Christmas Goodies – Day 25

“JESUS”

On Day 25 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “JESUS”

What it Is?
>> The Reason, the Cause and the End of this Festive Season is Jesus!
>> Gal 4: 4 – “When the fullness of time had come, God sent His Son, born of a woman…”

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Mosaic of Jesus, Haggia Sophia, 1261

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – ” JESUS”?
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.
>> But 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.”

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> 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, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

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!

Christmas Goodies – Day 23

“BLESSED MOTHER MARY”

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

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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!

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!

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)

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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!

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.

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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!

Christmas Goodies – Day 19

“THE SHEPHERDS ”

On Day 19 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “The Shepherds”

What it is?
>> The Shepherds, living in the fields, and keeping the night-watch over the flock, were given the announcement of the Birth of the Saviour
  >> Lk 2: 10, “The Angel said to the shepherds, ‘Do not be afraid;… For today, in the city of David, a Saviour has been born for you, Who is Messiah and Lord”

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie – “The Shepherds”?
1. The shepherds were the first recipients of the Good News and they responded immediately
>> The Gospels testify that the Shepherds were the first people, outside the Holy Family, to receive the Good News of the Birth of Jesus
>> On hearing the news, “the shepherds said to one another, ‘Let us go, then, to Bethlehem, to see this thing that has taken place, which the Lord has made known to us” (Lk 2: 15)
>> This welcome response to the exhortation of the Lord is a quality to be imitated by us- we who hear God’s Word from the Bible, from people and from situations around us.

2. Shepherding has had a major part in the Salvation History
>> One of the oldest professions in the world, Shepherding has been greatly associated with the personalities of the salvation history
>> Abel was the keeper of sheep (Gen 4:2); Abraham, Isaac, Jacob – the patriarchs, Moses, David were shepherds at some stage in their life.
>> In choosing the shepherds to receive the good news first, God was recognising the great role played by the “shepherds of His people, from of old” and prepares the world for Jesus – the Greatest Shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Shepherd of sheep (Heb 13:20) and the Prince of Shepherds (1Pet 5:4)
>> The  Lord invites us to recognise our call too, to become shepherds to one another – in caring, being compassionate and loving the other, even the point of great sacrifices

3. Shepherds were considered to be of a lower strata in the Jewish society
>> Though shepherding was very common and even considered noble in the initial days, with the passage of time, it came to be a known as a “contemptible professions”.
(cf. Gen 46:34)

>> One reason could be because of the many hardships that were associated with this work – intense heat, fierce cold, uncomfortable places of rest, less food, long hours of idle watching, attacks by beasts and robbers.
>> Over the passage of time, as land and flock owners became wealthy, this work of shepherding was demoted to servants and slaves.
>> By recognising the shepherds with the Good News, the Lord was giving a powerful message – that His Kingdom is ready and welcome to accept people of all classes and strata of life

4. Shepherds were considered to be a sinful and despised lot
>> The shepherds were considered detested and despicable in the Jewish society.
>> This could be probably because, it was hard for them to maintain religious purity as the Pharisees laid down. They could not keep the Sabbath day because the sheep need constant protection. They were considered unclean as a result of unwashed clothes, eating with defiled (unwashed hands) and failure to keep the laws of purity.
>> Much of their time was also spent in the fields – away from the society – and thus their influence on the society was minimal.
>>The shepherds were also considered as thieves. By allowing their sheep to graze on someone else’s land, the shepherds deprived the rightful owner the benefit of his grass. Thus, all shepherds were considered as being robbers. To be buying wool, milk or a kid from a shepherd was prohibited, since it could be stolen property
>>Shepherding was also one of the “proscribed” professions – i.e. a sinful profession.
>> The announcement of the Angels to the Shepherds was a sign that God was, with open arms, waiting to receive the despised and the dejected, and to wipe away the pain of every oppression and discrimination, by His unconditional love. It was revolutionary act that Heaven was engaging in, by giving the good news to the shepherds!

5. The appearance to the Shepherds was also a way of telling that “Jesus is the Lamb” who takes away the sin of the world
>>Some scholars of the scripture consider that the shepherds, to whom the angels appeared,  were guarding a special class of sheep – lambs who would be raised up for the sacrifice in the Jerusalem Temple. These shepherds were trained, to keep these sheep unblemished, with no ‘broken bones’ or infirmities, as required by the Law.
>> It was fitting that these shepherds be ‘informed of the Lamb of all lambs- the One Who would take away all sin!

