SECOND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR B
First Reading (1 Sam 3: 3-10.19). The first reading narrates the story of the call of the prophet Samuel.
Second Reading (1 Cor 6: 13-15.17-20). The human body is the temple of the Holy Spirit and it is to be used, not for sin, but for the glory of God.
Gospel (Jn 1: 35-42). The call of the first disciples according to John’s account.
Why do we often find it difficult to share our faith with others? Or let me rephrase my question: if we believe that the Gospel is the Good News, why don’t we share it with others? Why are we reluctant or shy to share our faith with others?
Today’s scripture readings tell stories of faith sharing. Faith in Jesus is to be shared with others. The first reading tells the story of Eli sharing his faith with the young man Samuel. The second reading presents Paul sharing his faith with the Corinthians. And the Gospel reading portrays John sharing his faith with other two disciples, Andrew and Peter.
I would like us to focus on the Gospel reading and on Andrew especially. In all the times the name of Andrew is cited in the Gospel of John, it is to presents him (Andrew) bringing someone to Jesus. He is sharing his faith in Jesus with someone. In today’s gospel passage, Andrew brings his brother Peter to Jesus and Peter will be chosen by Jesus to be the rock upon which Jesus shall build his Church.
Andrew, in the same Gospel according to John, will bring the boy with five loaves of bread and two fish to Jesus to feed a multitude of hungry people. (Jn 6:8)
The very same Andrew will again bring some Greek people to Jesus and Jesus seized the occasion to teach them some important things. (Jn 12: 20-22)
This brings us to our initial question asked at the introduction of our homily. If we really believe that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour, why are we reluctant to share Him with others? The answer we often hear is that “we are a secular/a non-christian state; many people do not want to hear about Jesus; respect of peoples’ rights…” for many other people, when one starts talking about Jesus, they become nervous and feel unease and disturbed. Most of us spend hours and hours to discuss and share various stories of life except sharing about Jesus, sharing our faith. Any Christian who thinks that it is not important to share his or her faith with others must reflect and meditate about today’s readings especially the Gospel. Had Andrew not shared his faith in Jesus with his brother Peter, Peter would never become the rock upon which Jesus built his Church.
Today’s gospel passage invites us to do some introspection at our reluctance and shyness to share our faith with others. If we really believe that the Gospel is the Good News, and if we believe that Jesus is the Lord and Saviour, we are to share our faith in Jesus with others, with our children and our friends. If we want to change positively the face of the world, we must share our faith in Jesus with others. Jesus today has no heart, but ours. He has no hands and feet, but ours. Jesus has no mouth and ears but ours.
EPIPHANY OF THE LORD – YEAR B
First Reading (Is 60: 1-6). The prophet congratulates the exiles who came back from Babylon with a vision to restore the city. This prophecy was fulfilled with Jesus when he came and restored the new Israel, the Church.
Second Reading (Eph 3: 2-3.5-6). The salvation brought by Jesus is to be shared on equal footing Jews and Gentiles together.
Gospel (Mt 2: 1-12). While the Jews leaders rejected the child Jesus, three Gentiles came from a far country to pay their homage to the child Jesus.
ONE THING WE NEED TO GRASP AND UNDERSTAND ON THIS FEAST IS THE FAITH OF THE MAGI. The three wise men also called Magi were not Jews. They were outsiders or Gentiles. Being Gentiles, they recognized Christ as the Saviour of the world. They are models of faith for us. We need to ask the Lord to increase our faith so that we recognize His presence in the Eucharist we celebrate every day and welcome Him every day in our hearts.
The three wise men (magi) are known as Balthazar, Melchior and Gaspar. They brought the gifts of Myrrh, frankincense and gold.
I would like us to focus our attention to the symbolism of these gifts on this feast of the epiphany also known as the feast of the Magi.
The Gift of Myrrh
The history of the ancient peoples in the Bible tells us that myrrh was used to prepare the dead for burial. A typical example we find in the burial of Jesus himself, the women brought myrrh to the tomb of Jesus early in the morning before they realized that Jesus was not in the tomb. The relationship between myrrh and death makes it ideal of the humanity of Jesus: Jesus being fully human is vulnerable to death. This gift of myrrh demonstrates the human vulnerability of Jesus and speaks to us that He (Jesus) shall die one day. Like us, Jesus experienced a whole range of emotions: sorrow, joy, fear, loneliness and frustration, pain and suffering. He was like us in everything but sin. How great a God we have in Jesus to with whom we share the same humanity. We can identify ourselves in Him except sin.
