors. The Muslim representative spoke first. He spoke of the humaneness of Islam, of its tolerance for others, its respect for science and culture, and how it came with a complete legal system that had been refined and perfected through the centuries. When he had finished his pitch, he asked the Czar if there were anything else he would like to know. “One thing,” the Czar told him, “Does Allah look favorably upon Vodka?” The Muslim emissary shook his head and told him no, that alcohol was an abomination to Allah, and was not permitted. “Next!” cried the Czar, and the Buddhist missionary was ushered in. The Buddhist monk explained the basic teachings of the Buddha, how all of life was suffering and how the Buddha showed the way to end suffering. Finally the King was getting bored and said, “I’ll tell you how I stop suffering. Vodka! What does your Buddha have to say about that?” The Buddhist monk told him that intoxicants were a hindrance to enlightenment, and were not permitted in Buddhism. “Next!” cried the Czar, and a Christian Orthodox monk was ushered in. But before he could even begin teaching his elementary catechism, the Czar stopped him short. “Just tell me one thing, does your Jesus allow vodka?” “Are you kidding?” the monk said, “We will give you wine and bread at every Eucharistic celebration.” “Now I know what I am!” proclaimed the Czar, “I am a Christian! Baptize me, and all of my people.” — We can imagine that he also ordered them to break out the vodka in celebration.  (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

19) Different Ministries but the Same Lord: Every young person dreams he will grow up to be a great figure in the world. Every senior citizen realizes that over the years he has accomplished very little. If the senior is unrealistic, he mourns the unfulfilled dream. If a realist, he thanks God for allowing him a few minor victories during his life. Pierre Toussaint was a realist from youth to old age. He was a black slave, but he understood that God had made him black and a slave so as to work out his salvation in that social context. Toussaint was born in Haiti in 1766 and died in New York City in 1853. He was a slave of the Berards, a French family of Haitian plantation owners; but being a house-slave rather than a field-slave, he grew up in the cultivated atmosphere of their residence. When the French Revolution reached Haiti, the Berards fled for safety to New York City. They took with them Pierre and a few other domestic slaves. Later, M. Berard returned to Haiti to see if he could salvage his property, but death overtook him there. Pierre had meanwhile been apprenticed to a hairdresser. Now his income as a coiffeur enabled him to support the frail, brooding widow Berard for the rest of her life. On her deathbed she freed him from the bonds of slavery. At least she appreciated what he had done for her. The leading hairdresser in “Little Old New York,” Toussaint became known and admired by his patronesses, most of whom belonged to the chief New York socialite families. He had a profound influence on these women, who were most Protestant, through his gentility and his Christian disposition and wisdom. A devout Catholic always, he contributed out of his prosperous income to every good charitable cause here and abroad. He also had many private charities. When he felt that impoverished white people might be uncomfortable about receiving support from a black man, he sensitively supplied their needs anonymously. The Pastor of old St. Patrick’s Church delivered a remarkable eulogy at the funeral of this remarkable man. “There are few left among the clergy,” he said, “superior in devotion and zeal for the

Church, and for the glory of God;  among laymen, none.”– Pierre Toussaint certainly experienced what St. Paul would have termed a “different ministry.” But like all ministries assigned by God, Pierre’s was also “for the common good.” (1 Cor. 12:7; today’s second reading). The cause for canonization of Pierre Toussaint was opened a few years ago. It would be a cause for great rejoicing if the Church could some day hail this black slave as St. Pierre Toussaint. (He was declared Venerable in 1996.). (Father Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 20) Give yourself completely to the service of God and the good of others. Let us, therefore, conclude with the famous prayer of St Francis:

Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace.
Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon;
where there is doubt, Faith; where there is despair, Hope;
where there is darkness, Light; where there is sadness, Joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek —  to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22  L/22

 “Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 11) akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C 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 .

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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/

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 .

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December 27- Jan 1 weekday homilies

`NEW YEAR’S GREETINGS & GOD’S BLESSINGS

 

Thank you for being God’s instrument of blessing in my life by your valuable prayers and encouraging support for my Internet & Email Gospel ministry in the past years. I assure you of my special prayers every day in the New Year 2022 during my Holy Masses. May the Holy Spirit of God continue to empower you and guide you in your ministry and strengthen you in your weakness.

May God bless you every day of the New Year! Prayerful New year Greetings.

Dec 27-Jan 1: Kindly click onhttps://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.

Dec 27 Monday (St. John, Apostle, Evangelist): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-the-evangelistJn 20:2-8: 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist: John was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, a close relative of Mary. John and his brother, James the Greater, were fishermen, partners of Peter and Andrew; they were disciples of John the Baptist before they were called by Jesus as Apostles. John’s name is mentioned always after his brother’s name in Matthew, Mark, and the Acts of the Apostles. John was the Apostle who saw his only value as being “the one whom Jesus loved.” With James and Peter, Jesus’ inner circle of friends, he witnessed Jesus’ raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. After fleeing with the others from Gethsemane, John returned. He remained faithful to Jesus at the palace of the High Priest during Jesus’ trial by the Sanhedrin, and he had the courage to be at the foot of the cross, supporting and consoling Mary. Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John, and, after the Resurrection, John was the one who first recognized the risen Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Missionary activities: With Peter, John played a prominent role in founding and guiding the Church. John was with Peter when the latter healed the lame man (Acts 3:1), was in prison with him (Acts 4:3), and was with him when Peter visited the new Christians in Samaria (Acts 8:14). John left for Asia Minor and Ephesus when King Herod Agrippa I started persecuting Christians. He returned to Jerusalem in AD 51 to attend the Jerusalem Council. According to tradition, when the attempt of Emperor Domitian to execute John by putting him in boiling oil failed, John was exiled to Patmos Island. As an Evangelist, John wrote five books of the New Testament: The Gospel according to John, three epistles and the Book of Revelation. He preached always about God’s love in his old age. Returning to Ephesus, John lived there, dying when he was one hundred years old. John reminds us of the greatest commandment of love given by Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 28 Tuesday (The Holy Innocents, Martyrs): Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/holy-innocents/Mt 2:13-18:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

This Mass commemorates the deaths of all of those innocents killed by the order of Herod the Great in his fruitless pursuit of the “newborn king of the Jews,” and now includes the deaths of the untold numbers of innocent babies slaughtered by abortion.

The context:Herod the Great had been made the king of Judea by the Roman Empire although he was not even a Jew: his father was an Idumean, his mother an Arab. This cruel king was kept in power mainly by the Roman army. He brutally executed all suspected rivals to his throne including his wife, brother, and two brothers-in-law. No wonder he was terrified at the news that a rival king, a descendant of King David, had been born somewhere in Bethlehem, for this child could someday claim to be the legitimate king of Israel and Judea! Herod’s anger intensified when he realized that the Magi had not returned to his royal palace to report the whereabouts of the Child Jesus. Matthew says that the slaughter of the Innocents was in fulfillment of a prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly; it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Ramah is a hill near Bethlehem and the burial place of Rachel, the wife of the patriarch Jacob. The Jews believed that she wept bitterly in her tomb when the Jews were taken as slaves by the Assyrians and later when Herod massacred the babies. The most likely scenario is that Jesus was born around 4 BC; the wise men (by their own account) arrived in Jerusalem two years later in 2 B.C., and in that same year Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt. When Herod died, they returned. So, the length of their sojourn in Egypt was probably about a few months.

Life message: We need to raise our voice against the 21st century massacre of the Innocents: As in other advanced countries, the cruel massacre of the innocents continues in North America by state-permitted abortion. While Herod killed at the most a hundred children, nearly four thousand unborn babies are slaughtered in the United States every day. They are killed because, like the infants of Bethlehem, they are inconvenient. Children are sacrificed also for the most powerful king of the twenty-first century, Science. Babies are killed in their embryo stage to harvest their “stem cells” for medical experiments intended to heal the illnesses of their parents and grandparents. Along with prayer, let us do everything in our power to stop this brutal murder of the helpless babies. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 29 Wednesday(St. Thomas Becket, Bishop, Martyr): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-becket

Lk 2:22-35: The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus. We celebrate them today in order to group all the events of Christ’s infancy within the Octave of Christmas. Today (and on February 2nd), we celebrate a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and a sacrifice offered in the Temple to redeem or buy back the firstborn male child from the Lord), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. On that day we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use).

Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), by offering lambs or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. In addition (Nm 18:15), every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.

The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, he warned that her child would be “a sign of contradiction” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.

Life message:1)Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Dec 30 Thursday: Luke 2:36-40, There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon 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 presents Anna the prophetess who greeted the Baby Jesus as the Redeemer when Joseph presented Mary and the Infant in the Temple for the purification of the mother and for the “redemption” of the Baby Jesus.

Anna and her testimony: Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah.

The Child Jesus’ growth in wisdom and the favor of God: Commenting on the last sentence of today’s Gospel St. Bede says: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a Child clothed in the fragility of human nature, had to grow and become stronger. But, as the eternal Word of God, He had no need to become stronger or to grow. Hence, He is rightly described as full of wisdom and grace.”

Life messages: 1)The Holy Spirit uses ordinary men and women with simple Faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, His ideals and teachings. 2) We need praying Annas in all our parishes to offer prayers for all the members of our parish families. Let us cooperate with the Spirit in everything. 3) Anna’s prophetic life tells us that we each must live our lives in constant preparation for meeting our Divine Lord in the Temple of Heaven, remaining alert, as Anna did, to recognize, love, and serve Jesus hidden in the people we encounter. 4) Like Anna, we must all foster an interior life of ongoing prayer and penance, and we must direct all our actions in life to the praise and glory of God and the salvation of our souls. Anna’s life is a symbolic prophecy of every vocation. (Catholic Daily reflections). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 31 Friday (St. Sylvester I, Pope): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-sylvester-i John 1: 1-18 God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context and the content: Bible scholars generally agree that the Prologue (1:1-18) of John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus’ origins as “Word,” “true Light,” and the “Only-begotten Son,” thus tracing Jesus’ genealogy to God Himself. The Navarre Bible commentary summarizes the main teachings in the prologue thus: 1) the Divinity and Eternity of the Word; 2) the Incarnation of the Word and His manifestation as man; 3) the part played by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting the Word made Flesh with Faith, others rejecting Jesus; 5) finally, John the Baptist as witness-bearer to the presence of the Word in the world.

The significance of the text: (Verses 6-9) introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…” Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect claiming that John the Baptist was the Light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light. In all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and Jesus’ messianic identity: “John testified to Him and cried out, saying, ‘The One Who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me'”(Jn 1:15). Jn 1:19-28 is an Advent and Christmas text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus and His coming with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus. John the Baptist demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.

Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of His Mystical Body, the Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. 2) It is especially important during the Christmas season that we reflect on Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness. Very many people live in spiritual darkness and poverty and lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Still others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, useless, and marginalized. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Jan 1 Saturday(Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God & New Year’s message- 2022:

Lk 2: 16-21: (https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/the-solemnity-of-mary-mother-of-god). Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year? I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of Divine blessings. Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church has, since 1968, also observed a yearlyWorld Day of Peace; this year, 2022, marks the 54th celebration. On this day, the Church invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year, and the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for that blessing. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary, and that it is through Jesus that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart. The Gospel also tells us that on this day, the eighth day after His Birth, the Child was circumcised and received the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.

Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who remained God, when He took on human flesh and became Man, as stated in the Bible. The angel said to Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Lk 1:31-32a; RSV 2 Catholic). After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:42-43; RSV 2 Catholic). Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), and in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.

Life messages: 1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of trusting Faith, obedience to the word of God, purity, and humble, selfless, committed service. 2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having every day a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first person being Jesus. 3) Let us sanctify every day of the New Year: a) by offering every morning, all the activities of the day to God for His glory, thus transforming them into prayers, b) by asking for the anointing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to avoid evil, c) by remaining faithful to our family prayers and Bible reading at night, d) by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins committed during the day, and e) by seeking God’s special protection during sleep. Before we sleep, let us say, “Good night, Lord,” repeating Jesus’ last words from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

Dec 27- Jan 1 (L-21-22).docx

Jan 3-8 weekday homilies

Jan 3-8: Kindly click onhttps://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 3 Monday (The Most Holy Name of Jesus): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/most-holy-name-of-jesusMt 4: 12-17, 23-25:Jan 3: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: Importance: The Holy Name of Jesus is Yeshua, in Aramaic. It was not chosen by Mary and Joseph but given by the angel Gabriel from God: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Lk 1:31).  It reveals Jesus’ mission. He was sent from heaven to save and redeem mankind. That is why John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The Holy Name of Jesus is so great that it is repeated 977 times in the New Testament. St. Paul writes: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2: 9-11).

