Dec 22 (Lk 1: 46-56)

One of the things that, some of us did as children, as we grew up, was to measure our height against a wall.

 

We know how this method works…

> We stand next to a wall and make a pencil mark of our height.

>> A few weeks or months later, we come back to this place and measure how much we have grown.

 

 

Why did we do this?

> In order to see how much we have grown…

>> In order to check how much more we would wish to grow…     

>>> In order to know, “How big have we become!”

 

 

Today, we need to make a similar “height check” with respect to our God.

 

“How big is God in my life?”

 

 

The way we answer this question will determine how we live as a Christian.

 

 

The Gospel of the Day is a great expression of how Mother Mary considered the “height” of God in Her life.

 

> She realized the mighty presence of the Lord in Her lowly life.

 

> She understood the huge favour of the Lord bestowed in Her humble nature.

 

>> And so, with much acclaim and exclamation, Mary cries out, “My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour” (Lk 1: 46-47)

 

 The Angel Gabriel had announced to Mary that she been chosen to be the Mother of the Son of God.

>> The angel also declared that her cousin, Elizabeth had conceived in her old age.

 

 

In Her deep concern, humility and spirit of service, Mary makes a visit to Elizabeth.

 

Elizabeth called Mary as Blessed ‘for believing what was spoken to her by the Lord would be fulfilled’ (Lk 1: 45)

 

It’s in this context, that Mary exclaims the Magnificat.

 

The image of Mother Mary in this hymn of the Magnificat is that of a powerful and courageous lady.

                        

 

And these are evident in Her words of the Magnificat…

 

>> He has shown the strength of His arm, He has scattered the proud in their conceit.

 

>> He has cast down the mighty from their thrones, and has lifted up the lowly.

 

>> He has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich He has sent away empty.

 

>> He has come to the help of his servant Israel, for He has remembered His promise of mercy (Lk 1: 48-54)

 

 

These are not words of mere pious sentimentality or tender words of affection…

 

>> These are words which express immense bravery and courage!

 

 

The mighty works and wonders of the Lord had made Mother Mary to declare…

 

… Courage in a God who overpowers the proud and the haughty

 

… Faith in a God who takes decisive action on behalf of God’s people.

 

… Hope in a God who vindicates the righteous and condemns the wicked.

 

… Love in a God who liberates the oppressed, the powerless, the poor and hungry.

 

… Trust in a God who casts away the self-asserting rich and accept the dependable poor.

 

 

Mother Mary declared Her strong assertion and powerful claim in a MIGHTY God!

 

 

How Big and Mighty and Strong is God in our life?

 

>> Do we believe in the mighty strength of God even in seemingly impossible situations of life?

 

>> Do we trust in the awesome majesty of God even when the boat of our lives hits rock bottom?

 

>> Do we rely in the colossal power of God even when earthquakes of life wreck havoc in life?

 

 

The way we live is a direct consequence of the size of God in our lives!

 

>>> If we have a view of a Shrunken God, then we will live in constant anxiety of the world.

 

>>> If we have a view of an Insignificant God, then we will live in immorality and casualness

 

>>> If we have a view of a Tiny God, then we will live in lethargy, disinterest and indifference.

                                                                                                                                                                                                        

 

> When we make God small in our lives…

we offer prayers without faith, worship without awe, service without joy and undergo suffering without hope.

 

> When we make God big in our lives…

… we live a life of daring faith, fearless obedience, zealous worship and passionate evangelization.

 

 

Let us measure the height and check the mark… “How Big is our God?”

 

 

With Mother Mary, let us also seek to joyfully proclaim the BIG GOD through the Magnificat – “My soul proclaims the glory of the Lord. My spirit rejoices in God my Saviour”

 

 

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 21 (Lk 1: 39-45)

There was a little boy, who wanted to meet God.

He guessed that the trip would be very long, so he packed his bag with a lot of chocolates, cookies and his favorite mango juice as well.
He started his journey, and walked for a long time – even in the hot, blazing sun.

Finally, he got tired, and found a park to rest.
In the park, he met an old woman…
… sitting all by herself..
… just staring at some pigeons.
The boy, tired and famished, sat down next to her and opened his bag.

He was about to open his favorite drink, when he noticed that the old woman looked hungry.
>> So he offered her a cookie.

She gratefully accepted it, and smiled at him.
Her smile was so pretty, that the boy wanted to see it again.
>> So he offered her the mango juice as well.

Once again, she gratefully accepted it, and smiled at him.

The boy was delighted!

They sat there, the whole afternoon – eating and smiling – without saying a word.
Finally, as it grew dark, the boy realized he was too late, and had to rush back home.
As he got up to leave, and had taken a few steps, he turned …
…ran back and gave the woman a loving hug.
When the boy reached the house, his mother was surprised at the deep joy that the child radiated, and asked the reason for it.

The boy answered, ” I had lunch with God!”

Before the mother could say anything, the boy added:
“You know what?
She’s got the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen!”
Meanwhile, the old woman also filled with happiness, reached her house, and was asked by her son, on the reason for it.

