Baptism of the Lord (Jan. 9, 2022) L-22

The Baptism of the Lord [C] (Jan 9)- Eight-minute homily in one page

Introduction: The Baptism of the Lord is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father. Hence, it is described by all four Gospels. It marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. (A homily starter anecdote may be added here)

The turning point: Jesus baptism by John was a very important event in the Messianic mission. First it was a moment of identification with us sinners. Sinless, Jesus received the baptism of repentance to identify Himself with His people who realized for the first time that they were sinners. (As given in the anecdotes, St. Damien, Blessed Mother Teresa, Gandhi, and Mandela identified with the people whom they served). Second, it was a moment of conviction about Jesus’ identity and mission: that He is the Son of God and His mission was to preach the Good News of God’s love and salvation and to atone for our sins by becoming the “suffering servant.” God the Father’s words, “This is My beloved Son,” (Psalm 2:17), confirmed Jesus’ identity as Incarnate Son of God, and the words “with Whom I am well pleased,” (Isaiah 42:1), referring to the suffering servant), pointed to Jesus’ mission of atoning for the sins of the world by suffering and dying on the cross. Third, it was a moment of equipment. The Holy Spirit, descending and resting upon Jesus in the form of a dove, bestowed on Jesus the power to preach and heal. Fourth, receiving the approval of God, His Heavenly Father, as His Beloved Son presented Jesus with a moment of decision   to begin public ministry at the most opportune time.

Life messages: (1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity. It reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism we become sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of his Church, heirs of Heaven, and temples of the Holy Spirit.

(2) Jesus’ baptism reminds us also of our missiona) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word and action. c) to lead  holy and transparent Christian lives and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body), by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by meditative reading of the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

(3) It is a day to thank God for the graces we have received in Baptism, to renew our Baptismal promises and to preach Christ’s “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service and forgiveness.

BAPTISM OF THE LORD [C] (Is 40:1-5, 9-11; Titus 2:11-14, 3:4-7; Lk 3:15-16, 21-22) 

   Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Identification with the masses:  The film Gandhi is a three-hour epic, depicting the life of Mahatma Gandhi in India. In order to lead the oppressed people of India to freedom from British rule, Gandhi adopted non-violent means such as fasting from food, vigils of prayer, peaceful marches, protests, and civil disobedience. One of the reasons why Gandhi put on a loincloth and fasted from food, almost to the point of death, was to show solidarity with the Indian people, identifying with them in their physical sufferings. This finally brought independence to India. (Vima Dasan). Marin Luther King,  too, identified with his enslaved and maltreated people and became the voice of the voiceless in the name of God. Consequently, he was maligned, beaten, jailed, and finally assassinated, though  he preached peace, justice, and non-violence on behalf of the downtrodden Afro-Americans in the U. S.  His heroic example  definitely passes as Christian living with tens of millions of the poor and alienated Afro-Americans in the U.S. and the oppressed millions worldwide. To better appreciate his struggles against the sins of our culture, particularly of our “Christian” clergy you are invited to read Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” readily available on the internet (http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html). — Jesus’ baptism, as described in today’s Gospel, was His identification with God’s chosen people who became aware of their sinful lives and need for God’s forgiveness. (Rev. Coman Dalton). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2:  Thomas Merton: A young man once described his experience of sinking into insanity. He was a very bright university student, but he had abandoned his studies in favor of nightclubs and pornography. One night he retired to a hotel room. As he lay in bed, the window appeared to expand until it reached the floor. He heard a mocking voice in his mind saying, “What if you threw yourself out of that window?” The young man wrote: “Now my life was dominated by something I had never known before: fear. It was humiliating, this strange self-conscious watchfulness. It was a humiliation I had deserved more than I knew. I had refused to pay attention to the moral laws upon which all vitality and sanity depend.” — Well, this young man did begin to pay attention to the moral law. He began to put his life in order – and to experience inner peace. He eventually entered the Catholic Church and went on to become a Cistercian and one of the most famous monks of the twentieth century. His name is Thomas Merton.  — Today’s Gospel on Jesus’ baptism should challenge us, too, to examine whether we are keeping our Baptismal promises. (Fr. Phil Bloom) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 3: A tiger cub finds its identity: There is an old Hindu parable about a tiger cub raised by goats.  The cub learned to bleat and nibble grass and behave like a goat.  One night a tiger attacked the goats, which scattered for safety.  But the tiger cub kept grazing and crying like a goat without getting frightened.  The old tiger roared, “What are you doing here, living with these cowardly goats?”  He grabbed the cub by the scruff, dragged him to a pond and said: “Look how our faces are reflected in water!  Now you know who you are and whose you are.”  The tiger took the cub home, taught him how to catch animals, eat their meat, roar and act like a tiger.  The tiger cub thus discovered his true self. — Today’s Gospel seems to suggest that Jesus received from Heaven a fresh flash of realization of Who, and Whose, He really was (His identity), and of what He was supposed to do (His mission), on the day of His baptism in the River Jordan. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Introduction: The Christmas season, celebrating the Self-revelation of God through Jesus, comes to an end with the feast of the Baptism of Our Lord. Christmas is the feast of God’s Self-revelation to the Jews, and Epiphany celebrates God’s Self-revelation to the Gentiles. At His Baptism in the Jordan, Christ reveals Himself to repentant sinners. The Baptism of the Lord Jesus is the great event celebrated by the Eastern churches on the feast of Epiphany because it is the occasion of the first public revelation of all the Three Persons in the Holy Trinity, and the official revelation of Jesus as the Son of God to the world by God the Father.  It is also an event described by all four Gospels, and it marks the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry.  The liturgical season of Christmas comes to a conclusion this Sunday with the celebration of the Baptism of the Lord.

Gospel exegesis: Origin of baptism: Neither John nor Jesus invented baptism.  It had been practiced for centuries among the Jews as a ritual equivalent to our Confession.  Until the fall of the Temple in 70 AD, it was common for Jewish people to use a special pool called a Mikveh — literally a “collection of water” – as a means of spiritual cleansing, to remove spiritual impurity and sin.  Men took this bath weekly on the eve of the Sabbath; women, monthly.  Converts were also expected to take this bath before entering Judaism.  The Orthodox Jews still retain the rite. John preached that such a bath was a necessary preparation for the cataclysm that would be wrought by the coming Messiah.  Jesus transformed this continuing ritual into the one single, definitive act by which we begin our life of Faith.  In effect, Jesus fused His Divine Essence with the water and the ceremony.

A couple of questions: 1) Why did Jesus, the sinless Son of God, receive the “baptism of repentance” meant for sinners?  2) Why did Jesus wait for thirty years to begin his public ministry?  The strange answer for the first question given by the apocryphal book, The Gospel according to the Hebrews, is that Jesus received the baptism of John to please Jesus’ mother and relatives.  In this humble submission, we see a foreshadowing of the “baptism” of Jesus’ bloody death upon the cross.  Jesus’ baptism by John was the acceptance and the beginning of Jesus’ Messianic mission as God’s Suffering Servant.  Jesus accepted being  numbered among sinners, willingly submitting entirely to the Father’s will.  Out of love, Jesus consented to the “baptism” of death for the remission of our sins.  Many Fathers of the Church explain that Jesus received John’s baptism to be identified with  the Chosen People, who, as a result of John’s preaching, for the first time in Jewish history became aware of their sins and of their need for repentance.  The Jews had the traditional belief that only the Gentiles who embraced Jewish religion needed the baptism of repentance, for, as God’s chosen people, the Jewish race was holy.  Jesus might have been waiting for this most opportune moment to begin public ministry.  The Fathers of the Church point out that the words which the Voice of the Heavenly Father speaks are similar to Psalm 2:17, revealing Jesus’ identity (“This is My beloved Son) and to Isaiah 42:1 referring to the suffering servant (“with whom I am well pleased“), revealing Jesus’ mission of saving mankind by suffering and death.

The turning point: Jesus’ baptism by John was a mystical experience that Jesus felt deep within as the crucial turning point of His life. The opening of the Heavens with Holy Spirit descending as a dove upon Jesus, and the Voice declaring of Jesus, “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased,” are God’s revelation to mankind of the Mystery that He is Triune.  The presence of the Triune God at this baptism, reveals Jesus’ true identity and mission. The Heavens’ opening also indicates that this was a moment of God’s powerful intervention in human history and in the life of His Son. So baptism by John was a very important event in the life of Jesus.  First, it was a moment of decision.  It marked the end of Jesus’ private life, which had prepared for the public ministry.  Second, it was a moment of identification with the Chosen People in their God-ward movement initiated by John the Baptist (quality of a good leader).  Third, it was a moment of approval.  Jesus might have been waiting for a signal of approval from his Heavenly Father, which Jesus got during His baptism,  as the Father, in the presence of all, declared “This is My beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased!”(Mt 3:17).   Fourth, it was a moment of conviction.  At this baptism, Jesus also received certainties (assurances) from Heaven: a) Jesus was the “Chosen One” and the “beloved Son of God”; b) Jesus’ mission of saving mankind would be fulfilled, not by conquering the Romans, but by becoming the “Suffering Servant” of God, i.e., by the cross. Fifth, it was a moment of equipment.  When He descended on Jesus in the form of a dove (symbol of gentleness), the Holy Spirit equipped Jesus with the power of preaching the “Good News” (that God is a loving Father, Who wants to save all human beings from their sins through His Son Jesus), in contrast to the “axe” and “fire” preaching of John the Baptist about an angry God’s judgment on sinners.

Life messages: 1) The baptism of Jesus reminds us of our identity and mission.  First, it reminds us of who we are and Whose we are.  By Baptism we become the adopted sons and daughters of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, members of His Church, heirs of Heaven and temples of the Holy Spirit. We become incorporated into the Church, the Body of Christ, and made sharers in the priesthood of Christ [CCC #1279].  Hence, “Baptism is the basis of the whole Christian life, the gateway to life in the Spirit and the door which gives access to the other Sacraments” (CCC, #1213).  Most of us dipped the fingers of our right hand into the holy water font and blessed ourselves when we came into Church today.  Why?  This blessing is supposed to remind us of our Baptism.  And so when I bless myself with Holy Water, I should be thinking of the fact that I am a child of God; that I have been redeemed by the Cross of Christ; that I have been made a member of God’s family, and that I have been washed, forgiven, cleansed, and purified by the Blood of the Lamb.

2)  Jesus’ baptism reminds us of our mission:  a) to experience the presence of God within us, to acknowledge our own dignity as God’s children, and to appreciate the Divine Presence in others by honoring them, loving them and serving them in all humility; b) to live as the children of God in thought, word, and action so that our Heavenly Father may say to each one of us what He said to Jesus: “You are My beloved son/daughter with whom I am well pleased.” This  means that we are to let His Thoughts direct our thoughts, His Mind control our mind, His Concerns be our concerns.  In the Church, we all share the same intimate connection with Christ; we are all brothers and sisters in Christ; c) to lead a holy and transparent Christian life, and not to desecrate  our bodies (the temples of the Holy Spirit and members of Jesus’ Body) by impurity, injustice, intolerance, jealousy, or hatred; d) to accept both the good and the bad experiences of life as the gifts of a loving Heavenly Father for our growth in holiness; e) to grow daily in intimacy with God by personal and family prayers, by reading the Word of God, by participating in the Holy Mass, and by frequenting the Sacrament of Reconciliation; and f) to be co-creators with God in building up the “Kingdom of God” on earth, a  Kingdom of compassion, justice, and love, and to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world.  In other words, God has called us to help others to see, through the love that we show and the help that we give, that God loves them, that He also invites them to be His sons and daughters and  that He wants to be their Helper and Strength through all the troubles that life in this world can bring.

3) This is the day for us to remember the graces we have received in Baptism and to renew our Baptismal promises: On the day of our Baptism, as Pope St. John Paul II explains, “We were anointed with the Oil of Catechumens, the sign of Christ’s gentle strength, to fight against evil.  Blessed water was poured over us, an effective sign of interior purification through the gift of the Holy Spirit.  We were then anointed with Chrism to show that we were thus consecrated in the image of Jesus, the Father’s Anointed One.  The candle lighted from the Paschal Candle was a symbol of the light of Faith which our parents and godparents must have continually safeguarded and nourished with the life-giving grace of the Spirit.”  This is also a day for us to renew our Baptismal promises, consecrating ourselves anew to the Holy Trinity and “rejecting Satan and all his empty promises,” which our profane world is constantly offering us through its mass-media of communication.  Let us ask Our Lord today to make us faithful to our Baptismal promises.  Let us thank Him for the privilege of being joined to His mission of preaching the “Good News” by our transparent Christian lives of love, mercy, service, and forgiveness.

Scripture explained.

First Reading, optional in year C: Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 explained

The people of Israel spent sixty years in exile, as captives of the Babylonians, from about 600 B.C.E. to 540 B.C.E. The second part of the book of Isaiah, chapters 40-55, prophesies the end of this Exile and the return of the captives to their homeland. Today’s first reading begins that section. Isaiah says that God has told him to tell the exiled citizens of Jerusalem that their “sentence” is at an end, their exile is over. Isaiah reminds them plainly that the Exile was a punishment for their sins, but that the merciful God has forgiven them.  The next few sentences of today’s reading describe how the exiles are to return home. They will return as a grand religious procession from Babylon to Jerusalem led by their own God. To pave the way, valleys and mountains are to be leveled, and a highway created in the wilderness. The exiles in the region are coming back to Judah, and within Judah, to the city of Jerusalem, and within Jerusalem, to the hill Zion where their Temple had stood. The last paragraph presents a lonely sentry who never went to Babylon but waited in Jerusalem, always looking out for the return of the exiles. He finally sees the approach of the procession described above, and he can’t contain his joy. He shouts to the city from the highest hill, “Here comes your God with power!”

Second reading: Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7  explained: The author of this letter wants his Christian followers to behave properly, not to earn God’s love, but in response to that love freely given. The birth of Jesus, the wise men’s discovery of Jesus, Jesus’  baptism, and Jesus’ coming again in glory are all treated in Scripture, and in our liturgy, as unexpected appearances (Epiphanies) of God among us. So the Letter to Titus applies to our Baptism the themes of Divine appearance and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, which is borrowed from Jesus’ own baptism. Today’s selection combines two sections, both of which we recently read at Christmas, one at midnight and one at dawn. In this passage, St. Paul teaches how God saves us by incorporating us into Christ. Among the congregation served by the early bishop, Titus, were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and tried to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, those law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation, but God gives it freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, when the Spirit is richly poured out on us. It is this, not our observance of laws, that makes us justified (right with God) and that give us the hope of eternal life.

Gospel exegesis: Who baptized Jesus and why? While there is no doubt that John baptized Jesus in Mark’s Gospel, he does it reluctantly in Matthew’s Gospel (3:13-17), and he’s already locked up in prison in Luke’s Gospel (3:20). There is no portrayal of John baptizing Jesus in John’s Gospel; all we have is the testimony of the Baptizer (1:29-34). Because each evangelist after Mark, commonly accepted as the oldest Gospel, tries to tone down or erase Jesus’ baptism by John, we must conclude that the event caused a problem near the end of the first century because many were saying that John must be the greater, since he did the baptizing. By gradually removing John from the scene, Matthew and Luke elevate Jesus. But there is little doubt that John the Baptist baptized Jesus; if he hadn’t, Matthew and Luke wouldn’t have rewritten Mark’s story. Jesus presents himself for John’s baptism in today’s Gospel, not because Jesus is a sinner, but to fulfill the word of God proclaimed by His prophets. This baptism must take place to reveal that Jesus is the Christ (“anointed one”) – the Spirit-endowed Servant. “In Baptism, all are anointed with that same Spirit, made beloved sons and daughters of God. Indeed, we are Christians – literally ‘anointed ones.’” (Scott Hann).  “Let it be so now; for it is proper for us in this way to fulfill all righteousness” What this means has prompted much debate. It may be that Jesus was “fulfilling” all the Scriptural prophecies about Jesus which focused on “righteousness.” It may be that Jesus was seen as validating the rite of Baptism for all future generations of Christians. Or it may be that even the Messiah could undergo a re-orientation towards perfect righteousness, and so could repent and be baptized.

“This is my Son, the Beloved, with whom I am well pleased” Mark and Luke have the words addressed to Jesus, “You are my Son….” But Matthew’s “This is my Son” makes the words relevant to the bystanders because they are an open testimony to the Father’s approval of his Son … and we should view “Son” as a Messianic title. The Heavenly Voice points to a relationship shared by no other. It is significant, it is “Good News,” that Jesus hears the Father’s declaration, “This is My “beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased”(Mt 3:17), before the public ministry begins. The Heavenly Father is much pleased with His Son’s humble submission and speaks audibly and directly to him for all to hear: “You are my beloved Son, with you I am well pleased(Mk 1:11; Lk 3:22).  The Holy Spirit, too, is present as Jesus submits to John’s baptism.  The Holy Spirit anoints Jesus for the Messianic ministry which begins that day as Jesus rises from the waters of the Jordan River.

Significance of Christ’s baptism:This exalted identity of the “Son of God” revealed at the baptism is the starting point for all that Jesus will undertake—Self-giving ministry, death and Resurrection. It is because Jesus knows Who He is that Jesus does what Jesus does. As we begin Ordinary Time, we do so knowing that, in our own Baptism, God has named us beloved sons and daughters. Like Jesus, all that we undertake must flow from who we are—God’s beloved. We are called to follow in the footsteps of our Savior, Jesus Christ.  This means that we, too, must humbly submit ourselves to God’s wise and loving plan for our lives.  He, in turn, anoints us with the Holy Spirit that we may be clothed with His power and grace. According to the Navarre Bible commentary, in Christ’s baptism we can find a reflection of the way the Sacrament of Baptism affects a person. Christ’s baptism was the exemplar of our own. In it the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, and the faithful, on receiving Baptism, are consecrated by the invocation and power of the Blessed Trinity. Similarly, Heaven’s  opening signifies that the power, the effectiveness, of this Sacrament comes from above, from God, and that the baptized have the road to Heaven opened up for them, a road which Original Sin had closed. Jesus’s prayer after His baptism teaches us that, “now after baptism man needs to pray continually, in order to enter heaven: for though sins are remitted through baptism, there still remain the formes of sin assailing us from within, and the world and the devils assailing us from without.” Thomas Aquinas quoted as in  (blog.adw.org/2016/12/on-the-necessity-of-prayer/ ).Each time we dip our hand into the Holy Water font in a church to bless ourselves, we need to remember that this act is a renewal of our Baptism.

JOKES OF THE WEEK: 1) Baptism of a cat: Johnny’s Mother looked out the window and noticed him “playing Church” with their cat. He had the cat sitting quietly and he was preaching to it. She smiled and went about her work. A while later she heard loud meowing and hissing and ran back to the open window to see Johnny baptizing the cat in a tub of water. She called out, “Johnny, stop that! The cat is afraid of water!” Johnny looked up at her and said, “He should have thought about that before he joined my church.”

2) Three times: Too many people come to Church three times primarily. They’re baptized, they get married, and they have their funeral service at the Church. The first time they throw water on you, the second time rice, the third time dirt!

3) Baptized in luxury: When our Church was renovated, adding a Baptismal pool, we were pleased. So was our daughter. While riding in the car with my daughter and her friend, we went past a pond. My daughter’s friend proudly declared, “I was baptized in that pond.” My daughter responded with no less pride: “Oh, I was baptized in a Jacuzzi at our church.” (Pastor Davis)

4) Born again. When Jimmy Carter was elected President of the United States, he described himself as a “born-again” Christian. For many Americans this was an unfamiliar term. By the time of the next election primaries, nearly all the candidates were claiming to be “born-again.” Political satirist Mark Russell suggested, “This could give Christianity a bad name.”

5) A keg of beer and a case of whiskey: Before performing a Baptism, the priest approached the young father and said solemnly, “Baptism is a serious step. Are you prepared for it?” “I think so,” the man replied. “My wife has made appetizers and we have a caterer coming to provide plenty of cookies and cakes for all of our guests.” “I don’t mean that,” the priest responded. “I mean, are you prepared spiritually?” “Oh, sure,” came the reply. “I’ve got a keg of beer and a case of whiskey.”

6)God help the fish!” Sam Houston was the first president of the Republic of Texas. It’s said he was a rather nasty fellow with a checkered past. Later in life Houston made a commitment to Christ and was baptized in a river. The preacher said to him, “Sam, your sins are washed away.” Houston replied, “God help the fish!”

7) “Have I been “pasteurized?” In a Dennis the Menace cartoon, after attending a baptism Dennis asks the question, “Have I been “pasteurized?”  — We’ve all been pasteurized. We have put on Christ. In Him we have been baptized. Alleluia, Alleluia.

8) Baptism, Catholic, Baptist and Jewish style: A Catholic Priest, a Baptist Preacher and a Rabbi were sitting around drinking coffee. Someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really all that hard, that a real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another, and they decided that each would find a bear and attempt to convert it to their religion. Seven days later, they all came together to discuss their experiences. Father Flannery, who had his arm in a sling and had various bandages on his body and limbs, went first. “Well,” he said,  “I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him, I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear came after me and began to slap me around. So, I quickly grabbed my holy water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb.” Reverend Billy Bob the Baptist spoke next. He was in a wheelchair and had an IV drip. “I went out and found me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from the Bible! But that bear came after me. We wrestled down one hill, until we came to a creek. So I quickly dunked him and baptized his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb.” The Priest and the Reverend both looked down at the Rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IV’s and monitors running in and out of him. The Rabbi looked up and said: “Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start…” (Email from dcngary@hotmail.com)

 Websites of the week

(The easiest method  to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

2) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org

4) Why Jesus got baptized? Video answer by Jimmy Akin

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=d1IBGudjaxs

5) Teens Encounter Christ: http://www.twincitiestec.org/Home

6) Websites for kids:  http://www.k4j.org/ , http://www.myfriendmagazine.com/

34- Additional anecdotes 

1) Identified with victims: When leprosy broke out among the people of the Hawaiian Islands in the middle of the 19th century, the government authorities responded by establishing a leper colony on the remote island of Molokai. The victims were snatched by force from their families and sent to this island to perish. However, moved by their terrible plight, a young Belgian priest, Saint Damien De Veuster, asked permission from his superiors to minister to them. Straightaway he realized that there was only one effective way to do this, and that was to go and live among them. Having got permission, he went to Molokai. At first, he tried to minister to the lepers while maintaining a certain distance. But he soon realized that he had to live among them in order to gain their trust. As a result he contracted leprosy himself. The reaction of the lepers was immediate and wholehearted. They embraced him and took him to their hearts. He was now one of them. There was no need, no point any more, in keeping his distance. The lepers had someone who could talk with authority about leprosy, about brokenness, about rejection and public shame. — Today’s Gospel tells us how, by receiving the baptism of repentance, Jesus became identified with the sinners whom He had come to save (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

2) Called to Service: The late Nelson Mandela (December 5, 2013), will go down as one of the greatest leaders of the 20th  century. He was instrumental in ending apartheid and bringing about a multiracial society in South Africa. Mandela belonged to the Xhosa people, and grew up in the Transkei. But how did he come to play such a crucial role in the history of his country? In his autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, he tells us that all the currents of his life were taking him away from the Transkei. Yet he had no epiphany, no singular revelation, no moment of truth. He says: “A steady accumulation of insights helped me to see that my duty was to the people as a whole, not to a particular section of it. The memory of a thousand indignities produced in me anger, rebelliousness, a desire to fight the system that imprisoned my people. There was no particular day on which I said, ‘Henceforth, I will devote myself to the liberation of my people’; instead, I simply found myself doing so, and could not do otherwise” (Flor McCarthy in Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

3) Moment of Affirmation: When the American writer, Maya Angelou, was growing up, she didn’t see her mother very much. She was brought up in large part by her grandmother, a wonderful and saintly woman. She tells how when she was twenty years old, she took a trip to San Francisco to visit her mother. It was a particularly important yet vulnerable moment in Maya’s life; she was struggling to make her way in life and groping her way towards becoming a writer. She had quite a good meeting with her mother. When it was time to leave, her mother walked her down the hill to the waiting bus. As they parted, her mother said, “You know, I think you are the greatest woman I have ever met.” Years later Maya could still recall that moment vividly. She said, “Waiting for the bus, I sat there thinking, ‘Just suppose she’s right. Suppose I really am somebody.’ It was one of those moments when the sky rolled back. At times like that, it’s almost as if the whole earth holds its breath.” Maya went on to become a highly successful and respected writer and poet. She composed and delivered an inspiring poem at the inauguration of President Clinton. –Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus heard the Voice of the Heavenly Father, immediately after Jesus’ baptism, affirming Jesus as “My beloved Son”  (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

4) This is my beloved daughter, this is my beloved son”: Edward Farrell, a friend of mine, is a Catholic priest who serves an Inner City Parish in Detroit. He’s written some marvelous books. One I would especially recommend is entitled Prayer Is a Hunger. Ed is a part of a small group with whom I meet each January. I’ve told you about this group. We call it the Ecumenical Institute of Spirituality. It’s an important group for me. Though we meet only for three days once a year, sharing our spiritual pilgrimages with one another, seeking to focus our minds and hearts on some growing edge, it’s an important part of my life. Ed is a part of it too. He’s one of the most genuinely humble persons I know. Serving some of God’s forgotten people in one of Detroit’s most depressed areas, he is quietly profound. I never will forget the insight he provided me about this text. He said that Jesus went to the cross so that we too could hear the same word Jesus heard at His baptism – so that you and I can hear, “This is My beloved daughter/this is My beloved son, with whom I am well pleased.” Have you thought about it that way? Jesus’ paid the price so that for you and me, the heavens could open, and we could know the reality of God’s Spirit as a living power and presence in our lives. Jesus wanted us to know the reality of Good News in the dark days of hopelessness and despair. The Voice which named Jesus God’s beloved Son is still speaking in our souls, “You are Mine. You are unique and special. I am pleased with you. I love you. I love you so much that I gave My beloved Son for you. You are My beloved son, you are My beloved daughter.” (Rev. Maxie Dunnam). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

5)  Two sources of inspiration: Among the millions of Jews imprisoned by the Nazis in the death camps of the ’30’s and ’40’s was Victor Frankl. In spite of the horrors and the odds, he survived. Around him, next to him, each day of his ordeal, dozens, hundreds, thousands of fellow-Jews and others died. Most of them died in the ovens, of course, but there were others who died simply because they gave up hope and lost heart, overwhelmed by horror, fear, and hopelessness. Frankl survived, he said, because two forces sustained him: one was the certainty of his wife’s love. The other was an inner drive to rewrite the manuscript of a book he had completed after years of labor — which the Nazis had destroyed. Frankl’s imprisonment was lightened by having daily imaginary conversations with his wife and by scrawling notes for his book on all the bits and scraps of paper he could find. Now Frank has written eloquently of these two insights to cope with life: first, the discovery and certainty of being loved, and, second, having a clear and controlling purpose in life. [Nate Castens, Chanhassen, Minnesota, via Ecunet, Gospel Notes for Next Sunday, #2815] — Both are the messages we receive in Christian Baptism. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

6) You are My beloved Son; with you I am well pleased. On January 19, AD 383, the Christian Roman Emperor Theodosius named his son Arcadius as co-emperor. It was during a period in Church history when the Arian Heresy was spreading throughout the Roman Empire. The Arian Heresy held that Jesus Christ was not fully God. Theodosius called for a truce between Christians and Arians and called for a conciliatory conference. One Christian Bishop who was not willing to compromise his faith in Christ’s deity was Amphilochus of Iconium. So he had to suffer persecution from the Arians. On the coronation day Bishop entered the reception hall, bowed to the emperor, ignored his son and made a poignant speech and turned to leave. “What!” said Theodosius, “Do you take no notice of my son the co-emperor? Is this all the respect you pay to a prince that I have made equal dignity with myself?” At this the bishop gave Arcadius a blessing and replied, “Sir, do you so highly resent my apparent neglect of your son because I do not give him equal honor with yourself? What must the eternal God think of you, who have allowed His coequal and coeternal Son to be degraded in His proper Divinity in every part of your Empire? Remember God the Father’s proclamation on the day Jesus was baptized by John in the River Jordan!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

7)  Identity of the peanut scientist: In one of his books, Fr. Bill Bausch describes George Washington Carver, the great black agricultural scientist who did a lot of research work on the commercial and medical uses of the lowly peanut. Carver built a great industry through his scientific endeavors.  In January, 1921, he was brought to Washington, D.C., to the Ways and Means Committee to explain his work on the peanut.   As a black man, he was last on the list and so, after three days of waiting, he finally walked up the aisle to speak, ignoring the racial comments and ridicule.  Later he wrote in his autobiography, “Whatever they said of me, I knew that I was a child of God, and so I said to myself inwardly, ‘Almighty God, let me carry out Your will.’”  He got to the podium and was told that he had twenty minutes to speak.  Carver opened up his display case and began to explain his project.  So engaging was his discussion that those twenty minutes went all too quickly, and the chairman rose and asked for an extension so he could continue his presentation, which he did for an hour and three-quarters.  They voted him four more extensions so he spoke for several hours.  At the end of his talk they all stood up and gave him a long round of applause.  And all that happened because he knew who, and Whose, he was and because he refused to be defined by the labels of his culture. — The feast of the Baptism of our Lord reminds us of who we are and Whose we are. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

8) America’s fast-growing non-religious community: One in five Americans (19 percent), now claims no religious affiliation, up from 6 percent in 1990. The so-called “nones” include unbelieving atheists who staged a massive “Reason Rally” in Washington, but two-thirds of the unaffiliated say they believe in God or a universal spirit. Almost nine in 10 say they’re just not looking for a faith to call home. An April study found that among the under-30 set, the only religious group that was growing was the “unaffiliated,” with an increasing tide of young Americans drifting away from the religion of their childhood. By year’s end, a study from the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life found that there are about as many religiously unaffiliated people in the world (1.1 billion) as there are Catholics, and they’re the third-largest “religious” group worldwide, behind Christians and Muslims. (http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/ ) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

9) Gods Press Conference: When likable Lou Holtz was announced as the new head football coach at the University of Notre Dame, he was touted as one who would restore the school’s football program to its tradition of excellence. Whenever a new leader appears on the scene, whether it is the new coach of a team or the new president of a corporation, a press conference is usually held to proclaim that leader’s qualifications and potential. Such press conferences usually create some excitement about the leader’s identity, and arouse our expectations with glowing promises about what this leader will accomplish. — Today’s event of our Lord’s baptism is something like this. It’s as if God Himself called a press conference to reveal His Son Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and to give us a preview of what His mission would accomplish (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

10)  On the right road in the wrong direction: A friend of mine vouches for the truth of the following incident. He was traveling down the country one day. His journey brought him along some by-roads, where the signposts were few and far between. After a while, he was unsure if he was on the right road, so he decided to ask the first person he saw. Eventually he came across a farmer driving his cows home for milking. He stopped the car, and asked him if he was on the right road to Somewhere, just to give the place a name. The farmer told him that he certainly was on the right road. My friend expressed his thanks, and was about to move forward when the farmer added, in a very nonchalant way, “You’re on the right road, but you’re going in the wrong direction!” — Today’s reflection on Jesus’ baptism challenges us to examine whether we are on the right road and moving in the right direction for our eternal destiny. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

11) Part of the ritual:  The story is told about the Baptism of King Aengus by St. Patrick in the middle of the fifth century. Sometime during the rite, St. Patrick leaned on his sharp-pointed staff and inadvertently stabbed the king’s foot. After the baptism was over, St. Patrick looked down at all the blood, realized what he had done, and begged the king’s forgiveness. “Why did you suffer this pain in silence, the Saint wanted to know. The king replied, “I thought it was part of the ritual.” (Knowing the Face of God, Tim Stafford, p. 121ff). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

12) “Agnes, youve been a real jinx! John was an old man, and he lay dying. His wife of many years was sitting close by. He opened his eyes for a moment, and saw her and said, “There you are Agnes, at my side again.” She smiled faintly and fluttered her eyes and said, “Yes, dear, here I am.” Then John said, “Looking back, I remember all the times you were at my side. You were there when I got my draft notice and had to go off to fight in the war. You were there when our first house burned to the ground, and we lost everything we had. You were there when I had that accident that destroyed our car, and I was seriously injured. And you were there when my business went bankrupt, and I lost every cent I had.” Agnes again smiled faintly and fluttered her eyes and said, “Yes, Dear, I have been – by your side – all the time.” Then the old man sighed and said, “I’ll tell you what, Agnes, you’ve been real bad luck!” (Norman Neaves, “Are You Ready to Take the Big Step?”).  — That’s not what Agnes expected to hear. The experience is ridiculous, but makes the point. Any experience may be perceived differently by those involved. Today we look at one of the pivotal experiences in Jesus’ life: His baptism. How do we look at it? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

13) “Have you found Jesus?” A drunk stumbles across a Pentecostal Baptismal service on Sunday afternoon down by the river.  He proceeds to walk down into the water and stand next to the Preacher.  The minister turns and notices the old drunk and says, “Mister, are you ready to find Jesus?”  The drunk looks back and says, “Yes, Preacher. I sure am.”  The minister then dunks the fellow under the water and pulls him right back up. “Have you found Jesus?” the preacher asked.  “No, I didn’t!” said the drunk.  The preacher then dunks him under for quite a bit longer, brings him up and says, “Now, brother, have you found Jesus?” “No, I did not, Reverend.”  The preacher in disgust holds the man under for at least 30 seconds this time, brings him out of the water and says in a harsh tone, “My God, have you found Jesus yet?”  The old drunk wipes his eyes and says to the preacher… “Are you sure this is where he fell in?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

14) Salvation by Christian Baptism or Jewish Circumcision? There is a funny story about a Catholic Priest, a Baptist Preacher, and a Rabbi who were good friends. They would get together two or three times a week for coffee and to talk in a coffee shop. One day, someone made the comment that preaching to people isn’t really all that hard – a real challenge would be to preach to a bear. One thing led to another, and they decided to do an experiment. They would all go out into the woods, find a bear, preach to it, and attempt to convert it. Seven days later, they all came together to discuss their experience. Father Flannery, who had his arm in a sling, was on crutches, and had various bandages on his body and  limbs, went first. “Well,” he said, “I went into the woods to find me a bear. And when I found him, I began to read to him from the Catechism. Well, that bear wanted nothing to do with me and began to slap me around. So I quickly grabbed my Holy Water, sprinkled him and, Holy Mary Mother of God, he became as gentle as a lamb.  The Bishop is coming out next week to give him first communion and confirmation.” Reverend Billy Bob spoke next. He was in a wheelchair, had one arm and both legs in casts, and had an IV drip. In his best fire-and-brimstone oratory, he claimed, “WELL, brothers, you KNOW that we don’t sprinkle! I went out and I found me a bear. And then I began to read to my bear from God’s HOLY WORD! But that bear wanted nothing to do with me. So I took HOLD of him and we began to wrestle. We wrestled down one hill, UP another and DOWN another until we came to a creek. So I quickly DUNKED him and BAPTIZED his hairy soul. And just like you said, he became as gentle as a lamb. We spent the rest of the day praising Jesus. Hallelujah!” The priest and the reverend both looked down at the Rabbi, who was lying in a hospital bed. He was in a body cast and traction with IVs and monitors running in and out of him. He was in really bad shape. The Rabbi looked up and said: “Looking back on it, circumcision may not have been the best way to start!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

15) Wash Off the Stuff of the Day: One of the most successful and personable people on television is Oprah Winfrey. Movies, book clubs, she does it all- huge business operations. While all the other talk shows on television are tearing people apart and putting all their illnesses out for public humiliation, Oprah is helping put people and families back together again. . . In a Newsweek magazine interview the interviewer asked her, “How do you separate yourself from work?” Answer, “I take a hot bath. . . My bath is my sanctuary. [Listen to this] It’s the place where I can wash off all the stuff of the day” (Jan 8, 2001, p. 45). — Baptism is a huge symbol — it’s the water of creation. . . .we are born anew. . . . life in the Spirit . . . all the “stuff” of the day is washed off. All of that is true. But at its basic level, Baptism is the death of the old self. Before anything new can be born, the old has to pass away. (Brett Blair; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

16) Watershed” moment. Because of a devastating childhood illness at nineteen months, Helen Keller (1880-1968) was left both blind and deaf. Her life was rightly written up as a “miracle story” and became a play called The Miracle Worker (1957) with Anne Bancroft starring in the Broadway production (1959). But the “miracle” Helen Keller experienced was not any return of hearing or vision. The “miracle” she received was the miracle of her committed, loving family, and of her relentlessly optimistic and patient teacher Anne Sullivan.  When Helen was seven years old, trapped in a world where she could only communicate through a few hand signals with the family cook, her parents arranged for a twenty-year old, visually impaired teacher to come and work with their daughter. Using American Sign Language, Anne Sullivan spent months “spelling” words into Helen’s hands. Everything Helen touched, everything she ate, every person she encountered, was “spelled out” into her hand. At first Helen Keller didn’t get it. These random motions being pressed into her palm did not connect with experiences she felt. But Sullivan refused to give up. She kept spelling words. She kept giving “tactile-verbal” references for everything Helen encountered.  Finally there was a “watershed” moment, which was indeed water-powered. Helen’s breakthrough moment was as she was having water pumped over her hands and Anne Sullivan kept spelling the word for “water” over and over into her palm. Suddenly Helen “got it.” Suddenly she realized those gestures meant something real and tangible. They were naming what she was experiencing.  The world of communication, reading, literature, —  human interaction — was made possible to one person through the gift of another person. The “miracle” Helen’s teacher Anne Sullivan worked was the miracle of patience. She simply kept on and kept at it, showing Helen there were “words” for “things,” and there was true meaning behind all Helen’s experiences. (Quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

17) Washed Away in a New Beginning: Some of you may have seen the movie O Brother, Where Art Thou? This is a whimsical retelling of Homer’s Odyssey set in 1930s Mississippi. Three hapless escaped convicts–Everett, Pete and Delmar–are hiding out in the woods, running from the law. There they encounter a procession of white-robed people going down to the lake to be baptized. As they move toward the water they sing, “Let’s go down to the river and pray.” As the Baptism ceremony begins, Delmar is overwhelmed by the beauty and the mystery of this rite. He runs into the water and is baptized by the minister. As he returns to his companions, he declares that he is now saved and “neither God nor man’s got nothing on me now.” He explains that the minister has told him that all his sins have been washed away. Even, he says, when he stole the pig for which he’d been convicted. “But you said you were innocent of that,” one of his fellow convicts exclaims. “I lied,” he says, “and that’s been washed away too!” Later the three convicts steal a hot pie from a window sill. The one who felt that his sins had been washed away returns and places a dollar bill on the window sill. –Delmar wasn’t made perfect by his Baptism any more than any of the rest of us are made perfect by our Baptism. But he was conscious that it was time for him to make a new beginning. That is why in understanding Baptism we begin with the washing away of our sins. (Rev. King Duncan; quoted by Fr. Tony Kayala.) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

18) Baptism: Take My Good Name: French writer Henri Barbusse (1874-1935) tells of a conversation overheard in a trench full of wounded men during the First World War. One of the men, who knew he only had minutes to live says to one of the other man, “Listen, Dominic, you’ve led a very bad life. Everywhere you are wanted by the police. But there are no convictions against me. My name is clear, so, here, take my wallet, take my papers, my identity, take my good name, my life and quickly, hand me your papers that I may carry all your crimes away with me in death.” — The Good News is that through Jesus, God makes a similar offer. Something wonderful happens to us when we are baptized. When we are baptized, we identify ourselves with Jesus. We publicly declare our intention to strive to be like Jesus and follow God’s will for our lives. When we are baptized, our lives are changed. We see things  in a different way  than we did before. We see other people in a different way than we did before. Baptism enables and empowers us to do the things that Jesus wants us to do here and now. We are able to identify with Jesus because He was baptized. And we are able to love as He loved. Such identification is life-changing. That kind of identification shapes what we believe and claims us. (Billy D. Strayhorn) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

19) Initiation Rite: Remember the initiation rites of our ancestors? In some places, as in the Sepik even today, they lock teenage boys in an enclosure for a month of isolation. Here their bodies, especially their backs are cut and bled. They are taught to bear pain. They are taught all the labors of the clan. After four weeks they are let out of the spirit house, and now they enter into a new life. That is the life of an adult. Now they can marry. In one place on the Sepik the boys crawled out of the initiation enclosure through the jaws of the imitation crocodile. This is symbolic for being born again into a new life. — Baptism means the same thing: entry into a new life; it also gives us a new status, more than  what the initiate has achieved, for each of us is now  a child of God, an heir of heaven,  a member of the Church etc. (Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

20) Called by Name: One of the most dramatic moments in Alex Haley’s novel, Roots, is the “eight day” ceremony when Omorro gives his new-born son, Kunta Kinte, his name, and the child becomes a member of his tribe. In the culture of western Africa, the name given a child is both a gift and a challenge. Haley describes the naming rite: “Omorro lifted up the infant and as all watched, whispered three times into his son’s ear the name he had chosen for him. It was the first time the name had ever been spoken as the child’s name; for Omorro’s people felt that each human being should be the first to know who he was.” That night the father completed the ceremony: “Out under the moon and stars, alone with his son that eighth night, Omorro completed the naming ritual. Carrying little Kunta in his strong arms, he walked to the edge of the village, lifted his baby up to the heavens and said, softly, ‘Behold the only thing greater than yourself.”– Jesus received His calling from His Father. Jesus is greater than all creation, and Baptism makes us one with Jesus. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22b

21) A most important date: An old gentleman walked into a fashionable florist shop. “I want a beautiful corsage,” he said, “not a big one, but just about the prettiest one you can make.” He smiled broadly, “It’s for my granddaughter, and she is having her first date tomorrow.” The florist was all curious. “How old is the young lady?” he asked, eyeing his flowers speculatively. “Two weeks,” replied the grandfather. The florist turned in utter amazement. “Did you say, a date… a corsage…two weeks old?” “Precisely,” said the old gentlemen. “And I want the corsage that’s exactly right. She’ll never have more important date than she has tomorrow. My little granddaughter will be baptized.” (Frank Michalic in Tonic for the Heart; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

22) New president’s inaugural speech: When  a president is  inaugurated in the United States, there is an  official oath of office taken and a speech given, intended to inspire and set the course of the nation for the next four years. Occasionally some of these speeches or inaugural addresses have been memorable; quoted again and again, the words stir the hearts of those who hear them with a renewed sense of purpose. In his second inaugural address (delivered 4 March 1865), Abraham Lincoln invited the nation to live “with malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right. Let us strive on to finish the work we are in.” In representing his ideas to the nation, Franklin D. Roosevelt noted, “In the field of world policy, I would dedicate this Nation to the policy of the good neighbor“ (Inaugural Address, 4 March 1933). John F. Kennedy, in his January 1961 inaugural declared, “Now the trumpet summons us again — not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need — not as a call to battle, though embattled we are — but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ — a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease, and war itself.” Sadly, each of these men died while in office, Roosevelt of illness, Lincoln and Kennedy at the hands of their assassins. — Jesus’ baptism could be compared to an inauguration in that it prefaced a ministry that did indeed have political as well as religious repercussions in the world in which Jesus lived. Jesus’ inaugural address was given later in the local synagogue at Nazareth. Like Lincoln, Roosevelt and Kennedy, Jesus also died by violence, of course, for a nobler cause, while in the process of realizing His inaugural ideals 

23) Birthday celebration on the day of Baptism: The 13th century king of France, St. Louis IX (1226-70), insisted that the grand celebration of his birthday should be held on the day of his Baptism, and not on his birthday proper.  His argument was that Baptism was the beginning of a life that would continue for eternity in the everlasting glory of Heaven. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

24) Manager working in the production line: The manager of a manufacturing company often visited the production area of the factory unannounced.  Sometimes he would take off his coat and tie, roll up his sleeves, and help on the assembly line.  One of the bolder employees asked him one day, “Why do you do come down from your air-conditioned office to get dirty down here?” The manager replied, “I don’t know of a better way to find out what the workers think and feel and whether everyone is happy doing their job.  This is a good way of seeing things from their point of view.” When he returned to the quiet of his office, he did so with new insight into the ordinary people who were an important part of his company, his world.  What is more, the “ordinary people” got to see the manager from a whole new perspective. — Jesus’ baptism was a sort of “going down to the production line.”  Jesus was baptized to show everyone  that Jesus was human and  understood all about sin and its effect on people’s lives. (Rev. Vince). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

25) Pain Is Part of Baptism: Saint Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland, was a very devout Catholic evangelist. One of the stories that grew out of his ministry concerns a time when he was baptizing new converts in a river. He would wade out waist-deep into the water and call out for new Christians to come to him, one by one, to receive the sacrament. Once he baptized a mountain chieftain. Saint Patrick was holding a staff in his hands as the new converts made their way into the water. Unfortunately, as he was lowering the chief down under the water three times, he also pressed his staff down into the river bottom. Afterwards the people on the riverbank noticed their chief limp back to shore. Someone explained to Patrick that, as he pressed the wooden staff into the riverbed, he must have also bruised the foot of the chief. Patrick went to the chief at once and asked, “Why did you not cry out when I stuck you in the foot?” Surprised the chief answered, “I remembered you telling us about the nails in the cross, and I thought my pain was part of my Baptism.” —  When I read that I could not but think how many of us would have been baptized if we knew pain was a part of the process! (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

26) St. Margaret prepared for the apparition: In the late seventeenth century, Jesus appeared multiple times to a French nun named St. Margaret Mary Alacoque, and that was the beginning of the Church’s universal devotion to the Sacred Heart. The first time Jesus appeared to her was in the middle of the night. She was suddenly woken up by an inner voice that told her to go down to the chapel. Now, St. Margaret Mary was a Visitation nun. Visitation nuns at that time wore very elaborate habits: a long, black, multi-layered garment and a complicated headdress with a tall white wimple and a flowing black veil. When the saint sensed that God wanted her to go down to the chapel in the middle of the night, she didn’t just put on a bathrobe on over her pajamas. Instead, she took fifteen minutes to change out of her pajamas and into her full habit. Only then did she go down to speak with the Lord. And that night she had her first apparition of the Sacred Heart. She, like John the Baptist, understood that Christ was both her closest and best Friend, and also her Savior, Redeemer, and God, worthy of loving respect. — The sincerity of our reverence towards God is a good thermometer of our spiritual maturity. If we come into a Church and genuflect sloppily, in a rush, it could mean that we don’t even remember why we are doing it. If we chit-chat loudly inside the Church before and after Mass while people are trying to pray, it could mean that we have forgotten Whose House this is. If we make the sign of the cross as if we were swatting mosquitoes, it may mean that we are falling into routine in our friendship with Christ, whose death on the Cross is the source of our hope for forgiveness, meaning, and eternal life. (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

27) Soldier praying before the child’s cradle: There is legend about a Roman legionary from the Age of Persecutions. (That was the first 2½ centuries of the Church’s existence, when the Roman Empire repeatedly tried to destroy it.) He went off on a long war campaign, leaving his wife with child. While he was gone, she gave birth. Soon thereafter, she converted to Christianity, was baptized, and had her baby baptized as well. Meanwhile, the legionary also met some Christians and heard their explanations of what it meant to be baptized into this new Faith. However, he could not be baptized before the campaign ended and he returned home. His wife was overjoyed upon his arrival, but apprehensive about what his reaction would be to her Baptism. She decided to break the news gradually. First she showed him their child, and only then mentioned that she had had him baptized. Immediately the husband became quiet, pensive. He looked again at the child, then knelt down beside the crib. He bowed his head, closed his eyes, and silently began to pray. His wife was puzzled. She knelt next to him and asked, “My love, what are you doing?” At first he continued to pray, then he opened his eyes and looked at his wife. “My love,” he answered, “if our son has been baptized, he has himself become a holy temple. For Christ the Lord, His Father the Creator of all, and the living Holy Spirit have made their home in his heart, so we can pray to God there.” (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