Objectives: Today’s feast calls us to a renewed respect and reverence for, and a deeper devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus to challenge and make reparation for all the blasphemous curses and abuses the name of Jesus suffers in our world.  This devotion also helps us to appreciate all that Jesus means in our life and to develop a personal relationship with him.  That is why there is both a Litany to Jesus Christ and a Litany to the Holy Name of Jesus in the Book of Blessings. Prayers in the name of Jesus “animate and transfigure every action in Christ Jesus.” (C.C.C. # 2668). In addition, “whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.” (C.C.C. 2666). Further, “the sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections.” (St. Bernard (A.D. 1090-1153). The holy name of Jesus permeates the whole Christian life. The believer begins his journey through faith in Jesus by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism in Jesus’ name. He dies with Jesus, is buried with Jesus and is raised as a new creation with Jesus. Believers live their faith in Jesus by manifesting love towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

History: The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is associated with the Feast of the Circumcision. In accord with first century Jewish culture a male child became a full member of his family when he was circumcised, at which time he received his name. The Holy See officially granted the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to the Franciscans on February 25, 1530. The Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustinians kept this Feast on January 14th and the Dominicans on January 15. The New Revised edition of the Sacramentary restored the feast to January 3rd, between the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1st and the feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

Life messages: 1) Let us begin our day’s works offering them to Jesus for the glory of God and the salvation of souls and conclude the day’s works in the name of Jesus, asking his pardon and forgiveness for our sins of the day. 2) Let us always   use the name of Jesus reverently and use it as a source of power in our temptations. (Fr. Tony) 2022

Regular reading: Mt 4: 12-17, 23-25: 12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, 11 proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. 24 12 His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, 13 Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan 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’ mission of preaching and healing in Galilee, an ideal spot because it was the most fertile land in Palestine and well-populated with 204 villages around the Sea of Galilee housing Jews and Gentiles. The Jews there largely belonged to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulon. The people were open to new ideas because they had been exposed to various religious beliefs and the culture of traders from all over the known world.

Preaching the Good News: Jesus started preaching the Good News about God the Father and about God’s Kingdom. Since it was God the King’s message, it carried God’s authority and certainty; it was “Good News” because Jesus introduced the hearers to God His Father as a loving, merciful, providing, and forgiving Father Who wanted to save everyone from the bondage of sin. The message also gave the listeners the “Good News” of the Kingdom of God or the rule of God in human lives. Continuation John’s message, Jesus, too, invited the hearers to repentance and the renewal of their lives so that God might start ruling their lives. Matthew identified Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry in Galilee as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah — Light to people living in darkness.

Life messages: 1) As Christians we have been given Jesus’ mission to continue. 2) Hence, our exemplary, transparent lives must be and so carry our message radiating the light of Christ’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and spirit of humble and committed service. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 4 Tuesday (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, USA , Religious) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-elizabeth-ann-seton : Mk 6: 34-44: 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36 send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. 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’ miraculous feeding of a great multitude. The story is told in all four Gospels and serves as Jesus’ way of introducing to those present a merciful and providing God. Through God’s power, Elijah gave the widow, each day, just enough to meet her needs (1 Kgs 17:13-16). Jesus, on the other hand, gives generously and abundantly. This miraculous feeding was meant to remind people of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness and to prefigure the true Heavenly Bread, which Jesus would offer His followers, for Jesus performed this miracle just before promising the Sacrament of the Eucharist for our spiritual feeding.

While teaching, Jesus took pity on the growing physical hunger of those listening, and challenged the apostles to feed them. But they had with them only five loaves of bread and two dried fish. Jesus took these, said a prayer of blessing, broke them, and asked the apostles to distribute them till the hungry people were fully satisfied. Since it was mid-April, springtime in Israel, the people could sit comfortably on green grass in their groups of hundreds and fifties. After serving a generous meal which satisfied all, the Apostles collected twelve wicker baskets of leftover bread and fish pieces, a vivid proof and reminder of God’s generosity in giving and a warning to all of us not to waste God’s blessings.

Life messages: 1) We may not be able to feed the hungry millions in the world, but today’s Gospel challenges us to do our humble share in alleviating hunger and poverty in our neighborhood. God will amplify our little contributions and reward our good will and generosity. 2) We need to be thankful to God for miraculously giving us our daily spiritual bread in the Holy Eucharist Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 5 Wednesday (St. John Neumann, U. S. A., Bishop) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-neumann: Mk 6: 45-52: 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 51 And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: The event presented by today’s Gospel is the scene immediately following Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Sensing the danger of being seized by the people and “made King” to lead a revolt against the Romans, Jesus promptly instructed the apostles to leave the place by boat, then dismissed the crowd and went to the mountain to pray in solitude.

A double miracle in the sea: When the apostles in the boat were several furlongs away from the shore, they faced an unexpected storm on the sea, caused by the rush of hot wind from the desert blowing through the gaps of the Golan Heights onto the Sea of Galilee. Recognizing His Apostles’ danger, Jesus went toward their boat, walking on the stormy sea. Jesus calmed the frightened disciples and approached the boat. As soon as Jesus got into the boat, the storm ceased miraculously, to the great astonishment of the apostles.

Life messages: 1) Let us approach Jesus with strong Faith in His ability and availability to calm the storms in our lives and in the life of the Church. Church history shows us how Jesus saved the Church from the storms of persecution in the first three centuries, from the storms of heresies in the fifth and sixth centuries, from the storms of moral degradation and the Protestant reformation movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and from the storms of clergy sex-abuse scandals in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

2) Let us ask Jesus to protect us when we face storms of strong temptations, storms of doubts about our religious beliefs, and storms of fear, anxiety, and worries in our personal lives. Experiencing Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us confess our Faith and call out for Jesus’ help and protection Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 6 Thursday (St. Andre Bessette, Religious, U. S. A.) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-andre-bessette :Lk 4: 14-22: Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Scripture explained: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus participated in the Sabbath prayer of the synagogue in Nazareth (Jesus’ hometown) with a band of disciples. The Synagogue Sabbath service always began with the “Shema’’ prayer followed by the recital of the “Eighteen Blessings,” praising and thanking God. Then four passages from the “Torah” the book of Law were read and explained by a priest, followed by a selection from the Prophets, which was read and interpreted by an invited scholar, guest, or volunteer. Finally, the prayer was concluded with a priest or the synagogue president blessing the assembly, using the blessing from the Book of Numbers (6:22 ff). Popular as a miracle working preacher in Capernaum, Jesus was asked to read from the Book of the Prophets and to interpret the Scripture. Jesus, handed the Scroll of the prophet Isaiah, opened it and read the prophecy on the mission of the expected Messiah. Surprising everyone, Jesus declared, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” meaning that Jesus was the One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. The townsfolk were greatly amazed, and many were unable to accept that the prophet Isaiah was foretelling and describing Jesus’ Messianic mission and ministry. As Messiah of the Lord God, Jesus’ mission was to give liberation to everyone who would listen to God’s “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that the initial reaction of the people was surprise at the power and eloquence of this son of their soil; the next response of a large group was to try, unsuccessfully, to throw Jesus over the cliff on which the city was built.

Life messages: 1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others: As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we are meant to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces. 2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and stay ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 7 Friday (St. Raymond, Penyafort, Priest) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-raymond-of-penafort : Lk 5: 12-16: 12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 15 But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed. 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 shows us Jesus touching a man sick with a severe case of leprosy and healing him instantly. Biblical “leprosy” rarely indicated Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper); mostly, the term referred to skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, vitiligo, and some types of skin cancer.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); lepers were treated as sinners deserving no mercy, because they were seen as being punished by God with their contagious disease. The leprosy given by God as a punishment to Moses’ complaining sister Miriam (Nm 12:10-15), to Gehazi, the greedy servant of the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 5:20 ff), and to the proud the King Uzziah (2 Kgs 15:5; 2 Chr 26:16-21), supported the Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins. Lepers, like sinners, were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). “Leprosy” was also a terrible disease becauseits victims were separated from their families and society. Mosaic restrictions on lepers: The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus, demanded that, first, the priest declare the leper unclean, and then that the leper should 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 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.

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. 2) By sending the cured man to the priests to get their certification of his freedom from disease, Jesus teaches us that we should pray for healing and, at the same time, go to the doctors who share God’s wisdom in healing. Healing normally happens when man’s skill combines with God’s grace. Fr. tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 8 Saturday:Jn 3:22-30: 22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been put in prison. 25 Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. 26 And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore, this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” 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 shows the loveliness of John the Baptist’s humility. John was responding to his disciples who complained that many among them were deserting John to join the new preacher, Jesus, whom John had baptized.

John’s explanation: John told them plainly who he really was and what his mission was. He told them that he was only a forerunner of the Messiah and that his mission was to prepare a people for the Messiah by preaching repentance. He was challenging his hearers to receive the baptism of repentance as their first step in renewing their lives, so they could welcome Jesus the Messiah into their lives. John explained further that his role was to be the “friend of the Bridegroom” (shoshben); the Bridegroom was Jesus. As the shoshben arranges the meeting of the bride and groom, arranges the details of the wedding, presides over the wedding, guards the bridal chamber and leaves happily, John prepared the Bride, namely, the Jewish nation, for receiving her Bridegroom, Jesus the Messiah, by baptizing the people who were willing to repent and then baptizing Jesus and introducing Jesus to the people as the “Lamb of God.”

Life messages: 1) Our mission, as St. Francis de Sales puts it, is to “bloom where we are planted.” God has given a unique mission to each one of us, and we are expected to accomplish that unique mission by receiving God’s strength through the various means Jesus has instituted in his Church. “No one can receive anything except what has been given from Heaven.” 2)True humility and trusting Faith in God are necessary for us to accomplish our life’s mission by using God’s freely given gifts. Fr. Tony; (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Jan 3-8 (L-22).docx

Epiphany of the Lord

Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 2, 2022) (Eight-minute homily in one page)

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first manifestation to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the Feast commemorates the baptism of Christ, at which the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’ identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself in words as the promised Messiah, and at Cana Jesus revealed His Divinity by transforming water into wine. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture lessons summarized:Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts and offer their lives to Him. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world would travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light, bringing gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) verses 10-11 picture kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…co-heirs … co-partners in the promise, in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God brought the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group, headed by King Herod, tried to eliminate Jesus, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored Jesus, and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore Jesus.

Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group: a) by actively worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration; b) by giving a new direction to our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud, unjust and impure thoughts, words, and actions, evil habits, and selfish behavior; c) by becoming stars leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by radiating the light of Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany and every day: (a) the Gift of our life by offering it on the altar during the Holy Mass and every morning as soon as we get up, asking for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit to do good and avoid evil during the course of the day. b) the Gift of responsive relationship with God by talking to Him in personal and family prayers and listening to Him through reading the Holy Bible every day. c) the Gift of friendship with God by recognizing Jesus’ presence in, and offering loving, humble service to, everyone we encounter, and by getting reconciled to God every night asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures during the day.

Feast of Epiphany (Jan 2/22): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12

Homily starter anecdotes# 1:Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” The same element of suspense and discovery marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Half a billion people all around the world watched with suspense and were thrilled when men, three astronauts in Apollo 8, landed for the first time on the moon (July 20th, 1969). When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept tracking the first non-stop global flight without refueling. The same elements of suspense and discovery were there when Marco Polo journeyed to India and China, when Christopher Columbus travelled to America, and when Admiral Byrd went to the South Pole. Such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and curiosity. — The magi-astrologers described in today’s Gospel had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country presided over by a mad king like Herod, in search of a Divine Child. But their great Faith, curiosity, and adventurous spirit enabled them to discover the secret of the whole universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for His people – because the Child they found was no ordinary child, but the very Son of God become man. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of the school students and the Faith and adventurous spirit of the magi so that we may experience the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere. (adapted from Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2: A woman among the Magi? Renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano has a new Biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one Wise Woman (or more) among the Wise Men. (https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/17405/viviano_writes_about_a_woman_magi). Viviano’s original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible,” he argues, that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages. “On the other hand,” Viviano suggests, “the masculine plural magoi does not close the question of gender. … The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king.” Viviano’s second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine, he says, is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female-among-the-magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages Viviano refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. — What difference would it have made if there had been a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine said: “They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother, and would have served as midwives!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

#3: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the story, “The Other Wise Man,” telling of a fourth wise mancalled Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the Baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time, using one of his gifts for the newborn King to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find Jesus, but in the meantime, the Fourth wise man used the precious gifts he had brought for the King to feed the hungry and help the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer his last gift for the King, a great pearl, to the soldiers as ransom for Him. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a Voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in Heaven!” — Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), which means appearance or manifestation or showing forth, is used to describe Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles. Originally, the word Epiphany referred to the visit of a king to the people of his provinces. In the context of Christianity, “Epiphany” refers to God’s Self-revelation as well as to the revelation of Jesus as His Son. The Feast of the Epiphany, having originated in the East in the late second century, is an older celebration than the feast of Christmas. In Italy and Spain, the gifts traditionally associated with the Christmas season are exchanged today, on the feast of the Epiphany. Among Italians, it is believed that the gifts are brought by the old woman, Befana (from Epiphany), whereas Spanish custom attributes the gifts to the Kings or Magi.