The Gift of Frankincense
Incense has been used since the years of our ancestors in their religious worship. The aroma and smoke that go up to heaven, spoke to them of the divinity of God. The gift of frankincense brought to the child Jesus was therefore symbolic of his divinity. As Saint Paul tells us in his book to the Philippians: “Jesus always had the nature of God, but he became like man and appeared in human likeness…” Phil 2: 6-9.
We have a God though divine, decided to come down and live among us. The gift of frankincense symbolizes the Godliness in Him. His humility to live among is of great praise that we imitate him by honoring and praising his name.
The Gift of Gold
Gold is regarded since the ancient time as the king of metals. Gold was therefore known as an ideal gift to give to a king.
A king was and still is above all a leader. A king in those days was to lead his people by love first and rules after. He had to undertake noble causes for his people and had to inspire others to join him in his causes. Jesus was such a king. He led the people by love. His noble cause was to establish God’s kingdom on earth. He then inspired us to join him in his cause to continue to establish the kingdom of God here on earth.
The practical message of the feast of the Epiphany therefore is: What Jesus begun must be continued by us in our time. If Jesus is to be made known by all nations, we are to make an effort to carry the message of salvation he brought to all like the Magi. We must tell the world that Jesus came not only for the Jews but for all nations as this feast is the feast of all nations. Jesus came to set up a new world, a world of love where there’s no Jew, no Gentile but all as brothers and sisters in Christ.
This is the good news we are to bring to the world, this is the practical message of the feast of the three wise men. It is a message that calls all of to action.
Let me conclude with a Tweeter from His Holiness Pope Francis on this feast. The Pope says @Pontifex “Like the Magi, believers are led by faith to seek God in the most hidden places, knowing that the Lord waits for them there”.
MASS OF THE DAY – YEAR B
First Reading (Is 52: 7-10) upon their return of exile from Babylon, they sung a hymn of exultation. This is also a poem of joy for our redemption.
Second Reading (Heb 1: 1-6) the whole history of the Old Testament was God’s preparation for the coming of His Son.
Gospel (Jn 1: 1-18) the source of all life is coming to make us all children of God.
God Christmas present to us
A priest is newly appointed to serve a well off parish in town. Nearly a third quarter of parishioners are filthy rich and live in mansions. It was the first Christmas of the new parish priest at that parish. Seeing the crib placed in front of the altar, the priest was disappointed and exclaimed: “who is this child in the manger?”
It was a beautifully decorated crib with silver and gold, with a background of beautiful hills and mountains covered in green pine trees and roses. Immediately the priest decided to change the décor. He built a very tiny crib and swaddling small baby child in a manger with a very poor background covered with animal stable and dry grass. With the parents of the child on torn and sack clothes, and the poor shepherds as guests of honour.
When the parishioners came on Christmas day for day mass, they were furious and angry at their priest. They requested their old traditional crib to be brought back. They argued, the new Christmas crib did not match their standard and that it reflected extreme poverty.
Jesus came into the world not as a powerful prince, living in a great mansion and in a powerful nation. Jesus came into the world as a son of poor carpenter, born in dirty stable and in a small village and a weak nation. Jesus came in the world in a very same manner every child is born, helpless, fragile and vulnerable. He was taken care off just like any other child by his parents. Jesus knew hunger, pain and suffering, he knew thirst. He experienced ridicule and rejection. He even died in a very cruel manner like a criminal.
When Jesus was born, he was not greeted by world’s powerful leaders. He was greeted by smelly shepherds. Jesus identified himself with the poor, the suffering, and the powerless and even with the sinful of this world not with the rich.
This brings us to the power and the new order Jesus brought into the world. And it is a two folds message:
First of all it is the “Good News” that the God of heaven and earth loves us. God loves us without reservation and without exception. God loves us so much that He did not send us a letter to tell us that he loves us. He did not either send an angel to tell us. He sent the very best, his son.
The second half of the message Jesus brought into the world is that the God of heaven and earth not only loves us, but he is our Father and we are all brothers and sisters.
The power contained in the Christmas scene is the power of these two folds message. The message that the heavenly Father loves us and that he is our Father and we are to become loving brothers and sisters. This is indeed God’s Christmas gift to us. What we do of it, it is our gift to God.
Now the challenge of Christmas is to find our brothers and sisters who are lost, broken, hungry, in prison, to rebuild them and rebuild our nations’ moral and to bring peace among us.
Merry Christmas and Prosperous New Year 2018 to you all!
Feast of the Holy Family – Year B
First Reading (Gen. 15: 1-6; 21: 1-3) the God of wonders and miracles promises to the childless and aged Abraham an heir and many descendants.