28) Total commitment: A pig and a chicken were out for a walk one day. The pig wasn’t too bright and tended to repeat everything that others said or suggested. The chicken remarked, “Those are very nice people down in that house down there.” “They are indeed” replied the pig, “they are very nice people.” “They are very good to us” continued the chicken. “They are indeed” replied the pig, “they are very good to us.” “Do you know what I was thinking? asked the chicken. “No” said the pig. “What were you thinking?” “I was thinking we should do something for them.” “That’s a very good idea”, replied the pig, “I think we should do something for them. What did you have in mind?” “I was thinking” said the chicken, “that we should give them something.” “A brilliant idea” said the pig, “I think we should give them something. What did you have in mind?” “I was thinking” said the chicken, “we should give them bacon and eggs.” The pig stopped in his tracks, and said “Definitely not! For you that’s only a slight inconvenience, but for me it’s total commitment!” –- Baptism is intended to lead us to a total commitment, and our acts of Christian charity should be seen as anything but slight inconveniences. (Jack McArdle in And That’s the Gospel Truth!) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

29) Your Baptism is your tattooCalifornia police and the courts have discovered the tattoos on teenagers are often more than a cosmetic decoration. A few years ago, a juvenile court judge in California observed that a large number of teenagers appearing before him had tattoos – tattoos on the hands, fingers, and faces. The tattoos, he learned, identified the bearer as a member of some particular gang and, frequently as a user of a particular drug. Many of these tattoos were self-inflicted by youth who were desperate to “belong.” The judge also discovered that teenagers with visible tattoos were virtually excommunicated from the job market, since potential employers equated the tattoos with crimes and incompetency and refused to hire the youth. The judge asked the Los Angeles County Medical Association if there might be among its members, a plastic surgeon who, at no charge, would remove the tattoos from juvenile delinquents. Dr. Karl Stein, a well-known Los Angeles Plastic surgeon, was the first to volunteer. Since 1981, Dr. Stein has turned around the lives of hundreds of his young patients through surgically removing the tattoos by excision, laser, and virtually every other known method. – Your Baptism is your tattoo, indelibly imprinted, identifying you as a disciple of Jesus. Would your neighbors see this in your daily life? (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

30) Risking life to save: The Eagle Has Landed is a book by Jack Higgins set during World War II. Hitler proposed the idea of capturing British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. Lieutenant Colonel Kurt Steiner was forced to accept the mission. Steiner and his men were relocated to an airfield on the north western coast of Holland, there they were to familiarize themselves with the British weapons and equipment. The team would be air dropped into Norfolk. The commandos outfitted themselves as Polish troops. Their plan was to infiltrate the village, Studley Constable, complete their mission, and make their escape. At first, the plan went off without a hitch. Then, one day one of Steiner’s men saw two local children fallen in a water wheel. His first instinct was to jump into the river to rescue them. But, he knew that his action would reveal who they were and would defeat their mission. Any attempt to rescue them was risking his life and the life of his fellow soldiers. The sight of the children being drawn to the water wheel could not hold him back. He jumped into the water and rescued them. During the rescue operation he was killed and his German uniform, worn under the Polish uniform, was seen by the local people. That revealed the identity of Steiner and his men. All of them were shot dead in the encounter that followed. — The German soldier risked his life in order to give life to two of the local children. The Baptism of Jesus was the public announcement that Jesus was going to risk his life to give life to the whole of humanity. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

31) Power Source: The Greatest is a film about Muhammad Ali’s career as heavyweight boxing champion. It shows both his natural gifts of agility and strength, and how he trained extensively with rigorous workouts and diets. But Muhammad Ali said one time that although all these things helped, the real secret of his power source was a set of inspirational tapes to which he listened. The tapes were recorded speeches of a Black Muslim leader, the honorable Elijah Muhammad. They dealt with self-knowledge, freedom, and potential. Muhammad Ali would listen to these tapes when he got up in the morning, when he ate his meals during the day, and when he retired at night. He claimed that these inspirational messages gave him the power to fight for his black people, not only for their glory in the ring, but also for their civil rights in the arena of life. — In today’s Gospel, we see revealed the secret of the power of another man, Jesus Christ. The baptism scene drawn for us is another epiphany episode following last week’s epiphany experienced by  the Magi. Three signs accompany our Lord’s baptismal experience to reveal Who Jesus  is. First, the Heavens were opened to symbolize a new Divine intervention in human history. Second, the Spirit descended on Jesus like a dove, signifying the presence and power of God. Third, a Voice was heard saying of  Jesus “This is My Beloved Son with Whom I am well pleased.” (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

32) “What’s your purpose in life? An executive hirer, a “Head-hunter” who goes out and hires corporation executives for other firms, once told me, “When I get an executive that I’m trying to hire for someone else, I like to disarm him. I offer him a drink, take my coat off, then my vest, undo my tie, throw up my feet and talk about baseball, football, family, whatever, until he’s all relaxed. Then, when I think I’ve got him relaxed, I lean over, look him square in the eye and say, ‘What’s your purpose in life?’ It’s amazing how top executives fall apart at that question. “Well, I was interviewing this fellow the other day, had him all disarmed, with my feet up on his desk, talking about football. Then I leaned up and said, ‘What’s your purpose in life, Bob?’ And he said, without blinking an eye, ‘To go to Heaven and take as many people with me as I can.’ For the first time in my career I was speechless!” The baptism of Jesus enabled him to realize his identity as the Son of God and mission of saving mankind from sin by  suffering, death and Resurrection. (Josh McDowell from ‘Building Your Self-image’’ quotedFr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

33) “What do you think I am doing now?” A wealthy businessman was horrified to see a fisherman sitting beside his boat, playing with a small child. “Why aren’t you out fishing?” asked the businessman. “Because I caught enough fish for one day, “replied the fisherman.  “Why don’t you catch some more?”  “What would I do with them?” “You could earn more money,” said the businessman. “Then with the extra money, you could buy a bigger boat, go into deeper waters, and catch more fish. Then you would make enough money to buy nylon nets. With the nets, you could catch even more fish and make more money. With that money you could own two boats, maybe three boats. Eventually you could have a whole fleet of boats and be rich like me.” “Then what would I do?” asked the fisherman. “Then,” said the businessman, “you could really enjoy life.” The fisherman looked at the businessman quizzically and asked, “What do you think I am doing now?” —  Receiving the baptism  into Jesus means dying to our self-centered endeavors and being raised into a life marked by grace and love. When we live out our Baptism in Jesus, we touch the hearts of others and help open them to the Holy Spirit and new life in Christ. Are you living and growing in the new life you have been given? (Paul Peterson, The Waters of Death). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

34) God shows no partiality: Some of the early Spanish conquistadores came to Latin America not to help the American Indians, but to help themselves. The kings of Spain seriously desired to add the Americas not only to their own kingdoms but to the kingdom of God. But the conquistadores, greedy for gold, enslaved the Indians, claiming that, anyhow, they were mere animals, quite incapable of understanding and embracing the Christian faith. Pope Paul III heard about this wildly selfish attitude and realized that it presented a major obstacle to Christ’s command, “Teach all nations.” So on June 2, 1537 he published an official declaration to the contrary, addressed to all faithful Christians. It is Satan and his satellites, the Pope said, who are encouraging the view that American natives are “dumb brutes created for our service … incapable of receiving the Catholic Faith.” As chief shepherd of the Church, despite his own unworthiness, he said he was duty-bound to state “that the Indians are truly men, and that they are not only capable of understanding the Catholic Faith, but according to our information they desire exceedingly to receive it.” He therefore commanded that no American Indian be henceforth deprived of property or liberty. This bull of Paul III, known as Sublimis Deus, was a pioneer papal denunciation of racism. The future experience of missionaries to the American Indians was to prove Paul III correct. If even today many red men have refused Christianity, many others have shown themselves receptive to it, and capable of real holiness. The outstanding example, of course, is the Iroquois maiden, Kateri Tekakwitha. (Kateri Tekakwitha was canonized on October 21, 2012.) Born in central New York State in 1656, converted in 1676, she died near Montreal in 1680 with a reputation of true sanctity among Indians and Whites as well. When John Paul II declared her “Blessed” in 1980, he was confirming not only the words of Paul III but also those of St. Peter in today’s second reading: “I begin to see how true it is that God shows no partiality.” (Acts 10:34). -Father Robert F. McNamara. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 L/22

Scriptural Homilies Cycle C (No. 10) by Fr. Tony: 

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies or under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for the website versions.  (Vatican Radio website completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

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December 27- Jan 1 weekday homilies

`NEW YEAR’S GREETINGS & GOD’S BLESSINGS

 

Thank you for being God’s instrument of blessing in my life by your valuable prayers and encouraging support for my Internet & Email Gospel ministry in the past years. I assure you of my special prayers every day in the New Year 2022 during my Holy Masses. May the Holy Spirit of God continue to empower you and guide you in your ministry and strengthen you in your weakness.

May God bless you every day of the New Year! Prayerful New year Greetings.

Dec 27-Jan 1: Kindly click onhttps://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes: Click on the link given after the name of the saint ,for a short biography.

Dec 27 Monday (St. John, Apostle, Evangelist): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-the-evangelistJn 20:2-8: 2 So she ran, and went to Simon Peter and the other disciple, the one whom Jesus loved, and said to them, “They have taken the Lord out of the tomb, and we do not know where they have laid him.” 3 Peter then came out with the other disciple, and they went toward the tomb. 4 They both ran, but the other disciple outran Peter and reached the tomb first; 5 and stooping to look in, he saw the linen cloths lying there, but he did not go in. 6 Then Simon Peter came, following him, and went into the tomb; he saw the linen cloths lying, 7 and the napkin, which had been on his head, not lying with the linen cloths but rolled up in a place by itself. 8 Then the other disciple, who reached the tomb first, also went in, and he saw and believed. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist: John was the son of Zebedee the fisherman and Salome, a close relative of Mary. John and his brother, James the Greater, were fishermen, partners of Peter and Andrew; they were disciples of John the Baptist before they were called by Jesus as Apostles. John’s name is mentioned always after his brother’s name in Matthew, Mark, and the Acts of the Apostles. John was the Apostle who saw his only value as being “the one whom Jesus loved.” With James and Peter, Jesus’ inner circle of friends, he witnessed Jesus’ raising of the daughter of Jairus from the dead, Jesus’ Transfiguration on the mountain and Jesus’ agony in the garden of Gethsemane. After fleeing with the others from Gethsemane, John returned. He remained faithful to Jesus at the palace of the High Priest during Jesus’ trial by the Sanhedrin, and he had the courage to be at the foot of the cross, supporting and consoling Mary. Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to John, and, after the Resurrection, John was the one who first recognized the risen Jesus on the shore of the Sea of Galilee.

Missionary activities: With Peter, John played a prominent role in founding and guiding the Church. John was with Peter when the latter healed the lame man (Acts 3:1), was in prison with him (Acts 4:3), and was with him when Peter visited the new Christians in Samaria (Acts 8:14). John left for Asia Minor and Ephesus when King Herod Agrippa I started persecuting Christians. He returned to Jerusalem in AD 51 to attend the Jerusalem Council. According to tradition, when the attempt of Emperor Domitian to execute John by putting him in boiling oil failed, John was exiled to Patmos Island. As an Evangelist, John wrote five books of the New Testament: The Gospel according to John, three epistles and the Book of Revelation. He preached always about God’s love in his old age. Returning to Ephesus, John lived there, dying when he was one hundred years old. John reminds us of the greatest commandment of love given by Jesus: “Love one another as I have loved you.” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 28 Tuesday (The Holy Innocents, Martyrs): Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs: https://www.franciscanmedia.org/holy-innocents/Mt 2:13-18:13 Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, and flee to Egypt, and remain there till I tell you; for Herod is about to search for the child, to destroy him.” 14 And he rose and took the child and his mother by night, and departed to Egypt, 15 and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” 16 Then Herod, when he saw that he had been tricked by the wise men, was in a furious rage, and he sent and killed all the male children in Bethlehem and in all that region who were two years old or under, according to the time which he had ascertained from the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled what was spoken by the prophet Jeremiah: 18 “A voice was heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

This Mass commemorates the deaths of all of those innocents killed by the order of Herod the Great in his fruitless pursuit of the “newborn king of the Jews,” and now includes the deaths of the untold numbers of innocent babies slaughtered by abortion.

The context:Herod the Great had been made the king of Judea by the Roman Empire although he was not even a Jew: his father was an Idumean, his mother an Arab. This cruel king was kept in power mainly by the Roman army. He brutally executed all suspected rivals to his throne including his wife, brother, and two brothers-in-law. No wonder he was terrified at the news that a rival king, a descendant of King David, had been born somewhere in Bethlehem, for this child could someday claim to be the legitimate king of Israel and Judea! Herod’s anger intensified when he realized that the Magi had not returned to his royal palace to report the whereabouts of the Child Jesus. Matthew says that the slaughter of the Innocents was in fulfillment of a prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah: “A voice is heard in Ramah, lamenting and weeping bitterly; it is Rachel weeping for her children, refusing to be comforted for her children, because they are no more.” Ramah is a hill near Bethlehem and the burial place of Rachel, the wife of the patriarch Jacob. The Jews believed that she wept bitterly in her tomb when the Jews were taken as slaves by the Assyrians and later when Herod massacred the babies. The most likely scenario is that Jesus was born around 4 BC; the wise men (by their own account) arrived in Jerusalem two years later in 2 B.C., and in that same year Joseph, Mary, and Jesus fled to Egypt. When Herod died, they returned. So, the length of their sojourn in Egypt was probably about a few months.

Life message: We need to raise our voice against the 21st century massacre of the Innocents: As in other advanced countries, the cruel massacre of the innocents continues in North America by state-permitted abortion. While Herod killed at the most a hundred children, nearly four thousand unborn babies are slaughtered in the United States every day. They are killed because, like the infants of Bethlehem, they are inconvenient. Children are sacrificed also for the most powerful king of the twenty-first century, Science. Babies are killed in their embryo stage to harvest their “stem cells” for medical experiments intended to heal the illnesses of their parents and grandparents. Along with prayer, let us do everything in our power to stop this brutal murder of the helpless babies. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 29 Wednesday(St. Thomas Becket, Bishop, Martyr): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-thomas-becket

Lk 2:22-35: The context: Today’s Gospel presents the head of the Holy Family, Joseph, faithfully obeying God’s law given through Moses concerning the purification of the mother and the redeeming of the child by presenting Mary and the Baby Jesus in the Temple. The events recounted are those we traditionally celebrate on February 2nd with the Feast of Presentation of Jesus. We celebrate them today in order to group all the events of Christ’s infancy within the Octave of Christmas. Today (and on February 2nd), we celebrate a combined feast, commemorating the Jewish practice of the purification of the mother after childbirth and the presentation of the child in the Temple. It is known as the Hypanthe feast or Feast of the Purification of Mary (by the offering two pigeons in the Temple), the Feast of the Presentation of the Lord (by prayers and a sacrifice offered in the Temple to redeem or buy back the firstborn male child from the Lord), and the Feast of Encounter (because the New Testament, represented by the Baby Jesus, encountered the Old Testament, represented by Simeon and Anna). On February 2nd we celebrate these events as a formal ending of the Christmas season. On that day we also celebrate the Feast of Candlemas (because candles are blessed then for liturgical and personal use).

Purification and redemption ceremonies: The Mosaic Law taught that, since every Jewish male child belonged to Yahweh, the parents had to “buy back” the child (“redeem” him), by offering lambs or turtledoves as a sacrifice in the Temple. In addition (Nm 18:15), every mother had to be purified after childbirth by prayers and an offering made to God in the Temple. Joseph kept these laws as an act of obedience to God.

The encounter with Simeon and Anna: By the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, the old, pious and Spirit-filled Simeon and Anna had been waiting in the Temple for the revelation of God’s salvation. Simeon recognized Jesus as the Lord’s Anointed One, and in his prayer of blessing, he prophesied that Jesus was meant to be the glory of Israel and a light of revelation to the Gentiles. While he blessed Mary, he warned that her child would be “a sign of contradiction” and that she would be “pierced with a sword.” Simeon was prophesying both the universal salvation that would be proclaimed by Jesus and the necessity of suffering in the mission of the Messiah.

Life message:1)Every Holy Mass in which we participate is our presentation. Although we were officially presented to God on the day of our Baptism, we present ourselves and our dear ones on the altar before God our Father through our Savior Jesus Christ at every Holy Mass. Hence, we need to live our daily lives with the awareness both that we are dedicated people consecrated to God and that we are obliged to lead holy lives. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Dec 30 Thursday: Luke 2:36-40, There was also a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context:Today’s Gospel presents Anna the prophetess who greeted the Baby Jesus as the Redeemer when Joseph presented Mary and the Infant in the Temple for the purification of the mother and for the “redemption” of the Baby Jesus.

Anna and her testimony: Anna was an eighty-four-year-old widow who spent her days in the Temple in fasting and prayer, waiting for the promised Messiah. She was rewarded with the joy of seeing her Redeemer as a Baby. In her excitement she praised God and introduced the Infant to others around her as the expected Messiah.

The Child Jesus’ growth in wisdom and the favor of God: Commenting on the last sentence of today’s Gospel St. Bede says: “Our Lord Jesus Christ, as a Child clothed in the fragility of human nature, had to grow and become stronger. But, as the eternal Word of God, He had no need to become stronger or to grow. Hence, He is rightly described as full of wisdom and grace.”

Life messages: 1)The Holy Spirit uses ordinary men and women with simple Faith as His instruments to bear witness to Christ, His ideals and teachings. 2) We need praying Annas in all our parishes to offer prayers for all the members of our parish families. Let us cooperate with the Spirit in everything. 3) Anna’s prophetic life tells us that we each must live our lives in constant preparation for meeting our Divine Lord in the Temple of Heaven, remaining alert, as Anna did, to recognize, love, and serve Jesus hidden in the people we encounter. 4) Like Anna, we must all foster an interior life of ongoing prayer and penance, and we must direct all our actions in life to the praise and glory of God and the salvation of our souls. Anna’s life is a symbolic prophecy of every vocation. (Catholic Daily reflections). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 31 Friday (St. Sylvester I, Pope): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-sylvester-i John 1: 1-18 God; 3 all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 4 In him was life, and the life was the light of men. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. 6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came for testimony, to bear witness to the light, that all might believe through him. 8 He was not the light, but came to bear witness to the light. 9 The true light that enlightens every man was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world knew him not. 11 He came to his own home, and his own people received him not. 12 But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God; 13 who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father. 15 (John bore witness to him, and cried, “This was he of whom I said, `He who comes after me ranks before me, for he was before me.'”) 16 And from his fullness have we all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he has made him known.Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context and the content: Bible scholars generally agree that the Prologue (1:1-18) of John’s Gospel is a hymn, the overall purpose of which is to highlight the historical and theological significance of Jesus’ origins as “Word,” “true Light,” and the “Only-begotten Son,” thus tracing Jesus’ genealogy to God Himself. The Navarre Bible commentary summarizes the main teachings in the prologue thus: 1) the Divinity and Eternity of the Word; 2) the Incarnation of the Word and His manifestation as man; 3) the part played by the Word in creation and in the salvation of mankind; 4) the different ways in which people react to the coming of the Lord — some accepting the Word made Flesh with Faith, others rejecting Jesus; 5) finally, John the Baptist as witness-bearer to the presence of the Word in the world.

The significance of the text: (Verses 6-9) introduce John the Baptist in a manner that clearly distinguishes him from Jesus – “John himself was not the Light, but he came to testify to the Light. The true Light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world…” Some scholars maintain that the author of the Gospel may be making such a forceful differentiation in order to counter a sect claiming that John the Baptist was the Light and the Messiah, and not simply the one testifying to the Light. In all he did and said, the Baptist always bore witness to Jesus and Jesus’ messianic identity: “John testified to Him and cried out, saying, ‘The One Who is coming after me ranks ahead of me because He existed before me'”(Jn 1:15). Jn 1:19-28 is an Advent and Christmas text that calls us to remember the origins and purposes of Jesus and His coming with the kind of devotion that challenges us to be witnesses for Jesus. John the Baptist demonstrates what it means to bear witness to the true Light coming into the world.

Life messages: 1) We need to bear witness to Christ the Light: By Baptism we become members of the family of Christ, the true Light of the world. Jesus said: “You are the light of the world.” Hence, our mission as brothers and sisters of Christ and members of His Mystical Body, the Church, is to reflect Christ’s Light to others, just as the moon reflects the light of the sun. 2) It is especially important during the Christmas season that we reflect on Christ’s unconditional love and forgiveness. Very many people live in spiritual darkness and poverty and lack real freedom. There are others who are deafened and blinded by the cheap attractions of the world. Still others feel lonely, unwanted, rejected, useless, and marginalized. All these people are waiting for us to reflect the light of Christ and to turn their lives into experiences of joy, wholeness and integrity. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Jan 1 Saturday(Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God & New Year’s message- 2022:

Lk 2: 16-21: (https://blog.franciscanmedia.org/franciscan-spirit/the-solemnity-of-mary-mother-of-god). Introduction: Since we celebrate the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on New Year’s Day, may I take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Peaceful New Year? I pray that the Lord Jesus and His Mother Mary may enrich your lives during the New Year with an abundance of Divine blessings. Today’s Feast of Mary, the Mother of God, is a very appropriate way to begin a new year, reminding us to rely on the powerful intercession of our Heavenly Mother. The Church has, since 1968, also observed a yearlyWorld Day of Peace; this year, 2022, marks the 54th celebration. On this day, the Church invites us to pray specially for lasting peace in the world throughout the New Year. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Scripture lessons summarized: Today’s first reading gives us the beautiful Divine blessing from the book of Numbers for the New Year, and the Responsorial Psalm (Ps 67) begs for that blessing. In the second reading, Paul reminds the Galatians and us that God’s Son has become one of us through Mary, and that it is through Jesus that we have become the children of God. Today’s Gospel describes how the shepherds spread to all their neighbors the Good News surrounding the birth of Jesus which the angel had revealed to them, and how Mary treasured “all these things” in her heart. The Gospel also tells us that on this day, the eighth day after His Birth, the Child was circumcised and received the name Jesus that had been chosen by God Himself.

Traditional belief and Church doctrine: We honor Mary primarily because God honored her by choosing her to become the mother of Jesus, the Incarnate Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Who remained God, when He took on human flesh and became Man, as stated in the Bible. The angel said to Mary: “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His Name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High…” (Lk 1:31-32a; RSV 2 Catholic). After the angel had appeared to her and told her that she was to be the mother of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary visited Elizabeth. At Mary’s greeting, Elizabeth said, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb! And why is this granted me, that the Mother of my Lord should come to me? (Lk 1:42-43; RSV 2 Catholic). Hence, the Council of Ephesus affirmed in AD 431 that Mary was truly the Mother of God (Theotokos), and in AD 451, the Council of Chalcedon affirmed the Divine Motherhood of Mary as a dogma, an official doctrine of the Holy Catholic Church.

Life messages: 1) Let us strive to be pure and holy like our Heavenly Mother. All mothers want their children to inherit or acquire their good qualities. Hence, let us honor Mary, our Heavenly Mother, by practicing her virtues of trusting Faith, obedience to the word of God, purity, and humble, selfless, committed service. 2) Let us make the New Year meaningful by having every day a) some noble thing to dream, b) something good to do, and c) Someone to love, the first person being Jesus. 3) Let us sanctify every day of the New Year: a) by offering every morning, all the activities of the day to God for His glory, thus transforming them into prayers, b) by asking for the anointing and strengthening of the Holy Spirit to do good to others and to avoid evil, c) by remaining faithful to our family prayers and Bible reading at night, d) by asking God’s pardon and forgiveness for our sins committed during the day, and e) by seeking God’s special protection during sleep. Before we sleep, let us say, “Good night, Lord,” repeating Jesus’ last words from the cross, “Father, into Your hands I commend my spirit.” (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 

Dec 27- Jan 1 (L-21-22).docx

Jan 3-8 weekday homilies

Jan 3-8: Kindly click onhttps://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday and weekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes: Click on the link given after the name of the saint ,for a short biography: Jan 3 Monday (The Most Holy Name of Jesus): https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/most-holy-name-of-jesusMt 4: 12-17, 23-25:Jan 3: Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus: Importance: The Holy Name of Jesus is Yeshua, in Aramaic. It was not chosen by Mary and Joseph but given by the angel Gabriel from God: And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus (Lk 1:31).  It reveals Jesus’ mission. He was sent from heaven to save and redeem mankind. That is why John the Baptist introduced Jesus as “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” The Holy Name of Jesus is so great that it is repeated 977 times in the New Testament. St. Paul writes: “Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Phil 2: 9-11).

Objectives: Today’s feast calls us to a renewed respect and reverence for, and a deeper devotion to the Holy Name of Jesus to challenge and make reparation for all the blasphemous curses and abuses the name of Jesus suffers in our world.  This devotion also helps us to appreciate all that Jesus means in our life and to develop a personal relationship with him.  That is why there is both a Litany to Jesus Christ and a Litany to the Holy Name of Jesus in the Book of Blessings. Prayers in the name of Jesus “animate and transfigure every action in Christ Jesus.” (C.C.C. # 2668). In addition, “whoever invokes the name of Jesus is welcoming the Son of God who loved him and who gave himself up for him.” (C.C.C. 2666). Further, “the sweet Name of Jesus produces in us holy thoughts, fills the soul with noble sentiments, strengthens virtue, begets good works, and nourishes pure affections.” (St. Bernard (A.D. 1090-1153). The holy name of Jesus permeates the whole Christian life. The believer begins his journey through faith in Jesus by receiving the Sacrament of Baptism in Jesus’ name. He dies with Jesus, is buried with Jesus and is raised as a new creation with Jesus. Believers live their faith in Jesus by manifesting love towards their brothers and sisters in Christ.

History: The Feast of the Most Holy Name of Jesus is associated with the Feast of the Circumcision. In accord with first century Jewish culture a male child became a full member of his family when he was circumcised, at which time he received his name. The Holy See officially granted the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus to the Franciscans on February 25, 1530. The Franciscans, the Carmelites, and the Augustinians kept this Feast on January 14th and the Dominicans on January 15. The New Revised edition of the Sacramentary restored the feast to January 3rd, between the Feast of Mary, the Mother of God on January 1st and the feast of the Baptism of Jesus.

Life messages: 1) Let us begin our day’s works offering them to Jesus for the glory of God and the salvation of souls and conclude the day’s works in the name of Jesus, asking his pardon and forgiveness for our sins of the day. 2) Let us always   use the name of Jesus reverently and use it as a source of power in our temptations. (Fr. Tony) 2022

Regular reading: Mt 4: 12-17, 23-25: 12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee; 13 and leaving Nazareth he went and dwelt in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulon and Naphtali, 14 that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulon and the land of Naphtali, toward the sea, across the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles — 16 the people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and for those who sat in the region and shadow of death light has dawned.” 17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” He went around all of Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, 11 proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and curing every disease and illness among the people. 24 12 His fame spread to all of Syria, and they brought to him all who were sick with various diseases and racked with pain, those who were possessed, lunatics, and paralytics, and he cured them. 25 And great crowds from Galilee, the Decapolis, 13 Jerusalem, and Judea, and from beyond the Jordan followed him. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the beginning of Jesus’ mission of preaching and healing in Galilee, an ideal spot because it was the most fertile land in Palestine and well-populated with 204 villages around the Sea of Galilee housing Jews and Gentiles. The Jews there largely belonged to the tribes of Asher, Naphtali, and Zebulon. The people were open to new ideas because they had been exposed to various religious beliefs and the culture of traders from all over the known world.

Preaching the Good News: Jesus started preaching the Good News about God the Father and about God’s Kingdom. Since it was God the King’s message, it carried God’s authority and certainty; it was “Good News” because Jesus introduced the hearers to God His Father as a loving, merciful, providing, and forgiving Father Who wanted to save everyone from the bondage of sin. The message also gave the listeners the “Good News” of the Kingdom of God or the rule of God in human lives. Continuation John’s message, Jesus, too, invited the hearers to repentance and the renewal of their lives so that God might start ruling their lives. Matthew identified Jesus’ preaching and healing ministry in Galilee as the fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah — Light to people living in darkness.

Life messages: 1) As Christians we have been given Jesus’ mission to continue. 2) Hence, our exemplary, transparent lives must be and so carry our message radiating the light of Christ’s love, mercy, forgiveness, and spirit of humble and committed service. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 4 Tuesday (St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, USA , Religious) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-elizabeth-ann-seton : Mk 6: 34-44: 34 As he went ashore he saw a great throng, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. 35 And when it grew late, his disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the hour is now late; 36 send them away, to go into the country and villages round about and buy themselves something to eat.” 37 But he answered them, “You give them something to eat.” And they said to him, “Shall we go and buy two hundred denarii worth of bread, and give it to them to eat?” 38 And he said to them, “How many loaves have you? Go and see.” And when they had found out, they said, “Five, and two fish.” 39 Then he commanded them all to sit down by companies upon the green grass. 40 So they sat down in groups, by hundreds and by fifties. 41 And taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples to set before the people; and he divided the two fish among them all. 42 And they all ate and were satisfied. 43 And they took up twelve baskets full of broken pieces and of the fish. 44 And those who ate the loaves were five thousand men. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ miraculous feeding of a great multitude. The story is told in all four Gospels and serves as Jesus’ way of introducing to those present a merciful and providing God. Through God’s power, Elijah gave the widow, each day, just enough to meet her needs (1 Kgs 17:13-16). Jesus, on the other hand, gives generously and abundantly. This miraculous feeding was meant to remind people of God’s provision of manna in the wilderness and to prefigure the true Heavenly Bread, which Jesus would offer His followers, for Jesus performed this miracle just before promising the Sacrament of the Eucharist for our spiritual feeding.

While teaching, Jesus took pity on the growing physical hunger of those listening, and challenged the apostles to feed them. But they had with them only five loaves of bread and two dried fish. Jesus took these, said a prayer of blessing, broke them, and asked the apostles to distribute them till the hungry people were fully satisfied. Since it was mid-April, springtime in Israel, the people could sit comfortably on green grass in their groups of hundreds and fifties. After serving a generous meal which satisfied all, the Apostles collected twelve wicker baskets of leftover bread and fish pieces, a vivid proof and reminder of God’s generosity in giving and a warning to all of us not to waste God’s blessings.

Life messages: 1) We may not be able to feed the hungry millions in the world, but today’s Gospel challenges us to do our humble share in alleviating hunger and poverty in our neighborhood. God will amplify our little contributions and reward our good will and generosity. 2) We need to be thankful to God for miraculously giving us our daily spiritual bread in the Holy Eucharist Fr. Tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 5 Wednesday (St. John Neumann, U. S. A., Bishop) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-john-neumann: Mk 6: 45-52: 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” 51 And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: The event presented by today’s Gospel is the scene immediately following Jesus’ miraculous feeding of the five thousand with five loaves of bread and two fish. Sensing the danger of being seized by the people and “made King” to lead a revolt against the Romans, Jesus promptly instructed the apostles to leave the place by boat, then dismissed the crowd and went to the mountain to pray in solitude.

A double miracle in the sea: When the apostles in the boat were several furlongs away from the shore, they faced an unexpected storm on the sea, caused by the rush of hot wind from the desert blowing through the gaps of the Golan Heights onto the Sea of Galilee. Recognizing His Apostles’ danger, Jesus went toward their boat, walking on the stormy sea. Jesus calmed the frightened disciples and approached the boat. As soon as Jesus got into the boat, the storm ceased miraculously, to the great astonishment of the apostles.

Life messages: 1) Let us approach Jesus with strong Faith in His ability and availability to calm the storms in our lives and in the life of the Church. Church history shows us how Jesus saved the Church from the storms of persecution in the first three centuries, from the storms of heresies in the fifth and sixth centuries, from the storms of moral degradation and the Protestant reformation movement in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, and from the storms of clergy sex-abuse scandals in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

2) Let us ask Jesus to protect us when we face storms of strong temptations, storms of doubts about our religious beliefs, and storms of fear, anxiety, and worries in our personal lives. Experiencing Jesus’ presence in our lives, let us confess our Faith and call out for Jesus’ help and protection Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 6 Thursday (St. Andre Bessette, Religious, U. S. A.) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-andre-bessette :Lk 4: 14-22: Jesus in the synagogue at Nazareth 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit into Galilee, and a report concerning him went out through all the surrounding country. 15 And he taught in their synagogues, being glorified by all. 16 And he came to Nazareth, where he had been brought up; and he went to the synagogue, as his custom was, on the Sabbath day. And he stood up to read; 17 and there was given to him the book of the prophet Isaiah. He opened the book and found the place where it was written, 18 “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, 19 to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” 20 And he closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed on him. 21 And he began to say to them, “Today this scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.” 22 And all spoke well of him, and wondered at the gracious words which proceeded out of his mouth; and they said, “Is not this Joseph’s son?” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Scripture explained: Today’s Gospel describes how Jesus participated in the Sabbath prayer of the synagogue in Nazareth (Jesus’ hometown) with a band of disciples. The Synagogue Sabbath service always began with the “Shema’’ prayer followed by the recital of the “Eighteen Blessings,” praising and thanking God. Then four passages from the “Torah” the book of Law were read and explained by a priest, followed by a selection from the Prophets, which was read and interpreted by an invited scholar, guest, or volunteer. Finally, the prayer was concluded with a priest or the synagogue president blessing the assembly, using the blessing from the Book of Numbers (6:22 ff). Popular as a miracle working preacher in Capernaum, Jesus was asked to read from the Book of the Prophets and to interpret the Scripture. Jesus, handed the Scroll of the prophet Isaiah, opened it and read the prophecy on the mission of the expected Messiah. Surprising everyone, Jesus declared, “Today, this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing,” meaning that Jesus was the One sent “to bring glad tidings to the poor, liberation to captives, recovery of sight to the blind and freedom for the oppressed”—language that reflects the Biblical year of Jubilee. The townsfolk were greatly amazed, and many were unable to accept that the prophet Isaiah was foretelling and describing Jesus’ Messianic mission and ministry. As Messiah of the Lord God, Jesus’ mission was to give liberation to everyone who would listen to God’s “Good News,” accept it and put it into practice. Luke reports that the initial reaction of the people was surprise at the power and eloquence of this son of their soil; the next response of a large group was to try, unsuccessfully, to throw Jesus over the cliff on which the city was built.

Life messages: 1) We need to receive Christ’s freedom, live it and pass it on to others: As members of Christ’s Mystical Body, we share in the freeing, saving mission of Jesus. But we are captives of sin. We need Christ to set us free. We are often blinded by our evil habits, addictions and need for financial security. Once we receive true liberation from Christ, we are meant to share it with those we encounter in our daily lives, families, neighborhoods, parishes and workplaces. 2) We need to let the power of the Holy Spirit fill us, and stay ready to have miracles done through us. Today’s Gospel tells us that Jesus performed miracles because He was filled with the power of the Holy Spirit. Let us be ready to become Spirit-filled instruments of Christ’s saving freedom. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 7 Friday (St. Raymond, Penyafort, Priest) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-raymond-of-penafort : Lk 5: 12-16: 12 While he was in one of the cities, there came a man full of leprosy; and when he saw Jesus, he fell on his face and besought him, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” 13 And he stretched out his hand, and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately the leprosy left him. 14 And he charged him to tell no one; but “go and show yourself to the priest, and make an offering for your cleansing, as Moses commanded, for a proof to the people.” 15 But so much the more the report went abroad concerning him; and great multitudes gathered to hear and to be healed of their infirmities. 16 But he withdrew to the wilderness and prayed. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel shows us Jesus touching a man sick with a severe case of leprosy and healing him instantly. Biblical “leprosy” rarely indicated Hansen’s disease (leprosy proper); mostly, the term referred to skin diseases like ringworm, psoriasis, leukoderma, vitiligo, and some types of skin cancer.The suffering of lepers in Biblical times was chiefly due to the way they were treated by the religious society of the day (Interpreter’s Bible); lepers were treated as sinners deserving no mercy, because they were seen as being punished by God with their contagious disease. The leprosy given by God as a punishment to Moses’ complaining sister Miriam (Nm 12:10-15), to Gehazi, the greedy servant of the prophet Elisha (2 Kgs 5:20 ff), and to the proud the King Uzziah (2 Kgs 15:5; 2 Chr 26:16-21), supported the Jewish belief that leprosy was God’s punishment for sins. Lepers, like sinners, were deemed unclean, unfit to be counted among a people who considered themselves “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Ex 19:6). “Leprosy” was also a terrible disease becauseits victims were separated from their families and society. Mosaic restrictions on lepers: The Mosaic Law, as given in Leviticus, demanded that, first, the priest declare the leper unclean, and then that the leper should a) keep his garments rent and his head bare, b) muffle his beard, c) cry out, “Unclean, unclean,” and d) dwell apart, making his abode outside the camp. As a rule, when a Jewish leper was healed, he had to go to the local priest for confirmation that he was now clean and was permitted to mix with the general public.

Life Messages: 1) The strong Faith of the sick man prompted him to violate the Mosaic Law prohibiting him from joining a crowd and approaching Jesus. The sympathy and mercy of Jesus prompted Jesus to violate the Mosaic Law which forbade anyone to touch an untouchable leper. Thus, Jesus teaches the lesson that the essence of Christianity is to touch the untouchable, to love the unlovable, and to forgive the unforgivable. 2) By sending the cured man to the priests to get their certification of his freedom from disease, Jesus teaches us that we should pray for healing and, at the same time, go to the doctors who share God’s wisdom in healing. Healing normally happens when man’s skill combines with God’s grace. Fr. tony(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Jan 8 Saturday:Jn 3:22-30: 22 After this Jesus and his disciples went into the land of Judea; there he remained with them and baptized. 23 John also was baptizing at Aenon near Salim, because there was much water there; and people came and were baptized. 24 For John had not yet been put in prison. 25 Now a discussion arose between John’s disciples and a Jew over purifying. 26 And they came to John, and said to him, “Rabbi, he who was with you beyond the Jordan, to whom you bore witness, here he is, baptizing, and all are going to him.” 27 John answered, “No one can receive anything except what is given him from heaven. 28 You yourselves bear me witness that I said, I am not the Christ, but I have been sent before him. 29 He who has the bride is the bridegroom; the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly at the bridegroom’s voice; therefore, this joy of mine is now full. 30 He must increase, but I must decrease.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel passage shows the loveliness of John the Baptist’s humility. John was responding to his disciples who complained that many among them were deserting John to join the new preacher, Jesus, whom John had baptized.

John’s explanation: John told them plainly who he really was and what his mission was. He told them that he was only a forerunner of the Messiah and that his mission was to prepare a people for the Messiah by preaching repentance. He was challenging his hearers to receive the baptism of repentance as their first step in renewing their lives, so they could welcome Jesus the Messiah into their lives. John explained further that his role was to be the “friend of the Bridegroom” (shoshben); the Bridegroom was Jesus. As the shoshben arranges the meeting of the bride and groom, arranges the details of the wedding, presides over the wedding, guards the bridal chamber and leaves happily, John prepared the Bride, namely, the Jewish nation, for receiving her Bridegroom, Jesus the Messiah, by baptizing the people who were willing to repent and then baptizing Jesus and introducing Jesus to the people as the “Lamb of God.”

Life messages: 1) Our mission, as St. Francis de Sales puts it, is to “bloom where we are planted.” God has given a unique mission to each one of us, and we are expected to accomplish that unique mission by receiving God’s strength through the various means Jesus has instituted in his Church. “No one can receive anything except what has been given from Heaven.” 2)True humility and trusting Faith in God are necessary for us to accomplish our life’s mission by using God’s freely given gifts. Fr. Tony; (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Jan 3-8 (L-22).docx

Epiphany of the Lord

Epiphany of the Lord (Jan 2, 2022) (Eight-minute homily in one page)

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), means appearance or manifestation. First, the angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds. In the Western Church, the Feast of the Epiphany celebrates Jesus’ first manifestation to the Gentiles, represented by the Magi, while in the Eastern Church, the Feast commemorates the baptism of Christ, at which the Father and the Holy Spirit gave combined testimony to Jesus’ identity as Son of God. Later, in the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself in words as the promised Messiah, and at Cana Jesus revealed His Divinity by transforming water into wine. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture lessons summarized:Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts and offer their lives to Him. The adoration of the Magi fulfills the oracle of Isaiah (first reading), prophesying that the nations of the world would travel to the Holy City following a brilliant light, bringing gold and incense to contribute to the worship of God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) verses 10-11 picture kings from foreign lands bringing gifts to pay homage to a just king in Israel. Paul’s letter to the Church of Ephesus (today’s second reading), expresses God’s secret plan in clear terms: “the Gentiles are…co-heirs … co-partners in the promise, in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Today’s Gospel reminds us that if God brought the Magi – foreigners and pagans – to recognize and give Jesus proper respect as the King of Jews, we should know that there is nothing in our sinful lives that would keep God from bringing us to Jesus. There were three groups of people who reacted to the Epiphany of Christ’s birth. The first group, headed by King Herod, tried to eliminate Jesus, the second group, priests and scribes, ignored Jesus, and the third group, represented by the shepherds and the Magi, came to adore Jesus.

Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group: a) by actively worshiping Jesus at Mass with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration; b) by giving a new direction to our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud, unjust and impure thoughts, words, and actions, evil habits, and selfish behavior; c) by becoming stars leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Jesus. Let us remove the darkness of the evil around us by radiating the light of Jesus’ love through selfless service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate care. (2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany and every day: (a) the Gift of our life by offering it on the altar during the Holy Mass and every morning as soon as we get up, asking for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit to do good and avoid evil during the course of the day. b) the Gift of responsive relationship with God by talking to Him in personal and family prayers and listening to Him through reading the Holy Bible every day. c) the Gift of friendship with God by recognizing Jesus’ presence in, and offering loving, humble service to, everyone we encounter, and by getting reconciled to God every night asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures during the day.

Feast of Epiphany (Jan 2/22): Is 60:1-6; Eph 3:2-3a, 5-6; Mt. 2:1-12

Homily starter anecdotes# 1:Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” A survey was made among school children asking the question why they enjoyed reading Harry Potter novels and watching Harry Potter movies. The most common answer was, “Because you never know what’s going to happen next!” The same element of suspense and discovery marked the journey of the Magi, who never knew what road the Spirit was going to take them down next. Half a billion people all around the world watched with suspense and were thrilled when men, three astronauts in Apollo 8, landed for the first time on the moon (July 20th, 1969). When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept tracking the first non-stop global flight without refueling. The same elements of suspense and discovery were there when Marco Polo journeyed to India and China, when Christopher Columbus travelled to America, and when Admiral Byrd went to the South Pole. Such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and curiosity. — The magi-astrologers described in today’s Gospel had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country presided over by a mad king like Herod, in search of a Divine Child. But their great Faith, curiosity, and adventurous spirit enabled them to discover the secret of the whole universe – the secret of God’s incredible love for His people – because the Child they found was no ordinary child, but the very Son of God become man. Today’s readings invite us to have the curiosity of the school students and the Faith and adventurous spirit of the magi so that we may experience the “epiphany” of our God in everyone and every event, everywhere. (adapted from Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

# 2: A woman among the Magi? Renowned Gospel of Matthew professor, Dominican friar and priest, Rev. Benedict Thomas Viviano has a new Biblical theory that may change nativity scenes across the globe: there was one Wise Woman (or more) among the Wise Men. (https://www.stlbeacon.org/#!/content/17405/viviano_writes_about_a_woman_magi). Viviano’s original theory was published in 2011 in Studies of Matthew by Leuven University Press. It’s “perfectly plausible,” he argues, that Matthew would have understood the magi as some sort of Eastern sages. “On the other hand,” Viviano suggests, “the masculine plural magoi does not close the question of gender. … The main reason to think of the presence of one or more women among the magi is the background story of the queen of Sheba, with her quest for Israelite royal wisdom, her reverent awe, and her three gifts fit for a king.” Viviano’s second reason to suspect the presence of the feminine, he says, is the Israelite tradition of personifying wisdom as a woman (Proverbs 8:22-30; 9:1-6; Sirach, 24). Viviano’s third argument for his female-among-the-magi cause is that Matthew’s Gospel later characterizes Jesus as embodying wisdom, which Jewish literature considers female and even terms Lady Wisdom. The passages Viviano refers to are Matthew, Chapter 11:19 and 25-30. — What difference would it have made if there had been a woman among the magi? A women’s magazine said: “They would have come before the birth of Jesus, brought provisions for the child and his mother, and would have served as midwives!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

#3: Artaban the fourth Wise Man: In 1895, Henry van Dyke wrote the story, “The Other Wise Man,” telling of a fourth wise mancalled Artaban. Our hero is not mentioned in the Gospel because he missed the caravan. He got to Bethlehem too late to see the Baby Jesus. But Artaban did make it in time, using one of his gifts for the newborn King to save one of the Holy Innocents by bribing a soldier. For 33 years Artaban searched for Jesus. He did not find Jesus, but in the meantime, the Fourth wise man used the precious gifts he had brought for the King to feed the hungry and help the poor. Then one day in Jerusalem Artaban saw the “King of the Jews” being crucified. He started to offer his last gift for the King, a great pearl, to the soldiers as ransom for Him. But then he saw a girl being sold into slavery to pay family debts. Artaban gave his pearl to buy freedom for the girl. Suddenly the earth quaked as Jesus died on the cross and a stone struck Artaban. Dying, he heard a Voice saying: “When you helped the least of my children, you helped me. Meet me in Heaven!” — Artaban, the fourth Wise Man, had been making God present in his community for years by helping others. God asks each of us on the feast of Epiphany to be a fourth Wise Man by becoming God’s epiphanies, making His love present in the world around us by our acts of love and kindness. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

Introduction: The Greek word Epiphany (επιφάνεια), which means appearance or manifestation or showing forth, is used to describe Jesus’ first appearance to the Gentiles. Originally, the word Epiphany referred to the visit of a king to the people of his provinces. In the context of Christianity, “Epiphany” refers to God’s Self-revelation as well as to the revelation of Jesus as His Son. The Feast of the Epiphany, having originated in the East in the late second century, is an older celebration than the feast of Christmas. In Italy and Spain, the gifts traditionally associated with the Christmas season are exchanged today, on the feast of the Epiphany. Among Italians, it is believed that the gifts are brought by the old woman, Befana (from Epiphany), whereas Spanish custom attributes the gifts to the Kings or Magi.

In the Western Church, the feast commemorates the coming of the Magi as the occasion for the first manifestation of Christ to the Gentiles; in the Eastern Church, the feast also commemorates the baptism of Christ. The angels revealed Jesus to the shepherds, and the star revealed Jesus to the Magi, who had already received hints of Him from Jewish Scriptures. Some thirty years later, God the Father revealed to Israel Jesus’ identity as His Son, as John baptized Jesus in the Jordan. In the synagogue at Nazareth, Jesus revealed Himself as the promised Messiah. Finally, Jesus revealed His Divinity by turning water into wine at the wedding of Cana. These multiple revelations are all suggested by the Feast of the Epiphany.