In the Western Church, the feast commemorates the coming of the Magi as the occasion for the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; in the Eastern Church, the feast also commemorates the baptism of Christ. The angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds, and the star revealed Jesus to the Magi, who had already received hints of Him from Jewish Scriptures. Some thirty years later, God the Father revealed to Israel Jesus’ identity as His Son, as John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself as the promised Messiah. Finally, Jesus revealed His Divinity by turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture readings summarized: Today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 60:1-6, is chosen partly because it mentions non-Jews bringing gifts in homage to the God of Israel. Here the Prophet Isaiah, consoling the people in exile, speaks of the restoration of New Jerusalem from which the glory of Yahweh becomes visible even to the pagan nations. “Jerusalem,” the prophet Isaiah cries out, “your light has come in the midst of darkness and thick clouds covering the earth; the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” For the people of Israel, then in exile in a foreign land, Isaiah was promising redemption, renewal, and restoration –- a new life, to be lived in their own land. And the promise goes beyond the Jewish people to include all peoples. For the prophecy continues, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Thus, in this passage, the prophecy which the Lord God gives His people celebrates the Divine Light that will emanate from Jerusalem, and it pictures all the nations acknowledging and enjoying that Light and walking by It. As a sign of gratitude for the priceless lessons of Faith offered by Jerusalem, the nations will bring wealth by land and sea, especially gold for the Temple and frankincense for the sacrifice. Everyone will be drawn to Jerusalem because the radiance of God’s favor rests on her. This prophecy of Isaiah is realized in Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed One (Christ; Messiah), Savior of the world, and in His Church, the New Jerusalem made up of Jews and Gentiles. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) declares “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the Kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him” (vv 12-13) In Christ, God is calling together the one human race to acknowledge and serve Him in holiness. Thus, this reading with its response expresses Hope for a time when “the people of God” will embrace all nations. As a privileged recipient of a Divine “epiphany,” Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, reveals God’s “secret plan,” that the Gentiles also have a part with the Jews in Divine blessings. Affirming the mystery of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, Paul explains that the plan of God includes both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus implements this Divine plan by extending membership in the Church, making it available to all peoples. Thus, the Jews and the Gentiles have become, “coheirs, members of the same Body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Hence, there are no second-class members in the Church among Christian believers. Paul declares that he has been commissioned by Christ to make this mystery known to the world. Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts. These pagan Magi were acceptable to God because they feared God and did what was right. Since the Magi came with humble joy in their hearts to visit the Christ Child, God allowed them to see wondrous things. At the same time, today’s Gospel hints at different reactions to the news of Jesus’ birth, foreshadowing Jesus’ passion and death, as well as the risen Jesus’ mandate to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).

Gospel exegesis: The first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel together with Luke, Chapters 1 and 2, come under the heading “infancy narratives.” They have been described by Raymond E. Brown (The Birth of the Messiah, Image Books, New York: 1979), as a “Gospel in miniature,” in which the evangelist has set forth the basic tenets of the Good News, namely, (1) the universal scope of salvation; (2) an affirmation of Jesus’ Divine origins and Messianic mission; (3) the implications of God’s plan and of Jesus’ mission for the Church, i.e. a missiology of world-wide proportions.

The Magi and the star: The Magi werenot Kings, buta caste of Persian priestswho served Kings by using their skills in interpreting dreams and the movements of the stars. The sixth century Italian tradition that the Magi finding Jesus were three Magi, Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior, is based on the fact that three gifts are mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew nowhere says that there were three wise men from the East. Tradition holds each of them came from a different culture: Melchior was Asian, Balthazar was Persian and Caspar was Ethiopian – thus representing the three races known to the ancient world. “They are supposed to have been kings, but this stems from a very literal translation of a psalm verse: ‘The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts’ (Ps 72:10). Ancient depictions of them never involved symbols of royalty, but simply the Phrygian cap and garments of noble Persians” (Dr. M Watson). The Magi may actually have been Persian priests or Babylonian astronomers or Nabataean spice-traders. Eventually, however, they were pictured as representatives of different peoples and races. The Orthodox Church holds that the Magi consisted of twelve Kings, corresponding in number to the twelve tribes of Israel. (The term magoi in Greek refers to a wide variety of people, including fortune-tellers, priestly augurs, magicians, and astrologers). Because of their connection with the star in this story, it is safe to conclude that Matthew identified them mostly with the last group. Possibly they came from Babylonia, or Persia, where the word magus originated. There were almost certainly Gentiles, for if they had been Jews, they would have known better than to ask King Herod about a national ruler who would challenge his dynasty! It is not clear from the story why they wanted to pay homage to a Jewish king, or what they learned about him from their observations of “his star” (Matthew 2:2) (Dr. M Watson). Christian life, the life of God’s people, is most often represented in the Bible and in literature, as a journey – a journey that begins with our confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in Baptism and ends when we at last meet Him, God’s Incarnate Only-begotten Son, in the Trinity, face to Face, in God’s heavenly kingdom. The magi represent the first fruits of the pagan nations who welcome the Good News of Salvation through the Incarnation (CCC #528). Note that in Matthew’s Gospel, it is Mary who makes the Word known first to Gentiles (the magi) (CCC #724).

The star: Commentary on the Torah by Jewish rabbis suggests that a star appeared in the sky at the births of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Similarly, in the Book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam speaks of “a star that shall come out of Jacob.” Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events. Thus, the brightness of the Light to which Magi were drawn was made visible in the star they followed. (In the last 40 years, a number of scientists and astronomers have pointed to particular clusterings of planets or stars around the time of Jesus’ birth, which would have created an unusual or dramatic heavenly “portent,” suggesting that perhaps Matthew’s account is more historical than some exegetes might choose to believe). The star which shone over the area and served as a beacon for the astrologers can be explained scientifically. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German astrologer and mathematician, calculated that the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which occurred ca 7-6 B.C.E. could have produced such an illumination in the sky over Bethlehem. However, the star featured in Matthew’s narrative figures more importantly because of its theological significance. No doubt, Matthew, with his mission to demonstrate that Jesus was the Promised One and the fulfillment of all Jewish hopes and prophecies, intended his readers to recall the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers (chapters 22-24). Therein, Balaam, a pagan seer from the East was co-opted by Balak, king of Moab to curse the Israelites. Prevented by Yahweh from uttering the curse, Balaam blessed Israel and prophesied, “a star shall rise from Jacob and a scepter shall arise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Matthew portrayed the astral herald that proclaimed the appearance of Jesus and beckoned the Gentiles to salvation as the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophesy.(Sanchez Files).

The gifts: Gold, frankincense and myrrh may be thought of as prophesying Jesus’ future. Gold was a gift for Kings; frankincense (an ancient air purifier and perfume), was offered to God in Temple worship (Ex 30:37); and myrrh (an oriental remedy for intestinal worms in infants), was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil (Ex 30:23), and to prepare bodies for burial. These gifts were not only expensive but portable. Perhaps Joseph sold the gifts to finance the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt. The gifts might have been God’s way of providing for the journey that lay ahead.

The triple reactions: The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ. The feast invites us to see ourselves in the Magi – a people on a journey to Christ. Today’s Gospel also tells us the story of the encounter of the Magi with the evil King Herod. This encounter demonstrates three reactions to Jesus’ birth, a) Hatred: a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus; b) Indifference: another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus; c) Adoration: the members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him.

A) The destructive group: King Herod considered Jesus a potential threat to his kingship. Herod the Great was a cruel, selfish king who murdered his mother-in-law, wife, two brothers-in-law and three children on suspicion that they had plotted against him. In today’s Gospel, Herod asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. Their answer tells him, and us, much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise – one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1-3) (Dr. Hann). Later, the scribes and Pharisees would plot to kill Jesus because Jesus had criticized them and tried to reform some of their practices. Today, many oppose Christ and the Church because of their selfish motives, evil ways, and unjust lives. Children still have Herods to fear. In the United States alone, one and a half million innocents, unborn children are aborted annually.

B) The group that ignored Christ: The scribes, the Pharisees, and the Jewish priests knew that there were nearly 500 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. They were able to tell Herod the exact time and place of Jesus’ birth. They were in the habit of concluding their reading from the prophets on the Sabbath day by saying, “We shall now pray for the speedy arrival of the Messiah.” Unfortunately, they were more interested in their own selfish gains than in discovering the truth. Hence, they refused to go and see the child Jesus — even though Bethlehem was quite close to Jerusalem. Today, many Christians remind us of this group. They practice their religion from selfish motives, like gaining political power, prestige, and recognition by society. They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives.

C) The group that adored Jesus and offered Him gifts: This group was composed of the shepherds and the Magi. The shepherds offered the only gifts they had: love, tears of joy, and probably woolen clothes and milk from their sheep. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, were following the star that Balaam had predicted would rise, along with the ruler’s staff, over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17). The Magi offered gold, in recognition of Jesus as the King of the Jews; frankincense, in acknowledgment that He was God, and myrrh as a symbol of His human nature. “Like the Magi, every person has two great ‘books’ which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God Who speaks to us,Who always speaks to us.” (Pope Francis)

Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group. a) Let us worship Jesus at Mass, every day if we can, with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration. Let us offer God our very selves, promising Him that we will use His blessings to do good for our fellow men. b) Let us plot a better path for our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, words and actions, evil habits, and selfish behavior. c) Let us become the star, leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Him. We can remove or lessen the darkness of the evil around us by being, if not like stars, at least like candles, radiating Jesus’ love by selfless service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate care.

(2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany and every day: (a) Gift of our life by offering it on the altar during the Holy Mass and by offering it to God every morning as soon as we get up, asking Him for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit to do good and avoid evil during the course of the day. b) Gift of relationship with God by talking to Him in personal and family prayers and listening to Him by reading the Holy Bible every day. c) Gift of friendship with God by experiencing His presence in everyone we encounter, by offering Him our humble service, and by getting reconciled to God every night, asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures during the day.

Let us conclude with a 19th century English carol, Christina Rosetti’s A Christmas Carol, which begins, “In the bleak midwinter.” The carolsums up, in its last stanza, the nature of “giving to the Christ Child.”

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, Icould give a Lamb.

If I were a wise man, Icould do my part.

What I can I give Him?Give Him my heart!”

JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) “I want the big cow!”: It was an excited little girl who told me this story. The first two wise men got down from their camels and offered their precious gifts to the Baby. He declined them. When the Baby Jesus declined the gift of the third of the also, the exasperated wise man asked, “Then what do you want?” The Child Jesus answered quickly and with a warm smile, “Your big cow!”

2) An 8-year-old asked, “How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus? What kind of gift is that for a baby?” His 9-year-old sister answered, “Haven’t you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air.”

3) A husband asked his wife, “Why would God give the wise men a star to guide them?” She replied, “Because God knows men are too proud to ask directions.”

4) Three Wise Women: While they were talking about the story of the three wise men, a woman asked her parish priest, this question, “Do you know why God gave the star to the wise men?” When he professed his ignorance, she told him: “God knows men are too proud to ask directions. If there had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given some practical gifts!”

4)Epiphany of a Sunday school boy: A little boy returned from Sunday school with a new perspective on the Christmas story. He had learned all about the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. He was so excited that he could hardly wait to tell his parents. As soon as he arrived home, he immediately began, “I learned all about the very First Christmas in Sunday school today! There wasn’t a Santa Claus way back then, so these three skinny guys on camels had to deliver all the toys!” He further continued, “And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his nose so bright also wasn’t there yet, so they had to have this big spotlight in the sky to find their way around!”

5) Epiphany of a pilot: A helicopter was flying around above Seattle one day when an electrical malfunction disabled all the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “Where am I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “You are in a helicopter.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “You are in a helicopter” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (for daily homilies)

1) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c

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) Fr. Nick’s collection: http://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/weekday

5)Based on Barclay commentary: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/

6)Saint of the Day: a) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/

b) http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp

7)http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/

8)An Important apologetic source: https://www.crediblecatholic.com/pdf/M5/BB5.pdf

9) https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/12/16/epiphany-scripture-reading-242059

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 9) by Fr. Tony:akadavil@gmail.com

26 Additional anecdotes:

1) Three kings in a school Christmas play: I read this story about high school students who were putting on a Christmas play which they themselves had written. In the afternoon before the play’s performance, the students suddenly realized that they had forgotten all about the three kings in the story. The director of the play hit upon the following solution: he would phone three people at random and ask them if they would stand in for the three kings. All they had to do was this: bring along some gift which was especially meaningful to them and then explain in their own words why they had chosen that gift.

The first of the three kings was a fifty-year-old father of five. He worked for the town council. He brought along a pair of crutches and explained: “Some years ago I was in a head-on collision on the highway. I spent many months in the hospital with broken bones. No one was sure that I would ever walk again. But I tried and tried and used these crutches for weeks. During that time my whole attitude changed: I became happy and grateful for every little daily success. I learned to take nothing for granted. I bring these crutches as a symbol of my personal thanks to God.”