Second Reading (Heb. 11: 8. 11-12. 17-19) the second reading stresses the faith of Abraham and Sarah, and the fulfillment of God’s promise in their lives.
Gospel (Lk 2: 22-40) the child Jesus is presented in the temple by his family, we also read in the Gospel a glimpse of Jesus’ life at Nazareth.
The feast of the nativity or Christmas is a family feast. We gather together as family. Close friends also do join us being part of the family. Let me ask a question: ‘with guests at your family Christmas dinner, would you feel comfortable to ask any of your children to say grace?’
One of the key concerns of a family is Prayer Life. A family that prays together is a family which is united. How can the family strengthen its prayer life? There are three settings in which the family can reinforce its prayer life.
First there is a Personal setting: in this setting, family members pray to God on their own. For example, a father can pray on his way to work, a mother can do the same or while cooking, she can pray. A boy or a girl child prays before going to bed or before starting school. This kind of prayer is called personal family prayer. It is highly recommended to keep the family together. There are many other several ways to pray alone with family in mind. Jesus often prayed alone for the family God gave him. That family is you and I. he prayed during his preaching ministry, he prayed in the garden and he always took time to go away alone early in the mornings to pray. One of the most precious gifts a parent can give to a child is to teach a child a personal prayer. The better way to do it is to teach by example.
The second family prayer setting is in a group: in this setting, the family members pray together. For example, to pray together at table at meal times. To pray together before going to bed, they pray together before going in a journey. Jesus prayed often with his family as was the custom of the Jews to pray together before meals. Reason why an ancient Jewish proverb says that whoever eats food without giving thanks to God steals from God. Jesus prayed often within the context of a meal. When he fed the crowd on the hillside, Jesus prayed (Lk 9: 16). At the last supper Jesus prayed (Lk 22: 19). He prayed with the two disciples at Emmaus (Lk 24: 30). Again, one of the precious gift a parent can give to a child is to pray in a group-family prayer.
The third and final setting is communal prayer setting: in this setting, the family gathers with other families to pray together. In the context of parish, we have what we call zones. In our different zones we gather every Wednesday evening to pray. This is one of the perfect communal prayer setting.
The feast of the Holy Family which we celebrate today invites us to ask ourselves about the quality of family prayer life. In particular, it invites to ask ourselves, fathers, mothers, sons and daughters - how do we contribute to the prayer life of our families?
Fourth Sunday of Advent Year B
First Reading (2 Sam 7: 1-5. 8-11. 16). David wanted to build a house for God. But instead God promised to build an everlasting dynasty for him.
Second Reading (Rom 16: 25-27). The plan of salvation that God had for us was fulfilled in Christ.
Gospel (Lk 1: 26-38). The promise God made to David was fulfilled in Jesus.
Saying Yes to God like Mary for the sake of all.
We live currently in a world which has developed lots of feelings and desires for selfish individualism. With the coming of new technology and the rise of social Medias, many seek fulfillment and happiness through doing their own things. “It is what I do that matters not yours. Therefore, mind your business and leave me alone”. Many people today believe that happiness lies in having no commitment, no one to answer to, no responsibility towards someone. This approach of life (with selfish individualistic happiness) can lead to slavery and unhappiness.
The truth is that freedom and happiness can only be fulfilled in the acceptance of duties and responsibilities. I mean a free acceptance of duties and responsibilities. If we accept a difficult task or duty given to us with love, that duty will exalt us. A human person is exalted by his or her work more than by his or her word.
Mary gives us a great example of acceptance of one’s duty and responsibility with love. Mary did not say to the angel Gabriel, “sorry, but I have my own plans to execute”. It what God wanted her to do which mattered not her own plan. Mary gave herself completely to God, and accepted the duty given to her by God. She trusted God fully even though she did not know the implications of her Yes and the nature of the task. To trust in God is to be opened to all possibilities. She gave control of her life to God by saying Yes to the message of God brought to her by the angel.
Life imposes a lot of duties on us. Duties to ourselves, duties to others and duties to God. The question we can ask ourselves on this fourth Sunday of Advent is: where would this world be if we all thought only of ourselves? And insisted of doing our own things, seeking our own freedom, our own good, our own happiness. That would be independence from others and from God.
We Christians, like Mary, are called to accept duties and responsibilities. We may not find happiness and fulfillment in the eyes of the world, but we shall certainly find it in the eyes of God. The greatest happiness of a human person is to do what the soft inner voice of the angel tells you to do. Faith is not blind. It is beyond reason but not against reason.