Christmas Goodies – Day 24

“GOD THE FATHER & GOD THE HOLY SPIRIT”

On Day 24 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “God the Father & God the Holy Spirit ”

What it Is?
>> Jn 1: 14: “… the Word (God the Son) became flesh, and made His dwelling among us…the glory of the Father’s ( God the Father) Only Son, full of Grace and Truth (God the Spirit)
>> Christmas is the great celebration of God the Father, sending the Beloved – God the Son, by the power of God the Holy Spirit.

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – ” God the Father & God the Holy Spirit “?
1. These Two Persons of the Blessed Trinity often remain hidden in our celebration of Christmas
>> Christmas is a celebration – of so many elements like the star, the tree, the candles, the cakes, the carols etc; of so many personalities like Zechariah, Elizabeth, John the Baptist, St Joseph, Mother Mary etc
>> But in the midst of all them, perhaps, we tend to forget, two very important personalities – God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.
>> Of course, this doesn’t happen purposely or because we avoid them. It’s just that, we don’t focus much on Them.
>> But this Christmas is a reminder to also worship and nurture our devotion to these two persons of the Blessed Trinity.

2. Christmas celebrates the deep love of God the Father
>> God the Father loved the world so much, that to see His little children straying away from Him, in sin, was a painful agony.
>> He blessed humanity with the noble gift of freedom- of choice; so much so, that humans can tell God, “I don’t want you!”.
>> God respects human freedom. St Augustine says, “God created us without us: but he did not will to save us, without us”
>> When human beings misused their freedom, He sent His Beloved Son.
>> By a life of obedience, the Son would win back humanity to the Father; all who obeyed His Son, would become “sons in the Sons”

3. Christmas is the manifestation of the Mighty Power of the Holy Spirit
>> When Angel Gabriel appeared to Mother Mary, he spoke the following words: “The Holy Spirit will come upon You, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you” ( Lk 1:35)
>> When Mary visited Elizabeth, “the infant leaped in her womb” and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit (Lk 1:41)
>> After the birth of John, the Baptist, his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and sang the “Benedictus” Hymn ( Lk 1:67)
>> Christmas is the beautiful demonstration of the Power of the Holy Spirit – the One Who dispels fears, the One Who fills with Joy, the One Who works the impossible.

4. God the Father and God the Holy Spirit invite us to focus on two prime aspects of Christmas:  Self-giving and Holiness
>> “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son…” (Jn 3:16a). The act of sending the Son was an act of self-giving by the Father
>> The Holy Spirit is the agent of Holiness. Mother Mary, Elizabeth, Zechariah, John the Baptist – were all filled with the Holy Spirit and were called to a life of holiness and grace.
>> The celebration of Christmas is a dual call – to be selfless and to be holy; to be sharing and to be pure; to reach out to the other in service and to reach out to oneself in sanctity.

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to deepen my devotion to the Holy Trinity and seek to be more like them- in selfless service and being more holy
>> Today I will strengthen my awareness that I am loved by God, just as I am, and that “my holiness” is the supreme Will of God for me

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Dec 23 (Lk 1:57-66)

Ssshhhhhhh…………………..Silence!!

>> For some people, Silence causes an awkward feeling in this our noisy world.

>> For some people, Silence creates an uncomfortable feeling.

For some, not so much.
> For others, definitely yes.
>> For many of us, silence is rare.

And when silence is rare, silence can be uncomfortable.

>> A moment of silence when we listen to our favourite song causes a little irritation.

>> A pause of silence by an eloquent preacher causes people to focus back the attention.

Silence sometimes is much more louder than any noise or sound…Right?
The Gospel of the day takes us through a fascinating journey of Silence.

>> A God who breaks His silence by blessing His People with a Prophet.

>> A father whose silence is broken by his faithful response to an amazing Divine intervention.

>> A Child who sets free the silence of a Mother who had been shamed in society.
The Birth of John the Baptist is a beautiful drama through the medium of Silence.

A God who breaks His silence…

The Bible is a witness to many people feeling God taking a vow of silence.

>> In 1 Sam 3.1: “Now the young man Samuel was ministering to the Lord under Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision.”

>> In 1 Sam 28: “And when Saul inquired of the Lord, the Lord did not answer him, either by dreams, or Urim, or by prophets.”

