As we celebrate the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord, I wish to focus on two themes. The first, it is a proclamation of who Jesus is - the Son of God the Messiah, the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity. By declaring Jesus his son, God confirms that Jesus shares the same divinity with him. Jesus is God! And Jesus reveals to us the image of God. This Jesus worked and died for that singular purpose to make us live the way God created us to live - in His image and likeness. St. Paul informs us that through him, we received the grace to reject worldly passions and embrace the life of grace which God offers us.
Secondly, in the Baptism of Jesus, we are invited to reflect on our own baptism and baptismal promises. As our baptism transforms us into another Christ, we are called also to show the image of God to others. It remains to be asked, when we encounter other people do they recognize the living presence of God in us?
We pray that the merciful love of God may abide in us at all times, and through us reach out to all the faces that desire it in our world. Amen.
Jesus is the light that shines for all to see. Jesus is the light to those who sit in darkness and the glory of the people of Israel. In Jesus, this light has no limitation nor obstruction; it does not discriminate nor does it falter.
This time between the celebration of the Epiphany and the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - the last week of Christmas - we are given the same message given to the all those privileged to encounter the Baby Jesus in the manger - the message of salvation and joy.
Remember that the Magi were led to where Jesus was by the star. This star ; is anyone or anything that leads people to Jesus. Can you not also make a resolution today to be a star to all in this year?
Certainly a theme during this season is joy and gladness. Office parties, family gatherings, school shows, decorating all bring a certain happiness in our lives. However, there is another reason, a greater reason, why we are to be filled with joy and gladness.
In the midst of sadness and distress, anxiety and worry, pain and suffering and all of the realities of our lives, Advent helps us to realize that God is with us - He is Emmanuel; and joy in our hearts is the best sign to acknowledge His presence.
In other words, the His presence is the cause of our joy. Zephaniah urges the people to rejoice because “the Lord… is in your midst.” And Paul tells the Philippians he wants them to be happy, because “the Lord is very near.” The joy that this world cannot give is the joy that comes from believing our closeness with God and the certainty of his love for you and me. This joy, with all its laughter and smiles, can only become a reality when Christ resides in our hearts.
Now here is the really Good News - that we can still rejoice (gaudate), and shout for joy, and be glad even while fulfilling our responsibilities as Christians. Our world may say otherwise, but the message for us is that our joy will be complete when we turn away from sin and turn towards Christ especially in following His commandment of loving God and loving one another.
In general, being kind and generous, sharing our resources with others, showing concern for others and being just and merciful in all our dealings with others will in fact make us happy.
But only when those actions coincide with our faith that says God is indeed in with us. Therefore, cannot but sing and shout for joy, giving praise and declaring the greatness of God's Holy name.
Our Second Weeks of Advent invites us to look at Saint John the Baptist. Saint John fore runs the coming of Jesus. As the prophets foretold, John now reminds the people that God always keeps His promises, as the long-awaited Messiah is here. John's words always arouses the people especially as he speaks of the baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.The Baptist’s words, “prepare the way for the Lord, make his paths straight.” Saint John tells us that there is a duty and a responsibility for each and every one of us, both as a community and individually. As we await the Savior’s arrival, we must ready the pathway for the Lord; leveling the rough edges and smoothening the bumpy grounds.
Ultimately we are invites to look at our own lives and realize the way of the Lord require straightening as we strive to follow HIM.
Our lives have been not always been a straight path to God by our crookedness, malice, and vice. We have made the pathway rough by sins, selfishness and pride. Our pathways to God as not been straight with anger, bitterness, unforgivingness, intolerance and resentments. Our pathway has been made rough with our unconcerned and indifferent attitude towards the sufferings and those in need?
It is not the Lord’s way that needs straightening, but ours. If we are truly preparing for the joyful expectant coming of Jesus, then we must listen to John’s call to repent from all sins that make our hearts a bumpy and rough path for the Lord. When we do as John tells us and make straight our path to God, we shall shout joy in gladness, as the Lord works marvels for and in us by making our pathway straight.
The season of Advent resonates the mood of anticipation and preparation. The season of Advent can be separated into two part. First is Christmas, during which the first coming of Christ is recalled in joyful festivities. Second is the ultimate event of Christ’s second coming in power and glory. While we prepare for the coming of the Baby Jesus, our attention is drawn equally to when we all meet Christ when our earthly pilgrimage comes to an end.
Advent reminds us that we have a God who fulfills promise. The prophet Jeremiah is fulfilled when he says, a Messiah shall spring forth from the stock of David. He shall be our Prince of peace and his reign over our world shall be characterized by wisdom, love, justice and integrity. This is Jesus!
This Jesus will come again. When we speak of His second coming, it is not aimed to bring panic, rather it is an invitation for watchfulness and vigilance. His coming in power and glory shall be to secure our liberation and exaltation. Thus, we must stand erect, heads high, in confident anticipation and prayerful alertness as we await our Master’s glorious return.
At this moment we live between the two comings of Christ. For this reason we must make it our obligation to make the presence of Christ felt in our world. We must make the world a better place through our little words and deeds of kindness and service.