The second of the three kings was really a queen, a mother of two children. She brought along a bundle of diapers and baby clothes. She explained: “I was very happy and successful as a graphic artist. Then I got married and the bottom fell out of my life. My husband did not want me to work anymore. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and take care of the house. Then along came the babies and they needed me. But after they grew up, I was again lost…. until I began to put my talents to work in creative art classes for children. I bring along this bundle of baby things to show that it was the little ones, the babies, who brought a new meaning into my life. I feel that by working and helping in their little world I am bettering the whole family of mankind.”

The third king was a young teenager. All he brought along was a blank piece of paper. He laid it before the Infant Jesus in the crib and explained: “I was not even sure whether I should come here or not… My hands are empty; I have nothing to give. In my heart I long for success and a meaning for my life. I am filled with doubts and questions and unrest. My future looks foggy and unclear to me. I lay this empty sheet of paper before You, Child in the crib and ask You to bring me an answer to some of my problems. I feel empty on the inside but my heart is open and receptive.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 2) The wise men: There is a beautiful old tradition about the star in the East. The story says that when the star had finished its task of directing the wise men to the baby, it fell from the sky and dropped down into the city well of Bethlehem. According to some legends, that star is there to this day and can sometimes still be seen by those whose hearts are pure and clean. It’s a pretty story. It kind of makes you feel warm inside. There are other legends about this story of the wise men from the east. For instance, how many wise men were there? In the old days in the east, they believed that there were 12 men who made the journey, but now most everyone agrees there were three. One old legend even tells us the names of the three. Melchior was the oldest of the group, with a full beard. He gave the baby the gift of gold. Balthazar also had a beard, but was not as old as Melchior. He presented the gift of myrrh. The youngest of the three was Casper, who had no beard yet, but did present the gift of frankincense to the baby. Yet another legend goes on to tell us that, after seeing the baby, the three continued traveling as far as Spain, telling the world the good news about what they had seen. — These stories bring the wise men a little more to life and add some color to the meaning of Christmas. They can also get in the way. The problem with legends is that sometimes they add color to stories that don’t need any additional color. In fact, sometimes legends are so colorful, they are unbelievable, and can end up making the entire story unbelievable as well,  kind of like that star falling in the well. It makes you warm inside. It also makes you wonder. I am not out to ban legends, but I do think it might be worthwhile to hear the story one more time, the way it was told the first time…. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

3) Epiphany of Christ “in His most distressing disguises.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta (canonized October 19, 2016 by Pope Francis as St. Teresa of Calcutta) died of a heart attack. She has been lauded as the “Saint of the Gutters,” as one of the “greatest women of the twentieth century” and as “one who made it her life’s work to care for the poorest of the poor.” Never stinting in her commitment to Christ, especially to “Christ in his most distressing disguises” (e.g. the sick, the dying, the outcasts, lepers, people with A.I.D.S, etc.), Mother Teresa described herself as “a pencil in God’s hands. “As long as God keeps pouring in the ink, I will continue to let God write with me and through me.” Through this physically diminutive, spiritual giant, God has indeed writ large. Through her, God has continued to reveal in our midst the mystery or secret plan of salvation of which the author of Ephesians writes in today’s second reading. St.  Teresa of Calcutta understood that there were no second-class citizens in the people of God. Nor is anyone an afterthought in God’s saving plan. The small nun who ministered to the world’s poor also left the world a legacy and a challenge. — At the beginning of this new year, contemporary believers might take time to consider if her legacy will live on in them and how that challenge can be met. Am I willing to accept and cherish absolutely everyone I meet as a co-heir, as a member of the same body and as a sharer of God’s promises? If so, then God’s secret plan continues to be revealed in me; if not, then I have darkened and obscured the manifestation of love and light that we celebrate today. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

4) Epiphany of adventurers: When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept, tracking their first non-stop global flight without refueling. Achievers and risk-takers like Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager have always fascinated us. Marco Polo journeying to India and China, Christopher Columbus coming to America, Admiral Byrd going to the South Pole, our Astronauts flying to the moon —  such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and our skepticism. It was no different at the time of the Magi in today’s Gospel story. —  To the cynical observer, the Magi must have seemed foolish to go following a star. These astrologers had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country ruled by a madman like Herod. Nevertheless, to the person with the eyes of Faith, the Magi had discovered an immense secret. They found not only the secret of the star, but the secret of the whole universe –the secret of God’s incredible love for his people. For the child they found was no ordinary child but the very Son of God become man (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 5) My Star: Consider the true story of a young man named Tony. He travelled all over the world, appearing widely on stage and on television as a drummer in a world-famous music group. Then one day Tony felt called to the priesthood. When he resigned from the music group to enter a seminary, some people thought him to be a fool. — The story could end here. And if it did, some would consider it to be a sad story. It would be the story of a young man who let a dream slip through his fingers. But the story doesn’t end here. Tony’s now a priest in the diocese of Dallas. And he’s tremendously happy. Jesus will someday say to him what he said to Artaban: “You’ve been helping me all your life, Tony. What you did for your Parishioners, you did for me.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 6) An epiphany in the airport. We spot what looks like a family – a mom, a dad, and three teenage daughters. The girls and their mom are each holding a bouquet of roses. We are wondering what the story is. Whom are they expecting? The dad keeps looking at his watch. The mom keeps turning her head to make sure she hears each airport announcement. Finally, the door opens. First come the “rushers”–men and women in suits with briefcases and bags over their shoulders, rushing towards phones, bathrooms, and their cars or rent-a-cars. We’re still wondering and watching to learn whom this family we’ve been studying is there to meet. Then out come a young Marine, his wife, and their obviously brand-new baby. The three girls run to the couple and the baby. Then Mom. Dad. Hugs. Kisses. Embraces. “OOPS! The flowers!” But the baby is the center of attention. Each member of the family gets closer and closer to the mother and each opens the bundle in pink to have a first peek at this new life on the planet. We’re seeing it from a distance. It’s better than the evening news. Then we notice several other smiling people also watching the same scene. There are many other hugging scenes, people meeting people, but this is the big one. We’re smiling too. A tear of joy. — What wonderful moment we are photographing into our memory. We’re thinking, “Family! Children! Grandchildren!” This is what life is all about.” We’re experiencing an epiphany. Life is filled with them. Praise God! (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

7) O Henrys story of real love through sacrificial sharing: Gift of the Magi:   The story is about about a young couple who were poor. She had long beautiful, brown hair and used to look longingly at some tortoise-shell combs in the shop window. He had an old pocket watch that belonged to his grandfather. He used to look at a gold watch chain that would have gone well with the watch, in the shop window. But they were poor newlyweds and window shopping was all they could afford. That Christmas she cut and sold her beautiful hair to a wig maker so that she could buy her husband the gold watch chain. He, meanwhile, pawned his prized watch to buy her the beautiful tortoise-shell combs. Each gave up what they most prized to buy something the other wanted. (summarized y Fr. Peter DeSousa). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

8) The true epiphany: A rabbi put the following question to his disciples, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One student replied, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a sheep and a dog.” “No,” said the rabbi. Another student quickly offered, “When you can tell a fig tree from a grapevine.” “No,” repeated the rabbi. “Then tell us, please,” asked the students. Replied the rabbi, “Darkness ends and day begins when you can look into the faces of all other human beings, and you have enough Light in you to recognize them as your brothers and sisters.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

9) Run away to return: John Thomas Randolph offers this modern story of running and returning to illustrate our Lord’s circumstances. Here is the difference between cowardice and heroism. The coward runs away and stays away. The hero runs away but he always returns at the appropriate time. I have a biography of General Douglas MacArthur that was written by Bob Considine. The picture on the front cover shows the general standing like a boulder, looking off into the distance, with that famous corncob pipe in his mouth. You can almost hear him telling the people of the Philippines, “I came through and I shall return.” Ordered to make a strategic withdrawal, his promise to return became the rallying cry for a whole country. MacArthur had to “run away” for a while, but he would “return” and it was the returning that mattered most. — Jesus ran away into Egypt, but he returned! All of our running away, as Christians, should be with the ultimate goal of returning. Why do we run away? When I look at my own experience, I find that I usually run away for one of three reasons: I am frightened ; I am fatigued; or I am frustrated. Isn’t that why you run away too? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

10) “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” In October 1989, a new star was added to the 1900 stars on the famed sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. The new star was placed near the stars of Julie Andrews and Wayne Newton. The new star, as curious as it seems, was the late evangelist Billy Graham, (died February 21, 2018), who preached the Gospel to more than 100 million people around the world. Forty years ago, he refused to have his name on a star, but he reconsidered it in 1989. He said, “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” At the unveiling he added, “We should put our eyes on the Star, which is the Lord.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

11) Epiphany of a protecting God: The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlight piercing the darkness. Queen Victoria was a passenger on the train. Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s light was a strange figure in a black cloak standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brake and brought the train to a grinding halt. He and his fellow trainmen clambered down to see what had stopped them. But they could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch the engineer walked a few yards further up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. A bridge had been washed out in the middle and ahead of them it had toppled into a swollen stream. If the engineer had not heeded the ghostly figure, his train would have plummeted down into the stream. While the bridge and tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery. At the base of the engine’s head lamp the engineer discovered a huge dead moth. He looked at it a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back in to his cab, he switched on the light and saw again the “flagman” he had seen in the beam, seconds before the train was due to reach the washed-out bridge. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure, waving its arms. When Queen Victoria was told of the strange happening she said, “I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.” —  No, the figure the engineer saw in the headlight’s beam was not an angel…and yet God, quite possibly through the ministry of His unseen angels, had placed the moth on the headlight lens exactly when and where it was needed. (Billy Graham from Unto the Hills)

12) The Star: In Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Star”, we read about a Jesuit astrophysicist who makes a space trip with other scientists to a distant galaxy called the Phoenix Nebula. There they chance upon a solitary planet still orbiting the remnant of a central sun, which had exploded thousands of years ago. The explorers land their spacecraft on this planet and examine the scorched surface caused by that cosmic detonation. They discover a melted-down monolithic marker at the entrance of a great vault in which they find the carefully stored treasures and records of an advanced civilization. On their return trip to earth in our own galaxy, the Jesuit astrophysicist calculates the exact time when the light from this cosmic explosion in the Phoenix Nebula reached earth. It was the date of Christ’s birth when the light from that fire was seen as a bright new star appearing in the East.  But now that he had solved an ancient mystery, he had a greater mystery to grapple with. How could a loving God allow a whole planet of intelligent being to be given a galactic conflagration, so that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem at his Son’s birth? — This science-fiction story about the star of Bethlehem has its source in today’s Gospel. Mathew’s narration of the Magi uses the star as its central symbol. From its rising in the East to its coming to a standstill over Bethlehem, the star leads and guides the astrologers. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

13) The night the stars fell: One summer night in a seaside cottage, a small boy felt himself lifted from bed. Dazed with sleep, he heard his mother murmur about the lateness of the hour, heard his father laugh. Then he was borne in his father’s arms, with the swiftness of a dream, down the porch steps, out onto the beach. Overhead the sky blazed with stars. “Watch!” his father said. And incredibly, as he spoke, one of the stars moved. In a streak of golden fire, it flashed across the astonished heavens. And before the wonder of this could fade, another star leaped from its place, and then another, plunging toward the restless sea. “What is it?” the child whispered. “Shooting stars,” his father said. “They come every year on certain nights in August. I thought you’d like to see the show.” That was all: just an unexpected glimpse of something haunting and mysterious and beautiful. But, back in bed, the child stared for a long time into the dark, rapt with the knowledge that all around the quiet house the night was full of the silent music of the falling stars. — Decades have passed, but I remember that night still, because I was the fortunate seven-year-old whose father believed that a new experience was more important for a small boy than an unbroken night’s sleep. No doubt in my childhood I had the usual quota of playthings, but these are forgotten now. What I remember is the night the stars fell …(Arthur Gordon from A Touch of Wonder). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

14) A new Magi story: In this story the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages.  Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle-aged man and Melchior an elderly man.  They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered, one at a time, to do Him homage.  Melchior, the old man, entered first.  He found an old man like himself in the cave.  They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.  Middle-aged Balthassar entered next.  He found a man his own age there.  They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.  Young Gaspar was the last to enter.  He found a young prophet waiting for him.  They spoke about reform and promise.  Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories.  So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave.  They found a Baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old. —  There is a deep message here.  Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jew or Gentile. (Fr. Pellegrino). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

15)  The whispering angel: The seventeenth century painter Guido Reni has left us a magnificent painting of Matthew. An angel is whispering to him various events in the life of Jesus. The attentive Evangelist is frantically writing down all that he is told. The tale will become his Gospel. A portion of those whispers is today’s story of the Epiphany. It is only Matthew who tells us this tale filled with wonder. Why the other Evangelists ignored this magical story, we will never know – at least this side of the grave. (Fr. Gilhooly). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