Scripture readings summarized: Today’s Old Testament reading, Isaiah 60:1-6, is chosen partly because it mentions non-Jews bringing gifts in homage to the God of Israel. Here the Prophet Isaiah, consoling the people in exile, speaks of the restoration of New Jerusalem from which the glory of Yahweh becomes visible even to the pagan nations. “Jerusalem,” the prophet Isaiah cries out, “your light has come in the midst of darkness and thick clouds covering the earth; the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” For the people of Israel, then in exile in a foreign land, Isaiah was promising redemption, renewal, and restoration –- a new life, to be lived in their own land. And the promise goes beyond the Jewish people to include all peoples. For the prophecy continues, “Nations will come to your light and kings to the brightness of your dawn.”Thus, in this passage, the prophecy which the Lord God gives His people celebrates the Divine Light that will emanate from Jerusalem, and it pictures all the nations acknowledging and enjoying that Light and walking by It. As a sign of gratitude for the priceless lessons of Faith offered by Jerusalem, the nations will bring wealth by land and sea, especially gold for the Temple and frankincense for the sacrifice. Everyone will be drawn to Jerusalem because the radiance of God’s favor rests on her. This prophecy of Isaiah is realized in Jesus Christ, God’s Anointed One (Christ; Messiah), Savior of the world, and in His Church, the New Jerusalem made up of Jews and Gentiles. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 72) declares “The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts; the Kings of Arabia and Seba shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay Him homage, all nations shall serve Him” (vv 12-13) In Christ, God is calling together the one human race to acknowledge and serve Him in holiness. Thus, this reading with its response expresses Hope for a time when “the people of God” will embrace all nations. As a privileged recipient of a Divine “epiphany,” Saint Paul, in today’s second reading, reveals God’s “secret plan,” that the Gentiles also have a part with the Jews in Divine blessings. Affirming the mystery of God’s plan of salvation in Christ, Paul explains that the plan of God includes both Jews and Gentiles. Jesus implements this Divine plan by extending membership in the Church, making it available to all peoples. Thus, the Jews and the Gentiles have become, “coheirs, members of the same Body and copartners in the promise in Christ Jesus through the Gospel.” Hence, there are no second-class members in the Church among Christian believers. Paul declares that he has been commissioned by Christ to make this mystery known to the world. Today’s Gospel teaches us how Christ enriches those who bring Him their hearts. These pagan Magi were acceptable to God because they feared God and did what was right. Since the Magi came with humble joy in their hearts to visit the Christ Child, God allowed them to see wondrous things. At the same time, today’s Gospel hints at different reactions to the news of Jesus’ birth, foreshadowing Jesus’ passion and death, as well as the risen Jesus’ mandate to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:19).

Gospel exegesis: The first two chapters of Matthew’s Gospel together with Luke, Chapters 1 and 2, come under the heading “infancy narratives.” They have been described by Raymond E. Brown (The Birth of the Messiah, Image Books, New York: 1979), as a “Gospel in miniature,” in which the evangelist has set forth the basic tenets of the Good News, namely, (1) the universal scope of salvation; (2) an affirmation of Jesus’ Divine origins and Messianic mission; (3) the implications of God’s plan and of Jesus’ mission for the Church, i.e. a missiology of world-wide proportions.

The Magi and the star: The Magi werenot Kings, buta caste of Persian priestswho served Kings by using their skills in interpreting dreams and the movements of the stars. The sixth century Italian tradition that the Magi finding Jesus were three Magi, Casper, Balthazar, and Melchior, is based on the fact that three gifts are mentioned in Matthew’s Gospel: gold, frankincense, and myrrh. Matthew nowhere says that there were three wise men from the East. Tradition holds each of them came from a different culture: Melchior was Asian, Balthazar was Persian and Caspar was Ethiopian – thus representing the three races known to the ancient world. “They are supposed to have been kings, but this stems from a very literal translation of a psalm verse: ‘The kings of Tarshish and the Isles shall offer gifts’ (Ps 72:10). Ancient depictions of them never involved symbols of royalty, but simply the Phrygian cap and garments of noble Persians” (Dr. M Watson). The Magi may actually have been Persian priests or Babylonian astronomers or Nabataean spice-traders. Eventually, however, they were pictured as representatives of different peoples and races. The Orthodox Church holds that the Magi consisted of twelve Kings, corresponding in number to the twelve tribes of Israel. (The term magoi in Greek refers to a wide variety of people, including fortune-tellers, priestly augurs, magicians, and astrologers). Because of their connection with the star in this story, it is safe to conclude that Matthew identified them mostly with the last group. Possibly they came from Babylonia, or Persia, where the word magus originated. There were almost certainly Gentiles, for if they had been Jews, they would have known better than to ask King Herod about a national ruler who would challenge his dynasty! It is not clear from the story why they wanted to pay homage to a Jewish king, or what they learned about him from their observations of “his star” (Matthew 2:2) (Dr. M Watson). Christian life, the life of God’s people, is most often represented in the Bible and in literature, as a journey – a journey that begins with our confession of Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior in Baptism and ends when we at last meet Him, God’s Incarnate Only-begotten Son, in the Trinity, face to Face, in God’s heavenly kingdom. The magi represent the first fruits of the pagan nations who welcome the Good News of Salvation through the Incarnation (CCC #528). Note that in Matthew’s Gospel, it is Mary who makes the Word known first to Gentiles (the magi) (CCC #724).

The star: Commentary on the Torah by Jewish rabbis suggests that a star appeared in the sky at the births of Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Similarly, in the Book of Numbers, the prophet Balaam speaks of “a star that shall come out of Jacob.” Stars were believed to be signs from God, announcing important events. Thus, the brightness of the Light to which Magi were drawn was made visible in the star they followed. (In the last 40 years, a number of scientists and astronomers have pointed to particular clusterings of planets or stars around the time of Jesus’ birth, which would have created an unusual or dramatic heavenly “portent,” suggesting that perhaps Matthew’s account is more historical than some exegetes might choose to believe). The star which shone over the area and served as a beacon for the astrologers can be explained scientifically. Johannes Kepler (1571-1630), a German astrologer and mathematician, calculated that the planetary conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn which occurred ca 7-6 B.C.E. could have produced such an illumination in the sky over Bethlehem. However, the star featured in Matthew’s narrative figures more importantly because of its theological significance. No doubt, Matthew, with his mission to demonstrate that Jesus was the Promised One and the fulfillment of all Jewish hopes and prophecies, intended his readers to recall the story of Balaam in the book of Numbers (chapters 22-24). Therein, Balaam, a pagan seer from the East was co-opted by Balak, king of Moab to curse the Israelites. Prevented by Yahweh from uttering the curse, Balaam blessed Israel and prophesied, “a star shall rise from Jacob and a scepter shall arise out of Israel” (Numbers 24:17). Matthew portrayed the astral herald that proclaimed the appearance of Jesus and beckoned the Gentiles to salvation as the fulfillment of Balaam’s prophesy.(Sanchez Files).

The gifts: Gold, frankincense and myrrh may be thought of as prophesying Jesus’ future. Gold was a gift for Kings; frankincense (an ancient air purifier and perfume), was offered to God in Temple worship (Ex 30:37); and myrrh (an oriental remedy for intestinal worms in infants), was used by the High Priest as an anointing oil (Ex 30:23), and to prepare bodies for burial. These gifts were not only expensive but portable. Perhaps Joseph sold the gifts to finance the Holy Family’s trip to Egypt. The gifts might have been God’s way of providing for the journey that lay ahead.

The triple reactions: The Epiphany can be looked on as a symbol for our pilgrimage through life to Christ. The feast invites us to see ourselves in the Magi – a people on a journey to Christ. Today’s Gospel also tells us the story of the encounter of the Magi with the evil King Herod. This encounter demonstrates three reactions to Jesus’ birth, a) Hatred: a group of people headed by Herod planned to destroy Jesus; b) Indifference: another group, composed of priests and scribes, ignored Jesus; c) Adoration: the members of a third group — shepherds and the magi — adored Jesus and offered themselves to Him.

A) The destructive group: King Herod considered Jesus a potential threat to his kingship. Herod the Great was a cruel, selfish king who murdered his mother-in-law, wife, two brothers-in-law and three children on suspicion that they had plotted against him. In today’s Gospel, Herod asks the chief priests and scribes where the Messiah is to be born. Their answer tells him, and us, much more, combining two strands of Old Testament promise – one revealing the Messiah to be from the line of David (see 2 Samuel 2:5), the other predicting “a ruler of Israel” who will “shepherd his flock” and whose “greatness shall reach to the ends of the earth” (see Micah 5:1-3) (Dr. Hann). Later, the scribes and Pharisees would plot to kill Jesus because Jesus had criticized them and tried to reform some of their practices. Today, many oppose Christ and the Church because of their selfish motives, evil ways, and unjust lives. Children still have Herods to fear. In the United States alone, one and a half million innocents, unborn children are aborted annually.

B) The group that ignored Christ: The scribes, the Pharisees, and the Jewish priests knew that there were nearly 500 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures concerning the promised Messiah. They were able to tell Herod the exact time and place of Jesus’ birth. They were in the habit of concluding their reading from the prophets on the Sabbath day by saying, “We shall now pray for the speedy arrival of the Messiah.” Unfortunately, they were more interested in their own selfish gains than in discovering the truth. Hence, they refused to go and see the child Jesus — even though Bethlehem was quite close to Jerusalem. Today, many Christians remind us of this group. They practice their religion from selfish motives, like gaining political power, prestige, and recognition by society. They ignore Jesus’ teachings in their private lives.

C) The group that adored Jesus and offered Him gifts: This group was composed of the shepherds and the Magi. The shepherds offered the only gifts they had: love, tears of joy, and probably woolen clothes and milk from their sheep. The Magi, probably Persian astrologers, were following the star that Balaam had predicted would rise, along with the ruler’s staff, over the house of Jacob (see Numbers 24:17). The Magi offered gold, in recognition of Jesus as the King of the Jews; frankincense, in acknowledgment that He was God, and myrrh as a symbol of His human nature. “Like the Magi, every person has two great ‘books’ which provide the signs to guide this pilgrimage: the book of creation and the book of sacred Scripture. What is important is that we be attentive, alert, and listen to God Who speaks to us,Who always speaks to us.” (Pope Francis)

Life Messages: (1) Let us make sure that we belong to the third group. a) Let us worship Jesus at Mass, every day if we can, with the gold of our love, the myrrh of our humility and the frankincense of our adoration. Let us offer God our very selves, promising Him that we will use His blessings to do good for our fellow men. b) Let us plot a better path for our lives. Just as the Magi chose another route to return to their homes, let us choose a better way of life, abstaining from proud and impure thoughts, words and actions, evil habits, and selfish behavior. c) Let us become the star, leading others to Jesus, as the star led the Magi to Him. We can remove or lessen the darkness of the evil around us by being, if not like stars, at least like candles, radiating Jesus’ love by selfless service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate care.

(2) Like the Magi, let us offer Jesus our gifts on this feast of Epiphany and every day: (a) Gift of our life by offering it on the altar during the Holy Mass and by offering it to God every morning as soon as we get up, asking Him for the strengthening anointing of the Holy Spirit to do good and avoid evil during the course of the day. b) Gift of relationship with God by talking to Him in personal and family prayers and listening to Him by reading the Holy Bible every day. c) Gift of friendship with God by experiencing His presence in everyone we encounter, by offering Him our humble service, and by getting reconciled to God every night, asking His pardon and forgiveness for our sins and failures during the day.

Let us conclude with a 19th century English carol, Christina Rosetti’s A Christmas Carol, which begins, “In the bleak midwinter.” The carolsums up, in its last stanza, the nature of “giving to the Christ Child.”

What can I give him, poor as I am?

If I were a shepherd, Icould give a Lamb.

If I were a wise man, Icould do my part.

What I can I give Him?Give Him my heart!”

JOKE OF THE WEEK: 1) “I want the big cow!”: It was an excited little girl who told me this story. The first two wise men got down from their camels and offered their precious gifts to the Baby. He declined them. When the Baby Jesus declined the gift of the third of the also, the exasperated wise man asked, “Then what do you want?” The Child Jesus answered quickly and with a warm smile, “Your big cow!”

2) An 8-year-old asked, “How come the kings brought perfume to Jesus? What kind of gift is that for a baby?” His 9-year-old sister answered, “Haven’t you ever smelled a barn? With dirty animals around, Mary needed something to freshen the air.”

3) A husband asked his wife, “Why would God give the wise men a star to guide them?” She replied, “Because God knows men are too proud to ask directions.”

4) Three Wise Women: While they were talking about the story of the three wise men, a woman asked her parish priest, this question, “Do you know why God gave the star to the wise men?” When he professed his ignorance, she told him: “God knows men are too proud to ask directions. If there had been three wise women instead of three wise men, they would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped deliver the baby, cleaned the stable, made a casserole, and given some practical gifts!”

4)Epiphany of a Sunday school boy: A little boy returned from Sunday school with a new perspective on the Christmas story. He had learned all about the Wise Men from the East who brought gifts to the Baby Jesus. He was so excited that he could hardly wait to tell his parents. As soon as he arrived home, he immediately began, “I learned all about the very First Christmas in Sunday school today! There wasn’t a Santa Claus way back then, so these three skinny guys on camels had to deliver all the toys!” He further continued, “And Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer with his nose so bright also wasn’t there yet, so they had to have this big spotlight in the sky to find their way around!”

5) Epiphany of a pilot: A helicopter was flying around above Seattle one day when an electrical malfunction disabled all the aircraft’s electronic navigation and communications equipment. Due to the clouds and haze, the pilot could not determine the helicopter’s position and course to steer to the airport. The pilot saw a tall building, flew toward it, circled, drew a handwritten sign, and held it in the helicopter’s window. The pilot’s sign said “Where am I?” in large letters. People in the tall building quickly responded to the aircraft, drew a large sign, and held it in a building window. Their sign said, “You are in a helicopter.” The pilot smiled, waved, looked at his map, determined the course to steer to Sea-Tac airport, and landed safely. After they were on the ground, the co-pilot asked the pilot how the “You are in a helicopter” sign helped determine their position. The pilot responded, “I knew that had to be the Microsoft building because, like their help-lines, they gave me a technically correct but completely useless answer.”

USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK (for daily homilies)

1) Dr. Brant Pitre’s commentary on Cycle C Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c

2)Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3)Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org

4) Fr. Nick’s collection: http://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/weekday

5)Based on Barclay commentary: http://www.rc.net/wcc/readings/

6)Saint of the Day: a) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/

b) http://www.americancatholic.org/Features/SaintofDay/default.asp

7)http://www.wordonfire.org/resources/

8)An Important apologetic source: https://www.crediblecatholic.com/pdf/M5/BB5.pdf

9) https://www.americamagazine.org/faith/2021/12/16/epiphany-scripture-reading-242059

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 9) by Fr. Tony:akadavil@gmail.com

26 Additional anecdotes:

1) Three kings in a school Christmas play: I read this story about high school students who were putting on a Christmas play which they themselves had written. In the afternoon before the play’s performance, the students suddenly realized that they had forgotten all about the three kings in the story. The director of the play hit upon the following solution: he would phone three people at random and ask them if they would stand in for the three kings. All they had to do was this: bring along some gift which was especially meaningful to them and then explain in their own words why they had chosen that gift.

The first of the three kings was a fifty-year-old father of five. He worked for the town council. He brought along a pair of crutches and explained: “Some years ago I was in a head-on collision on the highway. I spent many months in the hospital with broken bones. No one was sure that I would ever walk again. But I tried and tried and used these crutches for weeks. During that time my whole attitude changed: I became happy and grateful for every little daily success. I learned to take nothing for granted. I bring these crutches as a symbol of my personal thanks to God.”

The second of the three kings was really a queen, a mother of two children. She brought along a bundle of diapers and baby clothes. She explained: “I was very happy and successful as a graphic artist. Then I got married and the bottom fell out of my life. My husband did not want me to work anymore. All he wanted me to do was stay at home and take care of the house. Then along came the babies and they needed me. But after they grew up, I was again lost…. until I began to put my talents to work in creative art classes for children. I bring along this bundle of baby things to show that it was the little ones, the babies, who brought a new meaning into my life. I feel that by working and helping in their little world I am bettering the whole family of mankind.”

The third king was a young teenager. All he brought along was a blank piece of paper. He laid it before the Infant Jesus in the crib and explained: “I was not even sure whether I should come here or not… My hands are empty; I have nothing to give. In my heart I long for success and a meaning for my life. I am filled with doubts and questions and unrest. My future looks foggy and unclear to me. I lay this empty sheet of paper before You, Child in the crib and ask You to bring me an answer to some of my problems. I feel empty on the inside but my heart is open and receptive.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 2) The wise men: There is a beautiful old tradition about the star in the East. The story says that when the star had finished its task of directing the wise men to the baby, it fell from the sky and dropped down into the city well of Bethlehem. According to some legends, that star is there to this day and can sometimes still be seen by those whose hearts are pure and clean. It’s a pretty story. It kind of makes you feel warm inside. There are other legends about this story of the wise men from the east. For instance, how many wise men were there? In the old days in the east, they believed that there were 12 men who made the journey, but now most everyone agrees there were three. One old legend even tells us the names of the three. Melchior was the oldest of the group, with a full beard. He gave the baby the gift of gold. Balthazar also had a beard, but was not as old as Melchior. He presented the gift of myrrh. The youngest of the three was Casper, who had no beard yet, but did present the gift of frankincense to the baby. Yet another legend goes on to tell us that, after seeing the baby, the three continued traveling as far as Spain, telling the world the good news about what they had seen. — These stories bring the wise men a little more to life and add some color to the meaning of Christmas. They can also get in the way. The problem with legends is that sometimes they add color to stories that don’t need any additional color. In fact, sometimes legends are so colorful, they are unbelievable, and can end up making the entire story unbelievable as well,  kind of like that star falling in the well. It makes you warm inside. It also makes you wonder. I am not out to ban legends, but I do think it might be worthwhile to hear the story one more time, the way it was told the first time…. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

3) Epiphany of Christ “in His most distressing disguises.” Mother Teresa of Calcutta (canonized October 19, 2016 by Pope Francis as St. Teresa of Calcutta) died of a heart attack. She has been lauded as the “Saint of the Gutters,” as one of the “greatest women of the twentieth century” and as “one who made it her life’s work to care for the poorest of the poor.” Never stinting in her commitment to Christ, especially to “Christ in his most distressing disguises” (e.g. the sick, the dying, the outcasts, lepers, people with A.I.D.S, etc.), Mother Teresa described herself as “a pencil in God’s hands. “As long as God keeps pouring in the ink, I will continue to let God write with me and through me.” Through this physically diminutive, spiritual giant, God has indeed writ large. Through her, God has continued to reveal in our midst the mystery or secret plan of salvation of which the author of Ephesians writes in today’s second reading. St.  Teresa of Calcutta understood that there were no second-class citizens in the people of God. Nor is anyone an afterthought in God’s saving plan. The small nun who ministered to the world’s poor also left the world a legacy and a challenge. — At the beginning of this new year, contemporary believers might take time to consider if her legacy will live on in them and how that challenge can be met. Am I willing to accept and cherish absolutely everyone I meet as a co-heir, as a member of the same body and as a sharer of God’s promises? If so, then God’s secret plan continues to be revealed in me; if not, then I have darkened and obscured the manifestation of love and light that we celebrate today. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

4) Epiphany of adventurers: When pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager made their historic flight in 1986 with their spindly Voyager aircraft, the whole world followed it with excitement. For nine days a sky-watch was kept, tracking their first non-stop global flight without refueling. Achievers and risk-takers like Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager have always fascinated us. Marco Polo journeying to India and China, Christopher Columbus coming to America, Admiral Byrd going to the South Pole, our Astronauts flying to the moon —  such adventurers have always aroused our admiration and our skepticism. It was no different at the time of the Magi in today’s Gospel story. —  To the cynical observer, the Magi must have seemed foolish to go following a star. These astrologers had to be a little crazy leaving the security of their homeland to venture forth into a strange country ruled by a madman like Herod. Nevertheless, to the person with the eyes of Faith, the Magi had discovered an immense secret. They found not only the secret of the star, but the secret of the whole universe –the secret of God’s incredible love for his people. For the child they found was no ordinary child but the very Son of God become man (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 5) My Star: Consider the true story of a young man named Tony. He travelled all over the world, appearing widely on stage and on television as a drummer in a world-famous music group. Then one day Tony felt called to the priesthood. When he resigned from the music group to enter a seminary, some people thought him to be a fool. — The story could end here. And if it did, some would consider it to be a sad story. It would be the story of a young man who let a dream slip through his fingers. But the story doesn’t end here. Tony’s now a priest in the diocese of Dallas. And he’s tremendously happy. Jesus will someday say to him what he said to Artaban: “You’ve been helping me all your life, Tony. What you did for your Parishioners, you did for me.” (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

 6) An epiphany in the airport. We spot what looks like a family – a mom, a dad, and three teenage daughters. The girls and their mom are each holding a bouquet of roses. We are wondering what the story is. Whom are they expecting? The dad keeps looking at his watch. The mom keeps turning her head to make sure she hears each airport announcement. Finally, the door opens. First come the “rushers”–men and women in suits with briefcases and bags over their shoulders, rushing towards phones, bathrooms, and their cars or rent-a-cars. We’re still wondering and watching to learn whom this family we’ve been studying is there to meet. Then out come a young Marine, his wife, and their obviously brand-new baby. The three girls run to the couple and the baby. Then Mom. Dad. Hugs. Kisses. Embraces. “OOPS! The flowers!” But the baby is the center of attention. Each member of the family gets closer and closer to the mother and each opens the bundle in pink to have a first peek at this new life on the planet. We’re seeing it from a distance. It’s better than the evening news. Then we notice several other smiling people also watching the same scene. There are many other hugging scenes, people meeting people, but this is the big one. We’re smiling too. A tear of joy. — What wonderful moment we are photographing into our memory. We’re thinking, “Family! Children! Grandchildren!” This is what life is all about.” We’re experiencing an epiphany. Life is filled with them. Praise God! (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

7) O Henrys story of real love through sacrificial sharing: Gift of the Magi:   The story is about about a young couple who were poor. She had long beautiful, brown hair and used to look longingly at some tortoise-shell combs in the shop window. He had an old pocket watch that belonged to his grandfather. He used to look at a gold watch chain that would have gone well with the watch, in the shop window. But they were poor newlyweds and window shopping was all they could afford. That Christmas she cut and sold her beautiful hair to a wig maker so that she could buy her husband the gold watch chain. He, meanwhile, pawned his prized watch to buy her the beautiful tortoise-shell combs. Each gave up what they most prized to buy something the other wanted. (summarized y Fr. Peter DeSousa). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

8) The true epiphany: A rabbi put the following question to his disciples, “How can we determine the hour of dawn, when the night ends and the day begins?” One student replied, “When from a distance you can distinguish between a sheep and a dog.” “No,” said the rabbi. Another student quickly offered, “When you can tell a fig tree from a grapevine.” “No,” repeated the rabbi. “Then tell us, please,” asked the students. Replied the rabbi, “Darkness ends and day begins when you can look into the faces of all other human beings, and you have enough Light in you to recognize them as your brothers and sisters.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

9) Run away to return: John Thomas Randolph offers this modern story of running and returning to illustrate our Lord’s circumstances. Here is the difference between cowardice and heroism. The coward runs away and stays away. The hero runs away but he always returns at the appropriate time. I have a biography of General Douglas MacArthur that was written by Bob Considine. The picture on the front cover shows the general standing like a boulder, looking off into the distance, with that famous corncob pipe in his mouth. You can almost hear him telling the people of the Philippines, “I came through and I shall return.” Ordered to make a strategic withdrawal, his promise to return became the rallying cry for a whole country. MacArthur had to “run away” for a while, but he would “return” and it was the returning that mattered most. — Jesus ran away into Egypt, but he returned! All of our running away, as Christians, should be with the ultimate goal of returning. Why do we run away? When I look at my own experience, I find that I usually run away for one of three reasons: I am frightened ; I am fatigued; or I am frustrated. Isn’t that why you run away too? (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

10) “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” In October 1989, a new star was added to the 1900 stars on the famed sidewalk on Hollywood Boulevard. The new star was placed near the stars of Julie Andrews and Wayne Newton. The new star, as curious as it seems, was the late evangelist Billy Graham, (died February 21, 2018), who preached the Gospel to more than 100 million people around the world. Forty years ago, he refused to have his name on a star, but he reconsidered it in 1989. He said, “I hope it will identify me with the Gospel that I preach.” At the unveiling he added, “We should put our eyes on the Star, which is the Lord.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

11) Epiphany of a protecting God: The British express train raced through the night, its powerful headlight piercing the darkness. Queen Victoria was a passenger on the train. Suddenly the engineer saw a startling sight. Revealed in the beam of the engine’s light was a strange figure in a black cloak standing in the middle of the tracks and waving its arms. The engineer grabbed for the brake and brought the train to a grinding halt. He and his fellow trainmen clambered down to see what had stopped them. But they could find no trace of the strange figure. On a hunch the engineer walked a few yards further up the tracks. Suddenly he stopped and stared into the fog in horror. A bridge had been washed out in the middle and ahead of them it had toppled into a swollen stream. If the engineer had not heeded the ghostly figure, his train would have plummeted down into the stream. While the bridge and tracks were being repaired, the crew made a more intensive search for the strange flagman. But not until they got to London did they solve the mystery. At the base of the engine’s head lamp the engineer discovered a huge dead moth. He looked at it a moment, then on impulse wet its wings and pasted it to the glass of the lamp. Climbing back in to his cab, he switched on the light and saw again the “flagman” he had seen in the beam, seconds before the train was due to reach the washed-out bridge. In the fog, it appeared to be a phantom figure, waving its arms. When Queen Victoria was told of the strange happening she said, “I’m sure it was no accident. It was God’s way of protecting us.” —  No, the figure the engineer saw in the headlight’s beam was not an angel…and yet God, quite possibly through the ministry of His unseen angels, had placed the moth on the headlight lens exactly when and where it was needed. (Billy Graham from Unto the Hills)

12) The Star: In Arthur C. Clarke’s short story, “The Star”, we read about a Jesuit astrophysicist who makes a space trip with other scientists to a distant galaxy called the Phoenix Nebula. There they chance upon a solitary planet still orbiting the remnant of a central sun, which had exploded thousands of years ago. The explorers land their spacecraft on this planet and examine the scorched surface caused by that cosmic detonation. They discover a melted-down monolithic marker at the entrance of a great vault in which they find the carefully stored treasures and records of an advanced civilization. On their return trip to earth in our own galaxy, the Jesuit astrophysicist calculates the exact time when the light from this cosmic explosion in the Phoenix Nebula reached earth. It was the date of Christ’s birth when the light from that fire was seen as a bright new star appearing in the East.  But now that he had solved an ancient mystery, he had a greater mystery to grapple with. How could a loving God allow a whole planet of intelligent being to be given a galactic conflagration, so that the symbol of their passing might shine above Bethlehem at his Son’s birth? — This science-fiction story about the star of Bethlehem has its source in today’s Gospel. Mathew’s narration of the Magi uses the star as its central symbol. From its rising in the East to its coming to a standstill over Bethlehem, the star leads and guides the astrologers. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

13) The night the stars fell: One summer night in a seaside cottage, a small boy felt himself lifted from bed. Dazed with sleep, he heard his mother murmur about the lateness of the hour, heard his father laugh. Then he was borne in his father’s arms, with the swiftness of a dream, down the porch steps, out onto the beach. Overhead the sky blazed with stars. “Watch!” his father said. And incredibly, as he spoke, one of the stars moved. In a streak of golden fire, it flashed across the astonished heavens. And before the wonder of this could fade, another star leaped from its place, and then another, plunging toward the restless sea. “What is it?” the child whispered. “Shooting stars,” his father said. “They come every year on certain nights in August. I thought you’d like to see the show.” That was all: just an unexpected glimpse of something haunting and mysterious and beautiful. But, back in bed, the child stared for a long time into the dark, rapt with the knowledge that all around the quiet house the night was full of the silent music of the falling stars. — Decades have passed, but I remember that night still, because I was the fortunate seven-year-old whose father believed that a new experience was more important for a small boy than an unbroken night’s sleep. No doubt in my childhood I had the usual quota of playthings, but these are forgotten now. What I remember is the night the stars fell …(Arthur Gordon from A Touch of Wonder). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

14) A new Magi story: In this story the three wise men, Gaspar, Balthassar and Melchior, were three different ages.  Gaspar was a young man, Balthassar a middle-aged man and Melchior an elderly man.  They found a cave where the Holy One was and entered, one at a time, to do Him homage.  Melchior, the old man, entered first.  He found an old man like himself in the cave.  They shared stories and spoke of memory and gratitude.  Middle-aged Balthassar entered next.  He found a man his own age there.  They spoke passionately about leadership and responsibility.  Young Gaspar was the last to enter.  He found a young prophet waiting for him.  They spoke about reform and promise.  Afterward when the three kings spoke to each other about their encounter with the Christ, they were shocked at each other’s stories.  So they got their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh together and all three went into the cave.  They found a Baby there, the infant Jesus only twelve days old. —  There is a deep message here.  Jesus reveals himself to all people, at all stages of their lives, whether they are Jew or Gentile. (Fr. Pellegrino). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

15)  The whispering angel: The seventeenth century painter Guido Reni has left us a magnificent painting of Matthew. An angel is whispering to him various events in the life of Jesus. The attentive Evangelist is frantically writing down all that he is told. The tale will become his Gospel. A portion of those whispers is today’s story of the Epiphany. It is only Matthew who tells us this tale filled with wonder. Why the other Evangelists ignored this magical story, we will never know – at least this side of the grave. (Fr. Gilhooly). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

16) The Star of Bethlehem: Gordon Wilson’s daughter was killed by a bomb in Enniskillen on Remembrance Day 1987. Instead of calling for revenge, he forgave her killers and began a campaign for peace and reconciliation. He said: “I am a very ordinary sort of man. I have few personal ambitions and no political aspirations. I just want to live and let live. Life has been kind to me in the main, and I have tried to live by the Good Book. I do not profess to be a good man, but I aim to be. I would like to leave the world a better place than I found it, but I have no exaggerated ideas of my ability to do so. I have hitched my wagon to a star, a star of hope, the star of Bethlehem. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho) v

17) The New Age: Every year at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, there is displayed, beneath the great Christmas tree, a beautiful eighteenth century Neapolitan nativity scene. In many ways it is a very familiar scene. The usual characters are all there: shepherds roused from sleep by the voices of angels; the exotic wise men from the East seeking, as Auden once put it, “how to be human now”; Joseph; Mary; the Babe — all are there, each figure an artistic marvel of wood, clay, and paint. There is, however, something surprising about this scene, something unexpected here, easily missed by the causal observer. What is strange here is that the stable, and the shepherds, and the cradle are set, not in the expected small town of Bethlehem, but among the ruins of mighty Roman columns. The fragile manger is surrounded by broken and decaying columns. — The artists knew the meaning of this event: The Gospel, the birth of God’s new age, was also the death of the old world. Herods know in their souls what we perhaps have passed over too lightly: God’s presence in the world means finally the end of their own power. They seek not to preserve the birth of God’s new age, but to crush it. For Herod, the Gospel is news too bad to be endured, for Mary, Joseph, and all the other characters it is news too good to miss. (Adapted from Thomas G. Long, “Something Is About To Happen,” quoted by Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

18) Epiphany gift: Tolstoy once told the story about an old cobbler, Martin, who dreamt that Christ was going to visit him. All day he waited and watched but nothing extraordinary seemed to be happening. While he waited, he gave hospitality to one person who was cold, to another who needed reconciliation, to another who needed clothing. At the end of the day, he was disappointed that Christ had not come. That night he had another dream, and all those to whom he gave hospitality returned and a Voice said, “Martin, do you not know me? I am Jesus. What you did to the least of these you did to me. (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

19) Returning Social Security check: They tell of a man in a small town in South Dakota who tried to give some money back to the Social Security Administration, but could not. At age 65 the man retired from his work as a farm laborer and moved into town. His retirement house was extremely modest, sparsely furnished, and simply kept. Most could not manage on his meagre minimum  Social Security check. At the end of the first month of collecting on Social Security, this humble man went to the bank with five dollars in cash and told the teller he wanted to return some money because the government had given him more than he needed. With that request he “blew everybody in the bank away.” They explained to him that he couldn’t do that, that the government could give out Social Security funds, but that there was no program set-up for taking any of it back! There was no category for people who wanted to give any of their Social Security back to the government.  — Application: To receive something graciously from another is as much a gift as giving. (Gerard Fuller in Stories for all Seasons) (Fr. Kayala). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

20) Epiphany under water: There was once a holy monk who lived in Egypt. One day a young man came to visit him. The young man asked: “Oh, holy man, I want to know how to find God.” The monk was muscular and burly. He said: “Do you really want to find God?” The young man answered: “Oh, but I do.” So the monk took the young man down to the river. Suddenly, the monk grabbed the young man by the neck and held his head under water. At first the young man thought the monk was giving him a special baptism. But when after one minute the monk didn’t let go, the young man began struggling. Still the monk wouldn’t release him. Second by second, the young man fought harder and harder. After three minutes, the monk pulled the young man out of the water and said: “When you desire God as much as you desired air, you will have the epiphany of God.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

21) Herod and Stalin – pride leading to destruction: Why did Herod try to destroy Jesus, but the Magi worshipped him? The difference can be summed up in one word: humility. The Magi had humility, Herod lacked it. And history tells us where that lack of humility landed him. Herod spent his life trying to keep everything under his control. He became pathologically suspicious. He ended up murdering his own wife and three of his sons, because he thought they were plotting against him. In fact, his whole life was a series of violent, horrible crimes. His tyrannical fear of losing control eventually made him universally hated, even by his closest collaborators. As he lay dying, he ordered a thousand of his best servants and ministers to be led into a stadium and slaughtered, because he wanted to be sure there was mourning and sadness in his kingdom upon his death. Joseph Stalin, the equally bloody tyrant of early Soviet Russia, followed a similar path. He climbed the ladder of success by lying, double-crossing, and murdering. And once he had reached the top, he systematically eliminated all potential rivals. But soon he began to think everyone was a potential rival. He sent his best friends to concentration camps in Siberia. He became so suspicious of plots against his life that he slept in a different corner of his house every night. He, too, died fearful, miserable, and half-crazed. — These extreme examples illustrate the all-important fact that we are not God. God is God. We are not meant to control everything; we are meant to humbly follow Christ, to trust him, to kneel before him, like the Magi, and say with our lives, “Thy will be done, not mine; thy Kingdom come; not mine.” Herod couldn’t say that, Stalin couldn’t say that – the Magi could. They gave everything over to Christ. And they went home full of joy.  (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

22) God who guided the magi guides us, too, provided we trust Him:  We really need to let this truth sink in. It’s like the story of the rock climber. He was in the mountains, climbing alone (a bad idea). And it was getting late. The sun had just gone down, and the temperature was dropping fast. He was descending a section of rock that was inclined beyond the vertical, like the inside of a steep roof. He was deep in the shadows of cliffs. Suddenly, he slipped, lost his grip, and did a free fall of about forty feet before his rope caught on the last stay he had driven into the rock. He was hanging like a spider on a strand of web. He tried to climb up the rope, but at the end of the long day, he just didn’t have the strength. He was hanging there in the void. It was dark. It was cold. He had nowhere to turn. So even though he wasn’t a Church-going man, he said a prayer: “God, if you’re up there, please help me.” Much to his surprise, he heard an answer. It said, “Cut your rope.” He was surprised and overjoyed to get an answer, but he didn’t like the answer he got. He looked below him. Only darkness. It was getting colder. He prayed again, “God, if that’s really You, please help me.” Again, he heard an answer, “It really is Me. Cut your rope. Trust Me.” He looked down again. It was getting colder. He couldn’t understand why God wanted him to cut his only support. He took out his knife. But he just couldn’t get himself to cut the rope. The next morning in the bright sunlight, a group of rock climbers found him hanging from his rope, frozen to death, ten feet above the ground. — So many times, we are at the end of our rope, and we need the help of Someone we can trust – Someone who is faithful, like God. He won’t always explain everything to us, because we simply can’t understand it all;  our eyesight is limited. But when we hear His voice in our conscience, we know that the One Who is All-Good and All-Powerful is faithfully guiding us, as He guided the Wise Men, and He won’t leave us hanging – if we believe in Him. (E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

23) “Change your name or change your conduct!”: Alexander the Great, one of the most remarkable military leaders who ever lived, conquered almost the entire known world with a relatively small army. One night during a campaign, he couldn’t sleep and left his tent to walk around the camp. He came across a soldier asleep on guard duty – a serious offense. The penalty for falling asleep on guard duty was, in some cases, instant death: the commanding officer sometimes poured kerosene on the sleeping soldier and lit it. The soldier began to wake up as Alexander the Great approached him. Recognizing who was standing in front of him, the young man feared for his life. “Do you know what the penalty is for falling asleep on guard duty?” Alexander the Great asked the soldier. “Yes, sir,” the soldier responded in a quivering voice. “Soldier, what’s your name?” demanded Alexander the Great. “Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great repeated the question: “What is your name?” “My name is Alexander, sir,” the soldier repeated. A third time and more loudly Alexander the Great asked, “What is your name?” A third time the soldier meekly said, “My name is Alexander, sir.” Alexander the Great then looked the young soldier straight in the eye. “Soldier,” he said with intensity, “either change your name or change your conduct!” — We Christians who carry the name of Christ shouldn’t be afraid of following Christ – as Herod was. We should be glad to live up to our name, following Christ wherever he leads us – like the Magi. (From “Hot Illustrations”) E- Priest.. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

24) Conquer by this sign: The Battle of Milvian Bridge was fought between Roman Emperors Constantine I and Maxentius AD 312. On the evening of October 27, with the armies preparing for battle, Constantine had a vision. A most marvellous sign appeared to him from Heaven,  a cross of light, with the inscription, “In this sign, you shall conquer”(In hoc signmum vinces). At this sight, he himself was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle. Constantine delineated the sign on the shields of his soldiers as he had been instructed to do in a dream, and proceeded to battle, and his troops stood to arms. Maxentius was defeated in the battle, and Constantine was acknowledged as emperor by the senate and people of Rome. Constantine’s victory brought relief to the Christians by ending persecution.

(Richard Cavendish, “The Battle of the Milvian Bridge” History Today, vol. 62, # 10, (October 2012); [www.historytoday.com/archive/battle-milvian-bridge] — 300 years before Constantine, God’s sign appeared on the sky as a luminous star. It announced the Good News that a Saviour was born to emancipate humanity from the clutches of evil. This sign was read by the wise men. It led the wise men to Bethlehem. (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

25) “The light she lit in my life is still burning.” Mother Teresa once visited a poor man in Melbourne, Australia. He was living in a basement room, which was in a terrible state of neglect. There was no light in the room. He did not seem to have a friend in the world. She started to clean and tidy the room. At first he protested, “Leave it alone. It is all right as it is.” But she went ahead anyway. As she cleaned, she chatted with him. Under a pile of rubbish she found an oil lamp covered with dust. She cleaned it and discovered that it was beautiful. And she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How she said to him, “You have got a beautiful lamp here. How come you never lighted it?” “Why should I light it?” “No one ever comes to see me.” Will you promise to light it if one of my sisters comes to see you?” “Yes,” he replied. “If I hear a human voice, I will light the lamp.” Two of Mother Teresa’s Sisters began to visit him regularly. Things gradually improved for him. Every time the Sisters came to visit him, he had the lamp lighted. Then one day he said to them: “Sisters, I will be able to manage myself from now on. Do me a favour. Tell the first Sister who came to see me that the light she lit in my life is still burning.” — The light that God lit to announce the coming of His son is still burning. The Magi followed the path of the great light and reached the cradle of Jesus. For the last twenty centuries many have followed the footprints of the Magi. Today, Jesus stands before us declaring, “I am the Light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the Light of Life.” (Jn 8:12).  (M K Paul; quoted by Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22 

26) Gentiles … Jews, Sharers of the Promise: In the second reading of today’s Feast of the Epiphany, St. Paul reveals God’s sacred plan: to unite and save in Christ’s Mystical Body, both Gentiles and Jews. Usually, we think of Jews and Gentiles as incapable of merging. God intended quite otherwise. Edith Stein exemplifies that intention. Edith Stein was born to devout Jewish parents at Wroclaw, Poland in 1891. As an adolescent she lost her Faith in God, but gradually recovered it when she began to study philosophy. Eventually, after reading the autobiography of St. Teresa of Avila, she sought Baptism as a Catholic in 1922. Having finished her graduate studies, Edith took up teaching. Her brilliant conferences won her considerable note. In 1932 the Education Institute of Muenster, Germany engaged her as a regular lecturer in its philosophy department. Edith lost this position after only a year, however. In 1933 Nazi Germany enacted laws to exclude from professional positions men and women of Jewish birth. She was not too disappointed. Now, at least, she felt free to take a step she had long contemplated and became a cloistered Carmelite nun. As Sr. Teresa Benedicta of the Cross, she continued to write important books on philosophy and spirituality. When the Nazis intensified their persecution of the Jews in 1938, Sister Teresa, for safety’s sake, was sent to a monastery in Holland. But early in World War II the Nazis overran Holland as well. In a circular letter of 1942, the Holland Catholic bishops denounced the introduction there of the Nazi purge of Jews. Hitler’s response was typical. In reprisal for the protest, he arrested and sent to Auschwitz a number of priests and nuns in Holland who were of Jewish blood. Sister Teresa Stein was one of the prisoners. She was gassed to death at Auschwitz that same August. — In her person, both Jew and Gentile were called into the happier Kingdom of God’s promise. (Father Robert F. McNamara). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/22

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 9) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle C homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

EPIPHANY SUNDAY-JAN 2, 2022 (Mt. 2 1-12)(L-22).docx

Holy Family of Jesus Mary and Joseph (Dec 26 Sunday)

Feast of the Holy Family [C] (Dec 26)) 8-minute homily in 1 page

Central theme: On the last Sunday of the calendar year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. On this feast day we are offering our own families and all their members on the altar to ask God’s blessing on them and to obtain for them the guidance of the Holy Family. (Add a homily starter anecdote)

Scripture lessons summarized: The first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, describes how Elkanah and Hannah presented their child Samuel in the Temple, consecrated him to the service of the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite, and left him in the Temple under the care of Eli, the priest. In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 128), the Psalmist reminds us that happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord. In the second reading, John reminds us that, as children of God the Father, we are members of God’s own family, and as such we are expected to obey the greatest commandment of God: “Love one another,” so that we may remain united to God in the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Luke concludes his detailed story of Christ’s infancy, with the events of Jesus’ visit to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to become “a son of the Law” and to take up the obligations of the Law. Jesus lingered behind in the Temple, attending the Sanhedrin classes on religious and theological questions as an eager student of Mosaic Law. Finally, when Mary and Joseph had found him in the Temple after three days of anxious search, Jesus reminded them that He “had to be” in his Father’s House. It was as if Jesus had had a blaze of realization about His Divine Sonship. The Gospel then summarizes the next 18 years of Jesus’ life, stating that Jesus grew up at Nazareth like any other young man, obeying his parents, faithfully discharging all his duties to God, to his parents, and to the community, “advancing in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

Life messages: 1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: The Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God.

2) We need to make the family a confessional rather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage and gave them a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband-and-wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.”

3) Parents need to examine their consciences: On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves to see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you” for whom their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of our parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year!

THE FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY [C] (Dec 26, 2021)

(1Sm 1:20-22, 24-28; 1Jn 3:1-2, 21-24; Lk 2:41-52)

Homily starter anecdotes: #1: Grandparents are a treasure: Pope Francis said that as a child, he heard a story of a family with a mother, father, many children, and a grandfather. The grandfather, suffering from Parkinson’s disease, would drop food on the dining table, drop and break bowls, and smear food all over his face when he ate. His son considered it disgusting. Hence, one day he bought a small table, a wooden bowl and spoon and set it off to the side of the dining room so the grandfather could eat, make a mess and not disturb the rest of the family. One day, the Pope said, the grandfather’s son came home and found one of his sons playing with a piece of wood. “What are you making?” he asked his son. “A table,” the son replies. “Why?” the father asks. “It’s for you, Dad. When you get old like Grandpa, I am going to give you this table.” (In the American version of the story, the boy was making a wooden bowl). After that day, the grandfather was given a prominent seat at the dining table and all the help he needed in eating by his son and daughter-in-law. “This story has done me such good throughout my life,” said the Pope, who celebrated his 85th birthday on December 17, 2021. “Grandparents are a treasure,” he said. “Often old age isn’t pretty, right? There is sickness and all that, but the wisdom our grandparents have is something we must welcome as an inheritance.” A society or community that does not value, respect and care for its elderly members “doesn’t have a future because it has no memory, it has lost its memory,” Pope Francis added. (http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2013/11/19/grandparents-are-a-treasure-says-pope-francis/) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 2: Cancer, heart disease and family relationship: A few years ago, a study was undertaken to find the U.S. city with the lowest incidence of cancer and heart disease. The winner was Rosetto, Pennsylvania. Soon experts descended upon the city expecting to see a town populated by non-smokers, people who ate the correct food, took regular exercise, and kept close track of their cholesterol. To their great surprise, however, the researchers discovered that none of the above was true. They found instead that the city’s good health was tied to the close family bonds that prevailed within the community. This suggests that there is much to be said for a close and loving family relationship. (Robert Duggan & Richard Jajac). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 3: Dying of loneliness:In an audience, Pope Paul VI told how one day, when he was Archbishop of Milan, he went out on parish visitation. During the course of the visitation he found an old woman living alone. ‘How are you?’ he asked her. ‘Not bad,’ she answered. ‘I have enough food, and I’m not suffering from the cold.’ ‘You must be reasonably happy then?’ he said. ‘No, I’m not’, she said as she started to cry. ‘You see, my son and daughter-in-law never come to see me. I’m dying of loneliness.’ Afterwards he was haunted by the phrase ‘I’m dying of loneliness’. And the Pope concluded: ‘Food and warmth are not enough in themselves. People need something more. They need our presence, our time, our love. They need to be touched, to be reassured that they are not forgotten’ (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Introduction: On the last Sunday of the calendar year, we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family. We offer all the members of our own families on the altar for God’s blessing. Today’s feast reminds us that Jesus chose to live in an ordinary human family in order to reveal God’s plan to make all people live as one “holy family” in His Church.

The Scripture Readings Summarized: The first reading, taken from the First Book of Samuel, describes how Elkanah and Hannah presented their child Samuel in the Temple, consecrated him to the service of the Lord as a perpetual Nazarite, and left him in the Temple under the care of Eli the priest. This dedication took place at Shiloh where the ark of the covenant was housed until King David brought it to Jerusalem. The reading instructs us that we are to live as God’s children, “chosen ones, holy, and beloved.”In today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 128), the psalmist reminds us that happy homes are the fruit of our faithfulness to the Lord. In the second reading, John teaches us that, as children of God the Father, we are members of God’s own family, and, as such, we are expected to obey the greatest commandment of God, “Love one another,” so that we may remain united to God in the Holy Spirit. Today’s Gospel (Lk 2:41-52) describes how Joseph and Mary took Jesus to the Temple in Jerusalem at the age of twelve to make him “a son of the Law” so that He might take on the obligations of the Mosaic Law. After telling us how the boy Jesus disappeared on the journey home and was only found by His frantic parents three days later in the Temple, today’s Gospel explains how the Holy Family of Nazareth lived according to the will of God. They themselves obeyed all the Jewish laws and regulations and brought Jesus up in the same way, so that Jesus “grew in wisdom as well as in the favor of God and men.” Jesus’ obedience to earthly parents flows directly from obedience to the will of the Heavenly Father.