6. The shepherds were dispelled of their fears, and instead, were filled with excitement and joy
>> The appearance of the Angels frightened the shepherds. But “Fear Not!” (Lk 2:10) was the exhortation to them
>> After visiting the Divine Babe, the shepherds “rejoiced much and glorified God” (Lk 2: 20)
>> The Birth of Christ has this dual effect – casting away of every fill and an infilling of joy and peace!

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to give heed to the voice of the Lord, and respond positively and with faithful enthusiasm
>> Today I will ask the Grace to know that I am deeply loved and accepted as I am, by God, and to live a life that is wholly pleasing to Him, Who deserves the best

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Christmas Goodies – Day 18

“JOHN THE BAPTIST”

On Day 18 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “John the Baptist ”

What it is?
>> John the Baptist is the forerunner of the Messiah.
>> The Gospel Narratives, after the Christmas Event, focuses on the life and teachings of John the Baptist, to create an ideal launching pad for the ministry of Jesus, the Lord.

image
Saint John the Baptist in the desert, Titian, 1542

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie -” John the Baptist”?

1. The name “John” points to the Graciousness of God
>> The name John means “God is Gracious”.
>> True to his name, he lived a life, by which the Grace of God was clearly reflected and manifested in all his works and preaching.
>> He is a reminder that the Grace of God accompanies all through one’s life (Ps 139) and we need to co-operate with His Grace, and be His mighty witness in the world

2. He dared to be the “Voice of the One, who was to be the sign of contradiction”
>> John was “the Voice”, preparing the way for Jesus, Who would become “salvation to those who believe, but a scandal to those who reject Him”
>> “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his path” (Mk. 1:3; Mt. 3:3) was the his message to the people.
>> John the Baptist displayed immense courage, strength and power to remain firm in his  convictions, even in the midst of the negative response of the religious leaders of his times ( Mt 11:18) and the terrorising acts of King Herod ( Mt 14:3)

3. He remained faithful to the Grace, he received from his initial days of his life
>> The Gospel testifies that “John leapt for joy” (Lk 1:44) when he first encountered the Saviour, in the meeting of Mary and Elizabeth.
>> The gift of the Holy Spirit, which was reflected in this joy, was given total submission and honour by John, all through his life.
>> Each of us, by our Baptism, have received the Grace of the Holy Spirit. We are challenged to live and nurture a “life in the Spirit” daily, inspired by John the Baptist

4. John the Baptist shows that radicality is a “deep water” into which every Christian must dare to step.
>> John the Baptist lived a very radical and uncompromising life.
>> This was seen in his style of living  – the food he ate, the clothes he wore, in his preaching and in his entire conduct.
>> Though, such literal following is sometimes too difficult, we are all challenged to nevertheless, have “radicality in our Christian life” – being uncompromising with respect to sin, being totally faithful to Christ and His Kingdom, being ready to live a life of detachment in the way of life that we are called to etc..

5. John’s life was a pointer to the Messiah and was a life of “total conviction”
>> One of the finest qualities in John the Baptist was to be “an ambassador of Christ” always!
>> Even when people misunderstood and considered him to be the Messiah, John points to Jesus and says, “there is the Lamb of God” (Jn 1: 19-29)
>> He had a chance to be famous; he had opportunities to gain name for himself. But John foregoes all that, and remains focussed and committed to the vocation and the task that he was entrusted with.
> He did not get swayed by popular opinion or cheap popularity.

6. John was the sign that God does fulfil all His promises
>> John was the New Elijah as was prophesied in the last verse of the Old Testament (“Lo, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the day of the Lord comes…to turn the hearts of fathers to their children and children to the fathers- Mal 3: 23-24)
>> John can be called, as the bridge between the Old and the New… a prophet who had arisen after nearly 400 years of silence, in the history of Israel – preparing the way for the new heavens and the new earth!
>> In him, we see that God’s promised to His children are never left abandoned. He is a God who promises and keeps his promises – even when it seems all hopeless or everything around is totally silent.

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to live thanking God for His graces and seek to live a radical and committed Christian life
>> Today I will seek to do all my actions in a way to only give glory to God and thus make my life a pointer to Christ and His Kingdom

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Christmas Goodies – Day 17

“ELIZABETH AND ZECHARIAH ”

On Day 17 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “Elizabeth and Zechariah ”

What it is?
>> The Christmas Narrative in the Gospel of St Luke begins with the story of Elizabeth and Zechariah, the parents of John the Baptist.
>> After a long time of barrenness, Elizabeth conceived in her old age, and gave birth to the one who was to be “the voice in the wilderness, preparing a way for the Messiah!”

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie -“Elizabeth and Zechariah”?