16) The Star of Bethlehem: Gordon Wilson’s daughter was killed by a bomb in Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987. Instead of calling for revenge, he forgave her killers and began a campaign for peace and reconciliation. He said: “I am a very ordinary sort of man. I have few personal ambitions and no political aspirations. I just want to live and let live. Life has been kind to me in the main, and I have tried to live by the Good Book. I do not profess to be a good man, but I aim to be. I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it, but I have no exaggerated ideas of my ability to do so. I have hitched my wagon to a star, a star of hope, the star of Bethlehem. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho) v

17) The New Age: Every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is displayed, beneath the great Christmas tree, a beautiful eighteenth century Neapolitan nativity scene. In many ways it is a very familiar scene. The usual characters are all there: shepherds roused from sleep by the voices of angels; the exotic wise men from the East seeking, as Auden once put it, “how to be human now”; Joseph; Mary; the Babe — all are there, each figure an artistic marvel of wood, clay, and paint. There is, however, something surprising about this scene, something unexpected here, easily missed by the causal observer. What is strange here is that the stable, and the shepherds, and the cradle are set, not in the expected small town of Bethlehem, but among the ruins of mighty Roman columns. The fragile manger is surrounded by broken and decaying columns. — The artists knew the meaning of this event: The Gospel, the birth of God’s new age, was also the death of the old world. Herods know in their souls what we perhaps have passed over too lightly: God’s presence in the world means finally the end of their own power. They seek not to preserve the birth of God’s new age, but to crush it. For Herod, the Gospel is news too bad to be endured, for Mary, Joseph, and all the other characters it is news too good to miss. (Adapted from Thomas G. Long, “Something Is About To Happen,” quoted by Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

18) Epiphany gift: Tolstoy once told the story about an old cobbler, Martin, who dreamt that Christ was going to visit him. All day he waited and watched but nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening. While he waited, he gave hospitality to one person who was cold, to another who needed reconciliation, to another who needed clothing. At the end of the day, he was disappointed that Christ had not come. That night he had another dream, and all those to whom he gave hospitality returned and a Voice said, “Martin, do you not know me? I am Jesus. What you did to the least of these you did to me. (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

19) Returning Social Security check: They tell of a man in a small town in South Dakota who tried to give some money back to the Social Security Administration, but could not. At age 65 the man retired from his work as a farm laborer and moved into town. His retirement house was extremely modest, sparsely furnished, and simply kept. Most could not manage on his meagre minimum  Social Security check. At the end of the first month of collecting on Social Security, this humble man went to the bank with five dollars in cash and told the teller he wanted to return some money because the government had given him more than he needed. With that request he “blew everybody in the bank away.” They explained to him that he couldn’t do that, that the government could give out Social Security funds, but that there was no program set-up for taking any of it back! There was no category for people who wanted to give any of their Social Security back to the government.  — Application: To receive something graciously from another is as much a gift as giving. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons) (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

20) Epiphany under water: There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: “Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God.” The monk was muscular and burly. He said: “Do you really want to find God?” The young man answered: “Oh, but I do.” So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after one minute the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After three minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: “When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

21) Herod and Stalin – pride leading to destruction: Why did Herod try to destroy Jesus, but the Magi worshipped him? The difference can be summed up in one word: humility. The Magi had humility, Herod lacked it. And history tells us where that lack of humility landed him. Herod spent his life trying to keep everything under his control. He became pathologically suspicious. He ended up murdering his own wife and three of his sons, because he thought they were plotting against him. In fact, his whole life was a series of violent, horrible crimes. His tyrannical fear of losing control eventually made him universally hated, even by his closest collaborators. As he lay dying, he ordered a thousand of his best servants and ministers to be led into a stadium and slaughtered, because he wanted to be sure there was mourning and sadness in his kingdom upon his death. Joseph Stalin, the equally bloody tyrant of early Soviet Russia, followed a similar path. He climbed the ladder of success by lying, double-crossing, and murdering. And once he had reached the top, he systematically eliminated all potential rivals. But soon he began to think everyone was a potential rival. He sent his best friends to concentration camps in Siberia. He became so suspicious of plots against his life that he slept in a different corner of his house every night. He, too, died fearful, miserable, and half-crazed. — These extreme examples illustrate the all-important fact that we are not God. God is God. We are not meant to control everything; we are meant to humbly follow Christ, to trust him, to kneel before him, like the Magi, and say with our lives, “Thy will be done, not mine; thy Kingdom come; not mine.” Herod couldn’t say that, Stalin couldn’t say that – the Magi could. They gave everything over to Christ. And they went home full of joy.  (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

22) God who guided the magi guides us, too, provided we trust Him:  We really need to let this truth sink in. It’s like the story of the rock climber. He was in the mountains, climbing alone (a bad idea). And it was getting late. The sun had just gone down, and the temperature was dropping fast. He was descending a section of rock that was inclined beyond the vertical, like the inside of a steep roof. He was deep in the shadows of cliffs. Suddenly, he slipped, lost his grip, and did a free fall of about forty feet before his rope caught on the last stay he had driven into the rock. He was hanging like a spider on a strand of web. He tried to climb up the rope, but at the end of the long day, he just didn’t have the strength. He was hanging there in the void. It was dark. It was cold. He had nowhere to turn. So even though he wasn’t a Church-going man, he said a prayer: “God, if you’re up there, please help me.” Much to his surprise, he heard an answer. It said, “Cut your rope.” He was surprised and overjoyed to get an answer, but he didn’t like the answer he got. He looked below him. Only darkness. It was getting colder. He prayed again, “God, if that’s really You, please help me.” Again, he heard an answer, “It really is Me. Cut your rope. Trust Me.” He looked down again. It was getting colder. He couldn’t understand why God wanted him to cut his only support. He took out his knife. But he just couldn’t get himself to cut the rope. The next morning in the bright sunlight, a group of rock climbers found him hanging from his rope, frozen to death, ten feet above the ground. — So many times, we are at the end of our rope, and we need the help of Someone we can trust – Someone who is faithful, like God. He won’t always explain everything to us, because we simply can’t understand it all;  our eyesight is limited. But when we hear His voice in our conscience, we know that the One Who is All-Good and All-Powerful is faithfully guiding us, as He guided the Wise Men, and He won’t leave us hanging – if we believe in Him. (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

23) “Change your name or change your conduct!”: Alexander the Great, one of the most remarkable military leaders who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with a relatively small army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the camp. He came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death: the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct!” — We Christians who carry the name of Christ shouldn’t be afraid of following Christ – as Herod was. We should be glad to live up to our name, following Christ wherever he leads us – like the Magi. (From “Hot Illustrations”) E- Priest.. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

24) Conquer by this sign: The Battle of Milvian Bridge was fought between Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius AD 312. On the evening of October 27, with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision. A most marvellous sign appeared to him from Heaven,  a cross of light, with the inscription, “In this sign, you shall conquer”(In hoc signmum vinces). At this sight, he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. Constantine delineated the sign on the shields of his soldiers as he had been instructed to do in a dream, and proceeded to battle, and his troops stood to arms. Maxentius was defeated in the battle, and Constantine was acknowledged as emperor by the senate and people of Rome. Constantine’s victory brought relief to the Christians by ending persecution.

(Richard Cavendish, “The Battle of the Milvian Bridge” History Today, vol. 62, # 10, (October 2012); [www.historytoday.com/archive/battle-milvian-bridge] — 300 years before Constantine, God’s sign appeared on the sky as a luminous star. It announced the Good News that a Saviour was born to emancipate humanity from the clutches of evil. This sign was read by the wise men. It led the wise men to Bethlehem. (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

25) “The light she lit in my life is still burning.” Mother Teresa once visited a poor man in Melbourne, Australia. He was living in a basement room, which was in a terrible state of neglect. There was no light in the room. He did not seem to have a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, “Leave it alone. It is all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. As she cleaned, she chatted with him. Under a pile of rubbish she found an oil lamp covered with dust. She cleaned it and discovered that it was beautiful. And she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How come you never lighted it?” “Why should I light it?” “No one ever comes to see me.” Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I will light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s Sisters began to visit him regularly. Things gradually improved for him. Every time the Sisters came to visit him, he had the lamp lighted. Then one day he said to them: “Sisters, I will be able to manage myself from now on. Do me a favour. Tell the first Sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” — The light that God lit to announce the coming of His son is still burning. The Magi followed the path of the great light and reached the cradle of Jesus. For the last twenty centuries many have followed the footprints of the Magi. Today, Jesus stands before us declaring, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (Jn 8:12).  (M K Paul; quoted by Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

26) Gentiles … Jews, Sharers of the Promise: In the second reading of today’s Feast of the Epiphany, St. Paul reveals God’s sacred plan: to unite and save in Christ’s Mystical Body, both Gentiles and Jews. Usually, we think of Jews and Gentiles as incapable of merging. God intended quite otherwise. Edith Stein exemplifies that intention. Edith Stein was born to devout Jewish parents at Wroclaw, Poland in 1891. As an adolescent she lost her Faith in God, but gradually recovered it when she began to study philosophy. Eventually, after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she sought Baptism as a Catholic in 1922. Having finished her graduate studies, Edith took up teaching. Her brilliant conferences won her considerable note. In 1932 the Education Institute of Muenster, Germany engaged her as a regular lecturer in its philosophy department. Edith lost this position after only a year, however. In 1933 Nazi Germany enacted laws to exclude from professional positions men and women of Jewish birth. She was not too disappointed. Now, at least, she felt free to take a step she had long contemplated and became a cloistered Carmelite nun. As Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she continued to write important books on philosophy and spirituality. When the Nazis intensified their persecution of the Jews in 1938, Sister Teresa, for safety’s sake, was sent to a monastery in Holland. But early in World War II the Nazis overran Holland as well. In a circular letter of 1942, the Holland Catholic bishops denounced the introduction there of the Nazi purge of Jews. Hitler’s response was typical. In reprisal for the protest, he arrested and sent to Auschwitz a number of priests and nuns in Holland who were of Jewish blood. Sister Teresa Stein was one of the prisoners. She was gassed to death at Auschwitz that same August. — In her person, both Jew and Gentile were called into the happier Kingdom of God’s promise. (Father Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 9) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of 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 .

EPIPHANY SUNDAY-JAN 2, 2022 (Mt. 2 1-12)(L-22).docx

Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph (Dec 26 Sunday)

Feast of the Holy Family [C] (Dec 26)) 8-minute homily in 1 page

Central theme: On the last Sunday of the calendar year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. On this feast day we are offering our own families and all their members on the altar to ask God’s blessing on them and to obtain for them the guidance of the Holy Family. (Add a homily starter anecdote)

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, describes how Elkanah and Hannah presented their child Samuel in the Temple, consecrated him to the service of the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite, and left him in the Temple under the care of Eli, the priest. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 128), the Psalmist reminds us that happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord. In the second reading, John reminds us that, as children of God the Father, we are members of God’s own family, and as such we are expected to obey the greatest commandment of God: “Love one another,” so that we may remain united to God in the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Luke concludes his detailed story of Christ’s infancy, with the events of Jesus’ visit to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to become “a son of the Law” and to take up the obligations of the Law. Jesus lingered behind in the Temple, attending the Sanhedrin classes on religious and theological questions as an eager student of Mosaic Law. Finally, when Mary and Joseph had found him in the Temple after three days of anxious search, Jesus reminded them that He “had to be” in his Father’s House. It was as if Jesus had had a blaze of realization about His Divine Sonship. The Gospel then summarizes the next 18 years of Jesus’ life, stating that Jesus grew up at Nazareth like any other young man, obeying his parents, faithfully discharging all his duties to God, to his parents, and to the community, “advancing in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

Life messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.

2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage and gave them a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband-and-wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.”

3) Parents need to examine their consciences: On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves to see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you” for whom their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of our parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year!

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [C] (Dec 26, 2021)

(1Sm 1:20-22, 24-28; 1Jn 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52)

Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Grandparents are a treasure: Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children, and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would drop food on the dining table, drop and break bowls, and smear food all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table, a wooden bowl and spoon and set it off to the side of the dining room so the grandfather could eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad. When you get old like Grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” (In the American version of the story, the boy was making a wooden bowl). After that day, the grandfather was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 85th birthday on December 17, 2021. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it has lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 2: Cancer, heart disease and family relationship: A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise, and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 3: Dying of loneliness:In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Introduction: On the last Sunday of the calendar year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. Today’s feast reminds us that Jesus chose to live in an ordinary human family in order to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church.

The Scripture Readings Summarized: The first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, describes how Elkanah and Hannah presented their child Samuel in the Temple, consecrated him to the service of the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite, and left him in the Temple under the care of Eli the priest. This dedication took place at Shiloh where the ark of the covenant was housed until King David brought it to Jerusalem. The reading instructs us that we are to live as God’s children, “chosen ones, holy, and beloved.”In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 128), the psalmist reminds us that happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord. In the second reading, John teaches us that, as children of God the Father, we are members of God’s own family, and, as such, we are expected to obey the greatest commandment of God, “Love one another,” so that we may remain united to God in the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel (Lk 2:41-52) describes how Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to make him “a son of the Law” so that He might take on the obligations of the Mosaic Law. After telling us how the boy Jesus disappeared on the journey home and was only found by His frantic parents three days later in the Temple, today’s Gospel explains how the Holy Family of Nazareth lived according to the will of God. They themselves obeyed all the Jewish laws and regulations and brought Jesus up in the same way, so that Jesus “grew in wisdom as well as in the favor of God and men.” Jesus’ obedience to earthly parents flows directly from obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father.