The old woman answered, ” I had lunch with God”

Before the son could say anything, the woman added:
“You know what?
He’s much younger that I expected!”

“Sharing” became the wonderful platform, for the two of them, to experience joy, with the essence of Divinity.

Yes, “sharing” is a quality, which is a reflection of the Divine – Who, in Jesus, empties Himself, in “self-giving” and “self-emptying”

The Gospel of the Day is a beautiful recounting of the “joy in sharing” – through the encounter of Mary and Elizabeth.
Mary, after having received the surprising and confounding message from Angel Gabriel, to be the Mother of the Son of God, doesn’t remain captivated or captured in heavenly bliss.
… Instead She sets out, “in haste” to the town of Judah? to the house of Her cousin, Elizabeth (Lk 1:39)
Heaven had revealed to Her the good news of Divine Favour…
… but, Mary doesn’t swell up in pride
>> Instead, She sets out, in service and humility

Divine Joy and Grace makes Mary to imitate the quality of the Child within Her: To share!

And this act of sharing by Mary, caused Elizabeth, Her cousin, to rejoice and the child, John, to “leap for joy”!

>> Elizabeth testifies to this fact when she exclaimed in a loud voice, “For at the moment the sound of Your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy” (Lk 1: 44)
This is an essential dimension of Christian Life: Sharing.

Just as Christ shared…
… by emptying of His glory, and becoming one like us, in all things, except sin
… by being part of human experiences and being a model to live a perfect life
… by taking up pain and suffering to redeem humanity from the clutches of sin
… by giving Himself entirely, with love and deep affection, in the Holy Eucharist
Just as Mother Mary shared…
… by offering Herself in service to her cousin, Elizabeth in her need
… by becoming a model to us, by living a life in total obedience to God’s Will
… by offering Herself to God’s Providence and letting Herself be the Mother of all humanity
… we too are invited, exhorted and challenged to live a “Life of Sharing”!
Our Christian lives must…
… cause us to share our resources and abilities in the service of the family and community we are in
… make us to share our time with those in need – especially of encouragement and consolation
… cause us to share our knowledge and experience to bring more people to faith in Christ
… make us to share our little acts of charity and sharing in the redeeming act of Christ
>> When we share our life with the ones in need…
… we experience joy and satisfaction

>> When we share of our self – time, love, material things or anything – to those in want…
… we experience happiness and contentment.

The world today is much thirsty to receive love and extremely hungry to receive care.
>> Each Christian is expected and invited to imitate Christ and help others to experience Divine Love.

Mother Mary is our model towards this.

>> She made choices to grow in imitation of Her Son and helped others to experience Divine Joy
As the words of St Teresa of Avila…
” Christ has no body but yours,
>> No hands, no feet on earth but yours,
>> Yours are the eyes with which he looks compassion on this world,
>> Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good,
>> Yours are the hands, with which he blesses all the world”
May we deepen our resolve to live a “life of sharing”, especially as we approach the Nativity of Christ, so that each of our action may become an expression of Divine Experience for the other!
God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 20 (Lk 1:39-45)

A story is said of a man in a mission land, who was extremely critical of religion and religious practices.
Once, this man went to a missionary who had been in the place for some years.

He told the missionary, “I want to hear about your religion”

The missionary was pleasantly surprised, and asked him:
“Oh that’s great!
But how is it that you would like to hear of my religion.
I have heard of your dislike and aversion to religious practices”

To that, the man answered, “Well, its very true, that I don’t cherish religion.

But ever since the day you came to our place, I have been observing you.
You are always cheerful and happy.

I have also heard a lot of laughter in your house and in the houses of my village people, who have embraced your faith”

The man continued, “And if you have anything that makes people so joyous, I too want it!”
Joy was the nectar that attracted the man to experience the sweetness of Christ and Christianity.

>> Am I a person who radiates happiness?
>> Am I a Christian whose life exudes with joy?
The Gospel of the Day is the delightful description of the joyful encounter between Elizabeth and Mother Mary and the “joyful leap” of John the Baptist, in his first meet with Jesus, the God of Joy!
The Gospel is the beautiful meeting of Two to-be-Mothers, with Two Special Children in their wombs…
… Elizabeth, with John who would be called as the Baptist
… Mary, with Jesus, who would be called as the Messiah
This wonderful encounter begins on a Divinely joyful note:
“when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb” (Lk 1: 41)
This is an interesting word – “leaped”

The Greek word for “leaped” is “skirtao”

We find the usage of this word “skirtao” in different places in the Bible…
>> In Gen 25:22: Rebeccah’s twin children – Jacob and Esau – “struggled (skirtao)” within the her
>> In Ps 114: 4, 6: The mountains “skipped (skirtao)” like rams in the presence of the Lord
>> In Mal 3:20: Those who fear the Lord’s name will “skip (skirtao)” like calves.
>> In Lk 6:23: The chosen ones should rejoice and “leap (skirtao)” for joy
When the mother, Elizabeth, heard the greeting of the Messiah’s Mother, the babe John, “leaped for joy”
Later in his ministry, John would testify to this fact, when he would say: “… the best man, who stands and listens for Him, rejoices greatly at the Bridegroom’s Voice” (Jn 3:29b)
There is great rejoicing, in Divine Presence is a powerful message that we receive.
>> The presence of the Mother of Jesus, delighted Her cousin, Elizabeth
>> The presence of Jesus, delighted His cousin, John.
As we gear up ourselves for the Season of Christmas, this ought to be a reflective question that we need to ponder and make amends, if lacking…

… Is our Christian life, one that “leaps for joy”?

