Welcome to Sadbhavana : Carmelite Provincialate

Sunday Reflections by Rev. Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD,


  • 6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A

    Sirach 15:15–20; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10; Matthew 5:17–37

    Jesus’s radical approach to the Ten Commandments not only to its essence but wants to present them in a perfect way giving a very clear explanation and referring to its innermost essential perfect sense. What Jesus says about what has been taught in the past is uncomfortably clear: those rules are not enough to achieve perfection of love. His followers are allowed no anger, no abusive language, no lustful thoughts, no divorce, no oaths. It is hard to avoid the demands of these teachings. We try to water them down at times, claiming they apply only to certain people or are meant as ideals. It doesn’t work. Jesus spoke them to the crowd, not to a specially chosen elite.
    Jesus makes the claim that God’s law does not go far enough, that it is inadequate. His willingness to overrule the law of God is a sign of the divine power and authority with which Jesus taught. And that power and authority is the guarantee that somehow or other, I can, indeed, live as he calls me to do. The reason that I can is my Baptism. In Baptism, I am united with the Risen Lord, the One who has overcome death. Nothing, then, is truly impossible in living as he did. I can do it if I be willing to try.

    The Pharisees considered the Mosaic law to be the summary of all wisdom, human and divine, a complete and sure guide of conduct, an assurance of good relations with God. This value of the law Jesus did not accept—as is evident from his own non-observance of the Sabbath rules and the laws of Levitical cleanliness. Yet in the beginning of our Gospel today, Jesus asserts that his mission is not to annul or destroy the Mosaic law but rather to fulfill it or bring the law to final perfection. He meant that his disciples were to follow exactly his complete and perfect understanding of the law. He explains what he means by six examples (four in this Gospel and two next Sunday). In each of these six examples, Jesus presents an antithesis between the old understanding of the law and his pronouncement of the perfect law. There is no easy, consistent pattern, however. What we understand here is that the law of Moses was good enough, but Jesus gave to this law a perfect interpretation.

    In the first example, Jesus not only prohibits murder but even anger, which can lead to murder. Then he insists that fraternal relations are more important than cultic duties; that is, we must first be reconciled with our neighbor before we bring our offering to God’s altar. There must be extra effort on the part of one who gets angry to rectify this disorder in order that he can live peacefully with his family members or neighbours.

    In the second example, Jesus not only prohibits adultery, but also lustful desires that can lead to adultery. Again, he insists on internal disposition not just external acts. This admonition server very well to all who are trying to trivialize the seriousness of this sin. In this modern world we know how people can get addicted to mass media junk that can invade our minds and hearts innumerable ways. Jesus wants wholehearted purity than just avoiding a big sin.

    In the third example, he takes up the question of divorce. Regarding divorce, there were two governing views at the time: the conservative opinion (Shammai) which only permitted divorce in the case of adultery, or the liberal opinion (Hillel) which permitted divorce for lesser causes. Jesus rejects both views and does not permit divorce for any reason at all. Marriage is for life. There is no separation. Once married they both become one flesh.

    In the fourth example, Jesus not only prohibits false oaths, but also implies that truthfulness should be secured by the inner integrity of the person, without the deceits and lack of trust surrounding some oaths and vows of the time. False oaths often make people believe, yet in reality more insistence on something would mean it contradicts its spirit.

    In the fifth example—which will be read next week—our Lord rejects “an eye for an eye” retaliation of revenge and proposes non-resistance. In the last example, Jesus teaches not only love of neighbor but also love of enemies, after the example of God who sends rain on good as well as bad people.

    The Lord said, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the Scribes and Pharisees you will not enter God’s Kingdom. This is because he is not concerned with negative legalisms but with positively doing the will of God. He is not concerned with carefully following complicated legalisms but with loving attitudes after Jesus’ own model. His first concern in not with the complexities of law but with the demanding ideal of love, generosity, kindness, patience and peace. In a word, his morality is internal, all encompassing and loving. This helps us understand the meaning of todays Gospel.

    Paul did not try to use impressive words that showed great wisdom (2.1-4). But there was great wisdom in his words, although most people in the present age would not recognise that wisdom. That is why Paul called that wisdom a mystery, in other words, a secret. God had sent Paul to declare that secret knowledge, in public. And still people could not understand it.

    Paul’s mystery is all about what true greatness really is. True greatness is called glory; it belongs to God alone. The mystery is that, at a future time, God has a plan to share his glory with all his people (1 Cor 15.51-52).