>> In Amos 8.11: “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ declares the Lord God, ‘when I will send a famine on the land – not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord.'”

The silence of the Lord was very much profound…

And then after Prophet Malachi, there was again a great silence…
>> For nearly 400 hundred years, there was no prophetic writing.
These are called “The Silent Years”…

But with John the Baptist, the silence of the Lord was broken…

This speaking of the Lord could be compared to a lover eagerly waiting for her partner to talk to her after a long time…

The silence was very long… the silence was a bit painful too..
>> But once the silence is broken, there is great thrill and happiness…

God, the Lover, renews His soothing & comforting talks with His People & ushers in the time to invite them to His love & affection

A father whose silence is broken

The birth of John the Baptist also lead to the breaking of the silence of his father, Zechariah.

When the angel Gabriel had appeared to Zechariah, he did not believe the message of the Angel of God and as a result, was rendered speechless (Lk 1: 20)

The silence of Zechariah could also be symbolic of the silence of God….

Just as John the Baptist signalled the breaking of God’s silence, Zechariah, his father too had “his tongue loosened and spoke, blessing God” (Lk 1: 64)

>> The silence was broken with a shower of praises and glorification of God.

>> The silence was banished with a shout of genuine worship and honour of God

A Child who sets free the silence of a Mother

The Birth of John the Baptist also led to people praising his mother, Elizabeth, who for long had been barren and had been in disgrace. (Lk 1: 25, 58)

>> She had suffered much disgrace in silence.
>> She had underwent much agony in silence.
>> She had gone through much humiliation in silence.

But now there was every reason to break the silence and rejoice with gladness!

>> Is my life going through a period of Silence with God?

>> Is my life in a silent mode because of many disturbing factors and
crippling issues?

>> Is my life passing through a desert of silence as a result of storms of troubles and nights of calamities?

> We are invited to look into the incident of the Birth of John the Baptist and find hope!

> We are invited to meditate on the Birth of John the Baptist and discover optimism!

The Lord speaks to us in the Silence of our Life.
>> There is much treasure hidden in the silent moments of our living.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (Jn 1:1)

Through the breaking of His silence through John the Baptist, God is preparing us to receive His personal Word, His Son.

At times God is silent…
>> At times God withholds His Word.

But He is never distant.

He is never stagnant?
> He is near.
>> He is close.
>>> He is personal.

And He speaks through His Word made flesh – “Jesus”!

Ssshhhhhhh…………………..Silence!! Listen to Him!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Christmas Goodies – Day 23

“BLESSED MOTHER MARY”

On Day 23 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “Blessed Mother Mary”

image
Madonna del Granduca, Raphael, 1505

What it is?
>> Mary was chosen by God to be the Mother of Jesus, the Son of God.
>> She said “Yes” to the plan of God and bowed Her head, in obedience to the Will of God (Lk 1: 38)

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – “Blessed Mother Mary”?
1. Mother Mary teaches the supreme goodness of obedience
>> Heaven had chosen a simple girl, Mary to be the Mother of Jesus, the Saviour.
>> When Angel Gabriel was sent to seek Her consent, Mary, after the initial moments of fear, bowed Herself in obedience: “Behold, I am the Handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to Me, according to Your Word” (Lk 1: 38)
>> This obedience to God’s Will would turn out to be Her fortress and strength – in moments of uncertainty, loneliness, dread and agony.

2. “Faithfulness, thy true Daughter is Mary!”
>> One of the most outstanding qualities to be admired and imitated from our Blessed Mother is “to be faithful”
>> In Mother Mary, we have a person, who remained faithful at all times…
… even when there were dark clouds of unwarranted humiliation looming over her
… even when unforeseen difficulties encountered Her during the birth of Jesus
… even when she encountered many situations which were not understood by Her
… even when life surrounded her with agonising moments and heartbreaking instances

>> The “Fiat” at the Annunciation would be lived all through Her life
>> This act of being “faithful forever” was a result of the constant choices that She made to listen and obey to God’s Will always.