Things around us may seem confusing and uncertain…
… just as it was for Mary who conceived of the Holy Spirit and Elizabeth in her old age

>> Yet, they were able to rejoice..
… because, their trust was in the Power of the Lord Who had blessed them

People may sometimes reject us, misunderstand us or even humiliate or be indifferent to us…
… just as it was for Mary who would face misunderstandings and Elizabeth who had undergone a lot of shame.

>> Yet, they were able to rejoice…
… because, their strength was in the favourable Love of the Lord, Who, they knew, had accepted and chosen them, for His cause
Life may sometimes make a fool of us by taking us through roads which are illogical, unreasonable and irrational…
… just as it was for Mary who had to tread unknown paths and Elizabeth who had to take on new responsibilities as a mother at an odd age

Yet, they were able to rejoice…
… because, their hope was in the faithful grace of God, in which they trusted and to Whom they had pledged their life in fidelity and loyalty.
Joy is to be the hallmark of every Christian.

As St Francis de Sales says, “A sad saint is a sorry saint!”
>> Our lives ought to be a “Gospel of Joy”!
As we get closer to the celebration of the Birth of the “Cause of our Joy”, we need to look into this dimension of Christian holiness: the aspect of Joy.

It is not simply a joy that is manifested..
… by some “plastic smile”
… or with some artificial activism
… or with any created humorous traits

Christian Joy is…
… a result of trusting deeply in the Providence of God
… a felt experience that manifests, effortlessly, in every aspect of life
… an honest expression of the inner peace and serenity – a fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Yes, Joy is to be the nectar that attracts others to experience the sweetness of Christ and Christianity.

May we always “leap for joy” with the Power of the Holy Spirit…
… and may our joyful and happy lives, attract and enthuse many people to embrace Jesus, the Lord of all Joy!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 19 (Lk 1:5-25)

Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton is a former Marine Corps sergeant in the US.

On Oct. 23, 1983, a suicide bomber drove a truck load of explosives into the Marine Camp at Beirut International Airport, Lebanon, killing 241 soldiers.
>> Nashton, a lance corporal, just 23 at that time, was among those severely injured in the attack.
Nashton had many tubes, running in and out of his body, with grave injuries all over.
>> A witness would say, that ‘he looked more like a machine than a man’.
Yet, he survived!
It is said, that two days after the bombing, while lying on the hospital bed in Weisbaden, Germany?
? in deep pain and agony, Nashton scribbled two words on a note and gave to his commander, Marine Commandant Paul X. Kelley.

The two words on the note read: “Semper Fi”
“Semper Fi” is the Latin motto of the Marines.
It means: “Forever Faithful”!
The pledge of “Semper Fi”?
? strengthened the injured man, in his moments of agony and struggle!
? became the reason for the wounded person, to remain steadfast in the face of anguish!
Every Christian ought to have this pledge to the Lord – “Semper Fi : Forever Faithful” – firmly adhered to Christ and faithfully lived in love.
The Gospel of the Day is the inspiring story of two exemplary persons- Elizabeth and Zechariah – who displayed the courage “to remain faithful” even while staring at hopelessness and despair.

St Luke begins his Gospel, after a brief introduction, with the amazing story of Elizabeth and Zechariah.
It’s interesting to note the meanings of their names?
>> “Zechariah” meant “The Lord remembers”
>> “Elizabeth” meant “the oath of God”

Combined, their names would mean, “The Lord remembers His Oath!”
However, life seemingly handed them something quite opposite?
>> Their childlessness caused to seem that the Lord had totally forgotten!
>> The barrenness of Elizabeth caused to seem that the Lord had His memories lost!
How true is this situation in our own lives too?

>> We bank on God’s promises that “He would provide” everything?
? but when some of our expectations fall short, we feel God is just not with us!

>> We feel joyful to know that God’s Providence will guide us through?
? yet, when some unforeseen and sudden mishaps happen, we feel God has forgotten us!

>> We feel assured to realise that God will always shelter us?
? however, when we find ourselves in the thickets of problems and crises, we feel God has left us!
This is where we need to look to Zechariah and Elizabeth and be inspired by their amazing faith.
>> Though life did not move the way they wished?
>> Though many of their honest longings were not fulfilled?
>> Though they had to go through occasions of shame and dishonour?
>> Though all possibilities of hope and expectation was “lost”, humanly speaking?
? they still kept the faith!
? they still remained true to the Lord!
.. they still continued to be devout to God!
The Gospel says, “they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless” (Lk 1: 6)
Yes, Zechariah and Elizabeth firmly held up the placard of “Semper Fi” – Forever Faithful – to God!
And this is what we too are called to do, in our Christian life of faith – to hold up the banner of “Semper Fi”?