Gospel exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel describes the fifth joyful mystery in the Holy Rosary. Only St. Luke (2:41-50) reports the event of the child Jesus’ disappearing and then being found in the Temple. Jewish boys were made “sons of the Law” by presenting themselves in the Temple of Jerusalem when they become twelve years old. The straight distance between Nazareth and Jerusalem was 60 miles although the winding roads through the hills in Christ’s time made it 87 miles. On pilgrimages to Jerusalem, entire villages joined, breaking up into two groups; one of men, the other of women. Children could go with either group. This explains how Mary and Joseph could go the whole of their first day’s journey back to Nazareth before their shocked realization, when the families regrouped to camp for the night, that the boy Jesus was missing and had not been seen in either travel group all that day. So, they retraced their steps, searching everywhere, their fear mounting as the time passed with no word of Jesus. It turned out that Jesus, attracted to some Jewish rabbis teaching Scriptures to boys in the Temple had joined them in their usual teaching place, in one of the Outer Courts. There, sitting at the feet of the teachers with the other listeners, Jesus joined in the lesson, now and again asking questions and, when asked, responding to them. His wise, well-informed questions and answers attracted the teachers’ attention.

Parallel between today’s gospel and the Book of Samuel:  Dr. Brayan Pitre, the Bible professor, explains that according to Jewish tradition (not according to the Bible, as given in today’s first reading, where Samuel is still a baby), the boy Samuel was 12 years old when he went into the tabernacle and was called by God, heard His voice, and began to prophesy. So, what some scholars have suggested is one of the reasons Luke tells us that Jesus was 12 years old is because he wants to reveal to us that Jesus, likewise, is coming into his own into his role as priest and prophet and king. Luke says that Jesus  increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. It  is almost a direct quotation from the Book of Samuel, (1 Samuel 2:26): Now the boy Samuel continued to grow both in stature and in favor with the Lord and with men. So, Luke says that Jesus  increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.

Mary’s question and Jesus’ enigmatic response: “Son, why have you treated us so? Behold, your father and I have been looking for you anxiously!” In these words, Mary questioned Jesus for causing her and Joseph so much agony by remaining in the Temple without telling them beforehand, while all Jesus’

friends from Nazareth had traveled with their families. Bewildered and troubled, Jesus , not thinking to apologize, blurted out “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” or, “… about My Father’s business?” [The Greek en tois tou patros mou can be translated either way.] In either form, however, the question implies both Jesus’ awareness of the family’s common knowledge of Jesus’ coming mission, and of Jesus’ actual Father, God, and Jesus’ close personal relationship with God, His Father. These first words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel both explain Jesus’ “truancy” and, affirming His Divine Sonship and determination to fulfill the will of His Eternal Father, tell them that Jesus’ earthly life involved an obedience to more than earthly parents. They did not then understand the full implications of what Divine Sonship would entail — that in terms of Jesus’ mission, relationship to God would necessarily take precedence over relationship to them. In this incident, one of a parent’s greatest sorrows afflicted Mary: not to understand her own child; this was one of the swords spoken of by Simeon (Luke 2:35). Mary referred to Joseph as Jesus’ father, but Jesus used the word pater to refer to God, the Creator. Jesus, by his bewildered counter-question, teaches us that, over and above any human authority, even that of our parents, we have the primary duty of doing the will of God. At age 12, Bar Mitzvah notwithstanding “doing the will of Jesus’ Heavenly Father” entailed obedience to Mary and Joseph, and Jesus willingly complied: “He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was obedient to them.”

The Navarre Bible Commentary explains that Mary and Joseph realized that Jesus’ reply contained a deeper meaning which they did not grasp. They grew to understand it as the life of their Child unfolded. Mary’s and Joseph’s Faith and their reverence towards the boy Jesus led them not to ask any further questions but to reflect on Jesus’ words and behavior in this instance, as they had done on other occasions. Without fully understanding Jesus or the events that were unfolding in her family, Mary was willing to believe and trust in the wisdom of God. Jesus lived like any other inhabitant of Nazareth, working at the same trade as Saint Joseph and earning His living by the sweat of His brow. This is the last reference to Saint Joseph in the Gospels and is a beautiful tribute to him: obedient to his guidance, Jesus grew to perfect manhood. Jesus grew in all ways – physically, intellectually, emotionally, spiritually – being prepared for the work that lay ahead of Him. According Bible scholars the infancy narratives of Jesus in Mathew and Luke give us the “Christological moment.” That is, by their infancy narratives, both Mathew and Luke have pushed the moment of the revelation of Jesus as God’s Son back from the baptism (where Mark presents it: “You are My beloved Son”, Mark 1:11) to the time of Jesus conception and birth.

Life Messages:1) We need to learn lessons from the Holy Family: By celebrating the Sunday following Christmas as the Feast of the Holy Family, the Church encourages us to look to the Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph for inspiration, example and encouragement. They were a model family in which both parents worked hard, helped each other, understood and accepted each other, and took good care of their Child so that He might grow up not only in human knowledge but also as a Child of God. Jesus brought holiness to the family of Joseph and Mary as Jesus brings us holiness, by embracing us in His family. The Catechism of the Catholic Church gives the following advice to the parents: “Parents have the first responsibility for the education of their children. They bear witness to this responsibility first by creating a home where tenderness, forgiveness, respect, fidelity, and disinterested service are the rule. The home is well-suited for education in the virtues. This requires an apprenticeship in self-denial, sound judgment, and self-mastery – the preconditions of all true freedom. Parents should teach their children to subordinate the ‘material and instinctual dimensions to interior and spiritual ones.'” The CCC adds: “Parents have a grave responsibility to give good example to their children.” (CCC #2223).

2) Marriage: a Sacrament of holiness. The Feast of the Holy Family reminds us that, as the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. In fact, Jesus Christ has instituted two Sacraments in His Church to make society holy – the Sacrament of priesthood and the Sacrament of marriage. Through the Sacrament of priesthood, Jesus sanctifies the priest as well as his parish. Similarly, by the Sacrament of marriage, Jesus sanctifies not only the spouses but also the entire family. The husband and wife attain holiness when they discharge their duties faithfully, trusting in God, and drawing on the presence and power of the Holy Spirit through personal and family prayer, meditative reading of the Bible, and devout participation in Holy Mass. Families become holy when Christ Jesus is present in them. Jesus becomes truly present in the parish Church through the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass. Similarly, Jesus becomes truly present in a family when all the members live in the Christian spirit of sacrifice. This happens when there is mutual understanding, mutual support, and mutual loving respect. There must be proper care and respect given by children to their parents and grandparents, even after the children have grown up, left home, and have families of their own.

3) We need to make the family a confessionalrather than a courtroom. A senior Judge of the Supreme Court recently congratulated the bride and groom in a marriage and gave them a pertinent piece of advice: “See that you never convert your family into a courtroom; instead let it be a confessional. If the husband and wife start arguing like attorneys in an attempt to justify their behavior, their family becomes a court of law and nobody wins. On the other hand, if the husband and the wife — as in a confessional — are ready to admit their faults and try to correct them, the family becomes a Heavenly one.” Thus, we can avoid the dangers we watch in dysfunctional families as presented on TV in the shows like Married with Children, The Simpson’s, Everyone Loves Raymond and Malcolm in the Middle.

4) Let us extend the boundaries of our family: The homeless man or woman today on the streets of a big city, fighting the cold, the rain, and the snow, is part of our family. The drug addict in a den, or living in fear and aloneness this day, is member of our family. The sick person, dying, alone, dirty, and maybe even obnoxious, is a member of our family. The person sitting in the prison cell for whatever reason is also a child of God, and as such, according to St. John, is a member of our family. All these, as well as the cherished intimate members of our family, are “family valuables,” and, as such, are worthy of safekeeping and reverence.

5) Parents need to examine their consciences: On the Feast of the only perfect Family that ever lived on this earth, all parents might examine themselves and see how well they are fulfilling the grave responsibility which God has placed on them. As they heard during their marriage ceremony: “children are a gift from God to you.” Children serve as the joy of their parents’ young years and the help and comfort of their old age, but above and beyond that, they are a gift for which their parents are accountable before God, as they must, in the end, return these, His children, to Him. Let us pray for the grace of caring for one another in our own families, for each member of the parish family, and for all families of the universal Church. May God bless all our families in the New Year.

Catholic tradition suggests a few practical ways for us to imitate the Holy Family: (http://karlaschultz.wordpress.com/2010/11/25/how-to-imitate-the-holy-family/)

1. We need to hang an image of the Holy Family on the wall. The photos we keep in frames are reminders of who we are, where we’ve come from and the standard we have to live up to. In 1890, Pope Leo XIII urged everyone to keep a picture of the Holy Family in the home. If the image does nothing more, it can serve as an antidote to the dysfunctional family images we get on TV.

2. We need to cultivate silence. This is the quality Pope St. Paul VI found most inspiring in the Holy Family. They lived a hidden life, a quiet life, a life with lots of room for thinking. With TV, radio and the Internet clogging our minds and senses, we leave our families little room for thought or prayer. Our interior dialogue with God gets crowded out by ads and John and Yoko singing “Happy Christmas (War Is Over)” on the oldies channel. We need to do what it takes to bring silence home — move the TV so that it’s not the centerpiece of our household; turn it off when no one’s watching. This is guaranteed to reduce family stress levels.

4. We need to make our home a haven of charity. One of the most striking descriptions of the Church comes from a third-century Christian: “It’s our care of the helpless, our practice of loving kindness that brands us in the eyes of many of our opponents, who say, ‘See those Christians, how they love one another.’” Such charity has to begin at home. The home is the “domestic Church.” Yet how many of us Catholics decry the lack of reverence in our parish Church, then go home to desecrate our domestic churches by harsh words toward our kids or our spouse, or by gossip about the neighbors, co-workers or even priests? Remember: “They’ll know we are Christians” — not just by the Nativity scene in our front yard — but by the love in our hearts, expressed in our homes.

5. We need to make our home a place of prayer. Our day needn’t be dominated by devotions, but we should have some regular, routine family prayers, just as the Holy Family did. They prayed and studied the Scriptures, but still managed to get their work done. There are many ways we can pray as a family, and we should seek the ways that work best for our tribe. We can pray together at the beginning of the day, or at the end. We should, at least, be saying grace at every meal. We can pray the Rosary together, begin a weekly family Bible study, go to a weekday Mass. It might be advisable to begin with something small and manageable and then give ourselves time to grow into it before tackling something bigger.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

# 1: Long Training: A mother goes to her pastor and explains that her son seems very interested in becoming a priest. She would like to know what this would require. So the priest begins to explain: “If he wants to become a diocesan priest, he’ll have to study for eight years. If he wants to become a Franciscan, he’ll have to study for ten years. If he wants to become a Jesuit, he’ll have to study for fourteen years.” [This joke originated back when young men entered seminaries right after high school.] The mother listens carefully, and as the priest concludes, her eyes brighten. “Sign him up for that last one, Father — he’s a little slow!”

2) Encounter with an angry, Karate black-belt wife: A man left work on Friday afternoon, but instead of going home, he went partying with the boys and didn’t return till Sunday night. His wife was furious, and after a lengthy tirade finally said, “How would you like it, if you didn’t see me for two or three days?” “I’d like it just fine!” he slurred. And that’s what happened. All day Monday, he didn’t see her even once. Tuesday and Wednesday passed without his seeing her. Finally, on Thursday afternoon, he caught just a glimpse of her as the swelling of his eyes started to go down.

3) Shrewd girl: One day, a little girl was sitting and watching her mother do the dishes at the kitchen sink. She suddenly noticed that her mother had several strands of white hair sticking out in contrast on her head. She looked at her mother and inquisitively asked, “Why are some of your hairs white, mom?” Her mother replied, “Well, every time that you do something wrong and make me unhappy, one of my hairs turns white.” The little girl thought for a while, and said, “Momma, how come that grandma’s head is full of white hair?”

4)Who can ever forget Winston Churchill’s immortal words: “We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills.” It sounds exactly like our family vacation. (Robert Orben).

5) “Nobody’s said hello yet.” A woman was at home doing some cleaning when the telephone rang. In going to answer it, she tripped on a scatter rug and, grabbing for something to hold onto, seized the telephone table. It fell over with a crash, jarring receiver off the hook. As it fell, it hit the family dog, who leaped up, howling and barking. The woman’s three-year-old son, startled by this noise, broke into loud screams. The woman mumbled some colorful words. She finally managed to pick up the receiver and lift it to her ear, just in time to hear her husband’s voice on the other end say, “Nobody’s said hello yet, but I’m positive I have the right number.” (James Dent, Charleston, W.Va., Gazette).

6) Rent-a-family: It started with Rent-A-Wife, a small Petaluma, California, company created by Karen Donovan to help clients decorate their homes, balance checkbooks, run errands, etc. Donovan, who launched her business through a small ad in the local newspaper, is already thinking big after four months of operation. She wants to hire her father to initiate Rent-A-Husband and her two teens to start Rent-A-Family. “We can do what any family does,” the newfangled entrepreneur joked. “We can come over and eat all the food, turn on all the lights, put handprints on the walls, take showers and leave the towels on the floor. When clients are finished with Rent-A-Family, they’ll have to call Rent-A-Wife. (Campus Life, October 1980).

7) Sue your parents! In 1978, Thomas Hansen of Boulder Colorado, sued his parents for $350,000 on grounds of “malpractice of parenting.” Mom and Dad had botched his upbringing so badly, he charged in his suit, that he would need years of costly psychiatric treatment.

Websites of the week(The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b

2) Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: https://sundayprep.org

4) 28 Rules for Fathers: http://www.danoah.com/2012/08/28-rules-for-fathers-of-sons.html

5) Living as a Catholic family: http://www.loyolapress.com/living-as-a-catholic-family.htm

6) Strong Catholic Family Faith: http://www.catholicfamilyfaith.org/

7) v http://catholicexchange.com/five-marks-catholic-family

8) Yolanda Adams: What about the children (meaningful song)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=22_q5uxeeO8

9) https://stories4homilies.wordpress.com/2014/09/29/768/

35– Additional anecdotes:

1) “If you bungle raising your children…” In a rare personal interview, granted not long before her death, Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis remarked: “If you bungle raising your children, I don’t think whatever else you do will matter very much” (Good Housekeeping, July 1994). For a woman whose wealth, education, background, and connections could have assured her a prestigious career in academia, politics or diplomacy, her statement may seem surprising. However, despite all the possibilities she could have pursued for herself, Mrs. Kennedy was convinced that family was ultimately the most important entity in her life; to her credit, she lived by that conviction. (Sanchez Files) –Because family is the resting ground where values and virtues are inculcated and cultivated, healthy families are essential to the well-being of society. As anyone can attest, however, during the past quarter century, a variety of factors have contributed to the progressive fragmentation, isolation and structural evolution of the family unit, e.g. (1) an ever-increasing rate of divorce (more than one million per year in the U.S.); (2) a steady rise in the number of single-parent householders: one-third of all school-aged children live with only one parent; (3) in more than 50% of all households, both parents must seek employment outside the home; (4) mobility: more than 20% of American families change their residence annually or more often. These factors are compounded by what Dr. William Bennet has described as a cultural disintegration. “We have ceased being clear about the standards we hold and the principles by which we judge. As a result, we have suffered a cultural breakdown of sorts, in areas like education, family life, crime, and drug abuse, as well as in our attitudes toward sex, individual responsibility, civic duty, and public services.” (The De-valuing of America: The Fight For Our Culture and Our Children, Summit Books: 1992).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

2) The Messiah is one of you.” The following fable offers a powerful example of the contagious grace of change. The membership of a once numerous order of monks had dwindled over the years, until there were only five brothers left in what had been a thriving community. For years, people from the surrounding area had been drawn to the monastery in search of the learning and spiritual renewal they found there. Now, no one ever visited as the spirit of the place and its inhabitants seemed to be slowly dying.

One day, however, a rabbi happened by to visit. When he was about to leave, one of the brothers asked the rabbi if he had any advice on how they could revitalize themselves and make their monastery a spiritual center once again. After a few moments, the rabbi replied, “The only thing I can tell you is that the Messiah is one of you.” Flabbergasted, the brothers replied, “The Messiah among us? Impossible!” As the weeks passed, the brothers puzzled over the rabbi’s startling revelation. If the Messiah were here, who would it be? Maybe, Brother Timothy . . . he’s the abbot and in his capacity as leader, he could surely be chosen to be the Messiah. It couldn’t be Bro. Mark; He’s always so argumentative, but, he’s usually right . . . Or maybe, it’s Bro. Pius who tends the garden and the animals. He could probably nourish a troubled world if he were the Messiah. Surely, it could be Bro. Dominic; he’s studious, learned and familiar with all the great spiritual writers. It couldn’t be Peter, could it? Certainly, the Messiah couldn’t be the one who cleaned toilets, dirty laundry and scrubbed the pots and pans each day. Or, could it? Since the monks were unable to determine which one of them was the Messiah, they began to treat one another as though each were the one. Moreover, just in case he himself might be the Messiah, each monk began to treat himself with new respect and to conduct himself with greater dignity. Within a few weeks, the monastery’s occasional visitors were awed by the love, goodness and revitalized spirituality they experienced. They returned again and again and brought new friends along. Soon, a few young men asked to be admitted to the order and the monastery thrived again. — Imagine the possibilities for growth and renewal if each family were to take to heart the rabbi’s words, “the Messiah is one of you.” How much more might spouses love and cherish one another . . . how much more might parents value their children, protect them, teach them, and lovingly attend to their needs . . . how much more might children honor and appreciate their parents. If each member of every family were to reverence one another as the Messiah, i.e., as Jesus who is our Savior and brother, how much might that strengthen and secure those familial bonds that are the infrastructure, without which our society has no future. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

3) “Daddy, could you please sell me one hour of your time?” A little boy greets his father as he returns from work with a question: “Daddy, how much do you make an hour?” The father is surprised and says, “Look, son, not even your mother knows. Don’t bother me now, I’m tired.” “But Daddy, just tell me please! How much do you make an hour?” the boy insists. The father finally gives up and replies, “Twenty dollars.” “Okay, Daddy,” the boy continues, “Could you loan me ten dollars?” The father yells at him, “So that was the reason you asked how much I earn, right? Now, go to sleep and don’t bother me anymore!” At night the father thinks over what he said and starts feeling guilty. Maybe his son needed to buy something. Finally, he goes to his son’s room. “Are you asleep, son?” asks the father. “No, Daddy. Why?” replies the boy. “Here’s the money you asked for earlier,” the father said. “Thanks, Daddy!” replies the boy and receives the money. The he reaches under his pillow and brings out some more money. “Now I have enough! Now I have twenty dollars!” says the boy to his father, “Daddy, could you sell me one hour of your time?” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

4) Paco, meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday.  All is forgiven.”  In Ernest Hemingway’s short story, a Spanish newspaper carried a poignant story about a father and his son.  It goes like this.  A teen-aged boy, Paco, and his very wealthy father had a falling out, and the young man ran away from home.  The father was crushed.  After a few days, he realized that the boy was serious, so the father set out to find him.  He searched high and low for five months to no avail.  Finally, in a last, desperate attempt to find his son, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper.  The ad read, “Dear Paco, Meet me at the Hotel Montana noon Tuesday.  All is forgiven.  I love you.  Signed, Your Father.   On Tuesday, in the office of Hotel Montana, over 800 Pacos showed up, looking for love and forgiveness from their fathers!! — What a magnet that ad was.  Over 800 Pacos!!  The feast of the Holy Family reminds us that we need more loving, forgiving fathers and mothers. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

5) Dont humiliate them! As a student, Daniel Webster (US Senator, noted 19th century American political orator) was particularly marked for being untidy. Finally, the teacher, in exasperation, told him that if he appeared again with such dirty hands she would thrash him. He did appear in the same condition. “Daniel”, she said, “hold out your hand.” Daniel spat on his palm, with an intention to clean it, rubbed it on his trousers and held it out. The teacher surveyed it in disgust. “Daniel”, she said, “if you can find me another hand in this school that is dirtier than that, I will let you off.” Daniel promptly held out his other hand! –- Many children with an eccentric trait blossom into geniuses. The teachers and parents should not underestimate them or humiliate them. (G. Francis Xavier in The Worlds Best Inspiring Stories).

6) “Am I not a family valuable? Rabbi Neil Kurshan in his book Raising Your Child to be a Mensch (a Yiddish word for a person having admirable characteristics such as fortitude and firmness of purpose), tells this real story: A young woman about to be married had come to the Rabbi for counseling. When she told the Rabbi that she hoped she would not make the same mistakes her parents had made, he pressed her to elaborate. The woman explained that each summer her wealthy parents traveled to Europe while she remained behind with a nanny. One year, when the girl was 11, the housekeeper suddenly quit just shortly before her parents’ annual trip to Europe. Upset that their vacation might be jeopardized, the parents quickly found a replacement. A few days before their departure, the girl noticed that her mother had wrapped the family jewels and silverware and placed them in the safe. Since this had never been done before, she asked why. Her mother explained that she could not trust the new housekeeper with the family valuables. — Though certainly not intended, that insensitive remark so shocked and hurt the little girl that she never forgot it. Wasnt she a family valuable? Didn’t she have more value than silver knives and silver forks? That is a question all of us could ask about our attitudes toward dependent family members, young, old, or in-between, this Holy Family Day. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

7) “I never hugged my dad”! In his book My Father, My Son, Dr. Lee Salk describes a moving interview with Mark Chapman, the convicted slayer of Beatle John Lennon. At one point in the interview, Chapman says: “I don’t think I ever hugged my father. He never told me he loved me…I needed emotional love and support. I never got that.” Chapman’s description of how he would treat a son if he had one is especially tragic, because he will probably never get out of prison and have a family of his own. He says: “I would hug my son and kiss him…and just let him know…he could trust me and come to me…and (I would) tell him that I loved him.” — Dr. Salk ends his book with this advice to fathers and sons. It applies equally well to mothers and daughters. “Don’t be afraid of your emotions, of telling your father or your son that you love him and that you care. Don’t be afraid to hug and kiss him. “Don’t wait until the deathbed to realize what you’ve missed.”  (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies).

8) We are all equal in the eyes of God:” Former President Jimmy Carter recently decided to leave the Baptist Church to which he had belonged for sixty years.  The reason was doctrinal disagreement. The Southern Baptist Convention had just codified that women are responsible for original sin and hence subservient to their husbands. President Carter disagreed. He said: “This was in conflict with my belief – confirmed in the Holy Scripture – that we are all equal in the eyes of God. … This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or Faith. Consequently, they are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many Faiths and led to some of the most pervasive, persistent, flagrant, and damaging examples of human-rights abuses.”  So, Jimmy Carter’s conscience could no longer allow him to be part of his lifelong Church. — The Feast of the Holy Family challenges the spouses to love and respect each other.  (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

9 Grandfathers wooden bowl:  (American version of Homily starter anecdote no 1):   A frail old man went to live with his son, daughter-in-law, and four-year-old grandson. The old man’s hands trembled, his eyesight was blurred, and his step faltered. The family ate together at the table. But the elderly grandfather’s shaky hands and failing sight made eating difficult. Peas rolled off his spoon onto the floor. When he grasped the glass, milk spilled on the tablecloth. The son and daughter-in-law became irritated with the mess. “We must do something about father,” said the son. “I’ve had enough of his spilled milk, noisy eating, and food on the floor.” So the husband and wife set a small table in the corner. There, Grandfather ate alone while the rest of the family enjoyed dinner. Since Grandfather had broken a dish or two, his food was served in a wooden bowl. When the family glanced in Grandfather’s direction, sometimes he had a tear in his eye as he sat alone. Still, the only words the couple had for him were sharp admonitions when he dropped a fork or spilled food. The four-year-old watched it all in silence. One evening before supper, the father noticed his son playing with wood scraps on the floor. He asked the child sweetly, “What are you making?” Just as sweetly, the boy responded, “Oh, I am making a little bowl for you and Mama to eat your food in when I grow up.” The four-year-old smiled and went back to work. The words so struck the parents that they were speechless. Then tears started to stream down their cheeks. Though no word was spoken, both knew what must be done. That evening the husband took Grandfather’s hand and gently led him back to the family table. For the remainder of his days he ate every meal with the family. And for some reason, neither husband nor wife seemed to care any longer when a fork was dropped, milk spilled, or the tablecloth soiled. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

10) Have you ever seen a Saint praying?”  St. Teresa of Lisieux and St. Teresa of Avila have their own stories about the influence their fathers had on their lives as role models.  The Little Flower used to ask an innocent question of her first grader classmates: “Have you ever seen a Saint praying?”  She would add: “If you haven’t, come to my house in the evening.  You will see my dad on his knees in his room with outstretched arms, praying for us, his children, every day.”  She states in one of her letters from the convent: “I have never seen or heard or experienced anything displeasing to Jesus in my family.”  St. Teresa of Avila was admitted against her will, by her father, to a boarding house conducted by nuns in the final year of her high school studies, as soon as he detected bad books and yellow magazines hidden in her box.  They were supplied by her spoiled friend and classmate, Beatrice.   St. Teresa later wrote as the Mother Superior: “But for that daring and timely action of my father, I would have ended up in the streets, as a notorious woman.”  — The feast of the Holy Family challenges Christian fathers to be role models to their children. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

11) Those God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three. (Jesse Jackson tells the story of a visit he made to the University of Southern Mississippi). While touring the campus with the university president, he saw a towering male student, six-feet, eight-inches tall, holding hands with a fidgety coed barely three-feet tall. What a contrast, six-feet, eight-inches tall and only three-feet tall. His curiosity piqued, Jackson watched as the young man, dressed in a warm-up suit, tenderly kissed the tiny coed, and sent her off to class. The president said that the student was a star basketball player. Both parents had passed away when he was a teenager, and he made a vow to look after his sister. Many scholarships came his way, but only Southern Mississippi offered one to his sister, too. Jackson went over to the basketball star, introduced himself, and said he appreciated the way he was looking out for his sister. The athlete shrugged and said, “Those of us who God makes six-eight have to look out for those He makes three-three.” (3) –Don’t you wish every young person could have that kind of love for his or her siblings? We live lives of Faith and we look out for those we love. (Rev. Duncan). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

12) The morning after. A cartoon in the New Yorker magazine says it all. In the middle of the floor is a dried up, withered, Christmas tree. The calendar on the wall reads December 26. Dad is sitting in his chair with an ice pack on his head. Mom is in a bathrobe and her hair in rollers. The floor is a virtual mountain of torn wrappings, boxes, and bows. Junior is reaching in his stocking to be sure that there is no more candy. In the background we see a table with a thoroughly picked turkey still sitting there. The caption on the cartoon reads simply: The morning after. — It is to normalize our lives in our families that we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family and invite its holy members to our families. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

13) “Scatter my ashes in the local Wal-Mart“: A single mother who raised her only child, lavished all her love on the girl,  and spent her health and wealth, time and talents on the child’s upbringing.  But the daughter dated and married a drug addict, against her mother’s warnings and wishes. As a well-employed girl, she never cared to visit her mother.  So on her deathbed the mother instructed her attorney to cremate her body and to scatter the ashes in the local Wal-Mart of the city where her daughter lived. He enquired why. The mother said: “Then I will be able to see my daughter visiting me every week!” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

14) “Louis, this morning you met your real self.” Rabbi Gafni recalls one of the first bar mitzvahs he ever performed.  (bar mitzvah is a coming-of-age ritual for Jewish boys. When a Jewish boy reaches 13 years old, he becomes accountable for his actions and becomes a bar mitzvah, a son of the Law) This bar mitzvah was for a boy named Louis.  Louis was awkward and sad.  His insensitive parents did little to encourage his self-esteem.  They implied that he was too dumb to learn the traditional Hebrew passages a boy recites for his bar mitzvah. Gafni was determined to bring out the best in Louis.  He spent extra time teaching him the songs and prayers.  He discovered that Louis was smart, and had a fantastic singing voice.  On the day of his bar mitzvah, Louis performed beautifully.  At the end of the ceremony, Rabbi Gafni stood and spoke directly to Louis.  He said, “Louis, this morning you met your real self.  This is who you are.  You are good, graceful, talented, and smart.  Whatever people told you yesterday, and Louis, whatever happens tomorrow, promise me one thing.  Remember . . . this is you.  Remember, and don’t ever lose it.”  A few years later, Louis wrote to Rabbi Gafni.  The boy whose parents predicted that he was too dumb to perform a traditional bar mitzvah was studying for his medical degree at an Ivy League university.  He was also engaged to be married.  Louis ended his letter by saying, “. . . I kept my promise—I always remembered my bar mitzvah morning when you said that this is who I am.  For this, I thank you.”  [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 123-124.] — I wish all of us could have an affirming adult like that in our lives. Some of you know about that kind of love. That was the kind of love you experienced from your parents. And you know how precious it is. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

15) “My mother told me that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.” A few years ago, Rabbi Marc Gafni gave a talk at a children’s camp in New York.  At one point in the afternoon, Rabbi Gafni asked the children, “When was the last time someone told you that you were beautiful?”  The children’s response devastated him.  Few of them could recall true, encouraging words from their parents.  So many of them heard only words of condemnation and shame.  One young girl said, “My mother told me on Saturday that I was the ugliest little girl she knew.”  Another boy related a heartbreaking conversation with his mother.  He said, “My mother was in the Holocaust.  And she says that if she had known that I would be her son, she wouldn’t have worked so hard to survive.”  [Marc Gafni, The Mystery of Love (New York: Atria Books, 2003), pp. 120-121.] — Parents like that need to stop and consider the impact of their words.  It is hard to imagine a more hurtful thing to say to a child. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

16) 60 years of separation:  The story of Boris and Anna Kozlov is very touching. Boris and Anna Kozlov were married in 1946.  After three days Boris had to ship out with his Red Army unit.  By the time he returned, Anna was gone, consigned by Stalin’s purges to internal exile in Siberia with the rest of her family. Nobody knew where the family was, or what had happened to Anna… Boris became frantic. He tried everything he could to find his young bride, but it was in vain. She was gone. After 60 years, one day, Anna Kozlov caught sight of the elderly man clambering out of a car in her home village of Borovlyanka in Siberia. There, in front of her, was Boris. An extraordinary coincidence had led them both to return to their home village on the very same day. 60 years of separation had made their reunion inexpressibly joyful.– In today’s Gospel we heard Mathew’s account that Jesus’ family had to be separated from their kinsmen due to Herod’s decision to annihilate Jesus.  (Fr. Bobby). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

17) “But…But…..you tell better lies Mum!”: A mother was shocked to hear her son tell a lie. Taking the youngster aside for a heart-to-heart talk, she graphically explained what happened to liars. “A tall black man with red fiery eyes and two sharp horns grabs little boys who tell lies and carries them off at night. He takes them to Mars where they have to work in a dark canyon for fifty years! Now” she concluded, “you won’t tell a lie again, will you, dear?” “No, Mum,” replied the son, gravely, “But…But…..you tell better lies Mum!” – Children learn to tell lies from the elders. With them it does not work to say,  ”Do as I tell and not as I do.” (G. Francis Xavier in Inspiring Stories; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

18) Attachment: In the middle of the night a young boy wakes up in a hospital bed. He feels very frightened and very alone. He is suffering intense pain: Burns cover forty percent of his body. Someone had doused him with alcohol and then had set him on fire. He starts crying out for his mother. The nurse leaves her night-post to comfort him; she holds him, hugs him, whispers to him that the pain will go away sooner than he thinks. However, nothing that the nurse does seems to lessen the boy’s pain. He still cries for his mother. And the nurse is confused and angry: it was his mother who set him on fire. — The young boy’s pain at being separated from his mother, even though she had inflicted such cruelty on him, was greater than the pain of his burns. That deep attachment to the mother makes separation from her the worst experience a child can undergo. (Denis McBride in Seasons of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

19) The Cosby Show: One of TV’s highest rated program of all time was The Cosby Show. It was a weekly sitcom about an upper-middle-class black family, which for all practical purposes, had become America’s First Family. In a feature article about Bill Cosby, Newsweek magazine said that his show about the Huxtables is endearing not cutesy, its parents are hassled but never hapless and there is clowning but no guff. The Cosby Show was popular because the family situations it portrayed had an air of universality and reality about them. Any family could identify with both the irritations and misunderstandings that arise on the show, and with the truly humorous and heartwarming things that happen. While Dr. Cliff Huxtable, his lawyer-wife Clair and their four children may not be the perfect counterpart of the Holy Family, they do picture for us in modern terms what some of the qualities of family life should be. — The seven ‘C’s of family life are: commitment, communication, compatibility, compassion, confession, conviviality, and children. They sum up today’s readings about how to become a holy family instead of a broken family. (Albert Cylwicki in His Word Resounds; quoted by  Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

20) “We wanted to stay together…”: In his new book, All Rivers Run to the Sea, Elie Wiesel recalls the terrible moment when his family had to make a critical choice. The war was coming to an end, but the deportation of Jews continued. Elie, his parents and three sisters faced deportation from their village in Hungary to the concentration camp in Berkenau. Maria, a Christian and the family’s house-keeper, begged the Wiesels to hide in her family cabin in the mountains. At first the Wiesels declined, but Maria persisted. The family gathered at the kitchen table for a family meeting: should they go with Maria, or stay and take their chances. The family decided to stay. Elie Wiesel remembers: “But why?” Maria implored us, her voice breaking. “Because” my father replied, “a Jew must never be separated from his community. What happens to everyone happens to us as well.” My mother wondered aloud whether it might not be better “to send the children with Maria.” We protested: “We’re young and strong. The trip won’t be as dangerous for us. If anyone should go with Maria, it’s you.” After a brief discussion, we thanked Maria. “My father was right. We wanted to stay together, like everyone else. Family unity is one of our most important traditions… the strength of the family tie, which has contributed to the survival of our people for centuries….”  — The war did not end soon enough for the Wiesels. Only Elie and two of his sisters survived. His mother, father, and youngest sister died in camps. (Quoted in Connections Newsletter). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

21) Obedient Child Jesus: A few centuries before Christ, Alexander the Great conquered almost all the known world through military strength, intelligence, and diplomacy. Legend has it that one day Alexander and a small company of soldiers approached a strongly defended, walled city. Alexander, standing outside the walls, raised his voice, demanding to see the city’s king. The king, approaching the battlements above the invading army, agreed to hear Alexander’s demands. ”Surrender to me immediately,” commanded Alexander. The king laughed. “Why should I surrender to you?” he called down. “We have you far outnumbered. You are no threat to us!” Alexander was ready to answer the challenge. “Allow me to demonstrate why you should surrender,” he replied. Alexander ordered his men to line up single file and start marching. He marched them straight toward a sheer cliff that dropped hundreds of feet to rocks below. The king and his soldiers watched in shocked disbelief as, one by one, Alexander’s soldiers marched without hesitation right off the cliff to their deaths. After ten soldiers had died, Alexander ordered the rest of his men to stop and to return to his side. The king and his soldiers surrendered on the spot to Alexander the Great. — Even on a human level, obedience is powerful. But when the one we are obeying is God Himself, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, obedience is truly a life-changing virtue. It leads not just to temporary victories here on earth, but to the everlasting victory of the Resurrection, as Jesus himself proved by his obedience unto death on a cross. (Adapted from Hot Illustrations; E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

22) Child Jesus guided by Mary and Joseph: On October 14, 1943, Jewish slave laborers in Sobibor concentration camp, on the border of Poland and Russia, executed a well-planned revolt. Of the 700 prisoners who took part in the escape, 300 made it through the minefield between the barbed wire fence of the prison and the dense forest beyond. Of those, fewer than 100 are known to have survived the Nazi search parties. One of them, Thomas Blatt, was 15 years old when his family was herded into Sobibor. His parents were executed in the gas chamber, but Thomas, young and healthy, was sent to slave labor. Thomas and two companions made it out and started their long journey through the dense woods after navigating the minefield. At daybreak they buried themselves in the woods to sleep. At night they made their way through the trees and thick brush. After four nights of wandering through the cold forest, they saw a building silhouetted against the dark sky in the distance. With smiles on their faces, they eagerly approached it, hoping for sanctuary from their enemies. As they got closer, they noticed that the building they had seen was a tower specifically, the east tower of the Sobibor concentration camp! They had made one giant circle through the woods and ended up exactly where they started. Terrified, the three boys plunged back into the forest. But only Thomas lived to tell about their awful experience. — When we reject the guidance of God’s commandments and the teaching of his Church, we are like those boys wandering through the woods at night without a guide, and we make no lasting progress to the happiness we long for. (Hot Illustrations; E- Priest). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

23) Dorothy Law Nolte wrote, “Children Learn What They Live

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.

If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.

If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.

If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.

If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.

If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.

If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.

If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.

If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.

If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.

If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.

If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.

If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.

If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.

If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.

If children live with fairness, they learn justice.

If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.

If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.

If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

24) Satan’s seven-steps strategy: Dr. Peter Kreeft a professor of philosophy at Boston College and a well-known author and speaker, gave a talk in Ohio, USA. In his talk, he outlined what he calls, “Satan’s spectacularly successful seven-steps sexual strategy.” This is his explanation of how the devil is working in our world right now to destroy families and even the whole human race. Personally, I think Dr. Kreeft is right on target in his analysis. Here it is:

Step 1 in Satan’s strategy – this is the devil’s ultimate goal: winning souls for hell.

Step 2: in order for Satan to win many souls for hell, society must be corrupted.

Step 3: to effectively destroy society, family life must be undermined – because strong families are necessary in order to have strong societies.

Step 4: in order to destroy the family, you must destroy its foundation – stable marriage

Step 5: marriage is destroyed by loosening its glue which is sexual fidelity.

Step 6: fidelity is destroyed by promoting and defending the sexual revolution.

Step 7: the sexual revolution is promoted and defended by the media – through which the seeds of destruction are sown into the minds of millions of people every day. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

25) Statistics and Commentary: The evidence is convincing that the better our relationships are at home, the more effective we are in our careers. If we’re having difficulty with a loved one, that difficulty will be translated into reduced performance on the job. In studying the millionaires in America (U.S. News and World Report), a picture of the “typical” millionaire is an individual who has worked eight to ten hours a day for thirty years and is still married to his or her high school or college sweetheart. A New York executive search firm, in a study of 1365 corporate vice presidents, discovered that 87% were still married to their one and only spouse and that 92% were raised in two-parent families. The evidence is overwhelming that the family is the strength and foundation of society. — Strengthen your family ties and you’ll enhance your opportunity to succeed. (Zig Ziglar in Homemade, March 1989). Fr. Kayala. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

26) Top traits of successful families: According to a study of more than 500 family counselors, the following are the top traits of successful families: *Communicating and listening *Affirming and supporting family members *Respecting one another *Developing a sense of trust *Sharing time and responsibility *Knowing right from wrong *Having rituals and traditions *Sharing a religious core *Respecting privacy. (Focus on the Family Bulletin, December, 1988). Fr. Kayala. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

27) Profile of a strong family:  From a national survey of strong families conducted by the Human Development and Family Department at the University of Nebraska- Lincoln, a profile of a strong family:

  1. Appreciation. “Family members gave one another compliments and sincere demonstrations of approval. They tried to make the others feel appreciated and good about themselves.”
    b. Ability to Deal with Crises in a Positive Manner. “They were willing to take a bad situation, see something positive in it and focus on that.”
    c. Time Together. “In all areas of their lives–meals, work, recreation–they structured their schedules to spend time together.”
    d. High Degree of Commitment
    . “Families promoted each person’s happiness and welfare, invested time and energy in each other and made family their number one priority.”
    e. Good Communication Patterns. “These families spent time talking with each other. They also listened well, which shows respect.”
    f. High Degree of Religious Orientation. “Not all belonged to an organized church, but they considered themselves highly religious. (University of Nebraska- Lincoln). Fr. Kayala (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

28)Family Statistics: Families in 2000 will average 1.81 children, down from 1.84 today. Some 60 percent of kids born in the ’80s will live for a time with one parent; 1 kid in 4 will live with a stepparent by age 16. One third of all households will be childless. . . Supporting a teenager still at home will cost $12,000 a year against $7,000 now. Kids who head to college in 2000 will need upwards of $100,000 for each bachelor’s degree. (U.S. News and World Report, Dec .25, 1989).(https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 

29) Rudyard Kipling once wrote about families, “All of us are we–and everyone else is they.” A family shares things like dreams, hopes, possessions, memories, smiles, frowns, and gladness…A family is a clan held together with the glue of love and the cement of mutual respect. A family is shelter from the storm, a friendly port when the waves of life become too wild. No person is ever alone who is a member of a family. (Fingertip Facts). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

30) Threats to the families: Parents rate their inability to spend enough time with their children as the greatest threat to the family. In a survey conducted for the Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Corp., 35 percent pointed to time constraints as the most important reason for the decline in family values. Another 22 percent mentioned a lack of parental discipline. While 63 percent listed family as their greatest source of pleasure, only 44 percent described the quality of family life in America as good or excellent. And only 34 percent expected it to be good or excellent by 1999. Despite their expressed desire for more family time, two-thirds of those surveyed say they would probably accept a job that required more time away from home if it offered higher income or greater prestige.  [Moody Monthly, (December, 1989), p. 72.].

31) Disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life:  Sociologist and historian Carle Zimmerman, in his 1947 book, Family and Civilization, recorded his keen observations as he compared the disintegration of various cultures with the parallel decline of family life in those cultures. Eight specific patterns of domestic behavior typified the downward spiral of each culture Zimmerman studied.

*Marriage loses its sacredness…is frequently broken by divorce.
*Traditional meaning of the marriage ceremony is lost.
*Feminist movements abound.
*Increased public disrespect for parents and authority in general.
*Acceleration of juvenile delinquency, promiscuity, and rebellion.
*Refusal of people with traditional marriages to accept family responsibilities.
*Growing desire for and acceptance of adultery.
*Increasing interest in and spread of sexual perversions and sex-related crimes.

(Swindoll, The Quest For Character, Multnomah, p. 90). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

32) “Wow! Wow!” One of Winston Churchill’s biographers, William Manchester [The Last Lion (Boston: Little Brown and Co., 1983)] once wrote that the eminent statesman’s feelings about his family were unquestionably warm and intense. Churchill regarded his home as an independent kingdom with its own law, its own customs, even its own language. “Wow!” was the family’s traditional greeting. When Churchill entered the front door, he would cry: “Wow! Wow!” Upon hearing him, his wife would call back in answer, “Wow!” Then the children would rush into his arms and his eyes would mist over. (Wow!) — A statesman in his own right (many scholars think he may have served for a time as Israel’s ambassador to foreign courts), Jesus ben Sira, the second century B.C.E. author of today’s first reading also valued the special love and language that unites the members of a family. To that end, he invited his readers to cultivate a love that honors, obeys, and cares for the other while speaking the language of comfort, kindness, and consideration. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

33) “Family is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” On a recent television “talk show”, the host had invited about two dozen children to appear as his guests. All of them, ranging in ages from three to thirteen years of age were wards of their respective state’s Children’s Services Program and were being cared for by foster parents. Some had been in the foster care system since birth; most had been passed from home to home. Every child expressed the same desire: to be permanently adopted into a family. When asked by the show’s host what “family” meant to him, one small boy summed up the feelings of the other children. “Family”, he replied, “is a place where people want you and love you and take care of you.” —  Most of us can be grateful that we have not been similarly deprived of that special place called family. But our gratitude for the gift of family must also be matched by a desire to preserve and strengthen the bonds that unite us and, when necessary, to expend whatever effort is needed to repair and renew those bonds when they are strained. To that end, the author of today’s second reading offers sage advice, advising women to be submissive, while urging men to love their wives in such a radical way that husbands become their wives’ servants, too, and advising children to respect, love and obey their parents. (Sanchez Files). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 34) Pope Francis twitter (December 2014): “It is so important to listen! Husbands and wives need to communicate to bring happiness and serenity to family life.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

35) Cloud seeding for a brainstorm: Becoming good at the things that build inner confidence and calm takes practice — and a dash of creativity! The following list might provide some cloudseeding for a brainstorm or two of your own. Have some fun with your family…and get ready for a good rest.