Gospel exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel describes the fifth joyful mystery in the Holy Rosary. Only St. Luke (2:41-50) reports the event of the child Jesus’ disappearing and then being found in the Temple. Jewish boys were made “sons of the Law” by presenting themselves in the Temple of Jerusalem when they become twelve years old. The straight distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was 60 miles although the winding roads through the hills in Christ’s time made it 87 miles. On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, entire villages joined, breaking up into two groups; one of men, the other of women. Children could go with either group. This explains how Mary and Joseph could go the whole of their first day’s journey back to Nazareth before their shocked realization, when the families regrouped to camp for the night, that the boy Jesus was missing and had not been seen in either travel group all that day. So, they retraced their steps, searching everywhere, their fear mounting as the time passed with no word of Jesus. It turned out that Jesus, attracted to some Jewish rabbis teaching Scriptures to boys in the Temple had joined them in their usual teaching place, in one of the Outer Courts. There, sitting at the feet of the teachers with the other listeners, Jesus joined in the lesson, now and again asking questions and, when asked, responding to them. His wise, well-informed questions and answers attracted the teachers’ attention.

Parallel between today’s gospel and the Book of Samuel:  Dr. Brayan Pitre, the Bible professor, explains that according to Jewish tradition (not according to the Bible, as given in today’s first reading, where Samuel is still a baby), the boy Samuel was 12 years old when he went into the tabernacle and was called by God, heard His voice, and began to prophesy. So, what some scholars have suggested is one of the reasons Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old is because he wants to reveal to us that Jesus, likewise, is coming into his own into his role as priest and prophet and king. Luke says that Jesus  increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. It  is almost a direct quotation from the Book of Samuel, (1 Samuel 2:26): Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men. So, Luke says that Jesus  increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Mary’s question and Jesus’ enigmatic response: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously!” In these words, Mary questioned Jesus for causing her and Joseph so much agony by remaining in the Temple without telling them beforehand, while all Jesus’

friends from Nazareth had traveled with their families. Bewildered and troubled, Jesus , not thinking to apologize, blurted out “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” or, “… about My Father’s business?” [The Greek en tois tou patros mou can be translated either way.] In either form, however, the question implies both Jesus’ awareness of the family’s common knowledge of Jesus’ coming mission, and of Jesus’ actual Father, God, and Jesus’ close personal relationship with God, His Father. These first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel both explain Jesus’ “truancy” and, affirming His Divine Sonship and determination to fulfill the will of His Eternal Father, tell them that Jesus’ earthly life involved an obedience to more than earthly parents. They did not then understand the full implications of what Divine Sonship would entail — that in terms of Jesus’ mission, relationship to God would necessarily take precedence over relationship to them. In this incident, one of a parent’s greatest sorrows afflicted Mary: not to understand her own child; this was one of the swords spoken of by Simeon (Luke 2:35). Mary referred to Joseph as Jesus’ father, but Jesus used the word pater to refer to God, the Creator. Jesus, by his bewildered counter-question, teaches us that, over and above any human authority, even that of our parents, we have the primary duty of doing the will of God. At age 12, Bar Mitzvah notwithstanding “doing the will of Jesus’ Heavenly Father” entailed obedience to Mary and Joseph, and Jesus willingly complied: “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

The Navarre Bible Commentary explains that Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus’ reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s Faith and their reverence towards the boy Jesus led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done on other occasions. Without fully understanding Jesus or the events that were unfolding in her family, Mary was willing to believe and trust in the wisdom of God. Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as Saint Joseph and earning His living by the sweat of His brow. This is the last reference to Saint Joseph in the Gospels and is a beautiful tribute to him: obedient to his guidance, Jesus grew to perfect manhood. Jesus grew in all ways – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually – being prepared for the work that lay ahead of Him. According Bible scholars the infancy narratives of Jesus in Mathew and Luke give us the “Christological moment.” That is, by their infancy narratives, both Mathew and Luke have pushed the moment of the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son back from the baptism (where Mark presents it: “You are My beloved Son”, Mark 1:11) to the time of Jesus conception and birth.

Life Messages:1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness, by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the parents: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).

2) Marriage: a Sacrament of holiness. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of priesthood and the Sacrament of marriage. Through the Sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support, and mutual loving respect. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after the children have grown up, left home, and have families of their own.

3) We need to make the family a confessionalrather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage and gave them a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented on TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.

4) Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today on the streets of a big city, fighting the cold, the rain, and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty, and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.

5) Parents need to examine their consciences: On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you.” Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year.

Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to imitate the Holy Family: (http://karlaschultz.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/how-to-imitate-the-holy-family/)

1. We need to hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. If the image does nothing more, it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.

2. We need to cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope St. Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking. With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel. We need to do what it takes to bring silence home — move the TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of our household; turn it off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce family stress levels.

4. We need to make our home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes from a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’” Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many of us Catholics decry the lack of reverence in our parish Church, then go home to desecrate our domestic churches by harsh words toward our kids or our spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests? Remember: “They’ll know we are Christians” — not just by the Nativity scene in our front yard — but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.

5. We need to make our home a place of prayer. Our day needn’t be dominated by devotions, but we should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done. There are many ways we can pray as a family, and we should seek the ways that work best for our tribe. We can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. We should, at least, be saying grace at every meal. We can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. It might be advisable to begin with something small and manageable and then give ourselves time to grow into it before tackling something bigger.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

# 1: Long Training: A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest. She would like to know what this would require. So the priest begins to explain: “If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he’ll have to study for eight years. If he wants to become a Franciscan, he’ll have to study for ten years. If he wants to become a Jesuit, he’ll have to study for fourteen years.” [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.] The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. “Sign him up for that last one, Father — he’s a little slow!”

2) Encounter with an angry, Karate black-belt wife: A man left work on Friday afternoon, but instead of going home, he went partying with the boys and didn’t return till Sunday night. His wife was furious, and after a lengthy tirade finally said, “How would you like it, if you didn’t see me for two or three days?” “I’d like it just fine!” he slurred. And that’s what happened. All day Monday, he didn’t see her even once. Tuesday and Wednesday passed without his seeing her. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, he caught just a glimpse of her as the swelling of his eyes started to go down.

3) Shrewd girl: One day, a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a while, and said, “Momma, how come that grandma’s head is full of white hair?”

4)Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation. (Robert Orben).

5) “Nobody’s said hello yet.” A woman was at home doing some cleaning when the telephone rang. In going to answer it, she tripped on a scatter rug and, grabbing for something to hold onto, seized the telephone table. It fell over with a crash, jarring receiver off the hook. As it fell, it hit the family dog, who leaped up, howling and barking. The woman’s three-year-old son, startled by this noise, broke into loud screams. The woman mumbled some colorful words. She finally managed to pick up the receiver and lift it to her ear, just in time to hear her husband’s voice on the other end say, “Nobody’s said hello yet, but I’m positive I have the right number.” (James Dent, Charleston, W.Va., Gazette).

6) Rent-a-family: It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. “We can do what any family does,” the newfangled entrepreneur joked. “We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they’ll have to call Rent-A-Wife. (Campus Life, October 1980).

7) Sue your parents! In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.

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) 28 Rules for Fathers: http://www.danoah.com/2012/08/28-rules-for-fathers-of-sons.html

5) Living as a Catholic family: http://www.loyolapress.com/living-as-a-catholic-family.htm

6) Strong Catholic Family Faith: http://www.catholicfamilyfaith.org/

7) v http://catholicexchange.com/five-marks-catholic-family

8) Yolanda Adams: What about the children (meaningful song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=22_q5uxeeO8

9) https://stories4homilies.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/768/

35– Additional anecdotes:

1) “If you bungle raising your children…” In a rare personal interview, granted not long before her death, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remarked: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do will matter very much” (Good Housekeeping, July 1994). For a woman whose wealth, education, background, and connections could have assured her a prestigious career in academia, politics or diplomacy, her statement may seem surprising. However, despite all the possibilities she could have pursued for herself, Mrs. Kennedy was convinced that family was ultimately the most important entity in her life; to her credit, she lived by that conviction. (Sanchez Files) –Because family is the resting ground where values and virtues are inculcated and cultivated, healthy families are essential to the well-being of society. As anyone can attest, however, during the past quarter century, a variety of factors have contributed to the progressive fragmentation, isolation and structural evolution of the family unit, e.g. (1) an ever-increasing rate of divorce (more than one million per year in the U.S.); (2) a steady rise in the number of single-parent householders: one-third of all school-aged children live with only one parent; (3) in more than 50% of all households, both parents must seek employment outside the home; (4) mobility: more than 20% of American families change their residence annually or more often. These factors are compounded by what Dr. William Bennet has described as a cultural disintegration. “We have ceased being clear about the standards we hold and the principles by which we judge. As a result, we have suffered a cultural breakdown of sorts, in areas like education, family life, crime, and drug abuse, as well as in our attitudes toward sex, individual responsibility, civic duty, and public services.” (The De-valuing of America: The Fight For Our Culture and Our Children, Summit Books: 1992).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

2) The Messiah is one of you.” The following fable offers a powerful example of the contagious grace of change. The membership of a once numerous order of monks had dwindled over the years, until there were only five brothers left in what had been a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of the learning and spiritual renewal they found there. Now, no one ever visited as the spirit of the place and its inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.

One day, however, a rabbi happened by to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how they could revitalize themselves and make their monastery a spiritual center once again. After a few moments, the rabbi replied, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.” Flabbergasted, the brothers replied, “The Messiah among us? Impossible!” As the weeks passed, the brothers puzzled over the rabbi’s startling revelation. If the Messiah were here, who would it be? Maybe, Brother Timothy . . . he’s the abbot and in his capacity as leader, he could surely be chosen to be the Messiah. It couldn’t be Bro. Mark; He’s always so argumentative, but, he’s usually right . . . Or maybe, it’s Bro. Pius who tends the garden and the animals. He could probably nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah. Surely, it could be Bro. Dominic; he’s studious, learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers. It couldn’t be Peter, could it? Certainly, the Messiah couldn’t be the one who cleaned toilets, dirty laundry and scrubbed the pots and pans each day. Or, could it? Since the monks were unable to determine which one of them was the Messiah, they began to treat one another as though each were the one. Moreover, just in case he himself might be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity. Within a few weeks, the monastery’s occasional visitors were awed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirituality they experienced. They returned again and again and brought new friends along. Soon, a few young men asked to be admitted to the order and the monastery thrived again. — Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words, “the Messiah is one of you.” How much more might spouses love and cherish one another . . . how much more might parents value their children, protect them, teach them, and lovingly attend to their needs . . . how much more might children honor and appreciate their parents. If each member of every family were to reverence one another as the Messiah, i.e., as Jesus who is our Savior and brother, how much might that strengthen and secure those familial bonds that are the infrastructure, without which our society has no future. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

3) “Daddy, could you please sell me one hour of your time?” A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says, “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies, “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him, “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

4) Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday.  All is forgiven.”  In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, a Spanish newspaper carried a poignant story about a father and his son.  It goes like this.  A teen-aged boy, Paco, and his very wealthy father had a falling out, and the young man ran away from home.  The father was crushed.  After a few days, he realized that the boy was serious, so the father set out to find him.  He searched high and low for five months to no avail.  Finally, in a last, desperate attempt to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper.  The ad read, “Dear Paco, Meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday.  All is forgiven.  I love you.  Signed, Your Father.   On Tuesday, in the office of Hotel Montana, over 800 Pacos showed up, looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!! — What a magnet that ad was.  Over 800 Pacos!!  The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we need more loving, forgiving fathers and mothers. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

5) Dont humiliate them! As a student, Daniel Webster (US Senator, noted 19th century American political orator) was particularly marked for being untidy. Finally, the teacher, in exasperation, told him that if he appeared again with such dirty hands she would thrash him. He did appear in the same condition. “Daniel”, she said, “hold out your hand.” Daniel spat on his palm, with an intention to clean it, rubbed it on his trousers and held it out. The teacher surveyed it in disgust. “Daniel”, she said, “if you can find me another hand in this school that is dirtier than that, I will let you off.” Daniel promptly held out his other hand! –- Many children with an eccentric trait blossom into geniuses. The teachers and parents should not underestimate them or humiliate them. (G. Francis Xavier in The Worlds Best Inspiring Stories).