Being “Forever Faithful”?
? even when our life ahead seems uncertain and the road ahead looks too dark
>> By firmly trusting Divine Providence and obeying His Will in our lives

Being “Forever Faithful”?
? even when undeserved sufferings crush our life and unfair behaviour is meted out to us
>> By strongly pursuing the paths of justice and holding firm to the values of the Gospel

Being “Forever Faithful”?
? even when sin traps us and we find it miserable to let go off our evil ways
>> By resolutely making efforts to do away with sinful tendencies and seeking to be holy

The “Forever Faithful” principle of Zechariah and Elizabeth was mercifully looked with favour by God?
? and thus the joyful words were addressed: “?your prayer has been heard! Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son” (Lk 1: 13)

Yes, “the Lord remembered His oath” and announced that He is indeed “The God Who is Gracious” by blessing them with John ( = God is Gracious)
>> Our God is a God Who cares much for His people?
>> Our God is a God Who deeply loves His Own?

This deep care and love, however, deserves our steadfast faithfulness and uncompromising fidelity.
Yes, let our Christian Lives be a life of loyalty and allegiance to Christ, our Great Commander?
? and may we, firmly hold high the banner – “Semper Fi – Forever Faithful!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 18 ( Mt 1:18-25)

The early American Indians had a unique ritual in their training of young boys to be brave and strong in their lives.

The evening of the boy’s thirteenth birthday, would consist of the final test, after having learnt hunting, exploration, fishing and other skills.

The boy was placed in a dense forest to spend the entire night all alone.
Until then, he had never been away from the security of the family and the tribe.

But on this night, he was blindfolded and taken several miles away.
When the blindfold was taken off, he would find himself in the midst of the thick woods.. and he would be terrified!

Every time a branch snapped or something fell, he visualized a wild animal ready to pounce.
•      His heart would pound with fear…
•      He would seek for some consolation, but would find none..
•      He would long to feel safe again, but the wait seemed to be an unending one…

After what seemed like an eternity, dawn broke and the first rays of sunlight entered the interior of the forest…

Looking around, the boy saw the wild flowers, lush trees, and the outline of the path.

Then, to his utter astonishment, he beheld the figure of a man standing just a few feet away, armed with a bow and arrow.

Guess who it was ?

It was his father!

He had been there all night long.

The boy had been unaware, but the father was always there, to make an intervention, in case of any eventuality of danger.

The protection of the father encircled the child, irrespective of whether the boy was aware or not.

Such is the tremendous protection and security of God, our Loving Father.

In the fullness of time, when God, the Father decided to send His Beloved Son to the earth, for the redemption of humankind, He had to entrust the care of His Precious Child to the protection and care of a human father…

>> And it was St Joseph who was chosen to be assigned this task and responsibility of being the caretaker and protector of Jesus, the Son of God!

The Gospel of the Day introduces and portrays the beautiful personality of St Joseph.
>> It is also an invitation to look to this Great Saint and draw inspiration from his life.

Just as God had entrusted Him to be the protector of the body of Jesus while on earth, St Joseph is also the protector and patron of His Body on the earth today, the Holy Church.

St Joseph in fulfilling his task of being the protector of Jesus, teaches us a few lessons…

He was ever prompt to the voice of the Lord
In his moments of confusion, he was still open to the promptings of the Spirit.
“When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him…” (Mt 1:24)

•      Am I docile to the inspirations of the Lord, so as to be in greater tune with the Will of God?

His love was attentive to the needs of the Divine Child and the Mother
St Joseph was ready to make any sacrifice for the sake of protecting Jesus and Mary.

He was willing…
…to undergo societal humiliations
… to bear physical hardships of travelling, migration, lack of comforts etc
… to be prudent to the socio-political situations and make decisions in favour of the family

•      Does love prompt me to be attentive and sensitive to the needs of others, and cause me to make sacrifices towards the good of the other?

A willingness to be playing the “backdrop role” in the great drama of salvation
St Joseph, was privileged to be sharing the most intimate physical presence with the two holiest persons of this world – Jesus, the Son of God and Mary, the Immaculate Mother.

Yet, it also meant that Joseph had to stay away from the limelight of glory and be the “silent yet impactful” figure of the salvation history.

•      Do I have the courageous humility to take up any role that the Lord entrusts me, in His plan of salvation – be it shorn of fame, littleness in glamour or even subject to awkwardness and uncertainty

He was ready to give up his personal decisions and doubts in obedience to the voice of God
St Joseph was not afraid to shed his own personal concerns, anxieties and even doubts, when asked to be part of the mysterious redemptive plan of God.

>> There were many things that were not understood by him…
>> There were a lot of factors that prompted him to question and confront..

Yet, He had the deep daring to keep them all aside – because he was convinced that God’s mighty hand was at work, in them all.

•      Am I willing to place my faith in God and follow my vocation faithfully, even though circumstances around me maybe uncertain, the future looks bleak and my own reasonable thinking may see situations and people as being illogical, unscientific and irrational?

As St. Alphonsus Liguori says:
“We should, indeed, honour St. Joseph, since the Son of God Himself was graciously pleased to honour him by calling him father.