  1. Pay off your credit cards.
    2. Take off ten pounds or accept where you are without any more complaints.
    3. Eat dinner together as a family for seven days in a row.
    4. Take your wife on a dialogue date (no movie, guys).
    5. Read your kids a classic book (Twain’s a good start).
    6. Memorize the Twenty-third Psalm as a family.
    7. Give each family member a hug for twenty-one days in a row (that’s how long the experts say it takes to develop a habit).
  2. Pick a night of the week in which the television will remain unplugged.
    9. Go out for a non-fast-food dinner as a family.
    10. Pray for your spouse and children every day.
    11. Plan a vacation together.
    12. Take a vacation together.
    13. Read a chapter from the Bible every day until it becomes a habit.
    14. Sit together as a family in Church.
    15. Surprise your teenager. Wash his car and fill up his gas tank.
    16. Take an afternoon off from work; surprise your child by excusing him from school and taking him to a ball game.
    17. Take a few hours one afternoon and go to the library as a family.
    18. Take a walk as a family.
    19. Write each member of your family a letter sharing why you value them.
    20. Give your spouse a weekend getaway with a friend (same gender!) to a place of his/her choice.
    21. Go camping as a family.
    22. Go to bed early (one hour before your normal bedtime) every day for a week.
    23. Take each of your children out to breakfast (individually) at least once a month for a year.
    24. Turn down a promotion that would demand more time from your family than you can afford to give.
    25. Religiously wear your seat belts.
    26. Get a complete physical.
    27. Exercise a little every day for a month.
    28. Make sure you have adequate life insurance on both yourself and your spouse.
    29. Write out information about finances, wills, and important business information that your spouse can use to keep things under control in the event of your death.
    30. Make sure your family car is safe (tires, brakes, etc.) and get it tuned up.
    31. Replace the batteries in your smoke alarm.
    32. Put a security system in your house.
    33. Attend the parent/teacher meetings of each child as a couple.
    34. Help your kids with their homework.
    35. Watch the kids on Saturday while your wife goes shopping (but if a friend calls, don’t say that you’re “babysitting”).
    36. Explain to your spouse exactly what you do for a living.
    37. Put together a picture puzzle. (One thousand pieces or more.)
    38. Take time during the week to read a Bible story to your children and then discuss it with them.
    39. Encourage each child to submit to you his most perplexing question, and promise him that you’ll either answer it or discuss it with him.
    40. Finish fixing something around the house.
    41. Tell your kids how you and your spouse met.
    42. Tell your kids about your first date.
    43. Sit down and write your parents a letter thanking them for a specific thing they did for you. (Don’t forget to send it!)
    44. Go on a shopping spree where you are absolutely committed to buying nothing.
    45. Keep a prayer journal for a month. Keep track of the specific ways that God answers your needs.
    46. Do some stargazing away from the city with your family. Help your children identify constellations and conclude the evening with prayer to the majestic God who created the heavens.
    47. Treat your wife to a beauty make-over (facial, manicure, haircut, etc.). I hear they really like this.
    48. Give the kids an alternative to watching Saturday morning cartoons (breakfast at McDonald’s, garage sales, the park, chores, etc.).
    49. Ask your children each day what they did at school (what they learned, who they ate lunch with, etc.).
    50. After you make your next major family decision, take your child back through the process and teach him how you arrived at your decision.
    51. Start saying to yourself “My car doesn’t look so bad.”
    52. Call you wife or husband from work just to see how they’re doing.
    53. Compile a family tree and teach your children the history of their ancestors.
    54. Walk through an old graveyard with your children.
    55. Say no to at least one thing a day — even if it’s only a second piece of pie.
    56. Write that letter to the network that broadcast the show you felt was inappropriate for prime-time viewing.
    57. Turn off the lights and listen to a “praise” tape as you focus your thoughts on the Lord.
    58. Write a note to your pastor praising him for something.
    59. Take back all the books in your library that actually belong in someone else’s library.
    60. Give irritating drivers the right to pull in front of you without signaling and yelling at them.
    61. Make every effort to not let the sun go down on your anger.
    62. Accept legitimate criticism from your wife or a friend without reacting or defending yourself.
    63. If your car has a Christian bumper sticker on in — drive like it.
    64. Do a Bible study on the “wise man” and the “fool” in Proverbs…and then apply what it takes to be wise to your life.
    65. Make a list of people who have hurt your feelings over the past year…then check your list to see if you’ve forgiven them.
    66. Make a decision to honor your parents, even if they made a career out of dishonoring you.
    67. Take your children to the dentist and doctor for your wife.
    68. Play charades with your family, but limit subjects to memories of the past.
    69. Do the dishes for your wife.
    70. Schedule yourself a free day to stay home with your family.
    71. Get involved in a family project that serves or helps someone less fortunate.
    72. As a family, get involved in a recreational activity.
    73. Send your wife flowers.
    74. Spend an evening going through old pictures from family vacations.
    75. Take a weekend once a year for you and your spouse to get away and renew your friendship.
    76. Praise your spouse and children — in their presence — to someone else.
    77. Discuss a world or national problem, and ask your children for their opinion on it.
    78. Wait up for your teenagers when they are out on dates.
    79. Have a “quiet Saturday” (no television, no radio, no stereo…no kidding).
    80. If your children are little, spend an hour playing with them — but let them determine the game.
    81. Have your parents tell your children about life when they were young.
    82. Give up soap operas.
    83. De-clutter your house.
    84. If you have a habit of watching late night television, but have to be to work early every morning, change your habit.
    85. Don’t accept unnecessary breakfast appointments.
    86. Write missionaries regularly.
    87. Go through your closets and give everything that you haven’t worn in a year to a clothing relief organization.
    88. Become a faithful and frequent visitor of your church’s library.
    89. Become a monthly supporter of a Third World child.
    90. Keep mementos, school projects, awards, etc. of each child in separate files. You’ll appreciate these when they’ve left the nest.
    91. Read the biography of a missionary.
    92. Give regularly and faithfully to conscientious Church endeavors.
    93. Place with your will a letter to each family member telling why you were glad you got to share life with him or her.
    94. Go through your old records and tapes and discard any of them that might be a bad testimony to your children.
    95. Furnish a room (or a corner of a room) with comfortable chairs and declare it the “disagreement corner.” When conflicts arise, go to this corner and don’t leave until it’s resolved.
    96. Give each child the freedom to pick his favorite dinner menu at least once a week.
    97. Go over to a shut-in’s house as a family and completely clean it and get the lawn work done.
    98. Call an old friend from your past, just to see how he or she is getting along.
    99. Get a good friend to hold you accountable for a specific important need (Bible reading, prayer, spending time with your family, losing a few pounds, etc.).
    100. Establish a budget.
    101. Go to a Christian marriage enrichment seminar.
  3. To prove his love for her, he swam the deepest river, crossed the widest desert and climbed the highest mountain. She divorced him. He was never home. (Rose Sands, The Saturday Evening Post). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

(Tim Kimmel, Little House on the Freeway, pp. 219-223).L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No. 7) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

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Christmas – 2021 Additional Anecdotes (L-21)

   

Please visit first : Homiliy no  1) Christmas – a thematic homily &
No 2: Four Lectionary based homilies

56 Additional Christmas anecdotes (L-21)

1) Origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun. The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture, Saturn. Later the Kalends of January were observed to celebrate the triumph of life over death. The entire season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun., or Saturnalia.  Since December 25th was around the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing.  When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness.  Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December.  It claims that the annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th.  Since the angel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.    Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times, the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass said at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in the Old English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas. (Fr. Tony Kadavil) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Thanks for listening: In the Cable TV episodes Inside the Actor’s Studio, James Lipton invites celebrities – famous actors, writers and directors – to talk about their careers and how they do what they do. And he always ends each episode the same way, with one particular question: “If you believe that God exists, what do you think He will say to you when you finally see Him?” It’s a good question, by the way, to ask ourselves periodically. It can make for an interesting examination of conscience. Anyway: on this episode, the person James Lipton was interviewing was Steven Spielberg. Lipton asked him that final question: “What do you hope God will say to you when you finally see Him?” And Spielberg thought for a moment and smiled. He replied: “’Thanks for listening.”  — So much of the Christmas story is, truly, about listening. When Gabriel arrives to bring Mary the news that she will bear a child…she listens. When the angel tells Joseph in his dreams what is about to happen…he listens. The shepherds listen when the angel announces the “good news of great joy.” Two thousand years later, we confront this stunning message – “tidings of comfort and joy,” as the carol describes it – and our hearts swell with the sentiment of the season. We hear. But are we paying attention? Are we listening? Christmas invites us to listen. (Deacon Greg Kandra). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” Have you heard about the little boy who loved going to Church? He enjoyed the music, the stained-glass windows, the homily, and the fellowship. The only part about going to Church that the little boy didn’t like, were those long personal prayers which the pastor added to the intercessory prayers! Then on Christmas, the little boy’s parents invited the pastor home for lunch… and would you believe it, his mom asked the pastor to pray the prayer of thanksgiving before the meal. “Oh, no,” thought the little boy, “We will never get to eat. I am starving, and he will pray forever.” But to his surprise, the pastor’s prayer was brief and to the point. He said, “O Lord, bless this home. Bless this food, and use us in your service, in Jesus Name. Amen.” The little boy was so astonished by the pastor’s short prayer that he couldn’t help himself. He looked at the pastor and blurted out what he was thinking: “Man, you don’t mess around when you’re hungry!” — Well, I don’t want to “mess around” on this Christmas Day because I know that whether we realize it or not… we are hungry. We are all hungry for God. We are all hungry for our Savior. We are all hungry for Christmas… because, you see, this is precisely what Christmas is all about. We need a Savior, we are starved for a Savior, a Savior is given in Jesus, and the name “Jesus” means literally “The Lord is Salvation,” or “Yahweh Saves,” or “Savior.” Jesus came at Christmas to do for us what we cannot do for ourselves. He came to save us from our sins. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

4) “And all mankind will see God’s salvation.” Every year, the former President George W. Bush and his wife Laura used to send out a Christmas card with a Bible verse on it. For Christmas 2001, when the country was still coming to terms with the September 11th attacks, the Bushes decided to choose a verse that conveyed their Faith and Hope. They picked this verse from the Psalms: “I believe I shall see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living.” [An interview with First Lady Laura Bush by Ellen Levin, Good Housekeeping (Jan. 2002), pp. 105, 130.] That is the promise of Christmas. Isaiah put it like this: “Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all mankind will see God’s salvation.'” –That is the hope that sustains us in good times and bad. We shall see God’s salvation. Christ came because the world needed saving. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) “We’ll all be home for Christmas.” Senator John McCain spent 5½ years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam in the 1960s. During that time, he was frequently tortured or held in solitary confinement. He reports that his lowest point came on Christmas Eve 1969. McCain was giving up hope of ever getting out of Vietnam alive. To compound his homesickness, the captors played the song “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” over the PA system. Just then, McCain heard tapping on his cell wall. This was the communication code the POWs used to communicate with one another. On the other side of the wall was Ernie Bruce, a Marine who had been imprisoned for four years already. In spite of his dire situation, Bruce was tapping out, “We’ll all be home for Christmas. God bless America.” These simple words of comfort restored John McCain’s hope. [Senator John McCain, “The tapping on the Wall,” Ladies’ Home Journal (July 2002), pp. 107-111.] — The message of Christmas is always one of Hope. This world needs saving, but God began that process of salvation two thousand years ago with the birth of a Baby in Bethlehem. There’s something about Christmas that elevates us. Christmas is about hope of a better world to come. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

6) Camel on the roof of royal palace: The king of Balkh (northern Afghanistan) named Ebrahim ibn Adam was wealthy according to every earthly measure. At the same time, however, he sincerely and restlessly strove to be wealthy spiritually as well. One night the king was roused from sleep by a fearful stumping on the roof above his bed. Alarmed, he shouted: “Who’s there?” “A friend,” came the reply from the roof. “I’ve lost my camel.” Perturbed by such stupidity, Ebrahim screamed: “You fool! Are you looking for a camel on the roof?” “You fool!” the voice from the roof answered. “Are you looking for God in silk clothing, and lying on a golden bed?”  The story goes on, according to Jesuit theologian Walter G. Burghardt, to tell how these simple words filled the king with such terror that he arose from his sleep to become a most remarkable saint. — Every Christmas Jesus asks the same question to each one of us: “Where are you looking for Me? In the majestically adorned and illuminated cathedrals or in the stables of the poor and the needy?” Tonight’s Scripture readings tell us where to look for Christ the Savior. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

7) “No Room in the Inn: The Taj Mahal is one of the most beautiful and costly tombs ever built, but there is something fascinating about its beginnings. In 1629, when the favorite wife of Indian ruler Shah Jahan died, he ordered that a magnificent tomb be built as a memorial for her. The Shah placed his wife’s casket in the middle of a parcel of land, and construction of the temple literally began around it. But several years into the venture, the Shah’s grief gave way to a passion for the project. One late evening while he was surveying the sight, he reportedly stumbled over a wooden box in the dark , and he had some workers to remove it and put it in a common storehouse. It was months before he realized that his wife’s casket that had been carelessly kept in a common store along with useless articles.  The original purpose for the memorial became lost in the details of construction. [Dr. James Dobson, Coming Home, Timeless Wisdom for Families (Tyndale House: Wheaton, 1998), 122, & “Story of Christless Christmas,” taken from Max Lucado, The Applause of Heaven, pp. 131-132.] –This seemingly unrealistic ancient legend is a painfully relevant parable of the way some people celebrate Christmas today.   Sometimes we become so involved in the tasks and details of Christmas that we forget the One we are honoring.  Five little words in the Gospel of Luke say it all: “No Room in the Inn.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

8) The golden rice grains: There is a beautiful poem by the mystic poet of India, Rabindra Nath Tagore, extolling the reward of generous giving.   It tells the story of a king who regularly visited his people, passing through the streets in a chariot.  One morning as the king was passing by, a beggar woman who planned to ask him for alms, stood on the roadside with her begging bowl.   As the king approached her, however, he descended from his chariot and stretched out his hand as though he was expecting a gift from the woman.   Excited and surprised, the woman put her hand in the cotton bag on her shoulder, took out a pinch of rice, and with trembling hands gave it to the king.  The king was well pleased; he smiled at her put her offering in his pocket and gave her back a pinch of grains from his other pocket.   When the woman returned to her small hut that evening and examined the grains, she had gotten that day, she was surprised to find a few grains of gold in the rice.   You can imagine both her surprise and despair when she realized she should have given all her rice grains to the king. — We are here to offer our gifts to Child Jesus in the manger as His birthday gift.  Let us remember that Jesus does not want our material gifts as much as He wants ourselves, with all our weakness and temptations, our merits and demerits. Let our Christmas gift to him be a heart full of love and a strong and sincere resolution to share it generously with others. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

9) “I want somebody who has skin on.” Leonard Griffith, the outstanding pastor in Toronto, tells the story of a mother who was putting her little daughter to bed in the midst of a thunderstorm. She told her daughter that she did not need to be frightened, that her mother and father were close by in the living room. The girl replied to her mother, “Mommy, but when it thunders this way, I want somebody who has skin on.” — This simple, homely story, in essence, is the essential truth of our text. The invisible spirit of God did clothe himself in skin, flesh, and blood and came to dwell among us with grace and truth. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

10) God’s Christmas Gift:  Would you like to know what is on record as the most expensive Christmas gift in the world? It is the Phoenix 1000. This is a 213-foot personal luxury submarine. Maybe there is a couple out there that lives on Lake Lanier and this is something you could buy to impress all of your friends. This is the single largest private underwater vehicle ever built that has a total interior area of 5000 square feet. It can make transatlantic crossings at 16 knots. A small automobile can be kept in the aft section of this submarine; it even has a mini sub complete with its own docking area that can take your guests down to 2000 feet. Wrap it up and bring it home for only $78 million dollars! — The Phoenix 1000 may be the most expensive Christmas gift in history, but it is not the most valuable Christmas gift, nor even is it the costliest. The Christmas gift that I want to talk about tonight is God’s Christmas Gift. It is His Son Jesus as our Savior. Though it is the most valuable and most costly gift ever given – get this – it is absolutely free. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

11) A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens, is all about Ebenezer Scrooge, the mean banker who hoards all his money, and goes around saying, “Bah! Humbug!” On Christmas Eve, he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Christmas Present and Christmas Future. Then he wakes up on Christmas morning, and finds out he’s been given a second chance. He buys the biggest goose for Bob Crachett and Tiny Tim, is reconciled with his family, serves everyone, and loves everyone for the rest of his life. — What makes this such a great story is that Scrooge wakes up on Christmas and decides to spend his life consciously loving and serving others, to live every day as if it were Christmas, loving and serving Christ in everyone. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

12)  “I Wish I could Be a Brother Like That:” Paul received an automobile from his brother as a Christmas present. On Christmas Eve when Paul came out of his office, a street urchin was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. “Is this your car, Mister?” he asked. Paul nodded. “My brother gave it to me for Christmas.” The boy was astounded. “You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn’t cost you nothing? Boy, I wish…” He hesitated. Of course, Paul knew what he was going to wish for. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the lad said jarred Paul all the way down to his heels. “I wish,” the boy went on, “that I could be a brother like that.”   Paul looked at the boy in astonishment, then impulsively he added, “Would you like to take a ride in my automobile?” “Oh yes, I’d love that.” After a short ride, the boy turned and with his eyes aglow, said, “Mister, would you mind driving in front of my house?” Paul smiled a little. He thought he knew what the lad wanted. He wanted to show his neighbors that he could ride home in a big automobile. But Paul was wrong again. “Will you stop where those two steps are?” the boy asked. He ran up the steps. Then in a little while Paul heard him coming back, but he was not coming fast. He was carrying his little crippled brother. He sat him down on the bottom step, then sort of squeezed up against him and pointed to the car. “There she is, Buddy, just like I told you upstairs. His brother gave it to him for Christmas and it didn’t cost him a cent. And someday I’m gonna give you one just like it…then you can see for yourself all the pretty things in the Christmas windows that I’ve been trying to tell you about.” Paul got out and lifted the lad to the front seat of his car. The shining-eyed older brother climbed in beside him and the three of them began a memorable holiday ride. — That Christmas Eve, Paul learned what Jesus meant when he had said: “It is more blessed to give…” [Dan Clark. From Chicken Soup for the Soul (1992), pp. 25-26.] Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

13) Erik’s Jesus in rags: A Christmas story: [“Erik’s Old Man,” by Nancy Dahlberg. From Chicken Soup for the Christian Soul (1997), pp. 307-309.] It was Sunday, Christmas Day. After the holidays in San Francisco we were driving back home to Los Angeles.  We stopped for lunch in King City.  The restaurant was nearly empty.  We were the only family and ours were the only children. I heard Erik, my one-year-old, squeal with glee.  “Hithere,” the two words he always thought were one.  “Hithere,” and he pounded his fat baby hands- whack, whack, whack – on the metal highchair.  His face was alive with excitement, his eyes were wide, gums bared in a toothless grin.  He wriggled and giggled. Then I saw the source of his merriment: an old, dirty smelly bum in rags.  He spoke to Erik:  “Hi there, baby. Hi there, big boy, I see ya, Buster.”  My husband and I exchanged a look that was a cross between “What do we do?” and “Poor devil.”

Our meal came, and the banging and the noise continued.  Now the old bum was shouting across the room and Erik continued to laugh and answer, “Hithere.”  Every call was echoed.  Nobody thought it was cute.  The guy was a drunk and a disturbance.  I was embarrassed.  My husband, Dennis, was humiliated. Dennis went to pay the check, imploring me to get Erik and meet him in the parking lot.  “Lord, just let me get out of here before he speaks to me or Erik,” and I bolted for the door.  It soon was obvious that both the Lord and Erik had other plans. As I drew closer to the man on my way out, Erik, with his eyes riveted on his new friend, leaned over my arm, reaching up with his in a baby’s “pick-me-up position.”  In the split-second of balancing my baby, I came eye-to-eye with the old man. Erik was lunging for him, arms spread wide.  The bum implored me:   “Would you let me hold your baby?” There was no need for me to answer since Erik propelled himself from my arms into those of the bum. Suddenly a very old man and a very young baby consummated their love relationship.

Erik laid his tiny head upon the man’s ragged shoulder.  The man’s eyes closed, and I saw tears hover beneath the lashes.  His aged hands, rough and worn from hard labor, gently cradled and stroked my baby.  I stood awestruck. The old man rocked and cradled Erik in his arms for a moment.  Then he opened his eyes, looked into mine, and said in a firm voice: “You take care of this baby.”  And somehow, I managed to say, “I will.” At last the bum handed Erik to me.   As I held my arms open to receive my baby, the old man said, “God bless you, Ma’am. You’ve given me my Christmas gift.”  I said nothing more than a muttered “thanks.” With Erik in my arms, I ran for the car.  Dennis wondered why I was crying and holding Erik so tightly.  And why I was saying, “My God, forgive me.  Forgive me” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

14) Will you take Christ home with you this Christmas?  When a little boy named Davis came to Christmas morning Mass with his parents, he was surprised to find that baby Jesus was not in the Nativity Set. His parents immediately went into the sacristy and asked the pastor who had removed the Baby Jesus. The pastor rushed to the crib only to realize that some miscreants had stolen the Baby from the manger after the Midnight Mass.  Later, during the morning Mass, the pastor informed the congregation of the theft and told them that he couldn’t understand the motive behind such a callous act. Then, he asked them to see that the Baby Jesus was returned. The manger, however, remained empty.

Later that afternoon, depressed and sad, the pastor was walking through the wintry streets when he saw his neighbor, little Tommy. Shabbily dressed against the cold, Tommy was proudly walking with a new, bright red wagon.  The pastor knew how much his parents must have scrimped and saved to buy him the wagon.  With a surge of Christmas spirit, the pastor wished Tommy a Merry Christmas and congratulated him on his beautiful Christmas gift. It was then that he noticed that Tommy’s new red wagon wasn’t empty. The Baby Jesus stolen from the church lay on a pillow in the wagon. The pastor was disappointed. He told Tommy that stealing was wrong, and that the entire parish had been hurt by his action. Wiping from his cheeks the flowing penitential tears, Tommy said, “But, Father, I didn’t steal Jesus! It wasn’t like that at all.  I’ve been asking Jesus for a red wagon for Christmas for a long time, and, you see, I promised Him when I got it, He’d be the first one I took out for a ride. I kept my promise and now I am on my way to the church to bring Baby Jesus home!” —  Each Christmas invites us to take Jesus to our home, because the only inn where He cares to find shelter is the inn of our hearts.   If, like the pastor in our story, we have misjudged others, we can take Jesus home with us by asking their forgiveness. If   someone has hurt us, we can forgive him or her. Let’s make this a Christmas of reconciliation, love, peace and joy. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

15) O Henry’s story of sacrificial Christmas sharing: “Gift of the Magi”:   A brief retelling of this old, but touching story is as follows:   It was Christmas Eve, during the days of the Depression of the 1930’s.  Della and James, a newly married couple, were very poor.  They loved each other dearly, but money was hard come by.  In fact, as Christmas approached, they were unhappy because they had no money to buy presents for each other. They had two possessions that they valued deeply:  James had a gold watch which had belonged to his father, and Della had long and beautiful brown hair.   Della knew that James’ watch had no matching chain–only a worn-out leather strap.  A matching chain would be an ideal gift for her husband, but she lacked the money to buy it. As she stood before the mirror, her eyes fell on her long tresses.  She was very proud of her beautiful hair, but she knew what she had to do.  She faltered a moment, but nothing could stand in the way of love.  She hastened to the “hair-dealers,” sold her hair for twenty dollars, and went around shop after shop, hunting for the ideal gift.  At last she found it: a matching chain for her husband’s watch.  She was very happy and proud of the gift.  She knew he would love it, the fruit of her sacrifice. James came in, beaming with love, proud of the gift he had bought for Della.  He knew she would be very happy with the gift.  But when he saw her, his face fell.  She thought he was angry at what she had done.  She tried to console him by saying that her hair would grow fast, and soon it would be as beautiful as before.  That is when he gave her his gift.  It was an expensive set of combs, with gem-studded rims.   She had always wanted them for her hair!  She was very happy, but with a tinge of sadness.  She knew it would be some time before she could use the precious gift. Then, with tears in her eyes, she presented him with the gift she had bought.  As he looked at the beautiful chain, he said with a sigh: “I guess our gifts will have to wait for some time.  The combs were very expensive; I had to sell my watch to buy the combs!” –These were the perfect gifts:  gifts of sacrificial love.  Both James and Della were very happy for, like the Magi, they had discovered LOVE through self-sacrifice. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

16) Two babies in the manger?  In 1994, two Christian missionaries answered an invitation from the Russian Department of Education to teach morals and ethics in a large orphanage.  About 100 boys and girls who had been abandoned, abused, and left in the care of a government-run program were in the orphanage. It was nearing Christmas and the missionaries decided to tell them the story of Christmas.  It would be the first time these children heard the story of the birth of Christ.  They told the children about Mary and Joseph arriving in Bethlehem.  Finding no room in the inn, the couple went to a stable, where the Baby Jesus was born and placed in a manger.  Throughout the story, the children and the orphanage staff sat in amazement as they listened.  When the story was finished, the missionaries gave the children three small pieces of cardboard to make a crude manger.  Each child was given a small paper square, cut from yellow napkins that the missionaries had brought with them since no colored paper was available.  Following instructions, the children tore the paper and carefully laid strips in the manger for straw. Small squares of flannel, cut from a worn-out nightgown discarded by a tourist, were used for the baby’s blanket.  A doll-like baby was cut from tan felt which the missionaries had also brought with them.  It was all going smoothly until one of the missionaries sat down at a table to help a 6-year-old boy named Misha.  He had finished his manger.  When the missionary looked at the little boy’s manger, she was startled to see not one, but two babies in the manger.  Quickly, she called for the translator to ask Misha why there were two babies in the manger.  Crossing his arms in front of him and looking at this completed manger scene, Misha began to repeat the story very seriously.  For such a young boy, who had only heard the Christmas story once, he related the happenings accurately until he came to the part where Mary put the Baby Jesus in the manger. Then Misha started to ad-lib.  He made up his own ending.  He said, “And when Maria laid the baby in the manger, Jesus looked at me and asked me if I had a place to stay. I told him, ‘I have no mamma and I have no papa, so I don’t have any place to stay.  Then Jesus told me that I could stay with Him.  But I told him I couldn’t, because I didn’t have a gift to give Him like the shepherds and the magi did.  But I wanted to stay with Jesus so much, so I thought about what I had that maybe I could use for a gift.  I thought maybe if I kept Him warm, that would be a good gift.  So I asked Jesus, “If I keep You warm, will that be a good enough gift?”  And Jesus told me,  ‘If you keep Me warm, that will be the best gift anybody ever gave Me.’  So I got into the manger and then Jesus looked at me and He told me I could stay with Him – for always.”
As little Misha finished his story, his eyes brimmed full of tears that
splashed down his little cheeks. Putting his hand over his face, his head dropped to the table and his shoulders shook as he sobbed and sobbed. The little orphan had found Someone Who would never abandon nor abuse him, Someone who would stay with him – FOR ALWAYS.  — Today we celebrate the great feast of Jesus the Emmanuel – “God with Us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

17) A Christmas Parable written by Louis Cassels:  Once upon a time there was a man who looked upon Christmas as a lot of humbug. He wasn’t a Scrooge. He was a kind and decent person, generous to his family, upright in all his dealings with other men. But he didn’t believe all that stuff about Incarnation which Churches proclaim at Christmas. And he was too honest to pretend that he did. “I am truly sorry to distress you,” he told his wife, who was a faithful churchgoer. “But I simply cannot understand this claim that God becomes man. It doesn’t make any sense to me.” On Christmas Eve his wife and children went to Church for the midnight service. He declined to accompany them. “I’d feel like a hypocrite,” he explained. “I’d rather stay at home. But I’ll wait up for you.”

Shortly after his family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window and watched the flurries getting heavier and heavier. “If we must have Christmas,” he thought, “it’s nice to have a white one.” He went back to his chair by the fireside and began to read his newspaper. A few minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. It was quickly followed by another, then another. He thought that someone must be throwing snowballs at his living room window. When he went to the front door to investigate, he found a flock of birds huddled miserably in the storm. They had been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter had tried to fly through his window. “I can’t let these poor creatures lie there and freeze,” he thought. “But how can I help them?” Then he remembered the barn where the children’s pony was stabled. It would provide a warm shelter.

He put on his coat and galoshes and tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the door wide and turned on a light. But the birds didn’t come in. “Food will lure them in,” he thought. So, he hurried back to the house for breadcrumbs, which he sprinkled on the snow to make a trail into the barn. To his dismay, the birds ignored the breadcrumbs and continued to flop around helplessly in the snow. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. They scattered in every direction – except into the warm lighted barn. “They find me a strange and terrifying creature,” he said to himself, “and I can’t seem to think of any way to let them know they can trust me. If only I could be a bird myself for a few minutes, perhaps I could lead them to safety. . . .” Just at that moment the church bells began to ring. He stood silent for a while, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas. Then he sank to his knees in the snow. “Now I do understand,” he whispered. “Now I see why You had to do it.”  (Quoted by Fr. Tommy Lane) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

18) Did you see the queen? Remember that nursery rhyme?

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, where have you been?”

“I’ve been to London to look at the queen.”

“Pussy cat, pussy cat, what did you there?”

“I frightened a little mouse, under her chair.”

The pussy cat went to see the queen, but it saw only a mouse. — We have come to Christmas to see Jesus coming to our lives as our Lord and personal Savior. But do we see only the lights, the statues in the manger scene and the poinsettias around the altar? We have come to experience the Light of the world shine on us. But do we see only the darkness of our lives and that of the world? God has communicated His love for us and His desire to be with us through the Babe in the manger. Do we get the Message? Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

19) Christmas Reconciliation.  A young woman drove a rented car slowly up a snow-covered mountain road on a cold Christmas Eve.  She was going to see her father, whom she had not seen in twelve years.  She had been sixteen when her father and mother divorced after his affair with a woman at work.  Neither she nor her mother had ever been able to forgive him.

The affair had not lasted, and her father had soon given up his corporate job in an eastern city and moved to Colorado — “to rest my weary soul in the solitude of the mountains” was what he had written in the first letter he sent after he left home.  He had taken a job with the National Park Service for the summer and hoped he might find something at a ski resort in the winter.  That was all she knew about his life for all of those years.  Letters had come regularly from the same address in a town called Ward, and she had carefully saved each one, unopened, in a cookie tin on the back shelf of the large walk-in closet in the bedroom of her townhouse. She had done well for herself, ironically, in the same company that had once employed her father.

The last line of that one letter she had read flashed into her mind, as it had so many times before, as she saw the road sign for Ward with an arrow pointing to the right.  “I hope you will be able to forgive me some day, Gracie.  I love you.” Could she forgive him?  Was that why she had come?  Even after the long flight and the equally long drive from the airport on unfamiliar mountain roads, she still didn’t know.

Grace and her mother had always spent Christmases together, vacationing in Florida or the Caribbean.  It was a way of distracting themselves from what they had lost.  Now that her mother was remarried, there was no place to go.  They had invited her for Christmas, her mother and Ted, but she hadn’t wanted to intrude on their first holiday together.  So, here she was on the road to Ward.

Grace could see the lights of the little town shimmering below her, shiny and yellow against the snow, like the gold that had once been mined from the mountain.  She turned off the main highway and shifted into low gear.  The road down to the village was steep and narrow and snow-covered.  Sand had been spread on the curves, but she still had to go slowly.  She wondered in which of the thirty or forty houses and old miner’s shacks she would find her father.  She pulled up in front of the general store.  The porch light was on and the door was open.  A young woman about her own age, dressed in bib overalls with braided hair hanging down to her waist, was crocheting behind the counter near a small wood-burning stove.  Candy bars, cigarettes, and several brands of cough medicine lined the shelves behind her.  The woman smiled at Grace and said, “Good evening.  What can I do for you?”

“I’m looking for my father,” Grace said.  The plaintive tone of her own voice surprised her.  She told the woman her father’s name and immediately saw a knowing look of recognition.  “Old Jim.  He comes in here all the time.  You must be Grace.  He told me about you.”  It seemed strange to hear her father called old.  Grace remembered him as middle-aged. Of course, he would be older now, in his late sixties.  It pleased Grace to know he had spoken of her.

“Almost everybody is up at the Church,” the woman said.  “I saw your dad go up about a half-hour ago. A retired preacher comes up from Nederbet every Christmas Eve.  It’s about the only time they have services here.  You can leave your car out in front.  It’s easier to walk from here.” Grace slowly made her way over the footbridge spanning the ice-covered stream that wound through the center of the town.  She could see the small clapboard Church about 200 yards up the mountain.  On top of the steeple there were green, blue, and red Christmas lights flashing in the form of a star.  They appeared to be attached to the cross.  Her hands trembled as she opened the door of the Church.  Would her father be glad to see her after all these years?  Would he recognize her?

She spotted him, sitting by himself in one of the back pews.  “Old Jim.”  The woman at the store was right.  His hair was thin and completely gray.  He was much heavier now. He looked tired, and, the thought pained her, very much alone. The congregation stood up to sing “Hark, the Herald Angels Sing.”  The words of the familiar carol rang in her ears as she slipped into the pew beside her father.  “Glory to the newborn King, Peace on earth and mercy mild, God and sinners reconciled.” She squeezed her father’s hand and a smile came over his face in the same instant he turned to see her.  “Grace,” he said, “I’m so glad to see you.”

“Daddy,” was all she was able to say. When the pastor gave the invitation to come forward for receiving Jesus in the Christmas Holy Communion, Grace and her father walked up the aisle hand in hand.  Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

20) “God has revealed Himself in his Son.” Theologian Karl Barth stood before students and faculty at Princeton in 1963 during his Princeton Lectures. A student asked: “Sir, don’t you think that God has revealed himself in other religions and not only Christianity?” Barth stunned many who were present when he thundered, “No, God has not revealed himself in any religion, including Christianity. He has revealed himself in his Son.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

21) Christmas trees are a big business (as you can imagine) in this country. Thirty-six million Christmas trees are produced in this country every year and more than one million acres of land have been planted in Christmas trees. Over 100,000 people work full time in the Christmas tree industry. More than 1 million acres of land in this country are dedicated just to planting Christmas trees. Roughly 21% of United States households will have a real tree in their home this year versus 48% that will have a fake tree. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

22) Shuttle service to Heaven: The brilliant writer, C. S. Lewis, wrote a thought-provoking book called The Great Divorce. It is not about the divorce that occurs between husband and wife. It is about the divorce that occurs between our souls and God. In this book, C. S. Lewis gives us a picture of Hell as a big city, with all its pressures and problems. In this big city, the weather is always cold and wet with a heavy rain. The light is always grey and murky. The people in this city of Hell become more and more aware of the great divorce that has taken place between their soul and God, and they sink deeper and deeper into their dismal surroundings. Except … there is a way out! There is a way out of this terrible condition! God has provided a shuttle-bus service from Hell to Heaven: regular bus service. All you need to do is get on the bus and let the power of God carry you into the light. The incredible thing about the story is that very few people get on board the buses, even though they are arriving and departing all the time. The people find all kinds of excuses for putting the journey off to some vague future time — and they miss the opportunity to be carried by the power of God from death to new life; from the misery of being estranged from God to the joy of being in union with God. —  Though we may stand in the darkness of the “great divorce,” the Christmas Promise of God is that He will carry us into the light if only we are willing to get on the bus. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

23) Jesus sells: One never tires of Jesus as a subject. The cover stories of Time, Newsweek, and US News & World Report regularly mark His nativity. One reason for featuring Him so often is that their circulation invariably increases. Born twenty centuries ago, Jesus still sells. Mel Gibson broke all records with his DVD version of The Passion of the Christ. He sold nine million copies in three weeks at $22 a clip. The first book published by Pope Benedict XVI is called Jesus of Nazareth. It quickly found a home on the Best Seller list of The New York Times. Artists at their easels struggle to paint His portrait again. Have you seen Andy Warhol’s Nativity? Composers struggle to salute Him with a fresh musical score. — Will it ever be otherwise? I believe not. Tell others of Jesus. But first, allow Him to be born in you. He can’t be born again, but we can. (Fr. James Gilhooley). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

24) “But I did show up”:  A story is told of an old woman who lived all alone. Each year as Christmas drew near, she would sigh and lament her loneliness, wishing that some people would visit her. Since nobody would visit her, she decided to pray to the Baby Jesus and His mother requesting that they pay her a visit. Finally, the baby Jesus appeared to her in a dream and told her that her prayer had been heard and that the Holy Family would visit her on Christmas Day. Oh, how excited she was! She began cleaning and polishing everything in her house squeaky clean in preparation for the Divine visitor. She cooked her best dish and baked her best cake in readiness for the visit of Jesus and his mother. Who knows, maybe if she pleased them well enough, they might decide to stay on and live with her!

When Christmas Day finally arrived, her house was squeaky clean. Everything was in place to give her sacred guests a befitting welcome. She sat by the door and read a book, just to make sure the visitors would not have to ring the doorbell twice before she would open the door and let them in. It was a cold and rainy day. At about noon she spotted a gypsy couple in the rain making their way to her house. The man was dirty and disheveled. The thinly clad woman was nursing a baby who was crying in the rain. “Why can’t these gypsies just get a decent job,” she said to herself. Then she screamed at them, “Turn back, turn back immediately. Come another day if you like. Today, I am expecting very important visitors.” The gypsy family turned back and left. The woman continued to wait. She waited all day and no divine visitors showed up. At sunset she fell asleep on the chair, and there in her dream was Jesus. “Jesus,” she screamed, “how could you disappoint me? You said You were coming to visit me for Christmas, and I waited all day, and You never showed up.” “But I did show up,” replied Jesus. “I came with My father and mother in the rain, and you turned us away.” Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

25) You’re a good man.” In Alan Paton’s beautiful novel, Cry the Beloved Country, there is a young man who was born late in his parents’ lives. He left his home in the hill country and went down to the city. He never wrote or sent back news. Finally, his elderly father decided to go to the city to find his boy. Because he hadn’t spent much time in the city, the father had a hard time of it there. He was bewildered and confused, and he didn’t know where to begin. Then he was befriended by a city minister who heard his story and resolved to help him. The old man moved in with the minister who went out of his way, spending time trying to help the father pick up clues, to get on the trail of his son. And when they seemed to be making progress, the old man, with tears in his eyes, was trying to thank the minister for all he had done. He couldn’t quite find the words and said simply, “You’re a good man.” The minister replied, “I’m not a good man. I am a sinful and a selfish man. But Jesus Christ has laid His hands on me, that’s all.”–  A good man is hard to find. But God sent one — one good Man — to show us the answer to the supreme riddle of life. One good Man who will never fail us. For, as St. Paul has written, “Love never fails” (I Cor. 13:8). (Voicings.com). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

26) Your God Is Too Small. JB Phillips authored a book entitled Your God Is Too Small. One of the great reasons for Advent is to celebrate the birth of Jesus and explore the BIGNESS of our GREAT God. The irony of Christmas is this: the bigness of God can be seen in a tiny Baby. According to Paul in Colossians 1:15-23 this tiny Baby is the dynamic, omniscient, omnipotent Creator of the universe! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 27) He jumped into the hole: A student asked a Christian professor how Confucius and Buddha would differ from Christ. He responded with a parable. A woman fell into a deep hole. Try as she might, she could not climb out. Confucius looked in. He told her, “Poor woman, if you had paid attention to me, you would not have fallen in there in the first place.” Then he disappeared. Buddha approached. He too spotted the woman. He said to himself, “If she can just manage to get out of that hole, I can give her genuine aid.” He continued his journey. Along came Jesus. He spotted the woman. He was moved with pity. He jumped into the hole immediately to assist her out. — This story illustrates the Incarnation. We gather here to celebrate the concern of God for each of us. His willingness to parachute into enemy-occupied territory in human form for our sakes is illustrated by the birth of His Son today. (CS Lewis). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

28) Ancient Christmas reading from the Roman Martyrology: Pope Gregory XIII in 1584 brought together the Roman Martyrology. “The customary reading for Christmas from the Roman Martyrology, often proclaimed prior to the celebration of Christmas Mass at Midnight:  In the year 5199 since the creation of the world, when God made Heaven and earth; in the year 2759 since the flood; in the year 2015 since Abraham’s birth; in the year 1510 since the exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt under the guidance of Moses; in the year 1032 since David was anointed king; in the 65th week of years according to Daniel’s prophecy; in the 194th Olympiad; in the year 732 after the building of Rome; in the 42nd year of the reign of Octavian Augustus, when there was peace in the whole world; in the 6th era of the world’s history; Jesus Christ, eternal God and Son of the eternal Father, desired to sanctify the world by His gracious coming. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, and now after nine months (all kneel) He is born at Bethlehem in the tribe of Judah as Man from the Virgin Mary. THE BIRTH OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST IN THE FLESH. (Fr. Cusick). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

29) The face of God: I heard the story once of a great Cherokee wood carver. He took a log and sat it on a stump outside his back door and sat in front of that log sometimes for hours just staring at it. Finally, he would pick up his carving tools and start carving the most beautiful of things out of the wood. He was known for his intricate details in feathers of eagles, or the look of sadness in the eyes of the faces he carved. A tourist once asked him how he decided what to carve, and the young man said that he looked for the picture that is already in the wood, then just took the excess wood away, leaving the beautiful finished image. He said people would continually ask him how he came up with the ideas as to what he was going to carve. — People are curious about everything. For hundreds of centuries, people wanted to know what God looked like, too. Many thought He might have the face of a demanding judge or strict disciplinarian. It seems we always put the face on God that we fear the most. On a Christmas Eve, some 2,000 years ago, God took off His mask and showed the world what He looked like. He let us see Him how He really looks. We have all heard what we call “the Christmas Story”, and we all feel very comfortable with Jesus in a manger, don’t we? (Rev. Diane Ball). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 30) But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all:  Take the year 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. Nobody then cared about babies. But the world was overlooking some terribly significant births. For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England’s finest statesman. That same year, Alfred Tennyson was born to an obscure minister and his wife. The child would one day affect the literary world in a marked manner. On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. And not far away in Boston, Edgar Allan Poe began his eventful, albeit tragic, life. It was also in that same year that a physician named Darwin and his wife named their child Charles Robert. And that same year produced the cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby’s name? Abraham Lincoln. If there had been news broadcasts at that time, I’m certain these words would have been heard: “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today.” But history was actually being shaped in the cradles of England and America. — Similarly, everyone thought taxation was the big news–when Jesus was born. But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all: the birth of the Savior. Adapted from Charles Swindoll. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

31) You left your palace and your glory to visit me:  Long ago, there ruled in Persia a wise and good king. He loved his people. He wanted to know how they lived. He wanted to know about their hardships. Often, he dressed in the clothes of a working man or a beggar and went to the homes of the poor. No one whom he visited thought that he was their ruler. One time he visited a very poor man who lived in a cellar. He ate the coarse food the poor man ate. He spoke cheerful, kind words to him. Then he left. Later he visited the poor man again and disclosed his identity by saying, “I am your king!” The king thought the man would surely ask for some gift or favor, but he didn’t. Instead he said, “You left your palace and your glory to visit me in this dark, dreary place. You ate the course food I ate. You brought gladness to my heart! To others you have given your rich gifts. To me you have given yourself!” — The King of glory, the Lord Jesus Christ, gave himself to you and me. The Bible calls Him, “the unspeakable gift!” Source Unknown. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

32) Christ is born anew within. On the wall of the museum of the concentration camp at Dachau is a large and moving photograph of a mother and her little girl standing in line leading to a gas chamber. The child, who is walking in front of her mother, does not know where she is going. The mother, who walks behind, does know, but is helpless to stop the tragedy. In her helplessness she performs the only act of love left to her. She places her hands over the child’s eyes so she will at least not see the horror to come. –When people come into the museum they do not whisk by this photo hurriedly. They pause. They almost feel the pain. And deep inside I think that they are all saying: “O God, don’t let that be all that there is.” — God’ hears those prayers, and it is in just such situations of hopelessness and helplessness that His almighty power is born. It is there that God leaves His Treasure, in Mary and in all of us, as Christ is born anew within. (Sermon Illustrations, 1999). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

33) Jesus pitched his tent among us: The custom of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no Churches. Priests hid in the forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetime a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass. For this grace they hoped and prayed all through the year. When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a church for Christmas. To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people explained that they burned the candles and kept the doors unlocked so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, would find their way to their home and be welcomed with open hearts.  — The candles in the windows have always remained a cherished practice of the Irish, although many of them have long since forgotten the earlier meaning.
(William Barker in Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide; quoted by Fr. Botelho) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

34) A Legend from Russia: “A Legend from Russia” is a poem by Phyllis McGinley about Christmas. The poem begins as the old grandmother, Babushka, is about to retire for the evening: “When out of the winter’s rush and roar, /came shepherds knocking upon her door. /They tell her of a royal child a virgin just bore/ and beg the grandmother to come and adore.” Babushka is good-hearted, but she likes her comfort, and so her reaction is to go later: “Tomorrow,” she mutters. “Wait until then.”/ But the shepherds come back and knock again. /This time they beg only a blanket “with comforting gifts, meat or bread,”/ and we will carry it in your stead.”/ Again Babushka answers, “Tomorrow.” And when tomorrow comes, she’s as good as her word. She packs a basket of food and gifts: “A shawl for the lady, soft as June, /For the Child in the crib a silver spoon,” Rattles and toys and an ivory game.  / but the stable was empty when she came.” (Anonymous. Quoted by Fr. Botelho) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

 35) Every one of us is going to have a Baby this Christmas! During a pastoral call, a three-year-old boy climbed in the lap of a pastor and whispered confidentially, “I know a secret!” The pastor asked, “Will you tell me your secret?” “Yes,” the little fellow giggled delightedly, “but you mustn’t tell my mamma.” When the pastor promised not to tell, the boy continued, “My mamma’s going to the hospital to have a baby. But don’t tell her. Me and Daddy want her to be surprised!” — Would you be surprised if someone told you that you were going to have a baby? Women over 50 would say, “Who do you think you are kidding?” When an angel came to the Virgin Mary, it was a surprise when he told her that she was to have a baby. The fact is that regardless of sex or age, every one of us is going to have a Baby this Christmas! (Fr. Tony Kadavil) (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

36) Christmas gift of the first ride for Baby Jesus: Once, the people of a very poor parish set their hearts on acquiring an expensive set of figures for their Christmas crib. They worked hard and managed to get a set of rare porcelain for their crib. The Church was left open on Christmas day so that the people could visit the crib. In the evening when the parish priest went to lock up, to his consternation he found the baby Jesus was missing. As he stood there, he spotted a little girl with a pram entering the Church. She made straight for the crib, took the baby Jesus out of the pram and put him lovingly in the crib. As she was on her way out the priest stopped her and asked her what she was doing with the Baby Jesus.  She told him that before Christmas she had prayed to baby Jesus for a pram. She had promised Him that if she got the prom, he would have the first ride in it. She had got her pram so she was keeping her side of the bargain. –Christmas evokes generosity in all people, especially in children. What is our gift to him? (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

37) Christmas in the Vietnam jail: In 1967, during the Vietnam War, John McCain was captured by Vietnamese Communist forces and spent five and a half years as a prisoner of war. He survived beatings, malnutrition, and torture, and was eventually released. McCain went on to great success in life and became a U.S. Senator in 1986. In an interview with television host Larry King, Sen. McCain told about his experiences in the Vietnamese prison camps. One year, the American prisoners wanted to celebrate Christmas. McCain secured a Bible and found another prisoner who could sing some Christmas hymns. The prisoners gathered together to hear Scripture passages about the birth of Jesus and to sing a few hymns together. As John McCain looked around, he saw tears of joy and tenderness in the men’s eyes. In the midst of this hellhole of a prison camp, these men still found hope in the story of Jesus. [Larry King with Rabbi Irwin Katsof, Powerful Prayers (Los Angeles: Renaissance Books, 1998), pp. 213-214.] — And why shouldn’t they find Hope in Christmas? They were celebrating the birth of One Who knew what it was like to be a prisoner–Who knew what it was to be beaten–Who knew what it was to die for others. People of every generation of every imaginable condition have found a soul-mate in the Baby in the Manger. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

38) The heart and soul of Christmas: Each Christmas season, Charles Krieg, a pastor in New Jersey, takes his mother into New York City to look at all the decorations and to visit Santa at Macy’s Department Store. The windows of the department store were unforgettable one year. The first window had a scroll which read, “The Smell of Christmas is in the Kitchen.” The scene was an old-fashioned kitchen with a black stove and food cooking on it; it was so life-like you could almost smell the food. The second window was titled, “The Taste of Christmas is in the Dining Room.” There was a long table laden with food. The third window showed a beautiful tree decorated with ornaments and lights, little toys and popcorn strings. The scroll read, “The Color of Christmas is in the Tree.” The fourth window scroll said, “The Sound of Christmas is in the Carols.” This scene was a group of animated figures singing Christmas carols. Then came the store’s main entrance. If you ignored the entrance and kept on going, you would have seen one more window. The scroll in this window proclaimed: “But the Heart and Soul of Christmas is Here!” In this window was a stable with shepherds, wise men, Joseph, Mary, and the baby Jesus lying in a manger. (Source unknown). — Here is not only the heart and soul of Christmas. Here is the heart and soul of the universe. God knows what it is to walk where we walk. God offers us new life in Him by Faith in Jesus Christ. It is the most remarkable story ever told: The Great Physician who took all humanity’s infirmities upon himself, that by his stripes, we might be healed. (Fr. Tony Kadavil) Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

39) A metronome at Christmas-rush aerodrome security check-in: Tom Ervin, Professor of Music at the University of Arizona was attending a conference for music teachers in New York. While at the conference he purchased a talking metronome. A metronome is a device for counting the beats in a song. Before Tom and his son boarded their flight home, Tom hefted his carry-on bag onto the security-check conveyor belt. The security guard’s eyes widened as he watched the monitor. He asked Tom what he had in the bag. Then the guard slowly pulled out of the bag this strange looking device, a six-by-three-inch black box covered with dials and switches. Other travelers, sensing trouble, vacated the area. “It’s a metronome,” Tom replied weakly, as his son cringed in embarrassment. “It’s a talking metronome,” he insisted. “Look, I’ll show you.”  He took the box and flipped a switch, realizing that he had no idea how it worked. “One . . . two . . . three . . . four,” said the metronome in perfect time. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief.  As they gathered their belongings, Tom’s son whispered, “Aren’t you glad it didn’t go ‘four . . . three . . . two . . . one . . . ‘?” (Timothy Anger) —  For the past few weeks we have been counting down the days until Christmas. Now we could count the hours until the dawning of a New Year. But we need to linger with Mary and Joseph for a little while longer, because what happened immediately after Christmas is a stark reminder of the world in which we live. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

40) “Would you hold my baby for me, please?” Years ago a young man was riding a bus from Chicago to Miami. He had a stop-over in Atlanta. While he was sitting at the lunch counter, a woman came out of the ladies’ rest room carrying a tiny baby. She walked up to this man and asked, “Would you hold my baby for me, I left my purse in the rest room.” He did. But as the woman neared the front door of the bus station, she darted out into the crowded street and was immediately lost in the crowd. This guy couldn’t believe his eyes. He rushed to the door to call the woman, but couldn’t see her anywhere. Now what should he do? Put the baby down and run? When calmness finally settled in, he went to the Traveler’s Aid booth and together with the local police, they soon found the real mother. You see, the woman who’d left him holding the baby wasn’t the baby’s real mother. She’d taken the child. Maybe it was to satisfy some motherly urge to hold a child or something else. No one really knows. But we do know that this man, breathed a sigh of relief when the real mother was found. After all, what was he going to do with a baby? — In a way, each of us, is in the same sort of situation as this young man. Every Christmas God Himself walks up to us and asks, “Would you hold My Baby for Me, please?” and then thrusts the Christ Child into our arms. (1) — And we’re left with the question, “What are we going to do with this Baby?” But an even deeper question is, just “Who is this Baby?” If we look at Scripture, we find all kinds of titles and names for this baby we hold in our arms. Emmanuel, “God with us;” Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace, Christ the King, Jesus. (King Duncan). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