6) “Am I not a family valuable? Rabbi Neil Kurshan in his book Raising Your Child to be a Mensch (a Yiddish word for a person having admirable characteristics such as fortitude and firmness of purpose), tells this real story: A young woman about to be married had come to the Rabbi for counseling. When she told the Rabbi that she hoped she would not make the same mistakes her parents had made, he pressed her to elaborate. The woman explained that each summer her wealthy parents traveled to Europe while she remained behind with a nanny. One year, when the girl was 11, the housekeeper suddenly quit just shortly before her parents’ annual trip to Europe. Upset that their vacation might be jeopardized, the parents quickly found a replacement. A few days before their departure, the girl noticed that her mother had wrapped the family jewels and silverware and placed them in the safe. Since this had never been done before, she asked why. Her mother explained that she could not trust the new housekeeper with the family valuables. — Though certainly not intended, that insensitive remark so shocked and hurt the little girl that she never forgot it. Wasnt she a family valuable? Didn’t she have more value than silver knives and silver forks? That is a question all of us could ask about our attitudes toward dependent family members, young, old, or in-between, this Holy Family Day. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

7) “I never hugged my dad”! In his book My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes a moving interview with Mark Chapman, the convicted slayer of Beatle John Lennon. At one point in the interview, Chapman says: “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me…I needed emotional love and support. I never got that.” Chapman’s description of how he would treat a son if he had one is especially tragic, because he will probably never get out of prison and have a family of his own. He says: “I would hug my son and kiss him…and just let him know…he could trust me and come to me…and (I would) tell him that I loved him.” — Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and sons. It applies equally well to mothers and daughters. “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care. Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him. “Don’t wait until the deathbed to realize what you’ve missed.”  (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).

8) We are all equal in the eyes of God:” Former President Jimmy Carter recently decided to leave the Baptist Church to which he had belonged for sixty years.  The reason was doctrinal disagreement. The Southern Baptist Convention had just codified that women are responsible for original sin and hence subservient to their husbands. President Carter disagreed. He said: “This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the Holy Scripture – that we are all equal in the eyes of God. … This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or Faith. Consequently, they are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many Faiths and led to some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant, and damaging examples of human-rights abuses.”  So, Jimmy Carter’s conscience could no longer allow him to be part of his lifelong Church. — The Feast of the Holy Family challenges the spouses to love and respect each other.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

9 Grandfathers wooden bowl:  (American version of Homily starter anecdote no 1):   A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

10) Have you ever seen a Saint praying?”  St. Teresa of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila have their own stories about the influence their fathers had on their lives as role models.  The Little Flower used to ask an innocent question of her first grader classmates: “Have you ever seen a Saint praying?”  She would add: “If you haven’t, come to my house in the evening.  You will see my dad on his knees in his room with outstretched arms, praying for us, his children, every day.”  She states in one of her letters from the convent: “I have never seen or heard or experienced anything displeasing to Jesus in my family.”  St. Teresa of Avila was admitted against her will, by her father, to a boarding house conducted by nuns in the final year of her high school studies, as soon as he detected bad books and yellow magazines hidden in her box.  They were supplied by her spoiled friend and classmate, Beatrice.   St. Teresa later wrote as the Mother Superior: “But for that daring and timely action of my father, I would have ended up in the streets, as a notorious woman.”  — The feast of the Holy Family challenges Christian fathers to be role models to their children. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

11) Those God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three. (Jesse Jackson tells the story of a visit he made to the University of Southern Mississippi). While touring the campus with the university president, he saw a towering male student, six-feet, eight-inches tall, holding hands with a fidgety coed barely three-feet tall. What a contrast, six-feet, eight-inches tall and only three-feet tall. His curiosity piqued, Jackson watched as the young man, dressed in a warm-up suit, tenderly kissed the tiny coed, and sent her off to class. The president said that the student was a star basketball player. Both parents had passed away when he was a teenager, and he made a vow to look after his sister. Many scholarships came his way, but only Southern Mississippi offered one to his sister, too. Jackson went over to the basketball star, introduced himself, and said he appreciated the way he was looking out for his sister. The athlete shrugged and said, “Those of us who God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three.” (3) –Don’t you wish every young person could have that kind of love for his or her siblings? We live lives of Faith and we look out for those we love. (Rev. Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

12) The morning after. A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after. — It is to normalize our lives in our families that we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family and invite its holy members to our families. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

13) “Scatter my ashes in the local Wal-Mart“: A single mother who raised her only child, lavished all her love on the girl,  and spent her health and wealth, time and talents on the child’s upbringing.  But the daughter dated and married a drug addict, against her mother’s warnings and wishes. As a well-employed girl, she never cared to visit her mother.  So on her deathbed the mother instructed her attorney to cremate her body and to scatter the ashes in the local Wal-Mart of the city where her daughter lived. He enquired why. The mother said: “Then I will be able to see my daughter visiting me every week!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

14) “Louis, this morning you met your real self.” Rabbi Gafni recalls one of the first bar mitzvahs he ever performed.  (bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age ritual for Jewish boys. When a Jewish boy reaches 13 years old, he becomes accountable for his actions and becomes a bar mitzvah, a son of the Law) This bar mitzvah was for a boy named Louis.  Louis was awkward and sad.  His insensitive parents did little to encourage his self-esteem.  They implied that he was too dumb to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah. Gafni was determined to bring out the best in Louis.  He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers.  He discovered that Louis was smart, and had a fantastic singing voice.  On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully.  At the end of the ceremony, Rabbi Gafni stood and spoke directly to Louis.  He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self.  This is who you are.  You are good, graceful, talented, and smart.  Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing.  Remember . . . this is you.  Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”  A few years later, Louis wrote to Rabbi Gafni.  The boy whose parents predicted that he was too dumb to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree at an Ivy League university.  He was also engaged to be married.  Louis ended his letter by saying, “. . . I kept my promise—I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am.  For this, I thank you.”  [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 123-124.] — I wish all of us could have an affirming adult like that in our lives. Some of you know about that kind of love. That was the kind of love you experienced from your parents. And you know how precious it is. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

15) “My mother told me that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.” A few years ago, Rabbi Marc Gafni gave a talk at a children’s camp in New York.  At one point in the afternoon, Rabbi Gafni asked the children, “When was the last time someone told you that you were beautiful?”  The children’s response devastated him.  Few of them could recall true, encouraging words from their parents.  So many of them heard only words of condemnation and shame.  One young girl said, “My mother told me on Saturday that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.”  Another boy related a heartbreaking conversation with his mother.  He said, “My mother was in the Holocaust.  And she says that if she had known that I would be her son, she wouldn’t have worked so hard to survive.”  [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 120-121.] — Parents like that need to stop and consider the impact of their words.  It is hard to imagine a more hurtful thing to say to a child. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

16) 60 years of separation:  The story of Boris and Anna Kozlov is very touching. Boris and Anna Kozlov were married in 1946.  After three days Boris had to ship out with his Red Army unit.  By the time he returned, Anna was gone, consigned by Stalin’s purges to internal exile in Siberia with the rest of her family. Nobody knew where the family was, or what had happened to Anna… Boris became frantic. He tried everything he could to find his young bride, but it was in vain. She was gone. After 60 years, one day, Anna Kozlov caught sight of the elderly man clambering out of a car in her home village of Borovlyanka in Siberia. There, in front of her, was Boris. An extraordinary coincidence had led them both to return to their home village on the very same day. 60 years of separation had made their reunion inexpressibly joyful.– In today’s Gospel we heard Mathew’s account that Jesus’ family had to be separated from their kinsmen due to Herod’s decision to annihilate Jesus.  (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

17) “But…But…..you tell better lies Mum!”: A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart-to-heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars. “A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night. He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum,” replied the son, gravely, “But…But…..you tell better lies Mum!” – Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say,  ”Do as I tell and not as I do.” (G. Francis Xavier in Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

18) Attachment: In the middle of the night a young boy wakes up in a hospital bed. He feels very frightened and very alone. He is suffering intense pain: Burns cover forty percent of his body. Someone had doused him with alcohol and then had set him on fire. He starts crying out for his mother. The nurse leaves her night-post to comfort him; she holds him, hugs him, whispers to him that the pain will go away sooner than he thinks. However, nothing that the nurse does seems to lessen the boy’s pain. He still cries for his mother. And the nurse is confused and angry: it was his mother who set him on fire. — The young boy’s pain at being separated from his mother, even though she had inflicted such cruelty on him, was greater than the pain of his burns. That deep attachment to the mother makes separation from her the worst experience a child can undergo. (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

19) The Cosby Show: One of TV’s highest rated program of all time was The Cosby Show. It was a weekly sitcom about an upper-middle-class black family, which for all practical purposes, had become America’s First Family. In a feature article about Bill Cosby, Newsweek magazine said that his show about the Huxtables is endearing not cutesy, its parents are hassled but never hapless and there is clowning but no guff. The Cosby Show was popular because the family situations it portrayed had an air of universality and reality about them. Any family could identify with both the irritations and misunderstandings that arise on the show, and with the truly humorous and heartwarming things that happen. While Dr. Cliff Huxtable, his lawyer-wife Clair and their four children may not be the perfect counterpart of the Holy Family, they do picture for us in modern terms what some of the qualities of family life should be. — The seven ‘C’s of family life are: commitment, communication, compatibility, compassion, confession, conviviality, and children. They sum up today’s readings about how to become a holy family instead of a broken family. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by  Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

20) “We wanted to stay together…”: In his new book, All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel recalls the terrible moment when his family had to make a critical choice. The war was coming to an end, but the deportation of Jews continued. Elie, his parents and three sisters faced deportation from their village in Hungary to the concentration camp in Berkenau. Maria, a Christian and the family’s house-keeper, begged the Wiesels to hide in her family cabin in the mountains. At first the Wiesels declined, but Maria persisted. The family gathered at the kitchen table for a family meeting: should they go with Maria, or stay and take their chances. The family decided to stay. Elie Wiesel remembers: “But why?” Maria implored us, her voice breaking. “Because” my father replied, “a Jew must never be separated from his community. What happens to everyone happens to us as well.” My mother wondered aloud whether it might not be better “to send the children with Maria.” We protested: “We’re young and strong. The trip won’t be as dangerous for us. If anyone should go with Maria, it’s you.” After a brief discussion, we thanked Maria. “My father was right. We wanted to stay together, like everyone else. Family unity is one of our most important traditions… the strength of the family tie, which has contributed to the survival of our people for centuries….”  — The war did not end soon enough for the Wiesels. Only Elie and two of his sisters survived. His mother, father, and youngest sister died in camps. (Quoted in Connections Newsletter). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

21) Obedient Child Jesus: A few centuries before Christ, Alexander the Great conquered almost all the known world through military strength, intelligence, and diplomacy. Legend has it that one day Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly defended, walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice, demanding to see the city’s king. The king, approaching the battlements above the invading army, agreed to hear Alexander’s demands. ”Surrender to me immediately,” commanded Alexander. The king laughed. “Why should I surrender to you?” he called down. “We have you far outnumbered. You are no threat to us!” Alexander was ready to answer the challenge. “Allow me to demonstrate why you should surrender,” he replied. Alexander ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to rocks below. The king and his soldiers watched in shocked disbelief as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths. After ten soldiers had died, Alexander ordered the rest of his men to stop and to return to his side. The king and his soldiers surrendered on the spot to Alexander the Great. — Even on a human level, obedience is powerful. But when the one we are obeying is God Himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, obedience is truly a life-changing virtue. It leads not just to temporary victories here on earth, but to the everlasting victory of the Resurrection, as Jesus himself proved by his obedience unto death on a cross. (Adapted from Hot Illustrations; E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

22) Child Jesus guided by Mary and Joseph: On October 14, 1943, Jewish slave laborers in Sobibor concentration camp, on the border of Poland and Russia, executed a well-planned revolt. Of the 700 prisoners who took part in the escape, 300 made it through the minefield between the barbed wire fence of the prison and the dense forest beyond. Of those, fewer than 100 are known to have survived the Nazi search parties. One of them, Thomas Blatt, was 15 years old when his family was herded into Sobibor. His parents were executed in the gas chamber, but Thomas, young and healthy, was sent to slave labor. Thomas and two companions made it out and started their long journey through the dense woods after navigating the minefield. At daybreak they buried themselves in the woods to sleep. At night they made their way through the trees and thick brush. After four nights of wandering through the cold forest, they saw a building silhouetted against the dark sky in the distance. With smiles on their faces, they eagerly approached it, hoping for sanctuary from their enemies. As they got closer, they noticed that the building they had seen was a tower specifically, the east tower of the Sobibor concentration camp! They had made one giant circle through the woods and ended up exactly where they started. Terrified, the three boys plunged back into the forest. But only Thomas lived to tell about their awful experience. — When we reject the guidance of God’s commandments and the teaching of his Church, we are like those boys wandering through the woods at night without a guide, and we make no lasting progress to the happiness we long for. (Hot Illustrations; E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

23) Dorothy Law Nolte wrote, “Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

24) Satan’s seven-steps strategy: Dr. Peter Kreeft a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a well-known author and speaker, gave a talk in Ohio, USA. In his talk, he outlined what he calls, “Satan’s spectacularly successful seven-steps sexual strategy.” This is his explanation of how the devil is working in our world right now to destroy families and even the whole human race. Personally, I think Dr. Kreeft is right on target in his analysis. Here it is:

Step 1 in Satan’s strategy – this is the devil’s ultimate goal: winning souls for hell.