If the King of kings was pleased to raise Joseph to so high a dignity, it is right and obligatory on our part to endeavour to honour him as much as we can!”

The Lord protects us, no matter how fearful the external situations are…
>> He is the loving Father, who is always with us – we realise or not!

St Joseph gave heed to the voice of the Lord…
…  and positively responded to the task that was entrusted to him by God, despite hardships and trials…

Shall we also not trust in Heavenly protection, and in turn, be a protector and defender to each other?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 17 ( Mt 1:1-17)

There is a joke among those who preach or give sermons:

There are two Gospels:
> The first being the “Gospel of the familiar”
> The second being the “Gospel of the unfamiliar”:

The  “Gospel of the Familiar” are those texts which are
…  fairly easy to preach
… fairly easy to communicate
>> They are simple to understand and easy-to-digest passages.

The  “Gospel of the Unfamiliar” are those texts which are
…  fairly difficult to discern
… fairly tricky to explicate
>> They are complicated to explain and “better to be avoided”!

The Gospel of the Day probably is of the second type: The “Gospel of the Unfamiliar”

We have the Genealogy of Jesus Christ (Mt 1: 1-17) for our reflection.

The Genealogy of Christ is perhaps one of the “most avoided” texts in the Gospel.
>> The Genealogy with its too complex length and its tongue-twisting names is most of the time, “avoided” and “skipped”.

But those sixteen verses of the Genealogy in the Gospel of St Mathew contains a treasure and mystery of the legacy of our faith!

The Genealogy is like Archaeology.
>>> We look for ancient treasures and we find dust…
>>> We look for buried cities and we find crumbled walls…
>>> We look for timeless art and instead find broken pottery…!

>> We look for holy people but we find cracked sinners
>> We look for valiant persons but we find ordinary folk
>> We look for the precious plan of God and instead find often the non co-operation of people…!

And our lives are similar too…
> We look for peaceful lives but we encounter constant troubles…
> We seek for happiness and success but we meet failures
> We expect the miraculous interventions of God but often find life hitting hard at us!

But in the history of salvation…
… and in our own history….
The Lord of History guides with His Mighty Hand!

In all the ordinariness that is seen…
… the Mighty God steers and pilots our lives through the thickets & valleys & plains & deserts!

One of the finest things that we learn from the  Genealogy is the message of Hope!

St Matthew’s version of the Genealogy contains a number of “controversial”, “disputable”, “doubtful”, “notorious” and “tarnished” personalities…

>> There is a person who had to face a lot of doubts and struggled with the promises of God…
…  Abraham

>> There is a person who was known to be a cheater…
… Jacob

>> There is a person who disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law…
… Tamar

>> There was Gentile prostitute, who had given refuge to the fleeing Jews…
… Rahab

>> There is a Gentile woman whose tribe had its origin in incest…
… Ruth

>> There is a woman who was abused by the Great King of Israel…
… The wife of Uriah

>> There is a king who was stuck with leprosy for disobeying God…
… Uzziah

>> There is a king who was cursed that none of his descendants would ever sit on the throne…
… Jeconiah

Well.. the list is large…

But this long list of “controversial” people, ought not to discourage us…

As Cardinal Van Thuan says in his book, ‘The Testimony of Hope’ :
“The river of history, full of sinners and criminals, becomes a source of pure water, as we approach the fullness of time.
With Mary, the Mother and Jesus, the Messiah, all generations will be renewed again”

The more one gets closer to Mother Mary and Jesus, the greater will be our purity and holiness!

The Genealogy of Jesus, thus, gives us the great message of hope

>> We may have a past that is hurting us – either due to our biological family  or due to our own experiences of life…
… a past that is painful or abused
… a past that is sinful and we wish to forget
… a past that has experienced humiliations and rejection

But if we go closer to Jesus, with our Blessed Mamma beside us…
… we are sure to be healed
… we are sure to be blessed in grace
… we are sure to be given hope for life

>> Yet, the Genealogy teaches us the big lesson that all our past can be cleansed and healed, by the mighty presence of Jesus.

Jesus, in Mt 12:50 says:
“Whoever does the will of my Father in Heaven, is my brother and sister and mother”

This then is the simple, yet challenging criteria to be part of the Family of Jesus: Doing the Will of the Father.

The Gospel of the Day may surely seem to be “a Gospel of the Unfamiliar”.

>> But let us take time, hereafter…
…  to read the Genealogy more
… to understand the Providential ways of God
… to realise that God has a way to bring out the best, even from the darkest spots

And above all, let us seek to be a part of the Family of Christ, by doing the Will of the Father – at all times, in all situations!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 16 (Lk 7:19-23)

There is an interesting cartoon, that appeared in the newspapers…

This cartoon shows a fourth-class boy, looking intently to his class teacher.

>> Behind them, stares a blackboard – covered with mathematics problems, which the boy has not finished.

(The teacher is apparently very upset that the boy has not completed solving the problems)

With a rare insight, the boys says:
“Well, I’m not an underachiever.
You are an over-expecter!”