41) Where Does God Fit In? I just read a story about a schoolteacher in England who supervised her students’ construction of a manger scene in a corner of her classroom. The students were excited and enthusiastic as they set up the little barn and covered the floor with real straw and then arranged all the figures of Mary and Joseph and the shepherds and the Wise Men and all the animals. The students had all the characters facing the  little crib in which the tiny Infant Jesus lay. One little boy just couldn’t get enough. He was absolutely enthralled. He kept returning to it, and each time stood there completely engrossed but wearing a puzzled expression on his face. The teacher noticed him and asked, “Is anything wrong? Do you have a question? What would you like to know?” With his eyes still glued to the tiny manger scene, the boy said slowly, “What I’d like to know is, it’s so small, how does God fit in?” (Rev. King Duncan). == God fits in because, no matter how hard we try, no matter how hard we work, no matter what our intentions in life are, somehow, we just get it wrong. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

42) Early American Christmas Celebrations:  Back in the early 1700s, when the United States were the Colonies, the settlers in Williamsburg, capital of Colonial Virginia, celebrated Christmas with customs they had brought from England. They had no Santa Claus (a Dutch tradition), no Christmas trees (a German tradition), no Nativity crèche (an Italian tradition), and no chimney stockings (an American tradition).  Christmas in Colonial Williamsburg was primarily a holy day, but the atmosphere was not solemn. Churches and homes were decorated with greens, while candles burned in all the windows to welcome carolers.  There was a public celebration, too. Musicians played special concerts, and fireworks were set off and cannon were shot to heighten the general merriment. Feasting was in order with dishes of roasted fowl and hare, marrow pudding, ham, oysters, sausage, shellfish, often capped by whole roast boar on a platter. Some gifts were given then as part of the Christmas celebration, but not nearly on the present-day scale. (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

43) How could I possibly leave them? I was a part of them.”: In Tom Brokaw’s book The Greatest Generation, a story is told of Mary Wilson, presently of Dallas, Texas. You would never know by looking at this modest woman that she was the recipient of the Silver Star and she bore the nickname “The Angel of Anzio.” You will recall that when the Allies got bogged down in the boot of Italy during World War II, they attempted a daring breakout by launching an amphibious landing on the Anzio Beach. Unfortunately, the Allies got pinned down at the landing site and came dangerously close to being driven back into the ocean. It looked like another Dunkirk was in the making. Mary Wilson was the head of the fifty-one army nurses who went ashore at Anzio. Things got so bad that bullets zipped through her tent as she assisted the surgeon in surgery. When the situation continued to deteriorate, arrangements were made to get all of the nurses out. But Mary Wilson would have none of it. She refused to leave at the gravest hour. As she related her story years later, she said: “How could I possibly leave them. I was a part of them.” — Our God is a good God. He does not desert us in our hour of need. He hears the cries of Israel. He hears the cries of the Church. He hears the cries of His children. Christmas is about God’s eternal identification with the human dilemma. (Staff, www.Sermons.com). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

44) The Harvest of Love by Helen Keller: Helen Keller once wrote: “Christmas is the harvest time of love. Souls are drawn to other souls. All that we have read and thought and hoped comes to fruition at this happy time. Our spirits are astir. We feel within us a strong desire to serve. A strange, subtle force, a new kindness animates man and child. A new spirit is growing in us. No longer are we content to relieve pain, to sweeten sorrow, to give the crust of charity. We dare to give friendship, service, the equal loaf of bread and love.”  — May His peace, His power and His purpose dwell in our hearts. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

45) How the Grinch Stole Christmas. Although I’ve never read the tale or seen the film, reliable sources tell me that Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas is about a jealous critter, posing as Santa Claus, who steals all the gifts set aside for children. A little girl spies the theft; the rest the children, undaunted by their loss, celebrate Christmas anyway. — There are all sorts of Grinches who steal Christmas. Just think of the moves to call it “Xmas” or of Christmas stamps without the Madonna and Child. Less overtly, we are treated to phrases like “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings.” In a way, that’s robbery. After all, the only reason we are celebrating is a Baby whose birth changed the course of history. Even some theologians seem to steal Christmas away with pronouncements that such a miracle could never have happened. If the Roman emperor insisted on having his birthday celebrated, the little people decided that they would celebrate the birth of Jesus. If the cultural powers worshiped the sun god at the year’s end, Christians would exalt the Son of God. The high and mighty eventually caught on. By the year 500, the church made Christmas a special feast. Three decades later, the Roman Empire followed suit. Commemorating the birth of Jesus spread throughout Europe. By the sixteenth century, however, with its political, national, and ecclesiastical wars, Christmas was disappearing from many places. The Puritans condemned and abolished Christmas as something pagan and idolatrous. They even tried to make observing it a sin. In 1642 services were banned. No decorations were allowed. Two years later Christmas was declared a time of fast and penance. In 1647 the British Parliament, that corporate Grinch, totally banned Christmas. Although Christmas was outlawed in New England until 1850, and people were forced to work that day while their children were ordered to school, subversive practices from olden times persisted. Like the young girl and all her friends in the story, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the little ones—the little people—somehow celebrate Christmas anyway. Perhaps that’s how Christmas celebrations actually got started in the early fourth century. (John Kavanaugh, SJ). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

46) The Inner Galaxy: The story is told of Franklin Delano Roosevelt entertaining guests at the White House. After a late dinner he invited his guests outside to walk beneath the brilliant nighttime sky. After a silent, reverent stroll Roosevelt said, “I guess we’ve been humbled enough now. Let’s go inside.”  — And that’s what Christmas Eve is all about: stargazing toward the Infinite to be humble in our finiteness. So in response to the angel chorus and the angel announcement, the simple, rustic, stargazing shepherds said, “Let us go even now into Bethlehem to see this thing that has happened….” And they went inside the stable and beheld in the manger the inner galaxy — the interior meaning of the universe. And what did they experience? (Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

47) Our Greatest Need: If our greatest need had been information, God would have sent us an educator; If our greatest need had been technology, God would have sent us a scientist; If our greatest need had been money, God would have sent us an economist; If our greatest need had been pleasure, God would have sent us an entertainer; but our greatest need was forgiveness, so God sent us a Savior. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

48) Next Time It Will Be Different

The First Time Jesus Came
He came veiled in the form of a child.
A star marked His arrival.
Wise men brought Him gifts.
There was no room for Him.
Only a few attended His arrival.
The Next Time Jesus Comes
He will be recognized by all.
Heaven will be lit by His glory.
He will bring rewards for His own.
The world won’t be able to contain His glory.
Every eye shall see Him.
He will come as Sovereign King and Lord of all.
– John F. MacArthur Jr. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

49) St. Augustine’s Reflections: In this poem written some fifteen centuries ago, Augustine, the great theologian,  tried to capture the mystery of the Incarnation:

Maker of the sun,
He is made under the sun.
In the Father he remains,
From his mother he goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise,
He is wisely speechless.
Filling the world,
He lies in a manger.
Ruler of the stars,
He nurses at his mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
And small in the form of a servant. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/)

50) Some Christmas Reminders

* May the Christmas GIFTS remind us of God’s greatest gift, His only Son.
* May the Christmas CANDLES remind us of Him who is the “Light of the world.”
* May the Christmas TREES remind us of another tree upon which he died.
* May the Christmas CHEER remind us of Him who said, “Be of good cheer.”
* May the Christmas FEAST remind us of Him who is “the Bread of Life.”
* May the Christmas BELLS remind us of the glorious proclamation of His birth.
* May the Christmas CAROLS remind us of the song the angels sang, “Glory to God in the Highest!”
* May the Christmas SEASON remind us in every way of Jesus Christ our King! Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

51)  The Christmas Problem: Once upon a Christmas Eve, a man sat in reflective silence before the fireplace, pondering the meaning of Christmas. “There is no point to a God who becomes man,” he mused. “Why would an all-powerful God want to share even one of His precious moments with the likes of man? And even if He did, why would He choose to be born in an animal stall? No way! The whole thing is absurd! I’m sure that if God really wanted to come down to earth, He would have chosen some other way.” Suddenly, the man was roused from his reverie by a strange sound outside. He went to the window and saw a small gaggle of blue geese frantically honking and aimlessly flopping about in the snow. They seemed dazed and confused. Apparently they had dropped out in exhaustion from the flight formations of a larger flock on its way from the Arctic Islands to the warmer climes of the Gulf of Mexico. Moved to compassion, the man tried to “shoo” the poor geese into his warm garage, but the more he “shooed” the more they panicked. “If they only realized I’m only trying to do what’s best for them,” he thought to himself. “How can I make them understand my concern for their well-being?” Then, this thought came to him: “If for just a minute, I could become one of them, an ordinary goose, and communicate with them in their own language, they would know what I am trying to do.” — And suddenly … suddenly, he remembered Christmas and a smile came over his face. Suddenly, the Christmas story no longer seemed absurd. Suddenly, he pictured that ordinary-looking infant, lying in the manger, in that stable in Bethlehem, and he knew the answer to his Christmas problem: God had become one of us to tell us that He loves us. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

52) Some Gifts to Give: Some gifts you can give this Christmas are beyond monetary value: Mend a quarrel, dismiss suspicion, tell someone, “I love you.” Give something away–anonymously. Forgive someone who has treated you wrong. Turn away wrath with a soft answer. Visit someone in a nursing home. Apologize if you were wrong. Be especially kind to someone with whom you work. Give as God gave to you in Christ, without obligation, or announcement, or reservation, or hypocrisy. – Charles Swindoll, Growing Strong, pp. 400-1. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

53) The Ten Commandments for Christmas: The following item appeared in a church newsletter and contains some good advice that will help us keep selfishness in check this Christmas:

  1. Thou shalt not leave “Christ” out of Christmas, making it “Xmas.” To some, “X” is unknown.
  2. Thou shalt prepare thy soul for Christmas. Spend not so much on gifts that thy soul is forgotten.

III. Thou shalt not let Santa Claus replace Christ, thus robbing the day of its spiritual reality.

  1. Thou shalt not burden the shop girl, the mailman, and the merchant with complaints and demands.
  2. Thou shalt give thyself with thy gift. This will increase its value a hundred-fold, and he who receives it shall treasure it forever.
  3. Thou shalt not value gifts received by their cost. Even the least expensive may signify love, and that is more priceless than silver and gold.

VII. Thou shalt not neglect the needy. Share thy blessings with many who will go hungry and cold unless thou art generous.

VIII. Thou shalt not neglect thy church. Its services highlight the true meaning of the season.

  1. Thou shalt be as a little child. Not until thou hast become in spirit as a little one art thou ready to enter into the kingdom of Heaven.
  2. Thou shalt give thy heart to Christ. Let Him be at the top of thy Christmas list. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

54) “One Solitary Life” He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in still another village, where he worked in a carpenter shop until he was thirty. Then for three years he was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a house. He didn’t go to college. He never traveled 200 miles from the place where he was born. He did none of these things one usually associates with greatness. He had no credentials but himself. He was only 33 when public opinion turned against him. His friends ran away. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves. When He was dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. — Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race, the leader of mankind’s progress. All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on earth as much as that One Solitary Life. Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

55)  Born for what? In his depiction of the Nativity, the 16th-century Italian artist Lorenzo Lotto painted a crucifix into a niche in the background behind the kneeling figure of St. Joseph. Christ was born for this, Lotto seems to tell us — for the Cross. In Liz Lemon Swindle’s beautiful Madonna and Child — titled “Be It Unto Me” — Mary looks out with a certain apprehension into a future beyond the viewer’s sight, while the Child’s raised eyebrows wrinkle his forehead. One artist’s crucifix in the niche parallels the other’s Cross on the horizon. For over the peaceful scene of the Nativity falls the shadow of the Cross. The Christian tradition has almost universally seen in the harsh circumstances of Christ’s birth “at midnight, in Bethlehem, in piercing cold” a prefiguring of the brutal circumstances of his death on the Cross. “Ox and ass before him bow; and he is in the manger now.” But in the future the wood of the Cross will take the place of the wood of the manger.– Be it done unto to me, indeed. He willingly embraces the Cross for our sakes, by His perfect obedience erasing the deadly effects of our disobedience. “He hath opened heaven’s door, and man is blest forevermore.” “Christ was born for this,” we sing, “Christ was born for this.”(Archbishop J. Augustine DiNoia). Fr. Tony (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

56) Bad timing for delivering Good News: A married woman who decided to go on her own private vacation to Europe. She went from the Midwest to London, and then she was planning to go to Paris, Rome, and Vienna. When she got to London she called her husband back home in the Midwest and said, “How are you doing?” Her husband said, “I’m doing fine but our cat Lucy died.” So his wife starts bawling her eyes out on the phone. But when she regains her composure, she says, “You insensitive brute of a man, why did I ever marry someone like you? You just have no concern about my feelings.” The husband said, “Well, what was I supposed to have said?” The wife thinks for a moment and she says, “Well, when I got to London and I called you as I just did, you could have said, ‘Lucy, our cat is on the roof.’ When I got to Paris you could have said, ‘Lucy, our cat fell down from the roof.’ When I got to Rome you could have said, ‘Lucy’s not doing so well.’ When I got to Vienna you could have said, ‘Lucy died.'” Then the wife said, “By the way, how is mother?” The husband responded, “She’s on the roof.” That wife thought her husband had bad timing  in delivering news. (Rev. Haddon Robinson).L/21

 Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

 (“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-C by Fr. Tony   (akadavil@gmail.com)

 

Christmas – 2021 (4 Lectionary-Based Homilies) LP-21

Christmas- 4 Lectionary-based Homilies-2019 (L-19)

Christmas Vigil: Is 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17, 22-25; Mt 1:1-25 [1:18-25] (1-page summary)

Introduction: The Scripture readings for the Christmas Vigil Mass remind us  how God showed His Mercy to mankind  by choosing Abraham and adopting his descendants as His Chosen People, disciplining them by slavery in Egypt and later in Babylon, making them a prosperous nation under God-fearing kings, disciplining them again when they turned unfaithful by using Greek and Roman conquerors, and finally giving them the promised Savior-King in the form of the Baby Jesus at Bethlehem.  Thus today, at this Christmas Vigil Mass, we are celebrating the fulfillment of our God’s prophecies about sending His own Son to save a sinful world.

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, Isaiah prophesies that the God of Israel will honor the desolate and forsaken Jerusalem and land of Israel by espousing her as a man marries a virgin and makes her a mother. Yahweh does this by sending His long-awaited Messiah into Israel to possess it and rule over it.  The Messiah will vindicate Israel and save her. Through His prophet Isaiah, the Lord God wished to inspire the hopeless Israelites, returned from the Babylonian exile, to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile and prosperous so that Israel might be able to hold up her head again among the other nations.   In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. God showed His mercy to His chosen people of Israel by fulfilling the prophecy about His long-awaited Messiah. He sent His Son as the Savior and the descendant of David. The Gospel reviews the genealogy of Jesus (Matthew 1:1-17), tracing his descent from Abraham through David as foretold by the prophet, then describing his birth as our Savior at Bethlehem (1:18-25), through the working of the Holy Spirit.   The Gospel also shows how God resolved the doubts of Joseph by sending His angel, first to reassure Joseph, then to instruct him to name the child Jesus. The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew name Yehosua, which means ”Yahweh is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (the successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) would save them from their sins.

Life messages: 1) We need to allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives.   .  Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me. (https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius).   So, let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2020 and every day of the New Year 2021. Let us also show the good will and generosity of sharing with others Jesus, our Savior reborn in our hearts, as love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness, and humble service. 2) We need to experience Christmas as it takes place at Christ’s Mass on our altars. Jesus becomes present on our altars as our spiritual food, to nourish our souls so that we may become God’s healthy children. Let us worship God by our active participation in the Holy Mass as the angels, shepherds and wisemen worshiped Jesus, God Incarnate, in the gospel story. 3) We need to have a Christmas gift for the Christ-child because we are celebrating his birthday. Hence instead of focusing our full attention on giving Christmas gifts to family members, let us give our hearts to Jesus today, filled with sacrificial love, overflowing mercy, selfless caring, and unconditional forgiveness for others.

CHRISTMAS VIGIL: Is 62:1-5, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25, Mt 1:1-25 [1:18-25] L-19

Anecdotes: 1) Consider Christmas Again: When Pope Julius I authorized December 25 to be celebrated as the birthday of Jesus in A.D. 353, who would have ever thought that it would become what it is today? In 1223 when St. Francis of Assisi used a nearby cave to set up a manger filled with straw, and his friend, Vellita, brought in an ox and a donkey, just like those at Bethlehem, nobody saw how that novel idea was going to evolve through centuries. When Professor Charles Follen lit candles on the first Christmas tree in America in 1832, who would have ever thought that the decorations would become as elaborate as they are today? There is an unproved legend that Martin Luther is responsible for the origin of the Christmas tree. This story says that one Christmas Eve, about the year 1500, he was walking through the snow-covered woods and was struck by the beauty of the snow glistening on the trees. Their branches, dusted with snow, shimmered in the moonlight. When he got home, he set up a small fir tree and shared the story with his children. He decorated the Christmas tree with small candles which he lighted in honor of Christ’s birth. — In 2021, as we walk through Advent again in the midst of all the excitement, elaborate decorating, and expensive commercialization which batter and drown the Reality of Christmas today, we are given another opportunity to pause, to consider again the event of Christmas and the Person whose birth we celebrate. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) Kierkegaard has a fable of a king who fell in love with a maid. A king fell in love with a poor maid. The king wanted to marry her. When he asked his counselors, “How shall I declare my love?” they answered, “Your majesty has only to appear in all the glory of your royal raiments before the maid’s humble dwelling, and she will instantly fall at your feet and be yours.” But it was precisely that which troubled the king. He wanted her glorification, not his. In return for his love, he wanted hers, freely given. Finally, the king realized love’s truth, that freedom for the beloved demanded equality with the beloved. So late one night, after all the counselors of the palace had retired, he slipped out a side door and appeared before the maid’s cottage dressed as a servant to confess his love for her. Clearly, the fable is a Christmas story. God chose to express His love for us humans by becoming one like us. We are called to obey, not God’s power, but God’s love. God wants not submission to His power, but in return for His love, our own(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The Scripture lessons for today focus on the first Christmas. In the first reading, Isaiah shows us the vindication of Israel by the Lord God. This vindication has found its fulfillment, for all of us, in the coming of Jesus as our Savior. In the second reading, St. Paul recounts the history of God’s mercy to Israel, His chosen people. That mercy has culminated in the birth of Jesus, the Messiah for Whom the Jews have been waiting for centuries. The Gospel reviews the genealogy of Jesus, tracing His descent from David, then recounts the story of His birth in Bethlehem as our Savior.

The first reading, Isaiah: 62:1-5 explained. After their exile in Babylon, the Jews returned to Judah where they had a difficult time restoring their old institutions, their economy, their capital Jerusalem and their Temple on Mount Zion. They were quite discouraged when the prophet Isaiah received this prophecy from God to restore their fallen spirits (Chapters 56-66.) Just as we look forward to the celebration of the birth of the Messiah, so Isaiah looked forward to God’s breaking the silence of many years. In today’s text, Isaiah uses imagery to describe the conversion of Israel from gloom to joy. Isaiah compares the dispirited Jewish people to a woman who had thought she would never marry. But she suddenly has found a suitor! It’s Israel, the land of the Jews that the Lord proposes to marry, and, by extension, to make fertile. The prophecy’s goal has been to inspire the hopeless people to plant crops and make their desolate land fertile. Now, the Lord God says through Isaiah, Israel will be able to hold up her head again among the other nations, who will see her vindication.

Second Reading, Acts 13:16-17, 22-25 explained: This reading is taken from the account of Paul’s first missionary journey, which began in Syria and took him to Antioch in Pisidia. This is the first of the several speeches of St. Paul in which he tells the Jews that the Christian Church is the logical development of Judaism. When St. Paul delivered this speech, the Jews had 1800 years of history behind them. Paul takes advantage of their knowledge to show that the coming of Jesus was the fulfillment of all history.

Exegesis: The genealogy of Jesus (Mt 1:1-17): While Paul presents Jesus as a descendent of David in our second reading, Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy from Abraham. This genealogy not only shows Jesus’ human ancestry, but also indicates that salvation history has reached its climax with the birth of the Son of God through the working of the Holy Spirit. Though we often skip over these lists of names, the Gospel writers took great pains to compile the genealogies and to make several theological points in the process. Our Lord Jesus Christ was born of a line of ancestors whom Matthew arranges into three groups, of 14 patriarchs, 14 kings and 14 princes. The three groups are based on the three stages of Jewish history: i) the rise of Israel to a great kingdom by the time of David, ii) the fall of the nation by the time of Babylonian exile and iii) the resurrection of the nation after the exile. Strangely enough, the list includes a number of disreputable characters, including three women of bad reputation: Tamar, Rahab and Bathsheba. Perhaps the Lord God included these women in His Son’s human genealogy to emphasize God’s grace, to give us all hope, and to show us that Jesus is sent to save sinners. Thus, God’s powerful work of salvation comes to us under the appearance of weakness. From the beginning, Matthew’s account challenges our human expectations as to how God will fulfill our hopes for endless peace, justice, and righteousness. Luke’s account shows us another example of this kind of challenge. The royal child, heir to King David’s throne and bearer of wonderful titles, is born in poverty. He is laid in a manger because there is no room in the inn.

The three-step marriage: Engagement, betrothal and marriage proper were the three stages of the Jewish marriage ceremony. The engagement was often made through the parents when the couples were only children. The betrothal was the ratification of the engagement into which a couple had previously (been) entered. It made the young man and woman husband and wife, legally married, but without cohabitation and conjugal rights for one year. The third stage was the marriage proper, which took place at the end of the year of betrothal. It was during the betrothal period that Mary miraculously conceived Jesus. The essence of God’s story in Matthew is that, in the birth of Jesus, the Spirit of God was seen operating in the world as He had never done before.

Joseph the “father” of Jesus (Mt. 1:18-25): While Luke’s Gospel emphasizes the role of Mary, Matthew’s brings Joseph to the forefront. Joseph is important to Matthew’s Gospel, because Jesus came from David’s lineage through Joseph (1:1-17). The Davidic descent of Jesus is shown as both legal and natural. In other words, Jesus is descendant of Abraham and David not only by physical descent but also by God’s supernatural action. The Davidic descent of Jesus is transferred not through natural paternity but through legal paternity. Matthew carefully constructs verse 1:18 to avoid saying that Jesus was the son of Joseph. As Mary’s legal husband, Joseph became the legal father of Jesus. Later, by naming the child, Joseph acknowledged Him as his own. The legal father was on par with the biological father as regards rights and duties. Since it was common practice for couples to marry within their clan, probably Mary also belonged to the house of David. Several early Church Fathers, including St. Ignatius of Antioch, St. Irenaeus, St. Justin and Tertullian, testify to this belief, basing their testimony on an unbroken oral tradition. Joseph is presented as a righteous man (v. 19), who chose to obey God’s command rather than to observe rigidly a law that would have required him to divorce Mary publicly. He resolved to divorce Mary quietly in order that he might not cause her unnecessary pain. In doing so, he serves as a model of Christ-like compassion. He also demonstrates a balance between the Law of Torah and the Law of Love. While Luke tells the story of the Archangel Gabriel’s appearance to Mary (Luke 1:26-38), Matthew tells us only that the Child was conceived by the Holy Spirit.

The Divine intervention through the angel: Luke tells us of Mary’s obedience (Luke 1:38), and Matthew tells us of Joseph’s obedience. This is the first of four occasions on which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action, and Joseph obeys. He is told not to be afraid of his fiancée’s pregnancy, nor of the opinion of his neighbors, nor even of the requirement of the Torah that Mary be punished. He is not to hesitate, but is to wed Mary. “She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” Mary’s role is to bear a Son, and Joseph’s role is to name Him. By naming Him, Joseph makes Jesus his Son and brings Him into the house of David.

Jesus the Savior as the fulfillment of prophecy: The name Jesus is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means “YHWH is salvation.” Just as the first Joshua (successor of Moses), saved the Israelites from their enemies, the second Joshua (Jesus) will save them from their sins. The Jews, however, did not expect a Messiah Who would save them from their sins, but one who would deliver them from their political oppressors. Matthew stresses the fact that the birth of Jesus as Savior is the fulfillment of a prophecy by Isaiah (7:14): “’Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” The fulfillment of the prophecy is important to Matthew’s first audience, Jewish converts, which is why Matthew mentions the fulfillment of eleven prophetic statements about Jesus in his Gospel. The context of the verse taken from Isaiah is the dilemma of King Ahaz in the eighth century BC. Jerusalem was under siege, and it appeared that both the city and the nation might be destroyed. Isaiah’s prophecy was that a boy-child would be born and that, by the time he reached maturity, the threat from the enemy would have passed. We do not know that boy’s identity, but the city and nation were both spared.

Emmanuel born of a Virgin: The NRSV correctly translates ho parthenos as “the virgin” rather than “a virgin.” In other words, the original uses the definite article. Isaiah referred to a young woman (almah), but Matthew’s ho parthenos clearly refers to a virgin. That is why the Church has always taught Mary’s perpetual virginity. “‘They shall name him Emmanuel,’ which means, ‘God is with us.'” In Hebrew, El is a short form of Elohim, a name for God. Immanu-El, therefore, means “God with us,” a meaning which Matthew spells out for non-Hebrew readers. Emmanuel is not a second name by which friends and neighbors will know Jesus. “Jesus” is Our Lord’s true name, and Emmanuel describes his role. Thus, Matthew begins his Gospel with the promise that Jesus’ role-name means “God-with-us.” He will end his Gospel with Jesus’ own promise that He will be with us “always, to the end of the age” (28:20).

Life messages: 1) We need to look for Jesus in unlikely places and persons. During the Christmas season we, like the Magi, must give our most precious gift, our lives, to Jesus. We will learn to discover Him in the most unlikely places and in the most distasteful people –- in those who live in suffering or in distress, in poverty or in fear. The message of Christmas is that we can truly find Jesus if we look in the right places –- in the streets, in the slums, in the asylums, in the orphanages, in the nursing homes –- starting in our own homes, workplaces and town. We need to look for Him in people that we might otherwise ignore: the homeless, the sick, the addicts, the unpleasant people, the rebels, or the people of different culture and lifestyle from us. True Christmas is about celebrating the coming of God among the poor, the homeless and the disadvantaged, with a message of hope and liberation for these sufferers in our world. It is about our responsibility to be part of that liberating process. It is about working to remove from our world the shameful blot of poverty, discrimination and exploitation that is the lot of too many in our environment of prosperity. God challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame their fear in order to seek out Jesus, or like the Wise Men who traveled a long distance to find Him. Then we will have the true experience of Christmas – the joy of the Savior.

2) We need to allow the Savior to be reborn in our lives. . Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”( https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius). So, let us allow Him to be reborn in our lives during Christmas 2021 and every day of the New Year 2022. How should we prepare for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives? As a first step, John the Baptist urges us to repent daily of our sins and to renew our lives by leveling the hills of pride and selfishness, by filling up the valleys of impurity, and by straightening the crooked paths of hatred. Our second step in preparing for Christ’s rebirth in our daily lives is to cultivate the spirit of sacrifice and humility. It was by sacrifice that the shepherds of Bethlehem and the Magi were able to find the Savior. They were humble enough to see God in the Child in the manger. We, too, can experience Jesus by sharing Him with others, just as God shared His Son with us. Let us remember that the angels wished peace on earth only to those able to receive that peace, those who possessed the good will and largeness of heart to share Jesus our Savior with others in love, kindness, mercy, forgiveness and humble service.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) A 4-year-old boy was asked to give the blessing before Christmas dinner. The family members bowed their heads in expectation. He began his prayer, thanking God for all his friends, naming them one by one. Then he thanked God for Mommy, Daddy, brother, sister, Grandma, Grandpa, and all his aunts and uncles. Then he began to thank God for the food. He gave thanks for the turkey, the dressing, the fruit salad, the cranberry sauce, the pies, the cakes– even the Cool Whip. Then he paused, and everyone waited–and waited. After a long silence, the young fellow looked up at his mother and asked, “If I thank God for the broccoli, won’t He know that I’m lying?”

2) Mrs. Oppenheimer decided to get away from the often inclement weather of New York and spend Christmas in the Deep South. Being unfamiliar with that part of the world she wandered into a “restricted” hotel and said “Hi. I’m Mrs. Oppenheimer and I’d like a room for the next week.” “I’m very sorry,’ said the manager, “but all our rooms are taken.” Just as he said these words a customer came to the desk and unexpectedly checked out. “How lucky!” responded Mrs. Oppenheimer, “Now you have a room for me.” “Look, I’m very sorry,” said the manager, “but this is a restricted hotel. Jews are not allowed here.” “Jewish! Whaddya mean Jewish? I am a Catholic.” “That takes some believing,” said the manager. “Tell me, Who was the Son of God?” “Jesus.” she replied “Where was he born?” “In a stable in Bethlehem….. simply because some schmuck like you wouldn’t rent a room to a Jew.”

3) A family celebrated Christmas every year with a birthday party for Jesus. An extra chair of honor at the table became the family’s reminder of Jesus’ presence. A cake with candles, along with the singing of “Happy Birthday” expressed the family’s joy in Jesus’ presence. One year on Christmas afternoon a visitor to the home asked the five-year-old girl, “Did you get everything you wanted for Christmas?” After a moment’s hesitation, she answered, “No, but it’s not my birthday, It’s Jesus’ birthday!”

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-i by Fr. Tony (akadavil)

Summary of Christmas Midnight homily on: Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Introduction: Today we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined foreshadowing of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah, in the writings of the prophets, and they identified Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah.

Scripture readings: Following the death of the Assyrian monarch in the late 8th century B.C., the Lord God, through His prophet Isaiah, promises relief for both the northern and the southern kingdoms of Israel through a new king and his descendant in the line of David, in the person of Jesus. Jesus is the child Isaiah’s prophesy calls the “prince of peace” The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of His birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels. Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world!

Life messages: We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folk in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life, and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely, is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus as Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God seeking us out; God coming alongside us; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength, and guidance — God dwelling within us. Each one of us has, deep down in our soul, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is, indeed, with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So, let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

CHRISTMAS MIDNIGHT: Full text: Is 9:1-6; Ti 2:11-14; Lk 2:1-14

Anecdote: 1) “Don’t go! You can have my room.” Nine-year-old Wally was in second grade when most children his age were fourth graders. He was big for his years, a clumsy fellow, a slow learner. But Wally was a hopeful, willing, smiling lad, a natural defender of the underdog, and he was well-liked by his classmates. His parents encouraged him to audition for the annual parish Christmas play. Wally wanted to be a shepherd. Instead, he was given the role of the innkeeper. The director reasoned that Wally’s size would lend extra force to the innkeeper’s refusal of lodging to Joseph. During rehearsals, Wally was instructed to be firm with Joseph. When the play opened, no one was more caught up in the action than Wally. And when Joseph knocked on the door of the inn, Wally was ready. He flung the door open and asked menacingly, “What do you want?” “We seek lodging,” Joseph replied. “Seek it elsewhere,” Wally said in a firm voice. “There’s no room in the inn.” “Please, good innkeeper,” Joseph pleaded, “this is my wife, Mary. She is with child and is very tired. She needs a place to rest.” There was a long pause as Wally looked down at Mary. The prompter whispered Wally’s next line: “No! Be gone!” Wally remained silent. Then the forlorn couple turned and began to slowly move away. Seeing this, Wally’s brow creased with concern. Tears welled up in his eyes. Suddenly, he called out, “Don’t go! You can have my room.” (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: The season of Advent is past, and the period of anticipation is complete. Now it is time to commemorate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ, which occurred some 2,000 years ago. Looking through the telescope of Christ’s Resurrection, the New Testament authors, as well as the Fathers of the Church, reexamined the writings of the prophets to discover foreshadowings of the coming of Jesus, the Messiah. Today’s first reading is one of these, taken from one of the greatest of the prophets, Isaiah. The second reading, taken from the “pastoral letter” of Paul to Titus, tells us that it is only by the saving power of God in Christ that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future. The Gospel for the midnight Mass tells us how Jesus was born in Bethlehem and how the news of his birth was first announced to shepherds by the angels.

First reading, Isaiah 9:1-6: In the late eighth century BC, God’s people in the Promised Land had become divided into a northern kingdom, Israel, and a southern kingdom, Judah. Assyria was the dominant power in the region, particularly oppressing the northern kingdom. In the eighth century BC, the source of the “darkness” was the Assyrian invasion under Tiglath-Pilesar III. But following the death of the Assyrian monarch, the prophet declares that in the darkness, light has shone! Hope for endless peace, justice, and righteousness has been kindled and burns brightly. Isaiah prophesies relief for both northern and southern kingdoms in the person of the new king who will come to the throne in the southern kingdom, Judah, and will see to the reunion of the north and south and the expulsion of the Assyrians from the north. The king whom Israel saw as fulfilling the prophecy is, interestingly, Hezekiah, the successor of King Ahaz. So “the people once in darkness” are the dwellers in Israel oppressed by Assyria. The “child/son born to us” was the new king in Jerusalem in Judah. Hezekiah inherited the throne of David whose glorious reign, roughly four centuries earlier, was still the source of national pride and hope. Some 2700 years later, we see Jesus, the Incarnate Son of God and Son of David, the Redeemer and Savior of the world, as the final fulfillment of the prophecy of this promised King.

Today’s passage in Isaiah 9 completes a prophecy begun in Isaiah 8:1. In spite of all the doom and gloom that surround Israel and the evil that darkness portends, there will eventually be light and restoration for Israel. The yoke and bar, (verse 4), represent enslavement and oppression. Those will be cast off vigorously as in the days of Gideon and the Midianites (Judges 8:10-12; Psalm 83:9-11). The prophecy concludes with the now-famous words: “For a child has been born for us, a son given for us…..” What follows is a description of the yet-to-be-realized Kingdom of Christ (verse 6). Notice the many titles given to the coming child: Wonderful Counselor — counsel, as in advice; Mighty God — an image of power and majesty; Everlasting Father — one Who will not diminish, expire, or fade away: an eternal relationship of nurture and trust; Prince of Peace — not war-like, but reconciling.

Second Reading, Titus 2:11-14:The books of Titus and 1st and 2nd Timothy are called “pastoral letters” because they are instructions to the pastors dealing with Church life and practices. This reading is an interesting choice for Christmas Midnight Mass because it focuses on the other coming of Jesus, at the end of time, and on the changes that we are called to make in our lives. It reminds us that we are enabled to live virtuously in the present with hope for the future by the saving power of God in Christ. The theological plainness and moral starkness of this letter make it a worthy counterpoint to the sentimentality that dominates Christmas.

Exegesis:The origin of the Christmas celebration: Many scholars believe that Christmas came to be placed on December 25th in order to counteract a pagan celebration called the Birth of the Unconquered Sun, a feastestablished by the Roman Emperor, Aurelian, in AD 274. Since December 25th was near the date of the winter solstice (the year’s shortest day, after which the days begin to lengthen again, showing the victory of the sun over darkness), it was chosen as the date of rejoicing. When Christianity was approved as the official religion of the Roman Empire, the Church chose this day to celebrate the birth of the true Sun – the Son of God Who conquers the power of darkness. Another theory gives Biblical support for celebrating Christmas on the 25th of December. It claims that the Annunciation of the birth of John the Baptist to Zechariah occurred during the feast of Yom Kippur, around September 25th, placing the birth of John after nine months on June 25th. Since the Archangel Gabriel tells Mary that Elizabeth is in the sixth month of her pregnancy, the Annunciation event and the conception of Jesus took place around March 25th, leading to Jesus’ birth after nine months, around December 25th.

The Christmas event: While Matthew places the birth of Jesus against the background of Herod’s reign, Luke places it against the background of the Roman Empire. It is generally accepted that Jesus was born in 4 B.C. Luke begins by making a subtle contrast between Caesar Augustus who failed as an inaugurator of peace, and Jesus the Savior and bringer of peace. Both Tertullian and Justin Martyr (c. 165) state that in their time the records of the 4 B.C. census still existed along with those of 28 B.C., 8 B.C. and 14 A.D. In the Roman Empire, a census was taken periodically with the double object of assessing taxation and of discovering those who were subject to compulsory military service. Another hidden aim was to find out the true descendants of King David who had a claim to the throne as the king of the Jews. Luke’s purpose in mentioning the census was to provide God’s reason for, and means of, getting Mary and Joseph the roughly eighty miles from Nazareth to Bethlehem, the city of David, wherein the promised heir of David was to be born, as prophesied by Micah (5:1). Bethlehem was commonly thought of as the city of David because of David’s birth and childhood there. Since travelers brought their own food, the innkeeper provided only fodder for the animals and a fire for cooking along with a spot to sleep within his walls. A manger is a feeding trough (food box), and it symbolizes the sacrificial meal that Jesus becomes, which provides sustenance for the whole world. Father Raymond Brown in his masterful book on the Infancy Narratives says that these stories are theologumena, not so much literal history as stories with a theological point – the other gratuitous and revolutionary impact of Jesus’ birth, life, and death. The important thing to remember is that they are stories of God’s love and Jesus’ role in history and that’s what counts, not historical details.

The first visitors: Since David was a shepherd, it seems fitting that the shepherds were given the privilege of visiting David’s successor in the stable. If these shepherds were the ones in charge of the Temple sheep and lambs which were meant for daily sacrifice in the Temple of Jerusalem, no wonder they were the first to see the Lamb of God Who takes away the sin of the world! Shepherding was a lonely, dirty job, and shepherds found it difficult to follow all the obligatory religious customs. Hence, they were scorned as non-observant Jews. So Baby Jesus selected these marginalized people to share His love at the beginning of his earthly ministry. The shepherds expressed their joy and gratitude by “making known what had been told them” (v. 17). Just as very ordinary people would later become witnesses to the Resurrection, very ordinary shepherds became witnesses to the Incarnation. Other than the angels, they were the first to proclaim the Good News of Jesus’ birth. Once we have been privileged to experience God’s presence, we, too, have the responsibility and the privilege of sharing that experience with other people – of spreading the word – of proclaiming the Gospel.

Good News of great joy: But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for see–I am bringing you good news of great joy for all the people: to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, Who is the Messiah, the Lord.’” Perhaps because Luke was a Gentile convert, he establishes at the beginning of this Gospel that Jesus is for all the people — not just for the people of Israel: “… a Savior, who is the Messiah, the Lord” (v. 11). The Romans thought of Augustus as savior. However, Augustus’ peace was fragile. After his death, other men would assume power — men like Nero and Caligula whose names would be synonymous with treachery and cruelty. The angels introduced a different kind of Savior — a Savior who would continue His saving work throughout human history. The Savior of the First Century is also the Savior of the Twenty-first Century. The Savior of Israel is also the Savior of the World.

Glory to God and peace on earth: The angels welcomed Jesus’ birth singing: “Glory to God in the highest heaven” (v. 14). Later, the crowds would welcome Jesus to Jerusalem, saying, “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven!” (Luke 19:38). That peace is the shalom of God – life experienced in all its fullness, richness, and completeness, in accord with the will of God. The angelic song conveys the message that true peace on earth is available only to those able to receive it, that is with the good will to do the will of God, and thus to give Him glory.

Christmas is not just one day, but a season which lasts for twelve days, concluding on Epiphany (Twelfth Night). The extension of the feast should remind us to continue to share our joy at the comings of the Messiah – the first some 2000 years ago, the last at our death or at the Parousia, the “Second coming,” for which we all pray (Eucharistic acclamation – “We proclaim Your Death, O Lord, and profess Your Resurrection, until You come again”), and all those occurring between the two, as we live our daily lives. As we celebrate the Incarnation of the Word of God this Christmas, we might make a conscious effort both to remember that Jesus is always with us in our hearts and in the Eucharist and to share our joy in His presence with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to reserve a room for Jesus in our heart: Christmas asks us a tough question. Do we close the doors of our hearts to Jesus looking for a place to be reborn in our lives? There is no point in being sentimental about the doors slammed by the folk in Bethlehem, if there is no room in our own hearts for the same Jesus coming in the form of the needy. We need to reverence each human life and to treat others respectfully as the living residences of the incarnate God. To neglect the old, to be contemptuous of the poor or to have no thought for the unemployed and the lonely is to ignore those individuals with whom Christ has so closely identified Himself. Hence, we all need to examine ourselves daily on the doors we close to Jesus.

2) We need to experience Jesus the Emmanuel: The real meaning of Christmas actually is Emmanuel, God-with-us – God coming down to us; God seeking us out; God coming alongside us; God revealing Himself to us; God bringing us forgiveness, healing, comfort, moral strength,  and guidance; God dwelling within us. Each one of us has, deep down in our souls, an incredible hunger: a hunger for purpose and meaning; a hunger to feel and celebrate the redeeming, forgiving, sustaining love of God; a hunger to be in the presence of God. Christmas is special because it reminds us concretely that God is indeed with us. In every circumstance of life, even when we are frightened or lonely or in sorrow, God is with us. So let’s go home to the heart of Christmas and embrace Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) A few days before Christmas, two young brothers were spending the night at their grandparent’s house. When it was time to go to bed, anxious to do the right thing, they both knelt down to say their prayers.
Suddenly, the younger one began to do so in a very loud voice. “Dear Lord, please ask Santa Claus to bring me a play-station, a mountain-bike and a telescope.”
His older brother leaned over and nudged his brother and said, “Why are you shouting your prayers? God isn’t deaf.”
“I know,” he replied. “But Grandma is!”

2) The 3 stages of man:

He believes in Santa Claus.
He doesn’t believe in Santa Claus.
He becomes Santa Claus.

3) A friend was in front of me coming out of church one day, and the preacher was standing at the door as he always is to shake hands. He noticed a young man who showed up in the Church for Christmas and Easter as Poinsettias and Easter Lilies do. He grabbed my friend by the hand and pulled him aside. Pastor said, “You need to join the Army of the Lord!” My friend said, “I’m already in the Army of the Lord, Pastor.” Pastor questioned, “How come I don’t see you except at Christmas and Easter?” He whispered back, “I’m in the Secret Service.” (L-19)

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iiby Fr. Tony (akadavil)

Summary of the homily for Christmas Dawn Holy Mass (Lk 2:15-20)

Introduction: The main theme of this Mass at dawn is an invitation to savor, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior.  St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God so loved the world that He gave His Only-begotten Son that whoever who believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God showed His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in His Son, incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth, and Jesus,  in turn, saved us by His suffering, death and Resurrection.

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews that their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of eternal life. Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior, and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

Life messages: 1) We need to be Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas. Hence, let us leave “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us accept the challenge of the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.” So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness, and compassion to give away. Let us help all those around us to experience the newborn Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love, in the form of compassionate words, unconditional love and forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds, and overflowing generosity.

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and to respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did to these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, heard that inner voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not? (L-19)

MASS AT DAWN: Is 62:11-12; Ti 3:4-7; Lk 2:15-20 (L-21)

(The theme: The joy and peace of the Savior through sharing love)

Anecdote: #1) Sharing the sorrow of chemotherapy: An 11-year-old boy with cancer lost all the hair on his head as a result of chemotherapy. When the time came for him to return to school, he and his parents experimented with hats, wigs, and bandanas to try to conceal his baldness. They finally settled on a baseball cap, but the boy still feared the taunts he would receive for looking “different.” Mustering up courage, he went to school wearing his cap – and discovered to his great surprise that all of his friends had shaved their heads to share their solidarity with their friend. It was their way of expressing their love and sympathy. No wonder God became man to express His love for mankind!(https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction:The main theme of this Mass at dawn is an invitation to savor, by a life of sharing love, the lasting peace and celestial joy brought by the Divine Savior. St. John gives the main reason for our Christmas joy in his Gospel (3:16): “For God loved the world so much that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but may have eternal life.” God shows His love for sinful man by sharing His love with us in the form of Jesus in Bethlehem. Jesus, in turn, saves us by His suffering, death and Resurrection. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah shows the Jews their God as a saving God Who will extend His redemption to His holy city. In the second reading, St. Paul tells Titus that God saves us through His Son Jesus, not because we have deserved it by our good deeds, but because of His mercy. Jesus continues His saving mission by allowing us to be reborn by water and the Holy Spirit, thus enabling us to become God’s children and heirs of everlasting life. Describing the response of the shepherds to the angelic message, today’s Gospel invites us to offer ourselves as a gift to Jesus, our Lord and Savior and to bear witness to Him through our lives, by sharing love with others.

First reading, Isaiah 62:11-12: Around 600 BC, the Babylonians took the Jews out of the Promised Land and kept them in exile (the Babylonian Captivity), for about 70 years. When Cyrus, a new Persian emperor, conquered Babylon, he sent the Jews home. This reading is set in that troubled period, when Judah was trying to put herself back together after returning from Exile. Daughter Zion means (the people of) the city Jerusalem. This was Judah’s capital, in the center of which stands Mount Zion where the Temple had been built. The gist of this short passage is that the people should keep up their spirits because soon they and their city will enjoy prosperity and international renown again, and their city will frequently be visited by tourists instead of remaining a ghost city. In other words, God’s own people will experience the saving and providing love of their God.

Second Reading, Titus 3:4-7: This passage is classic Pauline teaching, showing us that God saves us by incorporating us into Christ which is the real cause of Christian, and Christmas, joy. Among the congregation served by the early bishop Titus were Christians who believed they had to practice the laws of Judaism and to impose those laws on pagan converts to Christ. Paul reminds them that God saved us “not because of any righteous deeds we had done, but because of His mercy.” In other words, law-driven righteous deeds don’t win our salvation; God gives it to us freely. We accept that gift by taking the bath of rebirth, Baptism, during which the Spirit is richly poured out on us. This, not our observance of laws, makes us justified (right with God) and gives us a starting place for living the Christian life from which our good works will flow; it is that “justification” which gives us the hope of eternal life.

Exegesis: The shepherds — the first visitors and the first missionaries: The orthodox Jews in Jesus’ time despised the shepherds because these men were quite unable to observe the ceremonial laws in all their details. In addition, shepherds had no spare time to take part in synagogue services nor to study Torah because shepherding was a full-time job. These shepherds with whom Jesus chose to share His love on Christmas day might have been the special shepherds in charge of the Temple sheep, which were set aside for the daily morning and evening sacrifice of unblemished lambs. If so, no wonder their shepherds were blessed with the unique privilege of seeing the divine Child – “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world”! They responded to this great privilege by bearing witness to God, by praising God and by spreading the news of the birth of a Savior. “Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.” Christmas, the feast of Emmanuel – God is with us – challenges us to be like the shepherds who overcame fear to find Him, or like the Magi who traveled and searched for Him. We should have the generosity and good will to search for Him and find Him in unlikely places and persons. That is made possible for us only if we welcome Jesus of Bethlehem into our lives by allowing Him to be reborn in us. Then we will have the real experience of Christmas – and the joy of the Savior.

The angelic choir and their angelic message: Normally when a boy was born into a Jewish family, the local musicians congregated at the house to greet him with country music. Since Jesus was born in a stable, the angels sang the songs for Jesus that the earthly singers could not sing. The angel told the shepherds to rejoice because the Savior had come: “Don’t be afraid. I am here with Good News for you, which will bring great joy to all people. This very day in David’s town, your Savoir was born – Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).We rejoice today with those shepherds because we have a Savior who can free us from the bondage of sin. We have a Savior who liberates us from our slavery to impure, unjust and uncharitable thoughts, desires, and habits. We have a Savior Who can, and will, release us from our evil addictions, heal our physical and mental diseases, and free us from hatred, enmity, jealousy and bitterness.