Step 2: in order for Satan to win many souls for hell, society must be corrupted.

Step 3: to effectively destroy society, family life must be undermined – because strong families are necessary in order to have strong societies.

Step 4: in order to destroy the family, you must destroy its foundation – stable marriage

Step 5: marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue which is sexual fidelity.

Step 6: fidelity is destroyed by promoting and defending the sexual revolution.

Step 7: the sexual revolution is promoted and defended by the media – through which the seeds of destruction are sown into the minds of millions of people every day. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

25) Statistics and Commentary: The evidence is convincing that the better our relationships are at home, the more effective we are in our careers. If we’re having difficulty with a loved one, that difficulty will be translated into reduced performance on the job. In studying the millionaires in America (U.S. News and World Report), a picture of the “typical” millionaire is an individual who has worked eight to ten hours a day for thirty years and is still married to his or her high school or college sweetheart. A New York executive search firm, in a study of 1365 corporate vice presidents, discovered that 87% were still married to their one and only spouse and that 92% were raised in two-parent families. The evidence is overwhelming that the family is the strength and foundation of society. — Strengthen your family ties and you’ll enhance your opportunity to succeed. (Zig Ziglar in Homemade, March 1989). Fr. Kayala. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

26) Top traits of successful families: According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are the top traits of successful families: *Communicating and listening *Affirming and supporting family members *Respecting one another *Developing a sense of trust *Sharing time and responsibility *Knowing right from wrong *Having rituals and traditions *Sharing a religious core *Respecting privacy. (Focus on the Family Bulletin, December, 1988). Fr. Kayala. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

27) Profile of a strong family:  From a national survey of strong families conducted by the Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, a profile of a strong family:

  1. Appreciation. “Family members gave one another compliments and sincere demonstrations of approval. They tried to make the others feel appreciated and good about themselves.”
    b. Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner. “They were willing to take a bad situation, see something positive in it and focus on that.”
    c. Time Together. “In all areas of their lives–meals, work, recreation–they structured their schedules to spend time together.”
    d. High Degree of Commitment
    . “Families promoted each person’s happiness and welfare, invested time and energy in each other and made family their number one priority.”
    e. Good Communication Patterns. “These families spent time talking with each other. They also listened well, which shows respect.”
    f. High Degree of Religious Orientation. “Not all belonged to an organized church, but they considered themselves highly religious. (University of Nebraska- Lincoln). Fr. Kayala (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

28)Family Statistics: Families in 2000 will average 1.81 children, down from 1.84 today. Some 60 percent of kids born in the ’80s will live for a time with one parent; 1 kid in 4 will live with a stepparent by age 16. One third of all households will be childless. . . Supporting a teenager still at home will cost $12,000 a year against $7,000 now. Kids who head to college in 2000 will need upwards of $100,000 for each bachelor’s degree. (U.S. News and World Report, Dec .25, 1989).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

29) Rudyard Kipling once wrote about families, “All of us are we–and everyone else is they.” A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness…A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family. (Fingertip Facts). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

30) Threats to the families: Parents rate their inability to spend enough time with their children as the greatest threat to the family. In a survey conducted for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Corp., 35 percent pointed to time constraints as the most important reason for the decline in family values. Another 22 percent mentioned a lack of parental discipline. While 63 percent listed family as their greatest source of pleasure, only 44 percent described the quality of family life in America as good or excellent. And only 34 percent expected it to be good or excellent by 1999. Despite their expressed desire for more family time, two-thirds of those surveyed say they would probably accept a job that required more time away from home if it offered higher income or greater prestige.  [Moody Monthly, (December, 1989), p. 72.].

31) Disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life:  Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book, Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied.

*Marriage loses its sacredness…is frequently broken by divorce.
*Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
*Feminist movements abound.
*Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
*Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
*Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
*Growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
*Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.

(Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 90). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

32) “Wow! Wow!” One of Winston Churchill’s biographers, William Manchester [The Last Lion (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1983)] once wrote that the eminent statesman’s feelings about his family were unquestionably warm and intense. Churchill regarded his home as an independent kingdom with its own law, its own customs, even its own language. “Wow!” was the family’s traditional greeting. When Churchill entered the front door, he would cry: “Wow! Wow!” Upon hearing him, his wife would call back in answer, “Wow!” Then the children would rush into his arms and his eyes would mist over. (Wow!) — A statesman in his own right (many scholars think he may have served for a time as Israel’s ambassador to foreign courts), Jesus ben Sira, the second century B.C.E. author of today’s first reading also valued the special love and language that unites the members of a family. To that end, he invited his readers to cultivate a love that honors, obeys, and cares for the other while speaking the language of comfort, kindness, and consideration. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

33) “Family is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” On a recent television “talk show”, the host had invited about two dozen children to appear as his guests. All of them, ranging in ages from three to thirteen years of age were wards of their respective state’s Children’s Services Program and were being cared for by foster parents. Some had been in the foster care system since birth; most had been passed from home to home. Every child expressed the same desire: to be permanently adopted into a family. When asked by the show’s host what “family” meant to him, one small boy summed up the feelings of the other children. “Family”, he replied, “is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” —  Most of us can be grateful that we have not been similarly deprived of that special place called family. But our gratitude for the gift of family must also be matched by a desire to preserve and strengthen the bonds that unite us and, when necessary, to expend whatever effort is needed to repair and renew those bonds when they are strained. To that end, the author of today’s second reading offers sage advice, advising women to be submissive, while urging men to love their wives in such a radical way that husbands become their wives’ servants, too, and advising children to respect, love and obey their parents. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 34) Pope Francis twitter (December 2014): “It is so important to listen! Husbands and wives need to communicate to bring happiness and serenity to family life.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

35) Cloud seeding for a brainstorm: Becoming good at the things that build inner confidence and calm takes practice — and a dash of creativity! The following list might provide some cloudseeding for a brainstorm or two of your own. Have some fun with your family…and get ready for a good rest.

  1. Pay off your credit cards.
    2. Take off ten pounds or accept where you are without any more complaints.
    3. Eat dinner together as a family for seven days in a row.
    4. Take your wife on a dialogue date (no movie, guys).
    5. Read your kids a classic book (Twain’s a good start).
    6. Memorize the Twenty-third Psalm as a family.
    7. Give each family member a hug for twenty-one days in a row (that’s how long the experts say it takes to develop a habit).
  2. Pick a night of the week in which the television will remain unplugged.
    9. Go out for a non-fast-food dinner as a family.
    10. Pray for your spouse and children every day.
    11. Plan a vacation together.
    12. Take a vacation together.
    13. Read a chapter from the Bible every day until it becomes a habit.
    14. Sit together as a family in Church.
    15. Surprise your teenager. Wash his car and fill up his gas tank.
    16. Take an afternoon off from work; surprise your child by excusing him from school and taking him to a ball game.
    17. Take a few hours one afternoon and go to the library as a family.
    18. Take a walk as a family.
    19. Write each member of your family a letter sharing why you value them.
    20. Give your spouse a weekend getaway with a friend (same gender!) to a place of his/her choice.
    21. Go camping as a family.
    22. Go to bed early (one hour before your normal bedtime) every day for a week.
    23. Take each of your children out to breakfast (individually) at least once a month for a year.
    24. Turn down a promotion that would demand more time from your family than you can afford to give.
    25. Religiously wear your seat belts.
    26. Get a complete physical.
    27. Exercise a little every day for a month.
    28. Make sure you have adequate life insurance on both yourself and your spouse.
    29. Write out information about finances, wills, and important business information that your spouse can use to keep things under control in the event of your death.
    30. Make sure your family car is safe (tires, brakes, etc.) and get it tuned up.
    31. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm.
    32. Put a security system in your house.
    33. Attend the parent/teacher meetings of each child as a couple.
    34. Help your kids with their homework.
    35. Watch the kids on Saturday while your wife goes shopping (but if a friend calls, don’t say that you’re “babysitting”).
    36. Explain to your spouse exactly what you do for a living.
    37. Put together a picture puzzle. (One thousand pieces or more.)
    38. Take time during the week to read a Bible story to your children and then discuss it with them.
    39. Encourage each child to submit to you his most perplexing question, and promise him that you’ll either answer it or discuss it with him.
    40. Finish fixing something around the house.
    41. Tell your kids how you and your spouse met.
    42. Tell your kids about your first date.
    43. Sit down and write your parents a letter thanking them for a specific thing they did for you. (Don’t forget to send it!)
    44. Go on a shopping spree where you are absolutely committed to buying nothing.
    45. Keep a prayer journal for a month. Keep track of the specific ways that God answers your needs.
    46. Do some stargazing away from the city with your family. Help your children identify constellations and conclude the evening with prayer to the majestic God who created the heavens.
    47. Treat your wife to a beauty make-over (facial, manicure, haircut, etc.). I hear they really like this.
    48. Give the kids an alternative to watching Saturday morning cartoons (breakfast at McDonald’s, garage sales, the park, chores, etc.).
    49. Ask your children each day what they did at school (what they learned, who they ate lunch with, etc.).
    50. After you make your next major family decision, take your child back through the process and teach him how you arrived at your decision.
    51. Start saying to yourself “My car doesn’t look so bad.”
    52. Call you wife or husband from work just to see how they’re doing.
    53. Compile a family tree and teach your children the history of their ancestors.
    54. Walk through an old graveyard with your children.
    55. Say no to at least one thing a day — even if it’s only a second piece of pie.
    56. Write that letter to the network that broadcast the show you felt was inappropriate for prime-time viewing.
    57. Turn off the lights and listen to a “praise” tape as you focus your thoughts on the Lord.
    58. Write a note to your pastor praising him for something.
    59. Take back all the books in your library that actually belong in someone else’s library.
    60. Give irritating drivers the right to pull in front of you without signaling and yelling at them.
    61. Make every effort to not let the sun go down on your anger.
    62. Accept legitimate criticism from your wife or a friend without reacting or defending yourself.
    63. If your car has a Christian bumper sticker on in — drive like it.
    64. Do a Bible study on the “wise man” and the “fool” in Proverbs…and then apply what it takes to be wise to your life.
    65. Make a list of people who have hurt your feelings over the past year…then check your list to see if you’ve forgiven them.
    66. Make a decision to honor your parents, even if they made a career out of dishonoring you.
    67. Take your children to the dentist and doctor for your wife.
    68. Play charades with your family, but limit subjects to memories of the past.
    69. Do the dishes for your wife.
    70. Schedule yourself a free day to stay home with your family.
    71. Get involved in a family project that serves or helps someone less fortunate.
    72. As a family, get involved in a recreational activity.
    73. Send your wife flowers.
    74. Spend an evening going through old pictures from family vacations.
    75. Take a weekend once a year for you and your spouse to get away and renew your friendship.
    76. Praise your spouse and children — in their presence — to someone else.
    77. Discuss a world or national problem, and ask your children for their opinion on it.
    78. Wait up for your teenagers when they are out on dates.
    79. Have a “quiet Saturday” (no television, no radio, no stereo…no kidding).
    80. If your children are little, spend an hour playing with them — but let them determine the game.
    81. Have your parents tell your children about life when they were young.
    82. Give up soap operas.
    83. De-clutter your house.
    84. If you have a habit of watching late night television, but have to be to work early every morning, change your habit.
    85. Don’t accept unnecessary breakfast appointments.
    86. Write missionaries regularly.
    87. Go through your closets and give everything that you haven’t worn in a year to a clothing relief organization.
    88. Become a faithful and frequent visitor of your church’s library.
    89. Become a monthly supporter of a Third World child.
    90. Keep mementos, school projects, awards, etc. of each child in separate files. You’ll appreciate these when they’ve left the nest.
    91. Read the biography of a missionary.
    92. Give regularly and faithfully to conscientious Church endeavors.
    93. Place with your will a letter to each family member telling why you were glad you got to share life with him or her.
    94. Go through your old records and tapes and discard any of them that might be a bad testimony to your children.
    95. Furnish a room (or a corner of a room) with comfortable chairs and declare it the “disagreement corner.” When conflicts arise, go to this corner and don’t leave until it’s resolved.
    96. Give each child the freedom to pick his favorite dinner menu at least once a week.
    97. Go over to a shut-in’s house as a family and completely clean it and get the lawn work done.
    98. Call an old friend from your past, just to see how he or she is getting along.
    99. Get a good friend to hold you accountable for a specific important need (Bible reading, prayer, spending time with your family, losing a few pounds, etc.).
    100. Establish a budget.
    101. Go to a Christian marriage enrichment seminar.
  3. To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home. (Rose Sands, The Saturday Evening Post). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

(Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, pp. 219-223).L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 7) 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 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 .

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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)

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)