3. Mary was ready to be moulded and shaped by God
>> When Mary was entrusted with the greatness of the task, She gave Herself readily to the power of God
>> She didn’t hold back anything; She was complete in Her surrender
>> When we offer ourselves wholly and be ready to be moulded and shaped by the Lord, He can perform wonders through us.

4. Mary held on to Jesus as the Greatest Treasure of Her life
>> The greatness and the eminence of Mother Mary came as result of Her single-minded focus and love: Everything for Jesus and in Jesus.
>> When in womb, Her sole attention was on Jesus; while in the manger, Her whole care was for Jesus; while in His ministry, Her thoughts were centred on Him; while on the Cross, Her entire self rested on Him
>> When Jesus becomes the Treasure of our life, our lives gets enshrined in Grace and Holiness

5. Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, bearing Jesus.
>> The Scriptures easily point to the fact that Mother Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant

~~ The ark in the OT travelled to the land of Judah and remained for 3 months (2 Sam: 6:1-11); The Ark in the NT, Mary travels to Judah, to meet Her cousin Elizabeth and remained for 3 months (Lk 1:39, 56)
~~ David danced and leaped, and shouted before the ark in the OT (2 Sam 6:14); In the NT, John, the babe, leaped and Elizabeth exclaimed with a loud cry before Mary (Lk 1: 41, 43)
~~ Inside the ark of the Old Covenant was the manna – the miraculous bread from heaven, the staff of Aaron, the Priest and the tablets of the covenant (Heb 9:4); The NT Ark, Mother Mary had within Her Jesus, the Bread of Life, Jesus, the Eternal Priest and Jesus, the Law-giving Word!

>> As the New Ark of the Covenant, Mother Mary deserves our highest veneration and honour, which will lead us to a greater closeness and intimacy with the One, She derives all Her praise – Jesus, Her Son and our Brother!

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to grow in the virtue of Obedience and seek to make choices, at every moment, to do God’s Will
>> Today I will be open to be shaped by the Lord, having Him as the greatest treasure of my life and holding onto Mother Mary’s Hands in order to grow deeper in Christ

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

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!

Christmas Goodies – Day 22

“ST. JOSEPH”

On Day 22 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “St Joseph”

What it is?
>> St Joseph was entrusted the task and responsibility of being the caretaker and protector of Jesus, the Son of God!

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – “St Joseph”?
1. St Joseph was ever attentive and obedient to the voice of God
>> One of the standout qualities that we observe in St Joseph is his prompt obedience to the voice of God
~~ He listened to the Angel, in moments of dilemma, and obediently took Mary as his wife (Mt 1:20-24)
~~ He listened to the Angel, in moments of danger, and obediently took the Mother and Child to Egypt (Mt 1:13-15)
~~ He listened to the Angel, in moments of doubt, and obediently settled the Holy Family in Nazareth (Mt 1: 20, 22b)

>> St Joseph was able to let go of his personal choices and his desired comforts and give top priority to do what God wanted him to do.
>> Holiness consists in doing what God wants – when and where He wants

2. St Joseph teaches us the love for Jesus and Mary
>> Ever since he recognised the plan of God in his life, St Joseph displayed unflinched  commitment and love to Jesus and Mary
>>  He had many occasions of choices to let go of them…
~~  to leave Mary when she was found with Child, even before the marriage
~~ to leave his pregnant Wife when they found no place in the inn
~~ to abandon the Child and Mother when a life-danger against them was sensed
>> But, nothing could deter St Joseph from leaving or abandoning them. He knew that in God’s plan, They belonged to him, and he would safeguard them – treasuring Them close to his heart.
>> Our faith has blessed us with love for Jesus and Mother Mary. Can we also imitate St Joseph, in holding Them close to our hearts?

3. Humility is a virtue radiated by St Joseph
>> St Joseph had to face many moments of humiliation, disappointment and uncertainty.
>> But in his humility, he remained true to God in all those moments
>> Life sometimes drags us into situations of sadness and even shame. Many times we let go of God’s Hands, saying that “He is not fair” or “He doesn’t understand me”!
>> St Joseph teaches us that there is much value in humbling oneself, before the mighty power of the Almighty

4. St Joseph was content to be the “silent worker” in the awesome work of Salvation
>> St Joseph, was honoured 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.
>> And yet, he contented himself to be the “silent hard-worker”.
>> He is a mighty challenge to our world, where seeking for honour, position, fame and reputation become cheap motives, in doing works of charity or even, sadly to say, in ministries of the Church.