Saviors and the Savior: History tells us that there has been no shortage of false liberators and pseudo-saviors, who have deceived generations of people all around the world. The Greek philosophers believed that education and knowledge would liberate the world. Later, rationalists like Voltaire and Rousseau taught that mere human reason, alone, provided an antidote for all human ills. Revolutionary movements, such as Communism, have offered mankind the dream of an earthly paradise. Today, many people advocate science as the solution for all human problems, while others turn to liquor, drugs, or other pleasures to escape their troubles. Our century has witnessed the uncontrolled use of sex as a false liberating instrument, and Eastern mystical experiences or modern psychological techniques as routes to peace of mind and heart. Despite the claims of these various panaceas, however, the true remedy for our ills, as every Christmas reminds us, is Jesus, our Divine Savior Who, alone, can give us both true liberation and lasting peace and joy.

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas gives us the message of lasting peace, which we can possess only by sharing our blessings with others. This is the message contained in the celestial song of the angels, reported in Luke’s Gospel: “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to people of good will.” Christmas reminds us that God shared His love by giving us His Son. We respond to His love joyfully by using our health, wealth, talents and blessings for Him as He dwells in everyone we encounter. Just as Jesus shared His love with the poor shepherds and the humble Magi, we too are called to share our love with the less fortunate people around us. Sharing with love is the sign that one has the “good will” of which the angel spoke. The peace of Christmas is promised only to such large-hearted people, for only they are able to receive it.

Life messages: 1) We need to become Christ-bearers and Christ-givers:Since it is Jesus Who gives real meaning to our celebrations, Jesus must be reborn in us each time we celebrate Christmas. Hence, let us leave “room in the inn” of our hearts for Jesus to be reborn in our lives. Let us accept the challenge of the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.” So let us pray for the grace of Jesus’ birth in each one of us today, bringing us love, mercy, kindness, and compassion to give away. Let us help all those around us to experience the newborn Savior – Jesus within us – as sharing love in the form of compassionate words, unconditional forgiveness, selfless service, merciful deeds and overflowing generosity.

2) We need to listen to God speaking to us every day and to respond promptly, as the shepherds did: There isn’t one of us in this Church this morning who hasn’t had God speak to him or her in some personal way. It may not have happened as dramatically as it did to these shepherds, but God has indeed spoken to our soul and spirit. Too often, however, we have chosen not to listen. Have we ever had an argument with a member of our family, heard that voice deep down within us telling us to stop, and we knew we should stop? Have we ever had that same inner sense of knowing we needed to do something or to avoid doing something? That was the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking to us, the Spirit sent to us by the Father at the request of Jesus our Savior. Whether or not we chose to listen in those cases really isn’t the point. The point is that God has indeed spoken to us, and He continues to speak to us right now. How are we going to respond? Will we respond as Mary did, as the shepherds did and as the magi did? Or not?

JOKE OF THE DAY

1) A four-year-old girl went with a group of family and friends to see the Christmas lights, displayed at various locations throughout the city. At one Church, they stopped and got out to look more closely at a beautiful nativity scene. “Isn’t that beautiful?” said the little girl’s grandmother. “Look at all the animals, Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus.” “Yes, Grandma,” replied the granddaughter. “It is really nice. But there is only one thing that bothers me. Isn’t Baby Jesus ever going to grow up…? He’s the same size he was last year!”

2) Some children were asked what love is. The responses were quite interesting and instructive for us adults. One said, “Love is when my mommy makes a cup of coffee for my daddy and takes a little taste before she gives it to him to make sure it tastes okay.” Another said, “Love is when your puppy licks your face even after you’ve left him alone all day.” Another response was, “You really shouldn’t say, ’I love you’ unless you really mean it, but if you mean it, you should say it a lot. People forget.” One boy said, “When someone loves you, the way they call your name is different. You just know that your name is safe in their mouth.” And finally, seven-year-old Bobby said, “Love is what’s in the room with you at Christmas if you stop opening presents and listen.”

3) Typical of last-minute Christmas shoppers, a mother was running furiously from store to store. Suddenly she became aware that the pudgy little hand of her three-year-old son was no longer clutched in hers. In a panic, she retraced her steps and found him standing with his little nose pressed flat against a frosty window. He was gazing at a manger scene. Hearing his mother’s near hysterical call, he turned and shouted with innocent glee, “Look Mommy! It’s Jesus – Baby Jesus in the hay!” With obvious indifference to his joy and wonder, she impatiently jerked him away saying, “We don’t have time for that!”

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iiiby Fr. Tony (akadavil

Summary of the homily for Christmas Day Holy Mass (Jn 1:1-18)

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham and Luke’s genealogy to Adam, John’s genealogy goes back to God Himself. John travels to eternity to reveal to us the theology of Christmas. He presents the Creation story as the framework for announcing the Incarnation. Viewing Jesus’ birth from God’s perspective, John clarifies the truth that Incarnation of God to save mankind was the Divine intention from the very beginning, from the moment of Creation. While the synoptic Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas and Jesus’ infancy narratives, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful Name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God.

Scripture lessons: The first reading gives us the assurance that, just as Yahweh restored His Chosen People to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus, the Savior, will restore mankind to the kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God, Who had conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets, has now sent His own Son so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives us a profoundly philosophical and theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. John presents Jesus as the “Word of God.” In Jewish thought, this phrase describes God taking action as in His act of creation of the world. The Greeks understood “logos” or the Word of God as an intermediary between God and humanity. In the Biblical Christian theology, the word Logos came to be equated with the Second Person of the Trinity. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, John leaves no doubt as to the reality of Jesus’ human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He records later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said, “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16). John tells us that God pitched His tent among us, meaning that God makes his home with us, He accompanies us, He lives with us, He shares our joys and our struggles, He eats with us, He becomes a meal for us in the Eucharist. The God who “pitched His tent” among us in Bethlehem and continues to live with each of us in our home, our apartment, our religious community or our retirement home, continues to dwell within us. That is why we rejoice, celebrating Christmas. A student came to a rabbi and said, ‘In the olden days there were people who saw the face of God. Why don’t they anymore?’ The rabbi replied, ‘Because nowadays no one can stoop that low.’ God keeps company with us. “And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” (Jn 1.14)

Life messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward, because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ comes to us every day through the Holy Eucharist, the Holy Bible and the worshipping community. We are asked to inaugurate Christ’s kingdom in our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth to build His kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable beings who desperately need the gifts of love and grace which God so lavishly gives us through the Sacraments, through the Holy Bible and during our prayers.

CHRISTMAS DAY: Is 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9 (L-19)

Anecdotes: 1) A vision test: Once there was a Rabbi who asked his disciples the following question: “How do you know when the darkness has been overcome, when the dawn has arrived?” One of the disciples answered, “When you can look into the distance and tell the difference between a cow and a deer, then you know dawn has arrived.” “Close,” the Rabbi responded, “but not quite.” Another disciple ventured a response, “When you can look into the distance and distinguish a peach blossom from an apple blossom, then you know that the darkness has been overcome.” “Not bad,” the Rabbi said, “not bad! But the correct answer is slightly different. When you can look on the face of any man or any woman and know immediately that this is God’s child and your brother or sister, then you know that the darkness has been overcome, that the Daystar has appeared.” This Christmas morning when we celebrate the victory of Light over darkness, the Gospel of John introduces Jesus as the true Light Who came from Heaven into our world of darkness to give us clear vision. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

2) God is Light and in him is no darkness at all: Eight-year-old Benny died of AIDS in 1987. CBS made a movie drama about the trauma called Moving Toward the Light. As Benny lies dying in his mother’s arms, he asks, “What will it be like?” His mother whispers softly in his ear, “You will see a light, Benny, far away — a beautiful, shining light at the end of a long tunnel. And your spirit will lift you out of your body and start to travel toward the light. And as you go, a veil will be lifted from your eyes, and suddenly, you will see everything … but most of all, you will feel a tremendous sense of love.” “Will it take long?” Benny asks. “No,” his mother answers, “not long at all. Like the twinkling of an eye.” Many families have been devastated by AIDS. Amid the darkness and despair an eight-year-old boy and his mother witnessed to the sustaining power of the light of God’s presence. They have touched the lives of a multitude of people. This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light and in him is no darkness at all. — 1 John 1:5 (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Jesus pitched his tent among us:The custom of placing lighted candles in the windows at Christmas was brought to America by the Irish. When religion was suppressed throughout Ireland during the English persecution, the people had no Churches. Priests hid in the forests and caves and secretly visited the farms and homes to say Mass there during the night. It was the dearest wish of every Irish family that at least once in their lifetime a priest would arrive at Christmas to celebrate Mass. For this grace they hoped and prayed all through the year. When Christmas came, they left their doors unlocked and placed burning candles in the windows, so that any priest who happened to be in the vicinity could be welcomed and guided to their home through the dark night. Silently the priest would enter through the unlatched door and be received by the devout inhabitants with fervent prayers of gratitude and tears of happiness that their home was to become a Church for Christmas. To justify this practice in the eyes of the English soldiers, the Irish people explained that they burned the candles and kept the doors unlocked so that Mary and Joseph, looking for a place to stay, would find their way to their home and be welcomed with open hearts. The candles in the windows have always remained a cherished practice of the Irish, although many of them have long since forgotten the earlier meaning. (William Barker in Tarbell’s Teacher’s Guide; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Introduction: While Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus goes back to Abraham, the father of God’s people, and Luke’s genealogy of Jesus’ ancestry goes all the way back to Adam, thus embracing the whole human race, John’s goes back to God Himself. John is the only Gospel writer who does not stop at Bethlehem to explain the “reason for the season.” John is more concerned with the WHY and WHO of Christmas than with the WHERE of Christmas. So he travels to eternity to reveal the Person of Jesus Christ. This is a great passage because it gives us the theology of Christmas. While the Gospel selections for the Vigil, Midnight and Dawn Masses describe the history of Christmas, the selection from John’s Gospel for this Daytime Mass lifts us out of history into the realm of mystery—His wonderful name is the Word. The reading tells us that the Baby in the manger is the Word of God, the very Self-expression of God. He was present at creation; He is actually the One through Whom all things were made. The Prologue to the Gospel of John and the prologue to the Letter to the Hebrews in the second reading are superb affirmations of the Person of Jesus Christ, expressed in beautiful theological words and metaphors. The first reading gives us the assurance that just as Yahweh restored His chosen people to their homeland after the Babylonian exile, Jesus the Savior will restore mankind to the kingdom of God. In the second reading, St. Paul tells us how God Who conveyed His words to us in the past through His prophets has sent His own Son so that He might demonstrate to us humans, by His life, death and Resurrection, the real nature of our God. John’s Gospel gives a profoundly theological vision of Christ, the result of John’s years of preaching and of meditating on this wondrous mystery of God’s love. While stressing the Divinity of Christ, he leaves no doubt as to the reality of Christ’s human nature. In the Prologue of his Gospel, John introduces the birth of Jesus as the dawning of the Light Who will remove the darkness of evil from the world. He records later in his Gospel why light is the perfect symbol of Christmas: Jesus said “I am the Light of the world,” (Jn 8:12) and “You are the light of the world” (Mt 5:14-16).

First reading, Isaiah 52:7-10:This prophetic passage dates from the return of the Jews to their homeland at the end of the Babylonian Captivity. The setting is the desolate city, Jerusalem, awaiting the return of the exiles from Babylon. The city is personified; rhetorically, it is called “Zion,” after the hill in its midst where the Temple stood. Isaiah first imagines that the city can hear, even at a distance, the footsteps of her returning children. The returnees are pictured as singing exultantly, “Your God is King!” Then Jerusalem’s sentinels raise the cry of recognition and join in the praise of God. Finally, the joyful people declare that all the earth will recognize the hand of God at work in their restoration. This return to Jerusalem, like the Exodus from Egypt centuries earlier, was a type or a foreshadowing of the greater redemption that was to come through Jesus the Messiah. The re-possession of the land of Canaan for a few years and the restoring of Jerusalem and Judah were but pale shadows of the great restoration and the possession of our eternal promised land which were to be given by the Messiah in the days to come, not only to Israel but to all nations. “Today’s feast celebrates the Christ-event. In fact, the glad tidings of the Deutero-Isaiahan messenger were only fully actualized, only fully heard and made comprehensible in the event of Jesus Christ. In the event of the Incarnation, Yahweh truly returns and restores Jerusalem; in the event of the Nativity, Yahweh draws near to comfort and console his people. In the event of Christ-made-flesh, God’s message of salvation achieves its utmost clarity.” (Celebration).

Second Reading, Hebrews 1:1-6:The addressees of the Letter to the Hebrews were Christian Jews who were beginning to feel the pain of separation from their fellow-Jews who had refused to see Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah. The Christian Jews needed to be reminded that their relationship with Jesus more than filled the gaps in their religious lives caused by the loss of Temple ritual and the like, particularly as they were suffering the temptation to change back to the old Law and the Jewish religion because of persecution from Judaizers. In the Letter to the Hebrews, St. Paul explains to them how superior the New Covenant is to the old. The letter begins with a comparison of how God formerly spoke to their ancestors and how God has now definitively spoken to them through Jesus. These six verses from the Letter’s first chapter were chosen for today’s reading because of the clear, definite and emphatic declaration of the Divinity of Christ and His equality with God, which they contain. Paul asserts that the Baby who was born in a stable in Bethlehem, lived and died in Palestine, rose on the third day from the grave and ascended to Heaven forty days later, was also God, equal to the Father in all things. This is a mystery beyond our human comprehension, yet it is a fact, stated by Christ Himself, believed and preached by the Apostles, and accepted by the Church for two thousand years. The whole reading is about the superiority of Jesus to everything and everyone else ,and God’s final Self-Revelation through Jesus as superior to the Old Testament Revelation of God. Specifically, the reading declares that Jesus is superior to angels. That Jesus is also, necessarily, superior to the institutions of Judaism, from which the Hebrew Christians were cut off and for which they were feeling nostalgic, is implied in the passage.

Exegesis: The prologue of John’s Gospel: From the time of the earliest lectionaries, the Prologue to John’s Gospel (Chapter 1) was the traditional assigned Gospel for Christmas Day because it is one of the most magnificent (and theologically profound) passages in the entire New Testament. For several centuries, this passage was familiar to Catholic parishioners as the “Last Gospel,” since it was directed to be read at the conclusion of each Mass, as the final thought that would accompany God’s people as they left the Church and returned to their homes and daily occupations. It has been taken as the litmus test of theological orthodoxy regarding the reality of Christ’s Incarnation, and lies behind some of the wording of the Nicene Creed. “John’s Gospel highlights the deity of Jesus Christ, without minimizing His humanity.” (Rev. Bob Deffinbaugh; online at www.bible.org). Many scholars believe that the Prologue is an insistent rebuttal of certain Gnostic ideas, which denied the reality (or the possibility) of a Divine Incarnation. This Gnostic idea was later condemned as a heresy, called Docetism, which taught that the physical reality of Jesus was merely an “appearance” or a “façade,” and not inherent in who and what Jesus was.

The paradox of the Incarnation: Against later theories that Christ was somehow merely a “super-creature,” or an exemplary human being who had simply been subsequently “adopted” by God, John wants to make clear that the Son—unlike every creature born in time—pre-existed all things, and was, in fact, an active part of the Divine creative process. John the Evangelist proclaims the Incarnation of God, the most fundamental truth of Christianity, in the immortal words of his Prologue, making the connection between Jesus Christ and the Logos of God. Unlike most Jewish genealogies, this one traces Jesus’ origins to the Eternal Divinity. Between the beautiful Nativity stories of Matthew and Luke and the Gospel of John, there lies the great paradox of the Christian Faith, the paradox of the Incarnation, the entering of God into the human story, in human form. The Prologue of John’s Gospel (1:1-18), can be divided into three sections: a) the Word’s relationship to the Creator and Creation (1:1-5), b) the Word’s relationship to John the Baptist (1:6-9) and c) the Word’s relationship to the world (1:10-18).

The theology of the Word made flesh:And the Word became flesh and lived among us.” According to almost all interpreters, this is the climax of John’s poetic Prologue—the culmination of his gradual theological “crescendo,” and the “key” to everything else in the Gospel. It is such a simple phrase, and yet is contains within it the promise, hope and challenge of Christianity in a nutshell! Within thirty years of Jesus’ death, the Christian Faith had traveled all over Asia Minor and Greece and had arrived in Rome. By AD 60, there must have been a hundred thousand Greeks in the Church for every Jew who had become a Christian. But Jewish ideas like the Messiah, the center of Jewish expectation, were completely strange to the Greeks. Hence, the very category in which the Jewish Christians conceived and presented Jesus meant nothing to the Greek Christians. The problem which John faced was how to present Christianity to the Greek world around him in the Greek city of Ephesus where he lived. He found that, in both Greek and Jewish thought, there existed the concept of the “word.” For the Eastern peoples, words had an independent, power-filled existence. The Greek term for word is Logos which not only means word, but also reason. Hence, whenever the Greeks used Logos, the twin ideas of the Word of God and the Reason of God were in their minds. That is why John introduces Jesus to the Greeks as the eternal, light-giving and creative power of God, or the Mind of God in poetical prose, in the very beginning of his Gospel. In his Prologue, John deals with the major themes like the pre-existence of the Word, God/Word and Father/Son as distinct Persons but, at the same time, one God; of Jesus as God, Life and Light; of the struggle between Light and darkness; of the power of the Light over darkness. According to John, the Word of God, Jesus, gives Life and Light. Thus, the Prologue of John’s Gospel summarizes how the Son of God was sent into the world to become the Jesus of history, so that the glory and grace of God might be uniquely and perfectly disclosed. One of the Fathers of the Church (St. Irenaeus) once said, “Gloria Dei, homo vivens,” (“the glory of God is a person fully alive”). If that can be said of any of us, how much more must it be true of the Word made Flesh? Here in this prologue, the evangelist enunciatesChrist’s superiority not only to everyone else as the One mediator between God and humanity but also to the Law.

John the Baptizer’s role:John the Baptizer’s coming renewed Israel’s prophetic tradition after four hundred years of silence. Since John’s ministry was so powerful, some people thought of him as the Messiah. Hence, John’s Gospel makes a number of references to John the Baptizer, always clearly establishing that he was subordinate to Jesus. He was not the Light, but came to bear witness to the Light (vv. 7-8). John’s mission was to bear testimony to the Light (Jesus) — to serve as a witness to the Light (v. 7). John died as a martyr because he showed the courage of his prophetic convictions by correcting Herod the king for his immoral life.

The Messiah rejected by his own people:He came to what was His own, and His own people did not accept Him” (1:11). Jesus “came home” to Israel, where the people should have known Him. And it was the homefolk, “His own,” the Israelites, the Chosen People, who did not receive Him. God had prepared them for centuries to receive the Messiah into their midst, but they rejected him. This rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people is restricted neither to the time of Jesus nor to that of the Fourth Gospel. Much of the world today is still in rebellion, “preferring darkness to Light, because its deeds are evil” (3:19-20). That is true of all of us at certain points in our lives, but we are not imprisoned in those moments. We can, as long as we are alive, turn to Him, repentant and believing, and become His own again. “But to all who received Him, who believed in His Name, He gave power to become children of God” (v. 12).

“The Word became Flesh and lived among us” (v. 14): The Word becoming flesh is the zenith of God’s Self-revelation. God Who spoke earlier through the prophets now speaks through His Son (Heb. 1:1-2), and lives among us. The Word Who dwelt with God now dwells with “us,” becoming a human being like us and thus bridging the great chasm between God’s world and our world. Verse 14 declares that the God Who once dwelt among them in the Tabernacle and the Temple, now chooses to dwell among them in the Person of Jesus. In the Old Testament, Moses was not allowed to see the face of God. Now, however, we are allowed to see Jesus’ glory — and His face. Thus, the Father is fully revealed to us, because, “Whoever has seen (the Son) has seen the Father” (Jn 14:9). The other Gospels depict the glory of God coming upon Jesus at the Transfiguration. John does not relate this incident, both because he sees the glory of God in all Jesus says and does, and because the hour for Jesus to be glorified is the crucifixion.

“We have all received, grace upon grace.” (v. 16):The Word is full of grace and truth – attributes of God – attributes that the Word shares with God as the “Father’s only Son” (v. 15). It is from this One Who is “full of grace and truth” that we receive “grace upon grace.” In other words, we draw grace from the total resources of God, an inexhaustible storehouse. Regardless of our need for grace, the supply is greater. Let us imagine ourselves standing on the seashore, watching the waves roll in. They come every few seconds, and the supply never fails. That is how God’s grace comes to us. Let us at this Christmas time try to count just some of those “graces showered on us.” Verse 17 identifies the Word as Jesus: “The Law indeed was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” The gift that is the Truth surpasses and perfects the former gift of the Law given through Moses. Note the contrasts between Moses and Jesus: We received the law through Moses, but we receive grace and truth through Jesus Christ (v. 17). John’s Prologue begins by declaring that that the Word was God (v. 1), and concludes (v.18), by proclaiming that the Son is God.

Life messages: 1) A day to remember and a day to wait for: Today, while we remember and celebrate God’s first coming into our world in human form, we also look forward because the liturgy we celebrate reminds us that the Lord is going to return in his Second Coming. However, Christ is not going to return as a Child but as a Warrior, a Judge, a mighty Savior. The liturgy calls on us to prepare His way, to be ready to be judged by Him. So we are looking back and remembering the past coming of Jesus as our Savior, and looking forward and preparing for His future coming in glory as Judge to reward and punish. In addition to these two “comings,” the Church teaches us that Christ is here now, Christ is present, Christ comes to us today, and Christ comes to us every day. Christmas is actually a celebration intended to heighten our awareness of the fact that Christ has been born, Christ lives, and Christ is present now in our lives. Christmas reminds us, through the lives of the people in the Christmas narrative, of the importance of helping to bring the presence of Christ to the world around us and of being sensitive to that presence when the Lord comes to us in the least expected people, and in unexpected places and situations. We are asked to welcome Christ’s Kingdom into our lives by allowing Him to be born in us, by recognizing Him in others and by courageously going forth with His grace to build His kingdom of love, justice, peace and holiness in our world.

2) We need to remember that there is no room in the manger except for Jesus and us: There isn’t room in the manger for all the baggage we carry around with us. There’s no room for our pious pride and self-righteousness. There’s no room for our human power and prestige. There’s no room for the baggage of past failure and unforgiven sin. There’s no room for our prejudice, bigotry and jingoistic national pride. There’s no room for bitterness and greed. There is no room in the manger for anything other than the absolute reality of who and what we really are: very human, very real, very fragile, very vulnerable beings who desperately need the gift of love and grace which God so powerfully desires to give.

JOKES OF THE WEEK

1) It was Christmas Eve in a supermarket and a woman was anxiously picking over the last few remaining turkeys in the hope of finding a large one. In desperation she called over a shop assistant and said “Excuse me. Do these turkeys get any bigger?” “No” he replied, “They’re all dead”.

2) Just before Christmas, an honest politician, a generous lawyer and Santa Claus were riding in the elevator of a very posh hotel. Just before the doors opened they all noticed a $20 bill lying on the floor. Which one picked it up?
Santa of course, because the other two – an honest politician, a generous lawyer – don’t exist!

3) To avoid offending anybody, the school dropped religion altogether and started singing about the weather. At my son’s school, they now hold the winter program in February and sing increasingly non-memorable songs such as “Winter Wonderland,” “Frosty the Snowman” and–this is a real song–“Suzy Snowflake,” all of which is pretty funny because we live in Miami. A visitor from another planet would assume that the children belonged to the Church of Meteorology. (Chicago Tribune Magazine, July 28, 1991). L/21

(“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-iv (Cycle C)by Fr. Tony (akadavil)

56 Christmas anecdotes are appended as No 3

    

(Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604).

On this Christmas Day, May God put the Spirit of the Shepherds and the Spirit of the Wise Men and the spirit of Mary and Joseph in us. But, most important of all, May God put the Spirit of Jesus in us. He wants to do that…. He wants to come into our hearts, but we have to let Him in

akadavil. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under Fr. Tony’s homilies and under Resources in the CBCI website: https://www.cbci.in for other website versions. (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

Christmas – 2021 (1-Thematic Homily) LP-21

May the LORD bless you and keep you!

May the LORD let his face shine upon you and be gracious to you!

May the LORD look upon you kindly and give you peace!

(Book of Numbers 6: 24-26)

Christmas- a thematic homily (1-page summary)L/21

(Give an anecdote) Why do we celebrate Christmas with great rejoicing?

1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior: God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as True God and true man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindus believe in ten incarnations of God. The purpose of these incarnations is stated in their Holy Scripture, Bagavath Geetha or Song of God. “God incarnates to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” (“Dharma samstaphanarthe sambhavami yuge yuge.”). But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3:16: “God so loved the world that He sent His only Son so that everyone who believes in Him may not die but have eternal life.”  We celebrate the Incarnation of God as a Baby today as Good News because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin  and atoned for our sins by His suffering, death and Resurrection. So, every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure and uncharitable tendencies. Christmas 2021 also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to him, allowing him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.

# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful, rewarding God and not a judgmental, cruel, punishing God. He demonstrated by his life and teaching how God our Heavenly Father loves us, forgives us, provides for us, and rewards us. All his miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was his death on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian privilege and duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us humbly admit the truth with the German mystic Angelus Silesius “Christ could be born a thousand times in Bethlehem – but all in vain until He is born in me.”( https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Angelus_Silesius) Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the Light of his presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service and, overflowing generosity.

# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and within us): Christmas is the feast of the Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God Who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” announced by the angel to Mary. As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community, and in each believer as the abiding  Holy Spirit, residing in us and thus making us   His “Temples.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary privilege and duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble, committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today.

Mother Teresa: “It is Christmas when you let God love others through you.”

Five Christmas homily starter anecdotes:

Christmas homily starter anecdotes: 1) Three Christmas questions answered:

 A) Is Christmas the greatest feast celebrated in the Church? The answer is no. Easter is feast #1, Pentecost is #2 and Christmas is #3. The Roman Church started celebrating Christmas only after Christianity was recognized as the state religion.

B) Was Jesus born on December 25th? Some early Fathers of the Church held that as the Church’s traditional belief. Around 204, Hippolytus of Rome argued for December 25th. This is the earliest record we have of Jesus’ birth being December 25. In 386, St. John Chrysostom preached a homily on December 20, in which he noted that “the day of Christ’s birth in the flesh” is about to arrive in “a period of five days,” or on December 25 (On the Incomprehensible Nature of God6:23, 30). Finally, around 408, St. Augustine writes that “according to tradition he [Jesus] was born on December 25” (The Trinity4:5). .But some other Fathers of the Church thought that Jesus was born on January 4th, in 4 B.C. before the death of King Herod the Great. Around A.D. 194, Clement of Alexandria speculated that Christ was born on November 17, 3 BC!   Some Bible scholars fix Jesus’ birth in the month of September during the Feast of the Tabernacles when people travelled and when the sheep were in the field at night.Based on Roman census records and the report about the occurrence of a comet in the sky, they fix it on September 11, B. C. 3.  But some Church historians argue that  December 25th was fixed by Pope Julius in A.D. 353 as a part of baptizing or Christianizing pagan feasts so that the converted pagans might celebrate the birthday of Jesus on Dec 25th instead of celebrating the birthday the Sun-god during winter solstice, while converted Roman soldiers might celebrate Christmas instead the birthday of Mitra, the Roman god-of-virility (Deus Solus Invictus).  The Romans called their winter holiday Saturnalia, honoring the god of agriculture, Saturn. Later the Kalends of January were observed to celebrate the triumph of life over death. The entire season was called Dies Natalis Invicti Solis, the Birthday of the Unconquered Sun., or Saturnalia. It was Emperor Julianus who declared Christmas as a national holiday in the 6th century. Most of the present-day Christmas symbols like the Christmas carols and gifts, Christmas tree and Christmas lights are also remnants of the pagan celebrations. It was St. Francis of Assisi who first introduced the manger or Christmas crib in the 13th century. ( For detailed critical study, visit the Catholic Answers article by Jimmy Akins,  https://www.catholic.com/magazine/print-edition/was-jesus-born-december-25th).

C) Where did the name Christmas originate? In medieval times, the celebration of Christmas took the form of a special Mass celebrated at midnight on the eve of Christ’s birth. Since this was the only time in the Catholic Church year when a Midnight Mass was allowed, it soon became known in Middle English as Christes Masse (Christ’s Mass), from which is derived Christmas.

2) The first live Christmas crib: In 1223, St. Francis of Assisi inaugurated a pious practice that today has become so common that many think that it always existed. This great saint, as he was traversing the rolling hills of central Italy one December to proclaim the Gospel, noticed that few of his countrymen were taking the mysteries of the Faith seriously. Many were not even preparing for Christmas. Of those who were getting ready to celebrate the Lord’s birth, they looked at it as an event tied exclusively to the past. The mysteries of the Faith had become sterile. The central persons in the drama had become stale and lifeless, incapable even of stimulating his contemporaries’ imaginations — and therefore no longer capable of inspiring them to a greater relationship of mutual love with God in the present. To counteract these tendencies, St. Francis set up the first crèche in recorded history on Christmas Eve, 1223, in the town of Greccio. He brought in live animals — an ox and an ass. He recruited a newborn baby and a set of young parents. Hay and a manger were brought in. There was even the attempt — with hundreds of burning torches — to create the luminescence of a bright star. And Francis could not have been happier with the results. People came from all over to see the living nativity. Through all the sounds, sights and even smells, the multitudes became convinced that Christmas was not just a cute story, but a real event, one that was not just PAST, but something which they were called to enter in the present. Soon living crèches like this spread throughout Italy and into other parts of Europe. The phenomenon soon extended into art, as artists started to paint nativity scenes with all the main characters dressed anachronistically in 13th century garb — to emphasize that Christmas is not just a bygone event, but, more important, one very much in progress, in which every believer is called to “go now to Bethlehem” and “pay [Christ] homage.” As St. Francis’ first biographer wrote, “The Child Jesus had been forgotten in the hearts of many; but, by the working of God’s grace, [the child Jesus] was brought to life again through his servant Francis and stamped upon their fervent memory.” (Fr. Roger Landry) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

3) Silent Steps is one the most lyrical poems of Rabindranath Tagore included in “Gitanjali,” the 45th in a collection of 103 poems, for which he receives the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913. The focus of the poem is the Almighty God, Creator, Soul of the universe etc. He visits His creation all the time and does not let them suffer alone in their miseries. The repetition of the line “he comes, comes, ever comes” intensifies God’s concern and love for the human being. This poem strengthens the conceptions: God is Omnipresent (all-pervasive) Omnipotent (all-powerful) and Omniscient (all-knowing). And this idea helps overcome the fear of suffering and pessimism. As we celebrate the first coming of God in human flesh two thousand years ago, Tagore reminds us of His daily coming into our lives.

Have you not heard his silent steps?

He comes, comes, ever comes.

Every moment and every age,

every day and every night he comes, comes, ever comes.

Many a song have I sung in many a mood of mind,

but all their notes have always proclaimed,

‘He comes, comes, ever comes.’

In the fragrant days of sunny April through the forest path he comes,

comes, ever comes.

In the rainy gloom of July nights on the thundering chariot of clouds

he comes, comes, ever comes.

In sorrow after sorrow, it is his steps that press upon my heart,

and it is the golden touch of his feet that makes my joy to shine. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) 2021

4) Summarizing theology in one sentence: Karl Barth, one of the great Protestant theologians was asked to be a guest lecturer at the University of Chicago Divinity School. At the end of a captivating closing lecture, the president of the seminary announced that Dr. Barth was not well and was quite tired. “Therefore, I will ask just one question on behalf of all of us.” He turned to the renowned theologian and asked, “Of all the theological insights you have ever had, which do you consider to be the greatest of them all? “It was the perfect question for a man who had written literally tens of thousands of pages of some of the most sophisticated theology ever put into print. Karl Barth closed his tired eyes, and he thought for a minute, and then he half smiled, opened his eyes, and said to those young seminarians, “The greatest theological insight that I have ever had is this: “Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Christmas is the celebration of this great Divine Love for us sinful humans. (Rev. Bill Adams) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

5) Abnormal birth: After explaining childbirth, the biology teacher asked her 3rd graders to write an essay on “childbirth” in their families. Susan went home and asked her mother how she was born. Her mother, who was busy at the time, said, “A big white swan brought you darling, and left you on our doorstep.” Continuing her research, she asked grandma how she got her mother as a child. Being in the middle of something, her grandma similarly deflected the question by saying, “A fairy brought your mom as a little baby, and I found her in our garden in an open box”. Then the girl went and asked her great-grandmother how she got her grandma as a baby. “I picked her from a box I found in the gooseberry bush,” said the surprised great grandma. With this information the girl wrote her essay. When the teacher asked her later to read it in front of the class, she stood up and began, “I was very sad to find out that there has not been a single natural birth in our family for three generations… All our children were extraterrestrials.” (Rev. Fairchild). Today the words of Isaiah tell us of another non-normal birth. It’s a non-normal birth, never before, nor after, seen or experienced, because it is the birth of God as man – Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, as our Savior born of a virgin. (https://frtonyshomilies.com/).

Christmas Jokes

1) “How many people attend your Church?” one pastor asked another. “Sixty regular, and about three hundred C and E.” “What’s C and E?” the first asked. Came the quick answer: “Christmas and Easter. We affectionately call these Christmas-Christians Poinsettias, and Easter-Christians Easter Lilies.”

2) “God gets an A; you get an F.” Just before Christmas a college professor read the following on an examination paper: “God only knows the answer to this question. Merry Christmas.” Across the same paper the professor wrote: “God gets an A; you get an F. Happy New Year.”

3) A beautiful diamond ring for Christmas: A guy bought his wife a beautiful diamond ring for Christmas. A friend of his said, “I thought she wanted one of those sporty 4-Wheel drive vehicles.” “She did,” he replied. “But where in the heck was I gonna find a fake Jeep?”

4) “Your mother and I are getting a divorce”: An elderly man in Oklahoma calls his son in New York and says, “I hate to ruin your day son, but I have to tell you that your mother and I are getting a divorce; 45 years of marriage… and that much misery is enough!” “Dad, what are you talking about?” the son yells. “We can’t stand the sight of each other any longer,” the old dad explained. “We’re sick of each other, and I’m sick of talking about this, so you call your sister in Hong Kong and tell her!”. Frantic, the son calls his sister, who explodes on the phone. “Like heck they’re getting divorced,” she shouts, “I’ll take care of this.” She calls her elderly father immediately, and screams at him, “You are not getting divorced. Don’t do a single thing until I get there. I’m calling my brother back, and we’ll both be there tomorrow. Until then, don’t do a thing, you hear me?” she yelled as she hung up the phone. The old man hangs up his phone and turns to his wife. “Okay”, he says, “it’s all set. They’re both coming for Christmas and paying their own air-fare.”

5) “Didn’t You Get My E-Mail?”As a little girl climbed onto Santa’s lap, Santa asked the usual, “And what would you like for Christmas?” The child stared at him open-mouthed and horrified for a minute, then gasped, “Didn’t you get my E-mail?”

6) “I’ll return when you’re sober:” At Christmas a man came to see me with a problem. Sniffing the air, I said ‘I’m sorry I can’t help you. Mick– it’s because of the drink. Can you please come back later?’ ‘That’s okay, Father Paddy,’ he replied. ‘I’ll return when you’re sober’ (Rev. Paddy O’Kane) L/19

YouTube Christmas :1) Christmas: Christian or Pagan by Jim McClarty. HISTORY (1/3)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=XvnZq_a8BqE

2) Silent Monks Sing the Hallelujah Chorus: https://youtu.be/pRhjWdr-LAA

3)Christmas song & dancing Olate dogs in Christmas costumes: https://youtu.be/aXFXGEtpi3k

4) Release from prison on Christmas: https://youtu.be/vVoVRro0R2I

“Scriptural Homilies” no.6-C by Fr. Tony (akadavil@gmail.com)

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

December 20-25 weekday homilies

Dec 20-25:Prayerful Christmas Greetings.Three sets of Christmas homilies attached.Kindly click on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed Sunday andweekday homilies, RCIA & Faith formation classes: Click on the link given after the name of the saint ,for a short biography.Dec 20 Monday: Lk 1:26-38: 26 In the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, 27 to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. 28 And he came to her and said, “Hail, O favored one, the Lord is with you!” 29 But she was greatly troubled at the saying and considered in her mind what sort of greeting this might be. 30 And the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. 32 He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, 33 and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.” 34 And Mary said to the angel, “How shall this be, since I have no husband?” 35 And the angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called Holy, the Son of God. 36 And behold, your kinswoman Elizabeth in her old age has also conceived a son; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. 37 For with God nothing will be impossible.”38 …. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel describes the story of the Annunciation, explaining how God began to keep the promise He had made to King David through the prophet Nathan, that David’s descendant would rule over the world as its Messiah. The Archangel Gabriel’s salutation to Mary: “Hail, full of grace,” reminds us of God’s words to Moses at the burning bush (Ex 3:12), and the angel’s salutation to Gideon, (Jgs 6:12). Mary is described as “full of grace”, filled with God’s favor and graciousness. She is to be the new Ark, a tent and temple. God will be in her, literally and physically, and thus she will be the greater House God promised to David. Mary’s question, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” is natural. That is why Gabriel reminds Mary, ” For with God nothing will be impossible.” God will “empower” her (“the Spirit will come upon you“) and “protect” her (“overshadow you“). Luke’s narrative points out that the Child will not only be a distant grandson of David — He will be God’s own Son. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His ancestor David.” Mary does not require confirmation but responds in Faith. She agrees to carry out the Word Gabriel has addressed to her.

Life messages: 1) We need to be humble instruments in the hand of God, trusting in His power and goodness. St. Augustine reminds us that God Who created us without our permission cannot save us without our active cooperation. Hence, let us cooperate in the fulfillment of God’s plan for us with Mary’s trusting Faith and humility. 2) Like Mary who brought God to us as Jesus our Savior, it is our duty to carry Jesus everywhere and bring Jesus to the lives of others around us through love, mercy, forgiveness and service. “Let the soul of Mary be in each one of you to magnify the Lord. Let the spirit of Mary be in each one to exult in Christ.” (St. Ambrose). 3) We should treasure these words of the Gospel and use them often, for example, practicing the Christian custom of saying the Angelus every day and reflecting on the five Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary. (Navarre Bible Commentary). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 21 Tuesday (St. Peter Canisius, Priest, Doctor of the Church) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/saint-peter-canisius : Lk 1:39-56: Visitation: 39 In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah, 40 and she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. 41 And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, …45 Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: The mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness and generosity to do God’s will. Luke, in today’s Gospel, tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. In the Gospel, one definition of discipleship is to listen to God’s word and then carry it out. Mary did both, to become the most perfect disciple. The incident also shows us how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age.

Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, carrying Jesus and filled with the fire and empowering of the Holy Spirit, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and her kinswoman’s child. Like all good Jews, Mary was prompted in everything she did by her commitment to living God’s word in her life.

The paradox of blessedness. Blessedness confers on a person both the greatest joy and the greatest task in the world. Nowhere can we see the paradox better illustrated than in Mary’s life. Mary was granted the blessedness and privilege of being the mother of the Son of God. Yet, that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart: one day she would see her Son hanging on a cross. So, to be chosen by God is often both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. God does not choose us to give us a life of east, but to allow us serve as instruments in He work.

Life messages:1) We should recognize the real presence of Emmanuel (God Is with Us) and say “yes” to Him: The Visitation of Mary reminds us that, through His holy ministry, Christ continues to be present among us. Let us recognize and appreciate the truth that the same Christ “dwells among us” in the Bible, in the Sacraments, in the praying community, and in our souls. 2) We should convey Jesus to others as Mary carried Jesus to Elizabeth. We can make a real difference in the lives of others today by carrying Jesus to them. For that, we must be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing His rebirth within us. Then Jesus will enable us to share His love with all whom we encounter, by offering them humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate caring (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 22 Wednesday: Lk 1:46-56: 46 And Mary said, “My soul magnifies the Lord, 47 and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior, 48 for he has regarded the low estate of his handmaiden. For behold, henceforth all generations will call me blessed; 49 for he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name. 50 And his mercy is on those who fear him from generation to generation. 51 He has shown strength with his arm, he has scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts, 52 he has put down the mighty from their thrones, and exalted those of low degree; 53 he has filled the hungry with good things, and the rich he has sent empty away. 54 He has helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy, 55 as he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his posterity forever.” 56 And Mary remained with her about three months and returned to her home. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: The Magnificat and Hannah’s song (1400 B.C.) are properly mentioned together, because the former is literarily and thematically dependent on the latter. Mary as a young Jewish girl knew Hannah’s song as it was sung on every Jewish New Year Day in the Temple and the synagogues. Both Hannah and Mary are mothers rejoicing at the birth of an unexpected child. Hannah praises God that He has seen fit to end the curse of her barrenness, while Mary glorifies the Lord because He has chosen her to bear the promised Messiah. Each knew, to her sorrow, that she would have to give up her son one day. Just as Hannah dedicated her child Samuel to the Lord, so Mary offered her son Jesus for our salvation. On hearing Elizabeth’s greetings, Mary sang, praising and thanking God for the great things He had done for her. He had filled her with graces, overshadowed her with His Holy Spirit and made her the mother of His Son Jesus. Mary praised God also for the mercy He had worked by humbling the proud, by ousting the mighty from their thrones, and by exalting the lowly and filling the hungry with good things, a social, political, and economic revolution.

Life messages: 1)We need to sing songs of praise and gratitude to God as Mary did because of the great gift of life God gave us through our parents and the gift of early training we received from them in a Christian home.

2) Let us also glorify God every day through our works of charity for the gift of our particular vocation in life, and for the opportunities God gives us every day for doing good to others. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 23 Thursday: (The Nativity of St. John the Baptist) https://www.franciscanmedia.org/saint-of-the-day/nativity-of-saint-john-the-baptist) Luke 1:57-66: 57 Now the time came for Elizabeth to be delivered, and she gave birth to a son. 58 And her neighbors and kinsfolk heard that the Lord had shown great mercy to her, and they rejoiced with her. 59 And on the eighth day they came to circumcise the child; and they would have named him Zechariah after his father, 60 but his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” 61 And they said to her, “None of your kindred is called by this name.” 62 And they made signs to his father, inquiring what he would have him called. 63 And he asked for a writing tablet, and wrote, “His name is John.” And they all marveled. 64 And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. 65 And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea; 66 and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him. Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context:Today’s Gospel describes the birth and naming of St. John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet. He was given the mission of heralding the promised Messiah and of preparing the Chosen People to welcome that Messiah by preaching to them repentance and the renewal of life. John was born to the priest, Zechariah and his wife, Elizabeth in their old age. Today’s Gospel passage describes John’s birth, Circumcision, and Naming ceremony.

A miraculous birth and an event of double joy: His elderly parents rejoiced in John’s birth, as he was a gift from God in their old age. Since the child was a boy, all their neighbors rejoiced with them, and the village musicians celebrated the birth by playing their joyful music. The Naming followed the baby’s Circumcision, and Elizabeth insisted that the child should be named John (which means “the Lord is gracious”), the name given him by the Archangel Gabriel when he spoke to Zechariah. The mute Zechariah approved that name by writing, “His name is John.” At that action of obedient surrender to the Lord God, the priest’s speech was restored, and he loudly proclaimed the praises of God for blessing him with a son and Israel with her Deliverer, Whose herald his son would be.

Life messages: 1) We need to pray for our parents and be thankful to them for the gift of life, the training and discipline they have given us, and the love and affection they have lavished on us. Let us ask God’s pardon if we are, or were, ungrateful to them, do/did not take proper care of them in their illness or old age or ever inflicted pain on them. 2) We need to remember and pray for our godparents who sponsored us in Baptism, which made us children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus, heirs of Heaven and members of the Church. 3) We should have the courage of our Christian convictions as John the Baptist did, and we should become heralds of Christ as the Baptist was, by our transparent Christian lives. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 24 Friday:Lk 1:67-79: 67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit, and prophesied, saying, 68 “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people, 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70 as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71 that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all who hate us; 72 to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant, 73 the oath which he swore to our father Abraham, 74 to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75 in holiness and righteousness before him all the days of our life. 76 And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77 to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, 78 through the tender mercy of our God, when the day shall dawn upon us from on high 79 to give light to those who sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

The context: Today’s Gospel gives the prophetic hymn which Zechariah, filled with Holy Spirit, sang on the eighth day after his son John’s birth when all had assembled for his Circumcision and Naming ceremony. Although the Jews generally believed that Elijah the prophet would return to earth to prepare the way for the Messiah, Zechariah prophetically sang here that it was his son, John, who was going to prepare the way for the Messiah, Jesus.

Zechariah’s prophecy contains four steps of the Christian way we are supposed to take. 1) Preparation: Our life must be a preparation, leading us to our eternal salvation, enabling us to walk through/with/in Christ, the only sure Way.

2) Correct knowledge of the only true God: Jesus Christ is our Lord and Savior who taught us that God His Father is a loving and forgiving Father Who saved us through His son Jesus.

3) Forgiveness of sins: This is the restoring of our broken relationship with God, accomplished through the suffering, death and Resurrection of Jesus.

4) Walking in the way of peace: Peace is not the absence of trouble. It is the fullness of everything needed for man’s highest good. Jesus instituted in His Church all the means necessary for us to attain our highest good. He gave us the Holy Spirit, the Holy Bible, the Sacraments, and the centralized teaching authority of his Church, with Mary and the saints as role models and praying companions for our journey.

Life messages: As happened to doubting Zechariah, let us be filled with the Holy Spirit by asking for His daily anointing and strengthening, and let us prophecy as Zachariah did, by conveying to others the reason for our Christmas celebration as rebirth of Jesus into our lives. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Dec 25 Saturday:Christmas: A thematic homily: Lk 2: 1-14: One page synopsis: We celebrate Christmas with a lot of rejoicing for three reasons:

# 1: First, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sending us a Savior: God undertook the Incarnation of Jesus as God-man to save us from the bondage of sin. The Hindu Scriptures describe ten incarnations of God, “to restore righteousness in the world whenever there is a large-scale erosion of moral values.” But the Christian Scriptures teach only one Incarnation, and its purpose is given in John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.”(RSV 2 Catholic) We celebrate as “Good News” the Incarnation of God in a Baby today because we have a Divine Savior. As our Savior, Jesus liberated us from slavery to sin by His suffering, death and resurrection, and He atoned for our sins. So, every Christmas reminds us that we need a Savior every day, to free us from our evil addictions and unjust, impure, and uncharitable tendencies. This Christmas also challenges us to accept Jesus in the manger as our saving God and personal Savior and to surrender our lives to Him, allowing Him to rule our hearts and lives every day in the New Year.

# 2: Second, Christmas is the Feast of God’s sharing His love with us: Jesus, as our Savior, brought the “Good News” that our God is a loving, forgiving, merciful, rewarding God and not a judging, cruel, punishing God. Jesus demonstrated by living out and teaching the people of Israel (and us) how God, our heavenly Father, loves us, forgives us, provides for us, and rewards us. All Jesus’ miracles were signs of this Divine Love. Jesus’ final demonstration of God’s love for us was willingly dying on the cross to atone for our sins and to make us children of God. Each Christmas reminds us that sharing love with others is our Christian privilege and duty, and every time we do that, Jesus is reborn in our lives. Let us face this question, “What does it profit me if Jesus is born in thousands of cribs all over the world and He is not born in my heart?”(Meister Eckhart, quoting St. Augustine; GoodReads). Hence, let us allow Jesus to be reborn in our hearts and lives, not only during Christmas, but every day, so that he may radiate the Light of Jesus’ presence from within us as sharing and selfless love, expressed in compassionate words and deeds, unconditional forgiveness, the spirit of humble service, and overflowing generosity.