1. Their names are very significant; it tells  that God’s delays are not His denials!
>> The name Zechariah means “The Lord remembers”; the name Elizabeth means, “the oath of God”
>> Thus, the name of the couple stands for: The Lord remembers His oath!
>> However, the long years of barrenness would have seemed as a contradiction to them – it seemed God had totally forgotten about them.
>> But this is where we learn, that God’s delays are certainly not His denials! He has a better plan (Jer 29:11) – always, without fail!
>> And they were indeed blessed with a Son – named “John” whose name means “God is Gracious!”

2. Zechariah and Elizabeth were a devout couple
>> Lk 1: 6 says, “Both were righteous in the Eyes of God, observing all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blamelessly”
>> This devotion gains a golden halo, in the context of the couple facing a lack of “external signs of blessing and grace”!
>> The barrenness of Elizabeth was a matter of shame for the couple. It was also a social stigma, with many probably considering them guilty of “some secret sin” and hence the barrenness. Yet, they remained faithful and obedient
>> Our lives often lacks external signs of blessing and favours from God. We complain, we argue – “Why does God not hear my prayer?”
>> This devout couple teaches us that what matters most in life, is being faithful to the Will of God and being totally subject to His Divine Providence.

3. Zechariah shows his deep commitment to his wife – a virtue to be imitated for couples and also to all who have consecrated themselves to God
>> Barrenness was a common ground, in the Jewish society, for a man to leave his wife, and have children by another woman
>> Zechariah, however, shows love and faithfulness to his wife. Instead, he offered his helpless situation to the One who had a solution to every problem and an answer to every affliction.
>> We live in a culture where many times “there is love at first sight, and divorce at the first fight!”
>> Zechariah teaches us that in marriages, in consecrated life and in any commitment, “being faithful is much more virtuous than being successful!”

4. Zechariah shows the human side of being a “saint”
>> Though Zechariah was intent in prayer and longed for the blessing of the Lord, when the moment finally appeared, he showed signs of doubt and hesitation.
>> When Angel Gabriel gave the good news, that his wife Elizabeth would bear a child, Zechariah refuted, “How shall I know this?”( Lk 1:18)
>> As a priest of God, he knew that God could offer messages in supernatural ways. As a devout and prayerful person, he longed for the intervention of God in his life. Yet, when the actual moment came, he fumbled a bit.
>> We too have our moments of spiritual high and ecstasy. Yet, pure as we are in our intentions and longings, we too falter at times.
>> Zechariah teaches us not to lose heart, even if we encounter “human weakness” in our pursuit to be holy.

5. The couple teaches us that God chooses sometimes the hard way, to raise His chosen ones to the higher realms of perfection
>> Both Zechariah and Elizabeth were pious.
>> Zechariah, as the priest, was also diligent in his priestly duties.
>> Yet, this encounter with the Divine, made them realise their unworthiness and littleness and the awesomeness and greatness of God.
>> The muteness of Zechariah was a reminder of his unworthiness and the Divine way of humbling him.
>> It was a miraculous period in the life of this couple; yet, the muteness of Zechariah and the uncertainty of what would this child turn out to be, made the couple to walk the hard path, in seeing the glory of God

6. The couple strongly reminds us that nothing, absolutely nothing is impossible for God.
>> Zechariah and Elizabeth, in their old age, had probably got used to “the shame” that society meted out to them.
>> ‘Conception at this old age, was next to impossible ‘ was a  bitter pill that they had swallowed.
>> Yet, God reveals that “he can produce springs in the valleys and turn deserts in pools of water” (Is 41:18)

7. The “muteness” of the couple reminds the “muteness” experienced by the people of Israel
>> The people of Israel experienced a great silence, a “muteness” in their long wait for the Messiah.
>> We too undergo such experiences of “muteness” when there is a lack of consolations from the Lord, when the Lord seems to be absent in our lives etc

8. The couple teaches to always hold on to “what God says, even when humans contradict”
>> In naming the son, the family members had differing opinions (Lk 1: 59-62)
>> But Elizabeth and Zechariah, remained steadfast to the Word of the God, who had worked miracles in their life.
>> We too often have many worldly voices that gives differing opinions; but we are exhorted to remain attentive to the voice of the Lord, and be bold to stand fast, in doing God’s Will alone

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to remain faithful to God, in all situations and trials of life, realising that He knows what’s best for me
>> Today I will seek to be joyful and hopeful, even when I have to walk the path of suffering and struggle, in order to have the Lord’s Will fulfilled in my life

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!