    In Corinth there was a problem to understand what Paul was teaching them. This is what was happening with the church in Corinth. They were seeking wisdom, but they were doing so in the wrong way. Although they had committed to Christ and received the Holy Spirit, they were seeking generic or worldly wisdom rather than God’s wisdom. And because they were seeking generic wisdom, which in their day was made up of complicated philosophical ideals, they felt like the gospel message that Paul had delivered to them was too simple. Likely they were embarrassed about the seemingly weak idea of a crucified Messiah and they wanted something more, so they sought out the wisdom of their culture.

    An example: we all know what it takes to lose weight – you must eat healthy and exercise. It’s very simple; we’re just not willing to do it. Exercising we maintain our health. In the same manner spiritual health is to be promoted with our constant efforts. This will turn out to be a great happiness and joyful experience to all who benefit from you. One thing is theory that in order to lose weight we need to do a set of exercises; the next most important thing is to do the exercise which is beneficial to us. Here is the most important part we need to play; that is leaving aside an ideal rule, we need to get into working out a suitable work out for our body; then the result will follow. This is what Jesus meant exceeding the righteousness of the Pharisees and Scribes.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • 5TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A

    Isaiah 58.7–10; 1 Corinthians 2.1–5; Matthew 5.13–16

    God wants a kind of fast that is accompanied by the loosing of the shackles of wickedness, lifting the yoke of oppression, feeding the hungry, providing shelter for the poor, clothing the naked, and helping the needy neighbor. Those who thus practice social justice are assured of guidance, healing, and a protective escort. “Your righteousness” may mean the abovementioned acts of mercy or it may mean the righteousness of God which is imputed to those who believe.

    Prophet Isaiah’s prediction that the godly one is assured that whenever he calls, the LORD will answer … “Here I am.” If he will eliminate oppression, stop pointing… the finger in accusation or in scoffing, and cease from mudslinging and slander, if he will alleviate human need, both spiritual and physical, then God promises that his night will turn to a bright day. He will enjoy guidance, abundant supply of good things, health and strength, beauty and fruitfulness, and national restoration.

    There is a growing consensus of opinion that there is one . . . fundamental and essential need: a true and deep love of self, a genuine and joyful self-acceptance, an authentic self-esteem, which result in an interior sense of celebration: ‘It’s good to be me; I am very happy to be me.

    What would Christ say about all this? Very simply, he tells us that self-love is not only good, it is also the starting point for following him: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Mat 19.19).

    When we are light within then that light shines outside of us. When we live in darkness, then there is no light within and no way to enlightenment.

    Calling us to be the light and salt of the earth is a fundamental calling of Christ to be resourceful and lovable around us. Love and kindness can transform our lives and we are capable of shedding light on the dark corners of our life.

    Today’s Gospel strongly affirms this attitude. Jesus himself cries out to all his disciples: “You are the salt of the earth… You are the light of the world.” The point we easily miss is that Jesus does not tell us to become the salt of the earth or to make ourselves the light of the world. Rather he affirms that we are salt and light already, because Jesus has called us, and we have responded to his call. Most of the world has not heard this call of Jesus or has not responded to it. Jesus wants us to know that by our faith in him, by his grace and new life, we are salt and light. So Jesus wants us to manifest what we are: “Your light must shine before others.”

    Inner Strength
    He begins with the assurance that our essential salvation and intrinsic goodness is from God. Through baptism and our faith, we are already given that wondrous relationship of love and acceptance by God as his sons and daughters. That relationship is constant and almost indestructible; it establishes our fundamental value and goodness by itself; it does not depend on our social position or our natural abilities. Then, in a dozen different ways, Paul urges us to deepen, to grow, to progress in that reality, to live according to our status as children of God. For example, Paul tells us that we are children of light; therefore, we should walk as children of light.

    Our Mission

    Well in the Gospel of today, Jesus calls us to be the light of the world and salt of the earth. This great invitation turns out to be a great hope in the age of darkness and tastelessness. When we are capable of shedding light on darkness, then we see all that is inappropriate, and we correct ourselves. We can invite others into this light. It is Christ who is the light of the world makes us bright in our approach to the world and people. Only a changed man can change the world. This change could be brought about by creating a new man, a citizen of the world, by training the mind in moral and spiritual discipline.

    This short gospel today must be an eye opener to all of us to be help to the other. Both salt and light have the ingredients of joy and happiness.

    Paul on his part wanted the Corinthians to get back in touch with how the essence of his message had come alive among them. Paul saw how easy it was for them to slip into the values of a society that esteemed a person for learning or wealth, for status and fame. Paul wanted them to remember "the mystery," how they had experienced a love of God and community that had revealed the utter emptiness of those societal standards.

    When we are too worldly in our approach to life the light within us dims and the salt loses its taste.