5. St Joseph is the model of chastity
>> Mary is the New Ark of Covenant, bearing Divinity in Her.
>> St Jerome, says that St Joseph, the son of David, shared his royal ancestor’s fear of coming into overly close contact with the Tabernacle of the Lord: “Who am I,” asked King David, “that the Ark of the Lord should come to me?” (2 Sam. 6:9)
>> Chastity is the virtue that moderates the desire for sexual pleasure according to the principles of faith and right reason.
~~ In married people, chastity moderates the desire in conformity with their state of life
~~ In unmarried people who wish to marry, the desire is moderated by abstention or unless they get married
~~ In those who resolve not to marry, the desire is sacrificed entirely.

>> St Joseph is often depicted with a  White Lily in his hand, to depict purity and holiness

6. St Joseph was prefigured in Joseph of the Old Testament
>> In the Old Testament, we read Joseph, the son of Jacob, had stored up, in Egypt, grain to provide bread for the preservation of the People of Israel (Gen 42)
>> In the New Testament, St Joseph, safeguarded, in Egypt, the Bread of Life, for the salvation of the People of God. (Mt 1: 14)

7. St Joseph is a model leader
>> True to being a Father, St Joseph displayed many leadership qualities, which needs to be imitated by us, in our practical life
~~ Defender of the community/team members: St Joseph preserved Mother Mary from idle talks of gossip and malicious speculation
~~ Protection of those in care: St Joseph did not give up in the face of hostile situations, when it was time for the Birth of the Child
~~ Needful and prompt action: St Joseph acted quickly and promptly, in response to situations of danger and of need

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to grow in obedience to the Will of God – with promptness and joy
>> Today I will nurture a deeper and tender affection for Jesus and Mother Mary and be close to Them, to lead a pure and holy life

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

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!

Christmas Goodies – Day 21

“THE MAGI”

On Day 21 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “The Magi”

What it is?
>> The Gospel of St Matthew records the visit of the Magi from the East to meet Baby Jesus.
>> They offered their gifts to the New Born Babe – “gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11)

image
Adoration of the Magi, Sandro Botticelli, 1475

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – “The Magi”?
1. The Magi had the sole purpose to “meet the New Born King and pay Him homage”
>> The Magi sought for the “New Born King” to pay Him homage ( Mt 2:2)
>> The Magi traversed a lot of distance; the Magi transgressed a lot of hostile situations – all this was because they had a single focus and purpose: seeking Christ and paying Him homage.
>> It is very important what is our focus and purpose in this festive season; else, Christmas turns out to be just another external show of fun and frolic, without really touching one’s heart

2. The Magi were wise people, who sought the Lord of all Wisdom!
>> “Magos” is the Greek word for the wise men or the “Magi”
>> “Magos” can have several meanings:
~~ a member of the priestly class of ancient Persia, where there was prominence of astrology and astronomy
~~ one who was known to have mystical powers and be able to interpret dreams.
~~ a magician
~~ an imposter or a fraud, who cheated people, using the practices of divination etc

>> The Magi, who visited Jesus, were probably priest-astrologers from the East (probably from Persian) – brilliant and highly-educated scholars. Astronomy and astrology had an important role in their society, and probably the Magi were political advisors to the Persian kings i.e. they were  kingmakers.
>> These wise men, with all their knowledge, were able “to see more” in a Star – they sensed Divinity in it. And so they made their way to seek the Lord of all Wisdom.
>> True wisdom discovers the glory of God in all things. Therefore, docility or an “openness to the Truth” is highly essential in life.  As Fulton Sheen says, “Only the teachable find the Teacher, only the docile find the Doctor, only the humble find the Exalted”

3. The Magi extremely humbled themselves in order to pay homage to the Creator of the World, Who had humbled the most
>> The Magi were great people in their own land.
>> Being experts in science and religion, they held a position of esteem: kings consulted before they went to war and peasants before they tilled the land
>> Jesus was great in His glory.
>> Yet, in the encounter of the Magi and the Divine Babe, we see the wonderful saga of humility: Christ descending from the heights of glory and becoming a vulnerable Babe; The Magi lowering themselves from their position of greatness and falling on their knees, in worship of the Lord of the Universe!