Our watchful anticipation and preparation of Christ’s coming is done by the love we show for one another. This Advent, let us be witnesses to peace amidst conflicts; hope amidst despair; loving concern amidst indifference and life amidst the culture of death.
One morning I went to celebrate Mass, and one of the parishioners came in the sacristy to help set up. In our general conversations, as people would have, I asked him “where do you live?” Interesting he danced around the question. So I asked him again, "where do you live?" He looked at me with a tear in his eyes and said, "I do not have a home." I was heartbroken. This man has crossed my path several times and I didn’t care enough to know anything about him. Sometimes, I had scolded him for the things he didn’t get right and would even try to ignore him when I saw him but I never paid enough attention to, or sought to understand, the deeper experiences that formed him. Perhaps, that would have given me a window into the unique challenges that influenced his actions.
After Mass I went back to the rectory, settled at my desk, and thought about the hardship that many people around us go through.I began to reflect, what can I do? And so I prayed for the strength to respond to the needs of others courageously. Then the the words of Mahatma Gandhi came to me, to “live simply so that others may simply live”.
How often we roll up our windows when beggars approach our cars, or steer in a different direction when we see someone suffering from drug addiction. On few occasions when we try to help, we throw money at them without looking into their faces.
The world needs more love, more understanding, more generosity. The world needs more people to genuinely ask “How are you?”. The world needs more people to look into the faces of the poor and the beggars and remind them with a smile that they are human. The world needs more light. In this season as we approach Advent and Christmas, may each of us be that light.
Violence, racism, injustice, poverty, murder - doesn't it make you angry? All sin, including our own, should.
Isn’t it interesting that our Lord who is perfection personified anger!
Here, we must be careful not to equate His anger with our normal everyday experiences of anger. We can describe His anger as righteous anger, which is redemptive, not destructive.
The Prophet Isaiah said: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples” (Isaiah 56:7). What is our attitude towards the house of God? When we talk of the house of God it begins from the spiritual temple of our bodies to the physical edifice that houses us during worship, called a Church.
Christ expressed great displeasure at the evil actions people were involved in especially in in the temple, but that is because He desired their repentance. Many who were there may have been very shocked at His actions, we too can be shocked when reading it, but it righteous anger motivates to make change.
Dear friends, we ought to be angered by sin because it is capable of destroying us. However, we must be careful that we don’t use this example of Jesus to justify losing control of ourselves and entering into the deadly sin of anger. Righteous anger, as Jesus expresses today, will always leave one with a sense of peace and love for those who are rebuked, like a parent correcting a child.
So much was sacrificed to get the Church of Christ to where it is today. What have you and I done for the Church? If we treat our bodies as spiritual temples and the Church reverently, prayers will be answered and wonders will be experienced.
We learn from the Lord’s lips, that complete happiness does not consist in the abundance of wealth and material possessions.
Our world associates happiness with feelings of self-satisfaction and self-sufficiency.
This week many will be praying to win the lottery so they can “find” happiness. But in the midst of desiring money do we so much as think or thank God for what we have?,Or do we even think of using our earnings in helping the poor. The Lord teaches us that selfishness can never lead to happiness. When we have no regard for God or for our fellow human beings we are as Jesus put it, fools.
We must not fall for into the trap of finding our happiness on material wealth, eating and drinking. So if you win the lotto, see it as the responsibility to be dispensers of God’s gift to the needy. And if you don’t win, no worries- our happiness comes from God not in worldly goods.
Let us reflect today on one of the most moving Gospel stories recorded exclusively by Luke – the story of the Good Samaritan. In it, Jesus reminds us on who our neighbor is and how we ought to live in fraternal charity and solidarity towards others.
Christ’s life and ministry was a continual therapy for wounded humanity, a remedy for mankind’s spiritual and material deficiencies. He, therefore, enjoins you and I to emulate the Good Samaritan in the parable, to exercise the same kind of compassion towards others. We must never be indifferent or unconcerned about a suffering person’s plight or misery. We have to learn to stop and spend time with one who may be in need of physical or spiritual solace.
Let us lovingly and deliberately practice the spiritual and corporal works of mercy. Our neighbors suffer from varied lacks and needs; their wounds may be caused by loneliness or lack of love, their needs may be material – food, clothing, shelter, employment – or they could also be grave suffering resulting from ignorance or the moral wound of sin. We sure can do something by showing genuine compassion, mercy and love.
Through this attention and affection given to others, by spreading love, the world may experience the healing touch of Christ.
We learnt that the legitimacy of Christianity can be deduced from the message of Christ which focuses on himself as God, and stands out as a clear distinction between Jesus and other religious leaders who have through the ages offered some new found knowledge of a transcendent pathway to God existing outside of themselves. Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ, documented claims of miracles performed by Christ with particular reference to his resurrection, eye witness accounts in the New Testament and historical documentation on Christ and the deaths of the apostles/the church fathers as a consequence of their zeal to spread the message of our Lord further gives credence to Christianity and tells of a conviction that could only come from “the truth”: “That Christ is the Messiah That He came, died and rose from the dead and in doing so, gave us a new life That all those who believe in Him, through the ministry of the Church, receive this new life through repentance and baptism This new life provides graces which prepare us for the coming judgment at the end of time”