    When Jesus taught his audience was composed of Israelites. As God's chosen people, they possessed the Word of God, and were supposed to be salt and light in the world. Gradually, throughout Jesus' teaching ministry, he refined this idea that each one who followed him was to have a spiritual impact on those around them. He sent them out to all the towns around them to preach repentance and the coming of the Kingdom of God. Christ had made it clear at the end of his earthly ministry that the gospel was to have a universal application. He commanded his followers to go and teach all nations, to baptize them, and teach them everything he had taught. (Mat 28.18-20). This has properly been taken as a mandate for all Christians to spread the gospel of Christ to everyone. This includes both concepts of salt and light. We are to do as much good in the name of Christ as we can, and we are to share the light of the gospel with as many as we can.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • THE PRESENTATION OF THE LORD
    Malachi 3:1-4; Hebrews 2:14-18; Luke 2:22-40

    God will send His messenger, a promise that had an early and partial fulfillment in John the Baptist, but awaits a later and complete fulfillment when Elijah (4.5) will prepare the way of the Lord, . . . the Messenger of the covenant whom they desired. The irony here is that when He later arrived (His First Advent), the nation of Israel did not delight in Him but crucified Him instead. In verse 3.2–4 The day of His coming will be the Second Advent. The Lord will come in judgment on sin, and who will be able to stand? This purifying ministry, pictured by Christ’s cleansing of the temple, awaits final fulfillment at His Second Coming. The sons of Levi (priests) will be purified so that they can make offerings of holiness and righteousness that are pleasant to the LORD, as in the days of old.

    The Gospels proclaim it is the Precursor, St John the Baptist who was born 6 months before Jesus, that God sent to prepare His way. Putting these evangelical facts together, we can comprehend the words of the Prophet Malachi. The Lord God promised that He would send a Precursor to prepare His way. Since there is only 6 months between the birth of St John the Baptist and Jesus it is clear that the prophecy meant that suddenly after the Precursor, the Lord Himself will come. So, soon after the Baptist’s birth, God entered His temple.

    The Glory of the Lord will appear in the temple, signifying the coming of Christ to the temple to clean it of all idolatry and corruption. But before he does this, he will come to fulfil the law. That is what we celebrate today, the coming of the Lord to the temple and presenting himself in the temple.

    Mary comes to the temple with Joseph bring the baby Jesus. This feast is also regarded as the feast of the purification of Mary in the temple.

    The words of the prophet Malachi are fulfilled in the poor parents presenting their firstborn son along with their humble sacrifice of two turtledoves. (Now I am sending my messenger— he will prepare the way before me; And the lord whom you seek will come suddenly to his temple; The messenger of the covenant whom you desire—see, he is coming! says the LORD of hosts. Malachi 3.1) The mother of God – the Theotokos, in no need of ritual purification – and her husband did not set themselves above the Law.

    The Gospel of Luke speaks of Anna the Prophetess and Simeon who praise the coming of the Lord to the temple. In Redemptoris Mater, Pope John Paul II wrote that Mary heard in Simeon’s words something akin to a second Annunciation, “for they tell her of the actual historical situation in which the Son is to accomplish his mission, namely, in misunderstanding and sorrow. While this announcement on the one hand confirms her faith in the accomplishment of the divine promises of salvation, on the other hand it also reveals to her that she will have to live her obedience of faith in suffering, at the side of the suffering Savior, and that her motherhood will be mysterious and sorrowful.”

    After celebrating the Nativity of our Lord, with its splendor in both the Church and the popular culture, it would be easy for one’s mind to drift and overlook the significance of the fortieth day after the Lord’s birth. The Catholic Church gives very significant importance to this feast.

    What is the real significance of the presentation of the Lord in the Temple? According to the Mosaic law a mother who had given birth to a man-child was considered unclean for seven days; moreover she was to remain three and thirty days "in the blood of her purification"; for a maid-child the time which excluded the mother from sanctuary was even doubled. When the time (forty or eighty days) was over the mother was to "bring to the temple a lamb for a holocaust and a young pigeon or turtle dove for sin"; if she was not able to offer a lamb, she was to take two turtle doves or two pigeons; the priest prayed for her and so she was cleansed. (Lev12.2-8).
    The "just and devout" man of Jerusalem who according to the narrative of St. Luke, greeted the infant Saviour on His presentation in the Temple (Lk 2. 25-35). He was one of the pious Jews who were waiting for the "consolation of Israel" and, though advanced in years, he had received a premonition from the Holy Ghost, Who was in him, that he would not die before he had seen the expected Messiah. This promise was fulfilled when through guidance of the Spirit he came to the Temple on the day of the Presentation, and taking the Child Jesus in his arms, he uttered the Canticle Nunc dimittis (Lk 2.29-32), and after blessing the Holy Family he prophesied concerning the Child, Who "is set for the fall, and for the resurrection of many in Israel", and regarding the mother whose "soul a sword shall pierce, that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed".