The cartoon throws light on an interesting human dimension: many times, we have high levels of expectations but what we achieve in life often falls short of our  expectation.

>> We expect many things from our relationships…
… but when what we actually achieve becomes low… we get disappointed.

>> We expect life to bless us with many good things…
… but when what we actually achieve is less… we feel sad.

The Gospel of the Day presents this dimension that was experienced by Jesus – being considered an under-achiever, since He did not fulfil the “required and likely expectations”

The Gospel begins with the verse, “And John( the Baptist), calling to him two of his disciples, sent them to the Lord saying, ‘ Are you He Who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Lk 7:19)

John the Baptist had come preaching with much zeal and fervour.
>> There was fire in him…
>> There was blaze in his spirit…

His words testify to this aspect:
>> “Therefore, every tree that does not bear good fruit, will be cut down and thrown into the fire” (Mt 3:10)
>> “You brood of vipers! Who asked you to flee from the coming wrath?” (Lk 3:7)

He had received a mandate to “be the voice of the one crying in the wilderness” (Jn 1: 23)…
… to prepare the way for the Messiah, by making the paths straight
… to prepare the people with the strong message of repentance and warning of the judgment to come

He expected Jesus  – the Messiah…
… to set afire the world with the might of judgement
… to come with fury and force and establish the Kingdom of God (Mt 3: 12)

But as the ministry of Jesus progressed…
>> John’s expectations were not being fulfilled, in the way he thought.

Jesus epitomized love…
… though judgement was surely warned, with respect to sin

Jesus embodied compassion…
… though fury was seen with respect to obstinacy in sin

The style of the ministry of Jesus was contrary to what John expected!

And so word was sent to ask Jesus, “Are you the One Who is to come, or should we look for another?” (Lk 7: 20)

Many times, in our lives, we too experience such unfulfilled expectations.

This is true not only in our relationships with one another or with the blessings of life, but even with God!

>> We have sometimes a set pattern of the way God should work…
>> We have sometimes a rigid understanding of the Providence of God…

>> A sickness or an illness strikes our family…
>> A disaster or a calamity hits our life…
>> A painful tragedy or an unexpected mishap happens…
>> A prayer remains unanswered for ages or a sin remains stuck for years…

And…
… we begin to lose hope
… we have our minds filled with doubts
… we begin to question the Power of God

As humans, all these things are understandable and even quite natural.

But the call of the Gospel, is to “open our eyes and see the wonders that the Lord does, every moment of our lives…”

“… the blindness of our sin being restored, with the sight of forgiveness
… the lame excuses of our laziness being challenged, to walk with enthusiasm
… the leprosy of our indifference being touched, to allow us to extend generosity
… the deafness of our insensitivity being opened, to hear the cries of the needy
… the dead hopes of our lives being given a fresh lease of life to spur us towards eternity
… the poverty of our hearts being filled with the richness of God’s glorious blessings and grace”
(Cf Lk 7:22)

Yes…

When we open our eyes, with the power of the Holy Spirit, we realise the wonders that God keeps doing in our lives…. Every moment… at every step of our life!

Perhaps, sometimes we are “over-expecters”…
>> Expecting God to work
… in the way we want
… in the time that we want

But the Lord looks at us and is perhaps telling us:
” I am no under-achiever!

>> Tune your hearts to My Will…
>> Alter your minds to My Thoughts…
>> Regulate your lives to My Commands…

… and you will see…
Life is a beautiful miracle… at all times.. at all moments!”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 15 ( Mt 21:28-32)

Two twins who looked very similar in appearance, lived in a village…
They grew up & took one’s choice of profession:
> One a preacher of the Word, the other a Medical practitioner.

Years later, they both came to their village on holidays.

On seeing one of them, a neighbour asked, “Are you the one who preaches?”

Coolly, the person replied:
“Nope! I’m not the one who preaches!
I am the one who practices!!”

>> Life judges us, on the basis of how well does our preaching and practising co-ordinate & complement each other.
>> Life presents different moments when there seems to be a dichotomy between one’s words and deeds…
>> Life challenges us to bridge the gap between the two essentials of life – one’s talking and one’s walking the talk!

The Gospel of the Day presents to us an interesting parable of two Sons who are asked to work by their Father.

One SAYS YES…but DOES NOT!
>> The other SAYS NO…BUT DOES!

One preaches…but does not practise!
>> The other does not preach…but practises!

One consents initially…but refuses finally!
>> The other refuses initially…but consents finally!

How often does this situation arise in our own lives and situations too…

We pledge ourselves at trendy events, for the cause of the poor…but we fail to help…
>> Many others remain quite unnoticed…but become forerunners for the cause of the poor!

We make a big show and be popular as a helpful person…but we fail in some genuine needs..
>> Many others remain quite unnoticed…but are present with their full force to render help!

We make many resolutions on new year days or birthdays..but fail to materialize them…
>> Many others remain quite unnoticed…but are able to make many amendments and changes!

We make many promises to the Lord during feast days or novena times…but fail to live up…
>> Many others remain quite unnoticed..but render much love to the Lord through the year!

We all experience this “I will do”… but “I did not do” experiences in life.