4. The gifts of the Magi was very significant
>> The Magi offered three gifts: “… gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh” (Mt 2:11c)

~~ Gold: A precious metal which does not rust or fade, it symbolized royalty and majesty. Gold signified Christ, the King whose reign would last.
~~ Frankincense: A white resin or a gum, obtained from a tree, by making marks in the bark and allowing the gum to flow. It is highly fragrant when burnt, and hence was used for worship. It was symbolic of holiness and sacrifice:  Frankincense signified Christ, the Divine, who would sacrifice His life, and the Priest, who would offer the sacrifice.
~~ Myrrh: A product of Arabia, it was a kind of perfume, made from the leaves of a cistus rose. It was used in beauty treatments and also used to anoint the body and prepare it for burial. It was also sometimes, mingled with wine, to form a stupefying drink – as given to our Saviour on the Cross (Mt 27:34). Myrrh, signified Christ, the Human, who was prophesied to suffer the bitterness of sin.

5. The worship of the Magi is a reminder of the need to worship, adore and love the Holy Eucharist
>> The Magi, “on entering the house, saw the Child with Mary, His Mother. They prostrated themselves and did homage” (Mt 2: 11). They were pagans; yet, their openness and realisation of the Truth, caused them to render the highest worship to the Divine Babe.
>> The Holy Eucharist is the real and living presence of Christ on earth. Do we realise the power and awesomeness of the Real Presence in this “self-gifting Sacrament”?
>> The worship of the Magi is a powerful message and a challenge to us who are privileged to receive and adore the Lord in the Holy Eucharist.

6. The Magi teaches the power of obedience
>> The Magi followed the star (Mt 2:2) in their pursuit for Jesus, the King.
>> Perhaps, their human calculations and reasons, caused them to think that the King would be born in a palace, and so they halted at King Herod’s palace.
>> But, when they followed the star faithfully, they reached the One they sought for.
>> Obedience is a sacrificial virtue of Christian life that needs utmost attention. Human calculations and worldly reasoning might be opposing; yet, there is absolute surety of peace and joy, when we faithfully follow the Will of God in our lives – when discerned in prayer and in the Holy Spirit.

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to single-mindedly have my life’s goal centred on Jesus, and humble myself in honesty, being faithfully obedient to His Will
>> Today I will make my life a gift to the other – in any small or little way even – and realise that God’s power can cause “anything or anyone” to lead people towards Him

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

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!

Christmas Goodies – Day 20

“KING HEROD AND HOLY INNOCENTS”

On Day 20 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “King Herod and the Holy Innocents ”

What it is?
>>  On coming to know of the birth of Jesus, King Herod ordered that males under the age of two should be executed.
>> These little ones, became the first martyrs for Christ; the Church keeps their glorious memory on Dec 28.

image
Massacre of the Innocents, Tintoretto, 1587

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – “King Herod and the Holy Innocents “?
1. The blood of the Innocent Babies, came in defence of the blood of their Divine Contemporary –  Baby Jesus, who would grant salvation to them by His Precious Blood!
>>  The news that a new King of the Jews was born, caused great ordeal for King Herod.
>> The easiest solution found was to kill all the males under the age of two.
>> These little babies, too little and young to form a will and a desire to love, became martyrs of Blood. (Mt 2:16)
>> St Augustine would say, “they are the first buds of the Church killed by the frost of persecution; they died not only for Christ, but in his stead!”

2. The number of children killed is uncertain; but the fact remains, that it was a tragic gravely foul and grievously painful.
>> There are a number of views on the actual number of children who were killed.
>> The Byzantine Liturgy (Greek) says that Herod killed 14, 000 boys; the Syrian Liturgy speaks of 64,000.
>> Another scholarly study suggests that Bethlehem was a very small town, at the time of Jesus, with a population of maybe 300. The number of children below the age of two could be very less – maybe six or seven.
>> But the number is most certainly not a factor to reduce the facts:  the intensity of the heartbreak or the cruelty of the tragedy or the greatness of the sacrifice.

