>> The atmosphere was very tense and highly apprehensive…
>> The people had become enraged and were very badly instigated…
St Stephen…. the man filled with the power and spirit of God, however, looked up intently to heaven and saw the glory of God. (Acts 7: 54-56)
And then a surprising thing happened….
>> He saw Jesus standing at the right hand of God!
Usually, we always read or say in our prayers that Jesus is sitting at God’s right hand…
>> But here, Jesus is seen standing!
Jesus is probably giving a standing ovation…. to St. Stephen, the one who became his brave witness.
>> The mighty display of faith by St Stephen was worthy of a standing ovation by the Son of God!
>> The Majestic King was tremendously proud of His Faithful and Committed Soldier!
We are on the first day after Christmas…
Yesterday, we celebrated child Jesus in the crib…we sung the “silent night” and “joy to the world”… we remembered the angels singing “Glory to God in the Highest and Peace to people of good will”….we exchanged a lot of smiles and shared much fun…
But suddenly today, there is a shift…
>> The atmosphere of fun and frolic has turned sombre and serious…
>> The carols of mirth and joy are substituted by cries for death and vengeance…
>> The shining gold vestments at Holy Mass are replaced with blood-red vestments…
The peace and joy of Bethlehem is contrasted by the tragedy and heartbreak at Jerusalem…
Yesterday we celebrated the birth of our eternal King.
>> Today we commemorate the triumphant suffering of His faithful soldier.
Yesterday our King left His place in the Virgin’s womb and was born in the world.
>> Today His soldier leaves the tabernacle of his body and goes triumphantly to heaven.
Yesterday a group of enthused and excited people visited and paid homage to our King.
>> Today, a group of proud and ferociously evil mob execute His soldier!
Why does the Church celebrate this tradition of commemorating the gruesome stoning to death of St Stephen, soon after the celebration of the tender Babe?
The Church’s long tradition of celebrating the memorial of St. Stephen soon after the celebration of the Nativity of Christ, does not serve to demote Christmas, but to continue & manifest more clearly an important meaning of the Christmas celebration.
Christmas essentially means becoming a true disciple of Christ…
And a true disciple ought to tread the way of the cross – “If any want to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross and follow me” (Lk 9: 23)
Christ the Master, Himself walked this path of trials and difficulties.
>> The signs of suffering and pain were foreshadowed very much already in the Crib of Christ…
>> The manger where the babe was laid, foreshadowed the Cross on which He was to be laid.
>> The swaddling clothes of the babe, foreshadowed the shroud which will cover Him in His tomb.
>> The lack of room in the inn, foreshadowed the lack of room for Him to be buried after His death.
Christmas is the celebration of Life that was pledged to be given up in death, in order to win back life – life in its fullness!
Christmas becomes a true reality when Jesus is born in our hearts…
When Jesus comes to dwell in our hearts, that heart cannot remain without effect.
>> There is a contagious enthusiasm.
>> There is a great transformation.
>> There is a tremendous zeal.
And this birth of Jesus took place in the heart of St Stephen.
>> He underwent a Real Christmas.
He experienced the joy of having Christ born in His life.
And this fact that Christ was born within, led Him to be a dynamic and bold soldier of His King!
>> Nothing could stop Him from being a witness…
>> The experience of Christmas in His life had made St Stephen to be a bold soldier.
>> The experience of Christmas in His life had made St Stephen to stand firm for the truth.
>> The experience of Christmas in His life had made St Stephen to bear the pain of stoning
>> The experience of Christmas in His life had made St Stephen to shed His blood for His Lord
>> Have we also experienced Christmas in a way that transforms and makes us authentic disciples?
>> Have we also celebrated Christmas which makes us to pledge every breath and cell of our life to the Lord?
>> Have we also enjoyed Christmas in order to find immense power and strength in being a true and authentic Christian?
The blood of St Stephen sings the beautiful carols of Jesus who was born in his life!
>> Are we ready to discover still further, the true and genuine meaning of Christmas in our life?
Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords gave a wonderful standing ovation seeing the spectacular display of faith and courage of His Beloved soldier, St Stephen.
Let us also be filled a deep passion and courage that comes from the New Born King and be His Dynamic and Enthusiastic Soldier for His Kingdom!
Happy Feast of St Stephen, the First Martyr of the New Born King of kings!
6 year old Johny and James were good friends.
James had joined Johny’s school just this year and so they were pretty new friends.
>> Yet, they had forged a good relationship with each other.
Johny was to celebrate his birthday the following weekend, and so he told James:
“Hey James, I hope you remember… It’s my birthday the next Sunday.
I want you to come home for my birthday party.”
James was obviously delighted and he said: “Oh sure, I would love to come. But I do not know the way to your house.”
“Oh, not to worry!” replied Johny, ” I will guide you exactly…”
And so saying, Johny continued:
“Right opposite the ice-parlour to which we often go, is a huge building.
Enter that building and you will see the lift right on the adjacent wall.