On the personal Faith Level, this trend is seen more distinctly and vividly…

>> People claim themselves to be Catholics…but appear in church only on grand feast days!
>> People appreciate the Catholic teaching…but support moral laws which go directly against!
>> People assert having dedicated their lives to God…but fail to find time for God and prayer!
>> People declare loving God above all…but fail to reject pleasures which hurts and pains Him!
>> People profess and make vows to God…but neglect to even try to keep up those promises!

Like the second son, who said Yes…very often, we too become people who nod our heads in consent for anything and everything…but fail to live up to that YES!

The Lord says in Mt 7:21, “Not all who say Lord, Lord, will enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he does the will of my Father”

Therefore, the proposition is clear:
>> It is not pompous words that will grant life, but carrying out the Will of the Father!
>> It is not fancy talk that will confer true happiness, but practising the Will of the Father!
>> It is not flowery language that will accord blessings, but fulfilling the Will of the Father!

How are we to observe the Will of the Father?

St. Paul in the second reading explains how we should set about trying to do the Father’s will:
“Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus.” (Phil 2:5)

> Like Christ, when we dare to be merciful and compassionate, we can do the Father’s Will
> Like Christ, when we prioritize other’s interests over selfish ones, we can do the Father’s Will
> Like Christ, when we empty ourselves and became obedient, we can do the Father’s Will

It is not only good news “proclaimed” but good news “practised”…
… that will win others  to the glorious freedom of forgiveness of sins! 

Let us examine…and if needed, amend our lives….
>> Are we the one who only preaches?….or…Can we become the one who also practises?

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 14 ( Mt 21:23-27)

Once, a preacher was speaking the Word of God to a great crowd.

As was his practice, he was concentrating more on the content of his message and of its effect upon the hearts of people, for transformation, rather than the precise literary form of it.

Among his audience, was seated a certain fussy gentleman.
>> He had been known for making extremely critical remarks and comments.

At the end of the prayer service, this person went up to the preacher and said:
“By the way, I noticed that you made eleven mistakes of grammar in your sermon.”

“Very likely,” replied the preacher, very coolly, “I don’t doubt it for a minute.

My early education was faulty. I often wished that I had received more schooling.
But I am using all the grammar I know in the service of Christ.

How is it with you?”

Well, we don’t know how did the fussy gentleman react to this bold and true reply of the preacher.
(Hopefully, he went home and read a chapter of the Bible and prayed for a humbler heart rather than just revising his skills of grammar!)

When the heart is closed to God’s spirit, the focus dwells only external and peripheral factors…
>> The heart gets closed to spiritual appreciation…
>> The mind remains curious only for rhetorical arguments!

The Gospel of the Day presents such a critically harsh and uncharitably closed attitude of the chief priests and scribes and elders towards the person and ministry of Jesus.

This is expressed in their volatile question to Jesus:
“By what authority are you doing these things and who gave you this authority?” (Mk 11: 28)

The context of today’s Gospel is the presence of Jesus in the city of Jerusalem.

Chapter 21 of St Mathew’s Gospel has a progressive sequence…
1. The entry into Jerusalem (Mt 23: 1-11)
2. The ‘re-storation’ in the Temple at Jerusalem and indignant behaviour of authorities(Mt 23:12-16)
3. The entry to Bethany and cursing of the fig tree (Mt 23: 17-22)
4. The ‘re-entry’ to the Temple at Jerusalem and questioning of Jesus by the authorities (Mt 23: 23-27)

>>     The popularity of Jesus was on the rise…
… He had a rousing welcome to the city of Jerusalem

>>      The impact of Jesus was also on the rise…
… He had performed a daring cleansing of the Jerusalem Temple

These factors had greatly disturbed the religious leaders.

>>      In Jesus, they perceived a threat.
… a threat to their attitude of subjugating people to their yoke than to service of God

>>      In Jesus, they sensed a danger.
… a danger to their personal wishes and agenda of having a monopoly over religion

>>      In Jesus, they identified a menace.
… a menace to their comfort-rendering style of spirituality and way of life.

And so, they – the chief priests and scribes and the elders – sought to put Jesus to the task and questioned His authority on doing such deeds and performing such actions.

•      Their eyes were closed to see the goodness of the Lord
•      Their hearts had become clogged to examine their own maligned conscience
•      Their lives were rendered blocked to be willing to make necessary changes for the good.

Instead…
… they only found fault with the Lord
… they only become critical of the ways of the Lord

When the heart is closed to God’s spirit, the focus dwells only external and peripheral factors…
>> The heart gets closed to spiritual appreciation…
>> The mind remains curious only for rhetorical arguments!

Is such an attitude prevalent among us also?
>> A mentality of harshly criticising…
>> A tendency to inhumanly  condemn…
… without any consideration to humanness or acceptance or self-examination etc.

May we be able to root out all such pessimistic mind-sets and focus instead of self-growth in holiness and humility.

Let us seek the intercession of St John of the Cross, whose feast we celebrate today.

To his words, let us give heed:
>> “A soul enkindled with love is a gentle, meek, humble, and patient soul

>> “We must dig deeply in Christ.