3. The event exposes the immense cruelty that “the craze for power and authority” can indulge itself in
>> King Herod was called as the Great. He was known as the “the greatest builder in Jewish history”. In his days, he held at least three architectural world records: the Largest Palace (Lower Herodium), the Largest Plaza (Temple Mount) and the Largest Royal Portico (Temple Mount).

>>Yet, towards the end of his reign, he became a “paranoid” ( = a psychological state in which the person has delusions [false beliefs] that a person or some individuals are plotting against them).

>> Herod, the Great Ruthless, had killed many in his own family:
~~ He eliminated his brother-in-law, Aristobulus, by drowning him in the swimming pool of the winter palace in Jericho
~~ He had his mother-in-law Alexandra executed
~~ He killed his second wife Miramme (she was his beloved , whom he loved unto death!)
~~ He had two of his sons, Alexander and Aristobulus, the sons of Mariamme, strangled to death
~~  He also killed his third son, Antipater, five days before his own death!

>> Caesar Augustus would later say “It is better to be Herod’s ‘ous’ [=pig]  than ‘houios’ [=son]” (Since  Herod was a Jew and would not eat pork, his pig would be safe. But his sons were not safe!)
>> Before his death, Herod realized that nobody would mourn for him at his death.  So he ordered all the notable Jews from all parts of his kingdom to come to him in Jericho under penalty of death. This diabolical scheme would ensure that there would be mourning when he died – even if, it was not for him!

>> The news that a new King was born for the Jews, caused immense agony and fear to King Herod (Mt 2:3)  and thus, brought about the elimination of all the tiny ones (Mt 2:16)
>> The obsession for power and the lust for supremacy, is a cancerous malady that is increasing in our own world today – in families, in the society, and unfortunately, even in the Church.

4. The ‘cry of the mothers of the innocent’ is another dimension of the “Christmas Carol”
>> Our celebration of Christmas is very often drowned in the “festive noise” of joyful singing, merry gatherings, lavish parties etc.
>> But the “cry of the mothers of the innocent children” (Mt 2:18 – “A voice was heard in Ramah, sobbing and loud lamentation…), is also a “Carol”, that is heard every Christmas
>> Christmas – the birth of Christ, ought to not simply be a “festival of fun or frolic”; but also should lead us to hear the many “cries of innocents” today – the oppressed and the abused, the voiceless and the helpless, the sinful and the lonely etc.

5. The death of the little children is a reminder that our earthly life is a pilgrimage – to be oriented for the eternal life in heaven
>> The dreadful massacre of the innocent children can easily cause a question to arise in us:” Why did these little children have to be murdered, for saving the Divine Child? Could not God have planned a noble way of saving Him? Why did God allow the helpless death of the children before their own parents?
>> Such questions can easily cause our faith to be disturbed or even be scandalised by the ways of God
>> But it brings home an important truth: Our earthly life is a pilgrimage. No one knows how long we will live – some die in infancy, some in their old age; some die prepared, some suddenly and tragically.
>> This is the reality that we find in the world – we like it or not, we accept or not.
>> It therefore, is a call for us, to nurture life in the best way possible – our own lives by living in holiness and fidelity to the Will of God; and a powerful exhortation to preserve, nurture and enhance the lives of others – including the little infants in the wombs.

6. Christmas reminds us to open our eyes to see the tragedies of the world and become courageous torchbearers of justice
>> This passage of King Herod and the Holy Innocents, is very often missed in our Christmas reflections.
>> This might be since, this incident seems to be like “the unwarranted bone” in the tasty meal of Christmas” or the “jarring note” in the melodious music of Christ’s Nativity.
>> We often like to live in “cosy and comfortable” situations – even if it means, closing our eyes to the stark and tragic realities of life
>> It is the duty and obligation of every Christian to “get out of every comfort zone” and enter into the “suffering sections” of the society, and give them hope, consolation and life.
>> Only then can we truly call ourselves as Christians – followers of the Christ, who abandoned every comfort, risked His life to the point of death and gave His life in total self-giving!

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to know the sufferings of people around me, letting go of my own “self” worries and seek to become a giver of life, encouragement and consolation
>> Today I will take a decision to promote life at all levels – of my own, by developing all my potentials to the full, for the Glory of God; and of those around me.

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

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!