Use your elbow to press the lift switch.
When the lift comes down, use your feet to open and close the lift.
Then, use your elbow to press Number 5 on the lift buttons.
When the lift reaches floor 5, once again, use your feet to open and close the lift doors.
Finally, you will see House Number 501 with the bell switch on the side.
Use your elbow once again, to press that key…
…. And lo, I will be there to welcome you for my birthday party!”
James was pretty happy saying, “That’s pretty easy to find your house”
>> But at the same time, he was confused and asked: “But why at all should I use my elbow and my feet? Why can’t I use my hands itself to switch the buttons and open the lift doors?”
To that Johny replied: “Hey come on! Don’t forget James!
You are coming for my Birthday Party, and naturally you will have a big gift in your hand.
So your hands will not be free to do any of those works!!”
Well… Jesus is celebrating His birthday…
… Do we have our hands filled with gifts for the Lord?
>> Or are we empty handed and found gifts for everybody (including ourselves) but forgotten Jesus Himself!
Is Jesus the centre of our Christmas Celebration?
On this Christmas Day, let us have our attention on the Star of the Day: Jesus Christ!
1. Jesus, the Divine Babe is the primary reason for the celebration of this Festival
Many of us have been preparing for the wonderful day of Christmas, for the last few days, particularly.
>> But sometimes, like runners in a race, there can be a possibility to feel tired, or given in to feel exhausted; sometimes even to give up.
Christmas is to become a new beginning in our life; the days of preparation ought to become the launching pad to lead a more holy and zealous life in the Spirit.
Its very much possible, that Jesus – the reason for this season, may get lost in the thickets of celebrations, good food, excited shoppings etc.
>> But the Babe in the Manger, will keep waiting, to be taken home – to one’s heart, to one’s life, to one’s family
2. Jesus, the Divine Babe came primarily as the Saviour of the world
“For today in the city of David, a Saviour has been born for you..” (Lk 2:11)
>> Jesus came to the world with a very specific mission: to save people from sin and grant eternal life to those who believe in Him (Jn 10:10)
He is the only person Who took birth to die!
>> It was by His death, that He was to achieve the mission of granting life to all.
Therefore, the celebration of Christmas has to be primarily a celebration made in “repentance and renewal”
>> If the heart doesn’t repent, then Christmas can never be celebrated truly
>> If the life is not renewed, then Christmas can never become meaningful
Christmas is the story of a God passionately in love with us, and deeply desiring that we belong to Him, and Him alone!
3. Jesus, the Divine Babe desires a place in our hearts
Rev 3:20 says, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”
>> Mother Mary and St Joseph had to lay the newborn Babe in the manger, “because there was no room for them in the inn” (Lk 2: 7b)
Christmas is the story of a God Who comes searching for His beloved creation, and knocking at the door of each heart, for a place to be born.
4. Jesus, the Divine Babe, in the manger, is One who identifies with us, in our weakness
God chose (in human terms) probably, one of the “most ridiculous” way of coming into the world – as a tiny infant
He is the Creator of the World; the One Who has all powers subject to Him . Yet, He chose to be totally detached (Phil 2: 6-8) and take the form of a little baby – weak, helpless and vulnerable
Christmas is the story of a God Who became weak like us, so that we can be strong like Him!
5. Jesus, the Divine Babe deserves a wonderful gift on His Birthday
Birthdays become occasions to gift the one who is celebrating.
>> Jesus, the Birthday Baby surely deserves the best gift.
But what can we give Him?
All what we have and all what we are, comes from God anyways!
So is there anything, that I can call of my own?
Yes! Probably the only thing which belongs to me, is my sin!
This Christmas, beyond all other gifts and preparations, we could gift our “sinful life” to Him.
>> It might feel bad for us to give all that ugly part of our life. But our Blessed Lord invites us to give of our self to Him entirely – broken, weak, dirty, impure, lost- as we are, to Him, so that He can renew us and make us a new person (Rev 21:5 – “Behold, I make all things new”)
As Bishop Fulton J Sheen says:
” You give me your humanity, I will give you my divinity.
You give me your time, I will give you my eternity.
You give me your slavery, I will give you my freedom.
You give me your death, I will give you my life.
You give me your nothingness, I will give you my all.”
Let us take some firm and practical resolutions…
>> Today I will seek to have Jesus as the centre of all that I am to celebrate in this Festive Season and give Him the rightful place in my heart
>> Today I will deepen my awareness of Jesus as the Saviour of my life, and make practical decisions to let go sinful ways, and offer my heart as a Gift to Baby Jesus on His Birthday!
Yes, this Christmas, let Christ be the Centre and Meaning of all our celebrations…
… and thus, let us have our hands filled with gifts for the Baby Jesus!
Happy Birthday to Jesus, our Beloved King!
>> Hearty Congratulations to His Wonderful Parents – Mother Mary and St Joseph.
Wish you all, a Very Merry Christmas!