He is like a rich mine with many pockets containing treasures: however deep we dig we will never find their end or their limit.

Indeed, in every pocket new seams of fresh riches are discovered on all sides.”

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 13 ( Lk 3: 10-18)

Here is a lovely story of a humble little monk named Telemachus living out in the farming regions of Asia.

Telemachus had no great ambitions in life.
He loved his little garden, and tilled it through the changing seasons.

But one day in the year 391, he felt a sense of urgency, a call of God’s direction in his life – to Rome.

Rome was the heart and soul of the mighty empire.

The feelings of such a call frightened him, but he went anyway, praying along the way for God’s direction.

When he finally got to the city it was in an uproar! The armies of Rome had just come home from the battlefield in victory, and the crowds were turning out for a great celebration.

They flowed through the streets like a tidal wave, and Telemachus was caught in their frenzy and carried into the Colloseum.

He had never seen a gladiator contest before, but now his heart sickened.

Down in the arena men hacked at each other with swords and clubs.
>> The crowds roared at the sight of blood, and urged their favorites on to the death.

Telemachus couldn’t stand it.
He knew this wasn’t the way God wanted people to live or to die.

So little Telemachus worked his way through the crowds to the wall down by the arena. “In the name of Christ, forbear!”, he shouted.

Nobody heard him, so he crawled up onto the wall and shouted again: “In the name of Christ, forbear!”

This time the few who heard him only laughed. But Telemachus was not to be ignored.

He jumped into the arena, and ran through the sands toward the gladiators. “In the name of Christ, forbear!”

The crowds laughed at the silly little man, and threw stones at him.

Telemachus, however, was on a mission.

He threw himself between two gladiators to stop their fighting. “In the name of Christ, forbear!” he cried.

They hacked him apart!
They cut his body from shoulder to stomach, and he fell onto the sand with the blood running out of his life.

The gladiators were stunned, and stopped to watch him die.
Then the crowds fell back in silence, and, for a moment, no one in the Colloseum moved.

The site of the dead man, and the reaction of the crowd, led the emperor and his guests to silently stand, turn and leave the Colloseum.  

After a few minutes, the Gladiators put their swords down and they too left. 
All that remained in that giant stadium was the scrawny lifeless body of the young man. 

History claims that this was the very last gladiator game at the coliseum.  
.  

The memory of that man screaming to the crowd, and the image of the blood thirsty lust of the crowd had changed the hearts and the minds of the Romans in that instant.

Within an hour, the emperor issued an edict forbidding any future games of war within the Roman Empire.

•      There was no more killing in the Colloseum. 

•      There were no more gladiator matches in Rome. 

All because one man, stood up….and said “In the Name of Jesus, forbear!!”

Today, each one of us as Christians are challenged and demanded by our Blessed Lord:
“Are you willing to stand up for me?”

But we often find ourselves lost, and ask the Lord, “What shall we do?”

The Gospel of the Day throws light on this aspect – “What shall we do?”

We are on the third Sunday of the Season of Advent.

This is called the Gaudete Sunday – the Sunday of Joy.

We are more than half way through the season in preparation for Christ.

Sometimes, like runners, in a marathon….
… we may feel tired of this preparation
… or we may think, when is the destination going to reach…

And so we may get wearied…tired… or feel exhausted.

But the Church, our caring Mother, knows Her children… and tells us…
” Just a few more days… and it will be Christmas..

Do not give up hope…
But instead, continue to prepare…
In joy… in happiness.. in expectancy…”

Thus, this Third Sunday of Advent, we celebrate as Gaudete (= Joyful, in Greek) Sunday.

On this Joyful Sunday…
>> “What shall we do?” is the constant refrain that we encounter in the Gospel.

>> The crowds asked John the Baptist, “What shall we do?” (Lk 3:10)
>> The tax-collectors asked John the Baptist, “Teacher, what shall we do?” (Lk 3: 12)
>> The soldiers asked John the Baptist, “And what shall we do?” (Lk 3:14)

This then is what we also ask our Blessed Lord, as we come before Him, this 3rd Sunday of Advent – “What shall we do?”

And probably, John the Baptist, the fore-runner and Jesus, the Messiah are telling us..
>> “Repent of your sins…
…  especially those to whom you have been clinging on for a long time”

>> “Depend more on God’s Power…
… especially to many of us, who rely more on our own power and strength

>> “Take the Word of God more seriously…”
… especially by picking up the Bible more often, reading, meditating and living more in It”

>> “Be more faithful to the Church…”
…especially in times when there is a lot of criticism of the Church and there is a demand for loyalty and passion from the members themselves.

>> “Receive the Sacraments more frequently…”
… especially to grow deeper in the love of God and become a God’s mighty witnesses in a world that often challenges the faith and dilutes the Gospel values

Let us give heed to the call of St John the Baptist and the love of Jesus, so that our preparation for Christmas, may truly become more meaningful and more worthy!

Thus, we can “stand up for Jesus” in the midst of any difficulties and worries of life!

Yes, let us keep on cleansing our hearts, so that our Blessed Lord can be born in us!

God Bless! Live Jesus!