Saturday, December 31, 2016

“New Year - a new chapter, new verse, or just the same old story ? Ultimately we write it. The choice is ours.”

“The more we let God take us over, the more truly ourselves we become - because He made us. He invented us. He invented all the different people that you and I were intended to be. . .It is when I turn to Christ, when I give up myself to His personality, that I first begin to have a real personality of my own.” ― C.S. Lewis: (1898 – 1963: was a British novelist, poet, and academic)

Gospel Text: (JN 1:1-18)
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.

A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.

And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only-begotten Son,
full of grace and truth.

John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,
grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only-begotten Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

We are given multiple opportunities each day to recognize truth and grace. Today we hear the truth about who the world belongs to, who we belong to, and who we are in Christ. We are reminded that there will be forces that try to lead us astray, but we know and recognize the voice of Jesus as the voice of grace and truth.

Friday, December 30, 2016

“Try to put in the hearts of your children a love for home. Make them long to be with their families. So much sin could be avoided if our people really loved their homes.”

I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on. There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world. – Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Catholic nun who served the poor in Kolkata)

Scripture Text: (SIR 3:2-6, 12-14)
God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

The home is a treasure if it is based upon our heavenly Father’s home: if prayer is at its center. The home is “the domestic church,” “the school of discipleship,” where to live in peace, a person has to learn how to be humble and how to serve the needs of others. As you offer up your own sacrifices with Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, make it your prayer that you might imitate Him in your daily life: to know the needs of others with the Wisdom of God, and to serve the needs of others with the Love of God. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

“Well done, is well said.”

“Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak.”– St. Anthony of Padua: (1195 –1231: also known as Anthony of Lisbon, was a Portuguese Catholic priest and friar of the Franciscan Order.)

Scripture Text: (1 JN 2:3-11)
The way we may be sure that we know Jesus
is to keep his commandments.
Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments
is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
But whoever keeps his word,
the love of God is truly perfected in him.
This is the way we may know that we are in union with him:
whoever claims to abide in him ought to walk just as he walked.

Beloved, I am writing no new commandment to you
but an old commandment that you had from the beginning.
The old commandment is the word that you have heard.
And yet I do write a new commandment to you,
which holds true in him and among you,
for the darkness is passing away,
and the true light is already shining.
Whoever says he is in the light,
yet hates his brother, is still in the darkness.
Whoever loves his brother remains in the light,
and there is nothing in him to cause a fall.
Whoever hates his brother is in darkness;
he walks in darkness
and does not know where he is going
because the darkness has blinded his eyes.

The first reading reminds me of an incident that happened in the Jesuit school I worked in, in India. It was the season of Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights. Two elementary school boys were talking loudly during recess, while munching on snacks. One of them boasted, “My dad bought a lot of expensive patakas (fireworks) and we decorated our whole house with diyas (little clay lamps with cotton wicks dipped in oil).” Without missing a beat, the other boy shot right back, “Diwali is not about the outside light, but about our inner light!”

John, the author of the reading noted above, would have admired this young boy. He reminds us of the inner light that guides us on our journey to God. John argues in the first reading from Mass that if we say we know Christ but do not keep his commandments, then we are liars. Just because we celebrate Christmas or attend the midnight Mass on Christmas eve, does that mean we know and love Jesus? He invites us to keep Christ’s word by living as Christ lived.

John continues: If we think we are in the light but are jealous or hate our sister or brother, we are still in darkness. Such darkness blinds us and we fall. Such is contradictory to a life of love and light. Jesus’ commandment of fraternal love, however, is the inner light that empowers us to overcome the darkness of evil we experience in our daily lives. If we can connect with the light of Christ, we can experience God’s grace and allow Christ’s love and light to shine in and through us.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

“The "right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" begins with "life", and "life" begins at conception.”

“The so-called right to abortion has pitted mothers against their children and women against men. It has sown violence and discord at the heart of the most intimate human relationships. It has aggravated the derogation of the father's role in an increasingly fatherless society. It has portrayed the greatest of gifts--a child--as a competitor, an intrusion and an inconvenience. It has nominally accorded mothers unfettered dominion over the dependent lives of their physically dependent sons and daughters. And, in granting this unconscionable power, it has exposed many women to unjust and selfish demands from their husbands or other sexual partners. ― Mother Teresa: (1910 – 1997: Proclaimed a saint by the Catholic Church in 2016)

Gospel Text: (MT 2:13-18)
When the magi had departed, behold,
the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said,
“Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt,
and stay there until I tell you.
Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.”
Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night
and departed for Egypt.
He stayed there until the death of Herod,
that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled,
Out of Egypt I called my son.