Music has been a popular part of the celebration of our Lord?s birth for a long time!
The Bible records that many characters in the Christmas story almost instantly responded to the events surrounding the birth of our Saviour with songs.
In our own days, we take immense delight to sing Christmas carols.
We also get a special feeling in lifting our voices in joy and thrill…
Today we have on the stage of the Gospel a beautiful Hymn being sung.
The title of the hymn is “Benedictus” and it is sung by Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist!
The setting of this song is during a very gloomy period in the life of the nation of Israel.
Israel had been chosen by God from among all nations to be a priestly nation to the rest of the world.
>> But this nation that was to lead all other nations to God, was being led by a pagan empire.
>> The leader was under subjugation!
>> The guide had been suppressed!
Israel was under the domination of the Roman Empire.
>> The Roman Kingdom was the last in a long line of pagan nations that had ruled Israel.
The ruler in Zechariah’s day was King Herod.
Herod was not a man of God. In fact he was just the opposite?a very degenerate man.
>> He had introduced Roman temples into the land and had built idols to the Roman gods.
Under his leadership Israel became a land filled with immorality.
>> The spiritual life of the Jews lost its vitality.
In the midst of these dark and cloudy times, Zechariah sings the “Benedictus” – a Song of Blessing!
A child had been born….signaling the Coming of the Messiah.
>> John the Baptist ushered in a period of singing praises and glory to the Lord.
> Like a drop of fresh water in the deserted land…
> Like a gleam of light in the midst of thick darkness…
> Like a faint melodious tune in the thick of deep silence…
The life of Zechariah and Elizabeth was favoured with reasons to sing blessings to God!
It’s interesting to analyse the names of this simple yet wonderful family – Zechariah, Elizabeth and John.
>> Zechariah means ” God (Yahweh) remembers”
>> Elizabeth means “the promise of God”
>>>> John means ” God (Yahweh) is gracious”
The union of Zechariah (“God remembers”) and Elizabeth (“the promise of God”) gave birth to John (“God is gracious”)
Zechariah + Elizabeth = John
God remembers + the promise = God is gracious!
Yes, God remembers His promise, and thus shows that He is gracious!
> Our lives may often be in darkness or undergoing a night of dryness…
> Our lives may seem to be devoid of true peace and happiness…
> Our lives may be rendered meaningless or hopeless…
Yet, Zechariah, Elizabeth and John invite us today, to sing a song of Blessing to God!
>> When we live in God’s love, we can sing the chorus of service!
>> When we trust in God’s providence, we can sing the chorus of joy!
>> When we hope in God’s mercies, we can sing the chorus of faithfulness!
With the armour of faith, the shield of hope and the sword of love, let us join Zechariah and Family to sing our Hymn of Blessing to God Yahweh!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is challenging in His gentle inspirations!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is merciful in His Divine Compassion!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is generous in the Blessed Eucharist!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is majestic in His Holy Sacraments!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is faithful in His gracious promises!
>> Blessed be the Lord, for He is vibrant in His Holy Church!
On this eve of Christmas, let us fervently prepare our hearts – in holiness and sanctity – to prepare a beautiful crib for our Blessed Lord, who comes as a Babe, in our hearts, in our lives and in our homes!
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!
A little six-year-old boy had often heard his Catholic companions reciting the prayer “Hail Mary.” >> He liked it so much that he copied it, memorized it and would recite it every day.
“Look, Mommy, what a beautiful prayer,” he said to his mother one day.
“Never again say it,” answered the mother who was against Catholic practices. “It is a superstitious prayer of Catholics who think Mary as a goddess. After all, she is a woman like any other. ”
From that day on the little boy discontinued his daily “Hail Mary” and gave himself more time to reading the Bible instead.
One day, while reading the Gospel, he came across the passage about the Annunciation of the Angel to Our Lady.
Full of joy, the little boy ran to his mother and said: “Mommy, I have found the ‘Hail Mary’ in the Bible which says: ‘Hail full of grace, the Lord is with thee, blessed art thou amongst women.
‘ Why do you call it a superstitious prayer?”
On another occasion he found that beautiful Salutation of St. Elizabeth to the Virgin Mary which said, “Blessed are You among women and blessed is the Fruit of Your Womb”
This little boy, as he grew up…
…. made a serious study of both Protestantism and Catholicism.
>> He found the latter to be the only true religion and embraced it and became one of its most ardent apostles… going on to become a Priest!
Mother Mary is indeed the beautiful instrument chosen by God, to lead many more to His Love.
The Gospel of the Day presents the miraculous incident of the Annunciation of the Good News to Mother Mary.
Mother Mary, at the Annunciation teaches us many things…
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
It is when we offer ourselves wholly and be ready to be moulded and shaped by the Lord, that 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
It is when Jesus becomes the Treasure of our life, that 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!
May we embrace Mary, the beautiful instrument chosen by God…
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!
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…
1. 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?
2. 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?
3. 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
4. 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?