Christmas Goodies – Day 16

“THE ANCESTORS OF JESUS ”

On Day 16 of our “Christmas Goodies”, we shall reflect on “The Ancestors of Jesus”

What it is?
>> The Gospels of St Matthew and St Luke mention the Genealogy of Jesus – the Ancestors of Jesus
>> Christmas is a Family Feast – and we are reminded, every Christmas, to also look at the Family of Jesus – thank the Lord for His Graces and open our eyes to see the Providence of God

What elements can we learn from this Christmas Goodie -“The Ancestors of Jesus”?

1. The Genealogy of Jesus is one of the finest treasures of God’s Grace and Providence
>> St Matthew (1: 1-17) and St Luke (3: 23-38) present the Genealogy of Jesus Christ.
>> Most often, these are Bible verses either skipped or overlooked or just read for the sake of reading. They could be called as the “forgotten chapter of the Christmas Story”.
>> The names in it sound too obscure, their pronunciation beyond comprehension, their purpose highly hazy – these are some of the common excuses we find, in avoiding to read or reflect on the accounts of the Genealogy
>> But we must realise that in the account of the Genealogy, is buried the marvellous working of God’s Grace and His Amazing Providence – the manner in which the “streams of God’s Grace flows through the ordinary and the great, the mighty and simple people”
>> The Genealogy teaches us open our eyes to see the ways of God working in our lives- hidden yet awesome; silent yet splendid

2. The two accounts of Genealogy are not contradictory; rather they are two perspectives to show Jesus as the Son of David
>> There are two accounts of Genealogy in the Gospels: St Matthew, which starts with Abraham; St Luke, which starts with Adam
>> Apparently, the two accounts look to be contradicting each other
>> But on closer look, we find…
~~ St Matthew traced the family line through Joseph, whereas Luke traced it through Mary.
~~ This was because Gospel of Matthew, being written to the Jews, had a legal requirement to show Jesus descending from the father, who belonged to the line of King David. This account also made sure it kept the prophecy in Jer 22:24-30 (“For none of his sons will succeed in occupying the throne of David or ever succeed in ruling over Judah.”)

~~ Luke’s version also shows Jesus as the Son of David, coming through his son Nathan. Thus, both the accounts show that Jesus, as the Son of David, had the right to the throne of Israel

3. The Genealogy mentions some notorious people – yet the Messiah was born in this family!
>> The Genealogy mentions 5 women
~~ Tamar: Disguised herself as a prostitute and seduced her father-in-law Judah (Gen 38)
~~ Rahab: A Gentile, prostitute; she helped the Jewish spies to hide and to escape from the enemies ( Josh 2)
~~ Ruth: A Gentile, with the background of a family who offered themselves to pagan gods
~~ The wife of Uriah: The Gospel doesn’t even mention her name; suffered abuse by David, the great King of Israel.
~~ Mary: A simple woman from Nazareth, who was found to be with child, before the marriage.

>>  All these five women were considered dis”graced” – some gentiles, some involved in sexual immorality, some finding themselves in situations of family disgrace.
>> Yet the Messiah is born in this family – to show that God’s “Grace” can wash away every Dis”grace”!
>> It shows that God can write straight, with crooked lines!

4. The Genealogy is also a lesson to the self-righteous people
>> Besides the mention of the apparently “not-pleasant women’, the list also mentions of kings, many of whom were unfaithful, of idolaters, of people without morals etc.
>> The Family Tree of Jesus is really not a pretty picture; it looks to be “very unclean”
>> Yet, St Matthew’s Gospel, written to the Jews, gives a message that it is not self-righteousness that wins salvation (as thought by many Pharisees, Scribes and Jewish leaders); it is God’s grace and mercy, along with our co-operation to His Will.

5. The Genealogy 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 sinful and we wish to forget; a past that is painful or abused; a past that has experienced humiliations and rejection
>> Yet, the Genealogy teaches us the big lesson that all our past can be cleansed and healed, by the mighty presence of Jesus.
>> Yes, as Cardinal Van Thuan says, “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”

6. The Genealogy teaches that Jesus was very much historical – shared our world.
>> Jesus was truly Divine. But He was also truly Human
>> This sharing in our humanness is reflected in His line of ancestors.
>> In Jesus, we have a God, who is not distant or away from us – but Someone, Who is deeply intimate with us, involved in our lives and sharing our joys and pains of life.

What resolutions can I practise today?
>> Today I will seek to thank God for my family – whatever be the experiences I have had – and understand that God has a plan for me, always – the best one
>> Today I will seek to not judge people due to their sinful lifestyle; instead pray for them, if possible try to bring them to the ways of the Lord and above all, reflect on my own life to sanctify it more and more.

Yes, Maranatha – Come Lord Jesus!

God Bless! Live Jesus!