When Herod realized that he had been deceived by the magi,
he became furious.
He ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity
two years old and under,
in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.
Then was fulfilled what had been said through Jeremiah the prophet:

A voice was heard in Ramah,
sobbing and loud lamentation;
Rachel weeping for her children,
and she would not be consoled,
since they were no more.

In today’s gospel reading Herod, so afraid of losing his earthly power, a power that cannot last, turns that fear into hate, and that hate into the destruction of innocent life. Like many of today’s political leaders, Herod foolishly believes he can defeat the will of God. Driven by fear and hatred, he becomes a mass murderer of the most innocent among his people.

Today we are faced with something very similar, but really something far worse. Since 1973 over 50 million of our nation’s most innocent have been slaughtered by abortion. And that’s just a small percentage of the global total. It’s time to put a stop to this insanity!

And I’m convinced this won’t come about through politics. No, it will happen only when we as God’s People undergo a change of heart, when we all begin to lead the Christian life the Gospel calls us to lead.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

“All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”

“If Jesus rose from the dead, then you have to accept all that he said; if he didn't rise from the dead, then why worry about any of what he said? The issue on which everything hangs is not whether or not you like his teaching but whether or not he rose from the dead.” ― Timothy J. Keller,  The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism

Gospel Text: (JN 20:1A AND 2-8)
On the first day of the week,
Mary Magdalene ran and went to Simon Peter
and to the other disciple whom Jesus loved, and told them,
“They have taken the Lord from the tomb,
and we do not know where they put him.”
So Peter and the other disciple went out and came to the tomb.
They both ran, but the other disciple ran faster than Peter
and arrived at the tomb first;
he bent down and saw the burial cloths there, but did not go in.
When Simon Peter arrived after him,
he went into the tomb and saw the burial cloths there,
and the cloth that had covered his head,
not with the burial cloths but rolled up in a separate place.
Then the other disciple also went in,
the one who had arrived at the tomb first,
and he saw and believed.

"God is love.” There’s hardly a less controversial statement in modern Western culture than this one. But if you were to press people as to the implications of this simple statement, you’d quickly see a divergence from the scriptural witness to this belief that God is, in His very Three-Personed nature of self-giving love.

It is St. John the Evangelist, whose feast we celebrate on this third day of the Octave of Christmas, who tells us that “God is love.” But he also unpacks that simple statement throughout his three letters in the New Testament, and his Gospel account. We might say that these four books of the New Testament are a primer in both the nature of divine love, and its practice.

My favorite single verse of Sacred Scripture is from St. John’s first letter: “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He has loved us, and offered His Son as an expiation for our sins.” The life of St. John the Evangelist bear witness to this truth. He was, of course, the only of the twelve Apostles to remain with Jesus during His Passion and death. Perhaps owing to this fidelity, he was the only one of the Apostles (excepting Judas Iscariot, of course) who was not martyred. Perhaps also owing to his fidelity to the Crucifixion of Love in the Flesh, it was to John that Jesus entrusted His Blessed Mother. All this illustrates why St. John the Evangelist is called “the Beloved Disciple”.

Monday, December 26, 2016

The history of persecution is a history of endeavors to cheat nature, to make water run up hill, to twist a rope of sand.

“Let us not forget: we are a pilgrim church, subject to misunderstanding, to persecution, but a church that walks serene, because it bears the force of love.” ― Archbishop Oscar A. Romero (1917 – 1980) The Violence of Love

Gospel Text: (MT 10:17-22)
Jesus said to his disciples:
“Beware of men, for they will hand you over to courts
and scourge you in their synagogues,
and you will be led before governors and kings for my sake
as a witness before them and the pagans.
When they hand you over,
do not worry about how you are to speak
or what you are to say.
You will be given at that moment what you are to say.
For it will not be you who speak
but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.
Brother will hand over brother to death,
and the father his child;
children will rise up against parents and have them put to death.
You will be hated by all because of my name,
but whoever endures to the end will be saved.”

Jesus cautions us to “beware of men.” Other humans will persecute you for your faith and this does not exclude close relatives. Most people who convert to following Christ as an adult or who grow up in the faith but get serious about it as an adult have experienced this. Close friends, family members, or colleagues wonder what has happened to us and they react. Perhaps the reaction comes in the form of snarky comments or an unspoken exclusion or parents who assure you that they are praying that you will see the light and return from the error of your ways. This is certainly not death by stoning but it can take its toll. Jesus assures us that “whoever endures to the end will be saved.” Living for Christ is indeed a marathon and not a sprint.