# 3: Third, Christmas is the Feast of the Emmanuel (God living with us and within us): Christmas is the feast of Emmanuel because God in the New Testament is a God who continues to live with us in all the events of our lives as the “Emmanuel” prophesied by Isaiah (17:14). As Emmanuel, Jesus lives in the Sacraments (especially in the Holy Eucharist), in the Bible, in the praying community, and in each believer, so the Holy Spirit residing in us transforms us into “Temples of the Holy Spirit.” Christmas reminds us that we are bearers of God with the missionary privilege and duty of conveying Jesus to those around us by loving them as Jesus did, through sacrificial, humble, committed service. Sharing with others Jesus, the Emmanuel living within us, is the best Christmas gift we can give, or receive, today. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21 Additional reflections: https://bible.usccb.org/podcasts/video; https://catholic-daily-reflections.com/daily-reflections/; https://www.epriest.com/reflections

Dec 20-25 (L-21).docx

Advent IV Sunday Homily

Advent IV [C] Sunday (Dec 19) Eight-minute homily in one page

Central theme: Today’s readings remind us that Jesus is reborn every day in ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the willingness to respond to God’s call and the openness to do God’s will.They suggest that Christmas should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect, loving obedience to His will, with cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity. (You may add a pertinent homily starter anecdote)

Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. The third stanza of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps. 80), is a prayer for God’s blessing on the Davidic king, of Whom we sing in the first, “O Shepherd of Israel, hearken; from Your Throne upon the cherubim, shine forth! Rouse Your power and come to save us!” (vv 2-3). The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us to be thankful for Jesus Christ’s Self-offering, the perfect sacrifice of loving obedience that liberated us from sin. In obedient, willing eagerness to do God’s will, (“Behold, I come to do Your will”), Christ gave Himself in the place of all other ritual sacrifices offered as the means of sanctification. In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. We see here how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God’s word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple.

Life messages: 1) We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the Spirit of Christ, through Whom Christ is reborn in us and thus enables us to share His love with all whom we encounter. We do so by offering them all humble and committed service, unconditional forgiveness and compassionate, caring love. Let us take the time to visit others during this Christmas season, especially the sick and shut-ins, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God.

2) We need to bless and encourage the younger generation. Elizabeth demonstrates the responsibility of the older generation to inspire the younger generation. Grandparents, parents, teachers, and leaders are responsible for encouraging those around them. By complimenting and encouraging one’s spouse, children and friends, let us make them know how valuable they are to us and to God.

3) We need to recognize the Real Presence of the Emmanuel (God is with us) in the Holy Eucharist, in the Bible, in the Sacraments, and in the praying community. The hill country of Judea is right here in our surroundings. Let us convey Jesus to people around us by our acts of love, kindness and forgiveness.

Advent IV [C] (Dec 19) (Mi 5:1-4a; Heb 10:5-10; Lk 1:39-45)

Homily starter anecdotes

#1: “At least I made a difference to that one!” A little girl was walking along a beach covered with thousands of starfish left dying by the receding tide. Seeking to help, she started picking up the dying starfish and tossing them back into the ocean. A man, who watched her with amusement, said, “Little girl, there are hundreds of starfish on the beach. You cannot make a difference by putting a few of them back into the sea.” Discouraged, she began to walk away. Suddenly, she turned around, picked up another starfish, and tossed it into the sea. Turning to the man, she smiled and said, “At least I made a difference to that one!” — Today’s Gospel tells us how Mary, a village girl carrying Jesus in her womb, made a difference in the lives of her cousin Elizabeth and of Elizabeth’s unborn child, John. When John had grown up, he helped Mary’s Son to transform the history of mankind by preparing the way for the Messiah. The starfish story suggests that each person, no matter how unimportant, may truly benefit from our work, and that any service, however small, is valuable. The story also shows how seemingly hopeless problems can be solved by taking the first step. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

#2: Elijah heard a tiny, whispering sound and Mary a baby’s cry: There’s a marvelous scene in the Old Testament that, in a way, illustrates something of what is occurring in today’s Scriptures. It is the scene where the famous prophet Elijah, pursued by his enemies, takes refuge in a cave and waits for the Lord to tell him what to do. He is prompted to go to the mouth of the cave. A great wind sweeps through the valley, breaking the trees, it is so powerful. But the Scriptures say, the Lord was not in the wind. Then there is a terrible earthquake and the mountains tumble. But the Lord, we are again informed, was not in the earthquake. Then comes a huge fire; but there again, Scripture declares, the Lord was absent. Finally, Elijah hears a tiny, whispering sound, and he promptly covers his face with his mantle out of reverent fear of God’s holy presence. A tiny, whispering sound! Not in the wind or the earthquake or the fire, but in the tiny whispering sound, God speaks. And in much the same way He speaks again, and for a final and complete time, when He speaks His ultimate Word to the human race for all ages. For this time, He speaks in the soft cries of a little baby boy in Bethlehem. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

# 3:

“Thanks for the money, but what I really needed was a handshake.” Composer and performer Bradley James has set Mother Teresa of Calcutta’s teachings and prayers to music in the internationally acclaimed recording, Gift of Love: Music to the Words and Prayers of Mother Teresa. Bradley remembers her teaching: “Mother said we don’t have to go to Calcutta to help the poor; rather, we must help them right in front of us.” He applied this lesson when he encountered a homeless beggar on the streets of San Francisco. Bradley placed some money in his metal cup, then reached out and shook the man’s hand. The recipient gave him a big smile, and the two exchanged names and small talk. Bradley recalls: “Then he pulled me a little closer and said, ‘Thanks for the money, but what I really needed was a handshake’” [Cf. Susan Conroy, Our Sunday Visitor (Oct. 19, 2003), p. 17.] Indeed, what was remarkable in this incident was not the coin, but the gift of human dignity and the love of Christ that Bradley James brought to the beggar through the handshake and his fraternal presence. In effect, Bradley replicated in his life and experience the joyful mystery of the Lord’s Visitation (cf. Lk 1:39-45) described in today’s Gospel. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

Introduction: Today’s readings prepare us for the upcoming feast of Christmas by bringing together the major themes of the first three Sundays of Advent, namely, promise, repentance, transformation, and joy. They remind us that the mystery of the Incarnation comes to ordinary people living ordinary lives, who have the openness to do God’s will and the willingness to respond to God’s call. Today’s readings suggest that we should not celebrate Christmas as just an occasion for nice feelings. Instead, commemorating Jesus’ birth should inspire us to carry out God’s word as Mary and Jesus did, in perfect, loving obedience to His will, with the cheerful kindness and unselfish generosity that will help make us true disciples.

Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Micah insists that God chooses what is humanly insignificant and unpromising to bring about His own loving purposes. Micah gives assurance to the Jews that God is faithful to His promises, and that from the unimportant village of Bethlehem He will send them the long-expected ruler. He will restore order and harmony in the world by practicing and teaching submission to the will of God. “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.” The third stanza of today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 80) is a prayer for God’s blessing on the Davidic king: May Your help be with the Man of Your Right hand, / with the Son of Man whom You Yourself made strong. / Then we will no more withdraw from You; / give us new Life, and we will call upon Your Name.” (vv 18-19). In the light of the first reading, this may be said to refer appropriately to Jesus Christ. Thus, we put ourselves in the position of ancient Israel waiting for the coming of the Messiah as we wait for the celebration of His coming at Christmas. The second reading, taken from Paul’s Letter to the Hebrews, reminds us that it is the Son of God and Son of Man, Jesus Christ, Who has offered the perfect sacrifice of loving obedience that liberates mankind from sin. The reading portrays the Son of God as accepting a human body, the true Christmas theme. It also gives the profound reason Jesus came into the world: “Behold, I come to do Your will.” By willing, loving eagerness to do God’s will, Christ offered Himself, replacing all the other ritual sacrifices and becoming the sole means of mankind’s sanctification. This reading reminds us that God, like any loving parent, wants us to do His will – for our good, not His. In the Gospel, Luke tells us how two seemingly insignificant women met to celebrate the kindness and fidelity of God. We see how sensitive Mary was to the needs of Elizabeth, her older cousin, who had miraculously become pregnant in her old age. For Luke, discipleship consists in listening to God’s word and then carrying it out, and Mary does both, to become the most perfect disciple.

First reading, Micah 5:1-4, explained: Micah prophesies the doom of the corrupt leaders of Judah in chapters 1, 2 and 3. Like his three immediate prophetic predecessors — Amos, Hosea, and Isaiah — Micah’ receives from the Lord God oracles rooted in the Jewish concept of social justice: the relationships people are expected by God to develop with one another and with Him. The pain His people are experiencing from the Assyrian invasions is Yahweh’s punishment for their lack of concern for the unfortunate individuals around them. Then in Chapter 4, Micah is given the Lord God’s Good News to foretell: the restoration of the people living in Judah to a godly state. In Chapter 5 Micah prophesies that Israel will be led by a new king, who will come from the town of the great historic King David (“Bethlehem-Ephrathah”), and from David’s family. The situation when Micah wrote seems to be that which prevailed at the end of the Exile, when hopes ran high for the restoration of the Davidic monarchy. With a background of kings who heard and spoke Yahweh’s word, but never did anything different because of it, the Lord God speaks through Micah about a future, God-rooted king, who “shall stand firm and shepherd His flock by the strength of the Lord.” The future, kingly descendant of David, of Whom the Lord God speaks here, will lead the Israelites to victory over their enemies and, “He shall be peace” (Micah 5:4). Micah expresses a rare hope: if God’s people recognize and follow the religious insights of this one special Davidic King, they will receive the peace they’re seeking.

The second reading: Hebrews 10:5-10, explained: The letter to the Hebrews was written for the benefit of Jewish converts to Christianity. When their old friends turned them out of synagogue and Temple, they missed the institutions of Judaism, especially the Law, the priesthood and the Temple rituals and sacrifices. Hence, Paul gives them the assurance that it is Christ and their relationship with Him in the Church which replaces and improves upon everything they’ve been asked to give up. In today’s passage, Jesus is said to have quoted Psalm 40 which explains his mission: “to do his Father’s will” in the world. Paul explains that the meaning of the Incarnation is summarized in the words, “Behold, I come to do your will.” More than anything else, it is Jesus’ determination to discover God’s will and carry it out that actually saves us. True Faith entails doing God’s will, carrying out God’s commands in our everyday lives. Unfortunately, however, it is often not God’s will that we seek. Instead, we make idols of our jobs, our spouses, our children, our wealth, our social standing, and our bodies. Hence, Paul reminds us that Christ took a body so as to have an instrument through which He would be able to offer this sacrifice of perfect, loving obedience to the will of God. “You have prepared a body for me… Behold I said, I come to do your will.” This means that our bodies are the meeting place of God and human beings. That is why, as a believing community, we take our bodies seriously. We wash them in the waters of Baptism; anoint them with holy oil to seal them in the Holy Spirit; and feed them with Bread from Heaven. In addition, when we are ill, we ask the priest to anoint our bodies with holy oil. When we die, we honor our bodies with Christian burial. (http://netministries.org).

Gospel exegesis: Mary’s visit to Elizabeth. There is a saying, “He (she) who is on fire cannot sit on a chair.” Mary, filled with the fire of the Holy Spirit and carrying the newly- conceived Jesus, hurried to the mountain country where Elizabeth lived, thereby conveying the Holy Spirit to her cousin and Elizabeth’s unborn child. Like all good Jews, whatever Mary did was prompted by her commitment to God’s word in her life. “It is traditionally believed that Mary received the message of Elizabeth’s pregnancy while residing at her home in Nazareth. Elizabeth was living in Ein Karem at the time, and the distance between the two villages is roughly 100 miles. Ein Karem is on the outskirts of Jerusalem and is about 2,474 feet above sea level, while Nazareth is at 1,138 feet. This means Mary had to trek uphill nearly 1,336 feet in elevation!” According to writer J. A. Loarte, “Most likely it was Joseph who arranged the trip, looking for a caravan in which the Blessed Virgin could travel safely. He himself may have accompanied her, at least as far as Jerusalem; some commentators even think he went with Mary right to Ain Karim, which is only five miles from the capital. If so, he would have needed to return immediately to his workshop in Nazareth.”( (https://aleteia.org/2019/05/31/mary-traveled-a-highly-dangerous-path-to-visit-elizabeth/#)) According to Fr. Robert Maloney, ((https://www.americamagazine.org/issue/555/article/historical-mary) “It would be a mistake to think of Mary as fragile, even at 13. As a peasant woman capable of walking the hill country of Judea while pregnant, of giving birth in a stable, of making a four- or five-day journey on foot to Jerusalem once a year or so, of sleeping in the open country like other pilgrims and of engaging in daily hard labor at home, she probably had a robust physique in youth and even in her later years.”

The greetings of the cousins: The two cousins greeted one another, one running to assist the other, both pregnant with life and Faith. Mary’s formal salutation served both as a prophetic gesture and a prophetic oracle. Elizabeth’s unborn child, touched by the Holy Spirit, leaped with joy in recognition that salvation was near. John’s “leap” revealed the sheer joy of being filled with God’s Spirit. Elizabeth was the first to hear the words, but John was the first to experience the grace. Elizabeth perceived Mary’s coming; John perceived the coming of the Lord. Many scholars also see a possible parallel with the “leaping” of the brothers Esau and Jacob in their mother’s womb (Gn 25:22). No wonder, John would be the first to recognize the presence of Jesus as He began His public ministry!

Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb”: To many Catholics, these lines are most familiar because they form part of the core of the Hail Mary. Elizabeth does not simply speak these words; on the contrary, the text says that she “shouts them out with a loud voice.” Elizabeth then prophetically interprets this event, pointing away from her own motherhood to reveal the hidden identity of her visitor and the baby she carries. We too can “leap for joy,” because Jesus has come to us to forgive our sins. Elizabeth’s concluding words (“Blessed is she who believed… “) express a deeply Biblical and profoundly Jewish conviction: to trust in the Lord and in the Lord’s promises (no matter how seemingly impossible). That is the epitome of that authentic Faith, which, for Luke, both Mary and Elizabeth supremely exemplify. Elizabeth, in turn, gives Mary assurance and confirmation to strengthen the young woman’s Faith in the early stages of her pilgrimage. She pronounces a blessing over Mary. Having been both blessed and favored, Mary was now in a blessed and happy condition. Mary was blessed both because of her Faith and because of her bearing of the Christ-child. Thus, Mary becomes the true believer, model of Faith and first among her Son’s disciple-followers. Mary helps Elizabeth in her time of need and serves her till John is born — her perfect, loving, and sacrificial gift to Elizabeth. This story teaches us the importance of mutual ministry. Each of us has a unique call, leaving us no reason for envy. Mary brought the Savior; John recognized and identified Him; and Elizabeth gave prophecy, mediating God’s word by interpreting this event.These two women rejoice, and we are called to rejoice with them, for one reason and one reason only: because God loves us enough to act. God wants each of us, like Mary, to bear within us, and to carry to those around us, no one other than the Lord of life.

The new Ark of the Covenant. Mary’s journey to visit Elizabeth had enormous significance for Luke’s Jewish and Gentile readers. It showed them that Mary’s womb was truly the locale of God’s presence. This story suggests a mysterious parallel between Mary’s journey into the hill country and the movement of the Ark of the Covenant to the same locale on its way to Jerusalem (II Samuel, Chapter 6). Both the Ark and Mary are greeted with “shouts of joy;” both are sources of joy for the households into which they enter; both the Ark and Mary remain in the hill country for three months. King David’s sacred leaping and dancing before the Ark (2 Samuel 6:12) could be compared to John’s stirring, or, more literally, leaping (eskirtesin) for joy in Elizabeth’s womb. In the same way that King David had leapt and danced with joy in the presence of the Ark of the Covenant, so John is leaping and dancing within the confines of Elizabeth’s womb. As a temporary vessel housing the immanent presence of God, Mary appears to fulfill the same purpose as the Ark of the Covenant. What the Ark of the Covenant could only signify (and only in a local way), Mary makes a reality, in a personal and universal way: Mary with her Child is an effective sign of God’s presence with His people.The Jewish Christians believed that God dwelt in the Temple in Jerusalem, but now, the evangelist tells them, God is present in Mary. Like the Ark of the Covenant, God is journeying throughout His land, visiting His chosen people, and blessing them with His presence. As Ark of the New Covenant, Mary is the model par excellence of what every believer is called to be, the dwelling place of the Divine presence on earth.

The paradox of blessedness. In his commentary on this episode of visitation, William Barclay remarks that blessedness confers on a person both the greatest joy and the greatest task in the world. Nowhere can we see the paradox better than in Mary’s life. Mary was granted the blessedness and privilege of being the mother of the Son of God. Yet that very blessedness was to be a sword to pierce her heart: one day she would see her Son hanging on a cross. So, to be chosen by God is often both a crown of joy and a cross of sorrow. God does not choose us for a life of ease and comfort, but in order to use us, with our free, loving consent, for His purposes. When Joan of Arc knew that her time was short, she prayed, “I shall only last a year; use me as You can.” When we realize God’s purposes in our lives, the sorrows and hardships of life disappear.

Life messages: 1) We need to carry Jesus to others as Mary did. We can make a real difference in the lives of others by carrying Jesus to them. However, we cannot give what we do not possess. Christmas is the ideal time for us to be filled with the spirit of Christ, allowing His rebirth within us. Thus, Jesus enables us to share His love with all whom we encounter by offering them humble, loving, committed service, unconditional forgiveness, and compassionate care. Sharing Jesus with others is the best Christmas gift we can give. God wants each of us, like Mary, to carry to those around us the Lord of Life. It is easy to send flowers, Christmas cards or gifts. To give the gift of oneself, however, is the greatest gift of all. Let us take the time to visit others this Christmas, to bring some inspiration into their lives, and hopefully to bring them closer to God. Let us share with them the Spirit of God, the Spirit of consolation, of courage, of peace, and of joy, just as Mary did. During the Christmas Season, God calls us into action as He did Mary. Is there anyone we know who is lonely, in a nursing home, ill, or bedridden? Can we help him or her with a brief visit? Is there extra food in our pantry that a poor family could use? Such organizations as the Ladies of Charity or St. Vincent de Paul Society can find such a family for us.

2) We need to bless and encourage the younger generation. Elizabeth demonstrates the responsibility of the older generation to inspire the younger generation. We need others to recognize our gifts, to honor our true being, and to pronounce “the goodness of God upon us.” We who are grandparents, parents, teachers, and leaders are responsible for encouraging those around us by saying, “You are an important person, valuable to God and to me.” During this Christmas week, we older people might convey a blessing to others, especially the young. Complimenting and encouraging one’s spouse, children and friends, let us make them know how valuable they are to us and to God.

3) We need to recognize the real presence of the Emmanuel (God Is With Us) and say “yes” to Him: The Visitation of Mary reminds us that Christ continues to be present among his people. Christ “dwells among us,” exercising His Holy Ministry through our Ministerial Priests and Deacons, the Bible, the Sacraments, and in each of us in the praying community. The hill country of Judea is right here in our sanctuary. The same Jesus who dwelt in Mary’s womb and caused John to leap in Elizabeth’s womb now dwells among us in our liturgy and in the Holy Eucharist. Jesus has come! He lives with us and in us and through us, as we live through, with, and in Him, by the Holy Spirit. What is expected of us during this Christmas week is the readiness to say “Yes!” to the Father, “Yes!” to Jesus, “Yes!” to the Holy Spirit, accepting everything that we will experience in the coming year as His Gift and grace and “Yes!” to every call that God makes on us.

4) Mary’s pilgrimage should be our model: As we journey with Mary to the hill country, let us continue to contemplate our own life’s journey — its joys and sorrows, its triumphs, and its tragedies. Our Christian journey began in Christ at the Baptismal font where He joined Himself to us forever. Our journey continues through Christ as He nourishes us along the way with the Food of his Word and the Food of his Flesh. It will end with Christ as we await our blessed end and join Him and all his Saints in Heavenly splendor. It is up to us to prepare for that great day by spending our lives glorifying God in serving others with love and commitment.

Jokes of the week: 1) Christmas telegram: The preacher and his pregnant wife had left for a conference in France, forgetting to give instructions for the banner which was to decorate the hall at the Christmas Carol Concert, the following weekend. The parish secretary was astonished to receive a telegram from France which readd simply: UNTO US A SON IS BORN. NINE FEET LONG AND TWO FEET WIDE. REV. AND MRS. JOHNSON.

2) Christmas Stamps: A woman went to the Post Office to buy stamps for her Christmas cards. “What denomination?” asked the clerk? “Oh, good Heavens! Have we come to this?” said the woman. “Well, give me 20 Catholic stamps for me and 20 Baptist stamps for my husband.”

3) On whose side? During the American Civil War, a lady exclaimed effusively to President Lincoln: “Oh Mr. President, I feel so sure that God is on our side, don’t you?” “Ma’am,” replied the President, “I am more concerned that we should be on God’s side.”

WEBSITES OF THE WEEK: (The easiest method to visit these websites is to copy and paste the web address or URL on the Address bar of any Internet website like Google or MSN and press the Enter button of your Keyboard).

1) Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-c

2)Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:

https://www.youtube.com/user/GeoffreyPlant2066

3)Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: (Type https://sundayprep.org

4) Catholic Educator’s Resource Center: http://www.catholiceducation.org/

5) Catholic Information Network (CIN), http://www.cin.org/

23- Additional anecdotes:

1) The ripple effect: Robert F. Kennedy said: “Let no one be discouraged by the belief there is nothing one man or woman can do against the enormous array of the world’s ills – against misery and ignorance, injustice and violence… Few will have the greatness to bend history itself; but each of us can work to change a small portion of events, and in the total of all those acts will be written the history of this generation… It is from the numberless diverse acts of courage and belief that human history is shaped. Each time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends a tiny ripple of hope, and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current which can sweep down the mightiest walls of oppression and resistance.” — Today’s Gospel describes how an unknown Jewish virgin, Mary occasioned such a ripple effect by her little, loving acts of humble service to her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

2) “Advent Teufel” or Advent Devil: Maula Powers is a storyteller. In an issue of Catholic Digest some years ago Ms. Powers told about a creature called the “Advent Teufel.” Teufel is a German word for devil. According to an old German folktale, it is the Advent Devil who tries during the Advent season to keep people so busy in outward affairs that they lose sight of the real meaning of Christmas. The Advent Devil doesn’t want people to have time to experience the rebirth of Christ within themselves. The temptations of the Advent Devil are diabolically clever. He makes it so easy for us to go along with the flow of seasonal celebrations. The Advent Devil’s business is to keep us so busy with holiday obligations that we forego daily prayer, Scripture study, and Church services. Some of us have been fighting the Advent Devil this year. Hopefully, we now have him under control at least for this coming week! I hope you are in a position to use that little bit of time that’s left to focus on the real meaning of it all. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

3) “All of a sudden I realized, I matter, I really matter.” A man in the hospital is being treated for cancer. He is estranged from the Church. He has this long list of things he can name for you in his indictment. He doesn’t like the Church in its present institutional form. But a priest walks in — not invited, he just walks in. The priest asks the man, “Do you want to be anointed?” That is the Catholic rite for the sick. The man says, “Yes.” Then he wrote this. “Lying on my narrow, hospital bed, feeling the oil of gladness and healing, I knew I had little time. More importantly though, I felt by a wondrous grace that this was the first time in my memory that the Church was paying attention to me, individually, by name, naming me, praying for me to deal with my painful circumstances and my suffering, the suffering that is uniquely mine. All of a sudden I realized, I matter, I really matter. I still can’t get over the power of this feeling of mattering, of being an irreplaceable individual.” — In the Visitation scene described in today’s Gospel, two insignificant women realize how they matter by being selected the mothers of the Messiah and the Messiah’s precursor. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

4) “May Christ be born in you.” Sue Monk Kidd in her book From When the Heart Waits writes about her visit to a monastery around Christmas years ago. She passed a monk walking outside the church and said “Merry Christmas.” And the monk replied, “May Christ be born in you.” At the time, Ms. Kidd thought that this was a very peculiar greeting. But she never forgot it. And, with time, she came to realize the power of that simple greeting: “May Christ be born in you.” When Christ dwells within, there is peace. Pope St. John Paul II, in his Angelus message of December 19, 1999, explained that Christmas is not simply the remembrance of the Event that took place about 2000 years ago when, according to the Gospel, the power of God took on the frailty of a baby. It is really about a living reality that is repeated every year in the hearts of believers. “The mystery of the Holy Night, which historically happened two thousand years ago, must be lived as a spiritual event in the ‘today’ of the Liturgy,” the Pope clarified. “The Word who found a dwelling in Mary’s womb comes to knock on the heart of every person . . .” (5) Bethlehem reminds us that God is with us in the person of Jesus Christ. (http://www.appleseeds.org/Christmas‑quotes.htm). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

5) Messiah in the monastery: Here is a story of the enormous difference that the awareness of the presence of Christ among us could make in our lives as individuals and as communities. A certain Palestinian Jewish monastery in the first century after Christ discovered that it was going through a crisis. Some of the monks left, no new candidates joined them, and people were no longer coming for prayer and consultation as they used to. The few monks that remained were becoming old and depressed and bitter in their relationship with one another. The abbot heard about a holy man, a hermit living alone in the woods and decided to consult him. He told the hermit how the monastery had dwindled and diminished and now looked like a skeleton of what it used to be. Only seven old monks remained. The hermit told the abbot that he had a secret for him. One of the monks now living in his monastery was actually Jesus in disguise, living in such a way that no one could recognize him. With this revelation the abbot went back to his monastery, summoned a community meeting and recounted what the holy hermit had told him. The aging monks looked at each other in disbelief, trying to discern who among them could be the Christ. Could it be Brother Mark who prayed all the time? But he had this holier-than-thou attitude toward others. Could it be Bother Joseph who was always ready to help? But he was always eating and was unable to fast. The Abbot reminded them that Jesus had adopted common habits as a way of camouflaging His real identity. This only made them more confused and they could not make headway figuring out who was the Christ among them. At the end of the meeting what each one of the monks knew for sure was that any of the monks, excepting himself, could be the Christ. And so they all loved and served Him in each other, and the monastery came to Life again. (Fr. Munacci). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

6) Pope Benedict XVI on the Visitation: the world’s first Eucharistic procession: Pope Benedict XVI has written that the Visitation is more than just a trip into the country for a young girl from Nazareth. As he explains, when Mary “set out in haste” to visit her cousin Elizabeth, she embarked on the world’s first Eucharistic procession. She carried Christ into the world. She was a living tabernacle. And so it is that her cousin became the first to experience Eucharistic adoration, and to share in the first Benediction. “Blessed are you,” she says to Mary. “Blessed is the fruit of your womb. Blessed are you who believed.” Three times, she speaks the word “Blessed.” I can’t help but be reminded of our own Benediction, when the bells ring three times, and then we chant the divine praises: “Blessed be God…”(Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

7) Mary needed the wisdom and strength of an older woman? In Rumer Godden’s exquisite novelIn This House of Brede, there is a moment when Abbess Catherine, who has been elevated to that office in a time of unusual stress for the Brede Abbey, also contemplates this moment in the Gospel: Every evening at Vespers in these days, Abbess Catherine, as if echoing the Abbot’s words, thought, as the antiphon to the Magnificat was sung, of the Visitation, when the Virgin Mary, with the angel’s announcement beating in her heart, had gone “in haste,” as Saint Luke says, to visit her far older cousin. Why, wondered Abbess Catherine, did the theologians always teach – and we take for granted – that Mary went simply to succor Elizabeth? Probably she did do that, but could it not also have been that she needed the wisdom and strength of the older woman? How wonderfully reassuring Elizabeth’s salutation must have been : “Whence is this that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” A recognition without being told, and Mary, as if heartened, touched into bloom by the warmth and honor of that recognition, had flowered into the Magnificat. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

8) Western Schism and feast of visitation: On November 9, 1389, it was decreed by Pope Boniface IX that the Feast of the Visitation should be extended to the entire Catholic Church in the hope that Jesus and His Mother would visit the Church and put an end to the Great Schism that was taking place.
This Schism was known as the “Western Schism.” The New Catholic Dictionary, (Van Rees Press, NY, Copyright 1929), reports the Western Schism as follows:
“The cause of the so-called Western Schism was the temporary residence of the popes at Avignon, France, which began in 1309 under Clement V. This exile from the Eternal City met with opposition, especially in Italy where the people clamored for the return of the sovereign pontiff. Finally in 137, 57 years later, Gregory XI reestablished his see in Rome, and on his death, 1378, the future residence of the vicars of Christ was the main issue in the subsequent conclave. The cardinals meeting in the Holy City duly elected Urban VI, an Italian. General dissatisfaction, especially on the part of the French members of the Sacred College, and disagreement concerning the validity of the choice led to a second conclave at Fondi (20 Sept.) and the election of another pope, a Frenchman, as Clement VII, who immediately took up his residence in Avignon. As both claimed to be legitimate successors, the Western Church quickly divided into two camps, each supporting one or the other. There was really no schism, for the majority of the people desired unity under one head and intended no revolt against papal authority. Everywhere the faithful faced the anxious problem: where is the true pope? Even saints and theologians were divided on the question. Unfortunately, led by politics and human desires, the papal claimants launched excommunications against each other, and deposed secular rulers who in turn forbade their subjects to submit to them. This second part of the misunderstanding lasted forty more years (1378-1417). An attempt to mend the breach at the Council of Pisa (1409), produced a third claimant and the schism was not terminated until the Council of Constance (1414-18), which deposed the Pisan, John XXIII, received the abdication of the Roman, Gregory XII, dismissed the Avignon Benedict XIII, and finally elected an undisputed pope, Martin V (11 Nov., 1417).” — Imagine the confusion that the people must have had to tolerate in those days when communication was limited to traveling by foot or by horse. The faithful would hear of one pope here and another one there. Consequently, the Lord Jesus and His Mother visited the Catholic Church and resolved the situation to secure that Apostolic succession would continue as we enjoy it today. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

9) “Please come back again!”An electrician did a small job, one afternoon, for a popular local restaurant. He met many of the employees and management, and he was very impressed by how friendly everyone was. He and his wife had never been there before, so the following week, they went to the restaurant for dinner. And, during dinner, the man kept mentioning to his wife how nice everyone was when he did the job there and that they almost made him feel like he was part of the crew. They had a wonderful dinner, and finished off a bottle of fine wine. When the check came, the man was amazed at how little the bill was, and noticed that the waiter had written “50% Off” on the check and deducted that amount. He showed this to his wife. He mentioned just how incredibly nice everyone was at this restaurant. And even though he only worked there for just one afternoon, they gave him this great discount. He paid the check and thanked the waiter for the generosity of the restaurant and staff. On the way out, the man stepped into the kitchen to personally thank the chef, and shook hands with everyone on the crew (about a dozen employees), expressing his appreciation for the great dinner and discount. He also left a note for the owner, thanking him, and offering him 50% off his next electrical maintenance job. On his way out the door, he thanked the maitre d’ for the generous discount. The maitre d’ then explained to him that not only did the man and his wife get the discount, but everyone else in the place did also. He said, “Sir, tonight, and every Tuesday, is ‘Half-Price Night.’ But I have to tell you that you are the only customer in the history of this restaurant to thank the entire kitchen crew and the owner for having it…. Please come back again!” — One of the attributes of a grace-filled life is a spirit of gratitude. What a wondrous and glorious blessing! The Gospel today demonstrates that with a true spirit of gratitude comes the spirit of generosity. The Visitation teaches generosity; the Magnificat teaches gratitude;. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

10) The sonnet, entitled “The Visitation”, and today’s feast, celebrate one wonderful moment of our salvation as Mary shares with Elizabeth the arrival of the “hidden God”. The poem was written by American poet Joyce Kilmer (1886–1918), author of “Trees.” It has a dedication to fellow-American poet, Louise Imogen Guiney. A sergeant in the 165th US Infantry Regiment, Kilmer was killed at the Second Battle of Marne in 1918 at the age of 31. (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

THE VISITATION

There is a wall of flesh before the eyes
Of John, who yet perceives and hails his King.
It is Our Lady’s painful bliss to bring
Before mankind the Glory of the skies.
Her cousin feels her womb’s sweet burden rise
And leap with joy, and she comes forth to sing,
With trembling mouth, her words of welcoming.
She knows her hidden God, and prophesies.

Saint John, pray for us, weary souls that tarry
Where life is withered by sin’s deadly breath.
Pray for us, whom the dogs of Satan harry,
Saint John, Saint Anne, and Saint Elizabeth.
And, Mother Mary, give us Christ to carry
Within our hearts, that we may conquer death.

11) History of the Feast of the Visitation: This feast is of medieval origin. It was kept by the Franciscan Order before 1263 when Saint Bonaventure recommended it and the Franciscan chapter adopted it. The Franciscan Breviary spread it to many Churches. In 1389, Pope Urban VI inserted it in the Roman Calendar, for celebration on 2 July, hoping thereby to obtain an end to the Great Western Schism,. In the Tridentine Calendar, it was a Double. When that Missal of Pope Pius V was replaced by the Missal of Pope Clement VIII in 1604, the Visitation became a Double of the Second Class. It remained so until Pope John XXIII reclassified it as a Second-Class Feast in 1962. It continued to be assigned to 2 July, the day after the end of the octave following the feast of the birth of John the Baptist, who was still in his mother’s womb at the time of the Visitation. In 1969, however, Pope Paul VI moved it to 31 May, “between the Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (25 March) and that of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (24 June), so that it would harmonize better with the Gospel story.” (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Visitation_(Christianity)) (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

12) When Pregnancy Met Pregnancy (Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen in The World’s First Love): One of the most beautiful moments in history was that when pregnancy met pregnancy, when child-bearers became the first heralds of the King of Kings. All pagan religions begin with the teachings of adults, but Christianity begins with the birth of a Child. From that day to this, Christians have ever been the defenders of the family and the love of generation. http://www.ignatius.com/Products/WFL2-P/the-worlds-first-love-2nd-edition.aspx?src=iinsight If we ever sat down to write out what we would expect the Infinite God to do, certainly the last thing we would expect would be to see Him imprisoned in a carnal ciborium for nine months; and the next to last thing we would expect is that the “greatest man ever born of woman” while yet in his mother’s womb, would salute the yet imprisoned God-man. But this is precisely what took place in the Visitation. (http://www.ignatiusinsight.com/features2011/fsheen_visitationwfl_may2011.asp) (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

13) Dutch painter Rembrandt’s visitation painting: The 17th century Dutch painter Rembrandt Van Rijn however, paints for us a very different picture of this Biblical scene. Mary, the mother of our Lord, and Elizabeth are not dressed like royalty. Instead of wearing colorful robes and royal dress they have on simple cloaks. They meet outside of a dwelling in the hill country, in a town of Judah. They are not surrounded by cherubs and seraphim – no angels. Zechariah, Elizabeth’s husband, in his old age, leans upon the shoulders of a boy, to support his steps. This visitation looks like a rather ordinary scene. In this painting, a common dog is walking by Mary and Elizabeth, paying them no mind. Rembrandt paints a golden beam upon the two women to shine light upon their interaction. Elizabeth, in a flash of recognition, joyfully grabs the shoulders of Mary to hug her, exclaiming, “Blessed are you Mary! Why is this given to me that you, the Mother of my Lord, should come to me!” With Elizabeth – her facial expression, body language, and intense gaze into Mary’s eyes suggest an awareness that they stand at the beginning of a new world – as Jesus lies in the womb of young Mary. Standing erect, head bent to her older kinswoman, Mary lets a servant remove her common cloak. A man behind her holds a bridled mule, indicating the distance of her travel. So alarmed is Elizabeth that she cries out in great surprise, “Why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” This simple plea of Elizabeth is an act of worship, a Divine hymn, “Who am I Lord! Who are we that the Lord should come near to us?” (For larger picture visit: http://james-a-watkins.hubpages.com/hub/Rembrandt-is-my-favorite-artist (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

14) Elizabeth in Islam: Elizabeth, the wife of Zechariah, the mother of John the Baptist and the kinswoman of Mary, is an honored woman in Islam.[4] Although Zechariah himself is frequently mentioned by name in the Qur’an, Elizabeth, while not mentioned by name, is referenced. Islamic tradition, like Christianity, gives her the name. She is revered by Muslims as a wise, pious, believing person who, like her younger kinswoman, Mary, was exalted by God to a high station.[4] Elizabeth lived in the household of Amram, and is said to have been a descendant of the prophet and priest Aaron.[5]Zechariah and his wife were both devout and steadfast in their duties. They were, however, both very old and they had no son. Therefore, Zechariah would frequently pray to God for a son.[6] This was not only out of the desire to have a son but also because the great apostle wanted someone to carry on the services of the Temple of prayer and to continue the preaching of the Lord God’s message after his death. God cured Elizabeth’s barrenness and granted Zechariah a son, Yahya (John the Baptist), who became a prophet.[7] God thus granted the wishes of the couple because of their Faith, Trust and Love for God. In the Qur’an, God speaks of Zechariah, his wife and John and describes the three as being humble servants of the LORD: “So We listened to him: and We granted him John: We cured his wife’s (Barrenness) for him. These (three) were ever quick in emulation of good works; they used to call on Us with love and reverence, and humble themselves before Us.” (Qur’an, chapter 21 (Prophets), verse 90) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elizabeth_(biblical_figure)’ (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

15) He came in our midst:The Russians have for centuries told a legend about a young medieval prince, Alexis, who lived in a sumptuous palace, while all around, in filthy hovels, lived hundreds of poor peasants. The Prince was moved with compassions for these poor folk and determined to better their lot. So he began to visit them. But as he moved in and out among them he found that he’d got absolutely no point of contact with them. They treated him with enormous respect, almost worship; but he was never able to win their confidences, still less their affection, and he returned to the palace a defeated and disappointed young man. Then one day a very different man came among the people. He was a rough and ready young doctor who also wanted to devote his life to serving the poor. He started by renting a filthy rat-ridden shack in one of the back streets. He made no pretense of being superior – his clothes (like theirs) were old and tattered and he lived simply on the plainest food, often without knowing where the next meal was coming from. He made no money from his profession because he treated most people free and gave away his medicines. Before long, this young doctor had won the respect and affection of all those people, as Prince Alexis had never succeeded in doing. He was one of them. And little by little he transformed the whole spirit of the place, settling quarrels, reconciling enemies, helping people to live decent lives. No one ever guessed that this young doctor was in fact the Prince himself, who had abandoned his palace and gone down among his people to become one of them. –That’s just what God did on that first Christmas day. He came right down side by side with us to help us to become the sort of beings He has always intended us to be. Let’s wait in such a way that God will come and empty us of falsehood and fill us with joy! (John Williams; quoted by Fr. Botelho) (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

16) Small men accomplishing great things by doing God’s will: On the morning of the 4th of December 1982 in Melbourne (Australia) Nick Vujicic was born. His parents were shocked because their firstborn had neither hands nor legs. A baby boy without legs and hands. It took a number of months of tears, questions and grief before they were able to come to terms within their own hearts. Nick grew up with the support of his parents and gained strength to challenge his own destiny. Still young, he now has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. He is also a motivational speaker and loves to go out and share his story with others. In his speeches he emphasizes that God has a plan, and we must accept the plan of God and submit to the will of God. These words come from a man who does not have hands and legs. (Watch: https://youtu.be/zOzsjEmjjHs). That makes it all the more meaningful. St. Francis of Assisi is recognized as “a man of peace”. His message revolutionized Assisi and spread to the ends of Italy and to the whole Christendom. The call of Gandhiji to give up violence and love peace crossed the boundaries of India, and worked miracle in Montgomery, Alabama in America, through DR. Martin Luther King, Jr.

17) “Little drops make an ocean.”

Little drops of water

Little grains of sand

Make the mighty ocean

And the beauteous land

Little deeds of kindness,

Little words of love,

Make our earth an Eden,

Like the heaven above

And the little moments,

Humble though they be,

Make the mighty ages

Of eternity.

(Mrs. J. A. Carney) (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

18) The God of small things! Little Anita had a very busy father. He was a dot-com engineer who made a lot of money but had little time to be with his family. Every night, however, Anita insisted that her father read a story before she would go to sleep. This continued for some time till the man found a ‘solution’. He bought Anita a colourful kid’s tape player and made a tape of her favorite stories in the story book. Whenever, therefore, the child asked him to read her a story he would simply push the button and play back the tape-recorded stories. Anita took that for a few days and then revolted and refused to accept the stories on tape. “Why” asked her father, “the tape reads the stories as good as I do!” “Ya,” replied the little girl, “But I can’t sit on his lap.” –- Remember, Christmas celebrates the gift of God’s presence in our lives. Let us be present to the people who need us, especially to the “little ones.”  (John Pichappilly in The Table of the Word; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

 19) Attitude changes things! One day a lady who lived in town looked out of her window and saw a big truck pull up to her house. Out jumped five rascals and started unloading electric guitars and loudspeakers and drums…. They took them to the neighbour’s house. The woman was furious. Now her night’s rest and her ears and her life would be ruined by all the noise that would come from the house. Her husband came home from work and she began to scream at him, “We’ve got to move away from here or else we’ll go deaf and mad with that string band next door.” But he calmed her down a bit and said, “Honey, why are you angry? Don’t you realize who those musicians are? They are the famous Sanguma String band that plays overseas to large crowds…. Woman, we should be glad they are here; we’ll be getting all this famous music for free.” His wife’s frown turned to a smile. She ran to the telephone and began to call her friends to come over sometime and take advantage of the Sanguma Band…. — How attitude changes everything! Our attitude to Jesus too can change everything! (See 1000 Stories You Can Use; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

20) Love in action: On 13th July 2006, in the Deccan Herald, this heroic deed of a pregnant woman appeared. Jessica Bates was expected to give birth to twins any day, but that did not stop her from rushing to the aid of a neighbour in distress. Just before midnight on Saturday, Bates was in her living room watching her two-year old daughter and another child when she heard a cry for help. Bates, 22, rushed across the street to an apartment, where flames were visible through the window. The woman who lived there, Barbara Wellman, was paralyzed from waist down. “I knew she was in a wheelchair, and that’s why I was like, ‘Oh, my God!’” Bates told a newspaper. She found Wellman in the front part of the house and dragged her wheelchair by the foot pedals to the sidewalk. Bates then started banging on the neighbours’ doors, warning them to flee. Another neighbour doused the flames with a garden hose before the fire department showed up to extinguish it. Wellman aged 45, had lived for twenty years in that apartment, and that day she escaped without much serious injury, thanks to the courage and love of a woman. Bates, later, said that she was always willing to help those in need. “I don’t look at it as being a hero; I just looked at it like helping someone. I knew it was a risk to myself, but I couldn’t leave her,” said Bates. – Today’s Gospel talks of another woman who reached out to an elderly woman in need! (John Rose in John’s Sunday Homilies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

21) To love is to serve! The country doctor Brunoy had just said goodbye to his colleagues who had confirmed that Jean, the doctor’s only son, would die in a few hours of diphtheria. The anti-toxin injections had been too late. As he now sat with his wife by the boy’s bedside awaiting the child’s death the doorbell rang. The doctor shouted to his secretary, “I don’t want to see anyone.” But the visitor would not go away. It was the farmer Rivaz who had walked 10 kilometres from Roseland. His son was sick. “I’ll come tomorrow” the doctor told him. “But if you don’t come now, he won’t make it through the night,” the farmer insisted. They began a discussion. “You can cure my son.” “But mine’s lost, he’s beyond all cure.” “But mine isn’t.” “Well, I’ll come tomorrow morning.” “Then it will be too late.” “Let me close the eyes of my dying child.” “But if you cannot help him any longer.” “As long as my son is alive, I’ll remain with him.” “All right, then both the children will die.” The doctor then asked for the symptoms of the boy’s sickness and they were the same as his son’s had been. But it was still not too late to save him. So the doctor decided to go with the farmer. (Ludolf Ulrich in 1000 Stories You Can Use; quoted by Fr. Botelho). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

22) With eyes wide shut: In his book Beyond East and West John Wu has a fascinating passage. It reads as follows: “My wife and I had never seen each other before marriage. Both of us were brought up in the old Chinese way. It was our parents who engaged us to each other, when we were barely six years of age. In my early teens I came to know where her house was. I had an intense desire to have a glimpse of her. In coming back from school, I sometimes took a roundabout way so as to pass by the door of her house… but I never had the good fortune to see her.” Wu goes on to say that he realizes the old Chinese marriage sounds incredible to Western readers. Some of his own Western friends could hardly believe it at first. Wu says he was surprised his friends found the system so incredible. He asked them whether they chose their parents, brothers and sisters. Then he said, “And don’t you love them just the same?” — John Wu’s passage from his book helps us to appreciate better the relationship between Mary and Elizabeth before Jesus’ birth. Faith makes the difference! (Mark Link in Sunday Homilies). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

23) Proceeding in haste: There are times when we must act cautiously if we would achieve a purpose (As the proverb says, “Look before you leap”). There are also times when we must act quickly or lose an opportunity (As another proverb says, “Strike while the iron is hot.”) Raoul Wallenberg usually had to make split second decisions; to strike while the iron was hot. The task he had undertaken was nothing less than saving Jews condemned to Hitler’s “holocaust”. Raoul was a fascinating, even an unlikely “Scarlet Pimpernel”. A Swedish Lutheran, aged thirty, he was employed as first secretary of the Swedish legation in Hungary in the early 1940’s. He had wheedled from the King of Sweden, his diplomatic appointment to Budapest for precisely the purpose of rescuing victims. He had also wheedled from the King the authorization to give asylum to anybody who held a Swedish protective pass. Handing out protective passes to Hungarian Jews kept him constantly on the go, but by means of protective passes, he was able to save the lives of 100,000 Jewish people. One day, for example, Raoul learned that a crowd of Jewish Hungarians had been corralled and packed into a train for a Nazi extermination camp. He reached the railroad station just in the nick of time. Brushing by the Nazi guard, he climbed on the roof of the train and moved along from car to car handing Swedish passes through the open doors and windows. The German officers ordered him down. The Hungarian Nazis shot at him. Nevertheless, Raoul finished his work calmly and efficiently. Then he got down and shouted, “All who have passes leave this train!” The pass-holders came out and he directed them to a fleet of autos bearing Swedish flags. Thus, he saved the lives of dozens of Jews, and the Nazis were too befuddled by his quick strategy to do anything about it. In 1945 Raoul Wallenberg was finally arrested. Some think he may still be a prisoner in a Russian camp. But even in prison he can only be consoled by the memory of the day when he had “proceeded in haste” to rescue that particular trainful of Jews. — When Mary learned that her cousin, Elizabeth was soon to give birth to a child, she too “proceeded in haste” to the mountains where Elizabeth dwelt. (Today’s Gospel). In coming to Elizabeth’s aid, she also brought the unborn Jesus into the presence of the unborn St. John the Baptist. And to John the future Savior communicated at that moment the freedom of the sons of God. May we never put off to tomorrow the good we can do today.(-Father Robert F. McNamara). (Fr. Tony) (https://frtonyshomilies.com/) L/21

“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle C (No 5) by Fr. Tony: akadavil@gmail.com

Visit my website by clicking on https://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of FaithAdult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at akadavil@gmail.com. Visit also https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies  under Fr. Tony’s homilies and  under Resources in the CBCI website:  https://www.cbci.in  for other website versions.  (Vatican Radio website: http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html uploaded my Cycle A, B and C homilies in from 2018-2020)  Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604 .

Note: Four pictures escaped uploading