    Practical Conclusion
    Jesus is brought to the temple to fulfil the law. Later in his life Jesus spends lot of time in the temple and on one occasion purifies it of all sorts of worldliness that had entered the temple. On our part visiting a church or a sacred place must evoke in us the sentiments of love, devotion, adoration and prayer in us. This helps our soul to direct attention to heavenly things in spite of living in the midst of worldly affairs.

    Jesus is the complete fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets. Jesus once had asked his disciples, who do the people say that “I am?” Some say Elijah, Jonah and others says one of the prophets. Jesus fulfills in us a great role of the saviour. He leads us, guides us and inspires us in our daily tasks and works.

    When we have Jesus with us, we have fulfilled the law. Jesus is above the law himself as he noted often during his life that “the son of man is the Lord of sabbath” (Mt 12.1-8).

    This is day also is dedicated to the Religious men and women for their consecration through the vows. Candlemas Day is another name for the feast of the Presentation of the Lord. Forty days after His birth, Mary and Joseph brought Jesus to the temple for the rites of purification and dedication as prescribed by the Torah. According to the Book of Leviticus (12.1-4), when a woman bore a male child, she was considered “unclean” for seven days. On the eighth day, the boy was circumcised. The mother continued to stay at home for 33 days for her blood to be purified. After the 40 days, the mother and the father came to the temple for the rite of purification, which included the offering of a sacrifice — a lamb for a holocaust (burnt offering) and a pigeon or turtledove for a sin offering, or for a poor couple who could not afford a lamb, two pigeons or two turtledoves. Note Joseph and Mary made the offering of the poor (Lk 2.24).

    We also remember our parents presenting us at church for our baptism. We were dedicated to God, and given the name, “Christian.” We, too, received a lit candle from the paschal candle, at which the priest said, “You have been enlightened by Christ. Walk always as a child of the light and keep the flame of faith alive in your heart. When the Lord comes, may you go out to meet Him with all the saints in the heavenly kingdom” (Rite of Christian Initiation). Therefore, as a light, each of us must bear witness to Our Lord.

    Let this feast of the presentation of the Lord in the Temple enlighten us to be his servants and bearers of his kingdom.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • 3RD SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A

    Isaiah 9.1-4; I Corinthians 1.10-13, 17; Matthew 4.12-23

    Now we are carried forward to the coming of the Messiah. The northern territory of Israel, called the land of Naphtali, which had been brought into contempt by the invaders, will be made glorious (Galilee of the Gentiles was the Savior’s boyhood home and the scene of part of His public ministry). Christ’s First Advent brought light to Galilee. His Second Coming will bring joy to the nation and put an end to slavery and war. A precise prediction about the Messiah who would bring respite to the land of Naphtali, that is the land Galilee of the Gentiles.

    Great Light
    Through the Gospel of Matthew, we learn that Jesus choosing his first disciples moves quickly to his ministry (Mt 4.12-23). The prophet Isaiah announced a future of liberation and great joy for all of Galilee, through the image of light that dispels the darkness in which the people walk. The Gospel, quoting verbatim the same passage of the prophet Isaiah, presents Jesus as the Light thus fulfilling Isaiah’s prophecy. He is the light that was promised to dispel the darkness of sin and to free man from the obscurity in which he is enclosed.

    When Jesus heard that John the Baptist had been put in prison, He realized that this was a move to His own rejection. In rejecting the King’s forerunner, the people were, for all practical purposes, rejecting the King also. But it was not fear that drove Him north to Galilee but was going right into the center of Herod’s kingdom—the same king who had just imprisoned John.

    In moving to Galilee of the Gentiles, He was showing that His rejection by the Jews would result in the gospel going out to the Gentiles. Jesus never thought of rejecting any people around him. He invited them all to listen to him. Those who rejected him perhaps did not know him or were doing so out of jealousy.

    He moved to Capernaum by the Sea of Galilee, an area originally populated by the tribes of Zebulun and Naphtali. From this time, Capernaum became His headquarters (Mat 4.14–16). Jesus’ move to Galilee was a fulfillment of Isaiah 9.1,2. The ignorant, superstitious Gentiles living in Galilee saw a great light—that is Christ, the Light of the world. From then on Jesus took up the message which John had preached: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” It was a further call for moral renewal in preparation for His kingdom. The kingdom was near in the sense that the King was present.

    He Chooses his Disciples

    After which we find in Matthew’s account the call of the disciples Peter and Andrew. This is the second time Jesus called them. In John 1.35–42 they were called to salvation; here they are called to service. The first took place in Judea; this one in Galilee. Peter and Andrew were fishermen, but Jesus called them to be fishers of men. Their responsibility was to follow Christ. His responsibility was to make them successful fishers of men. Their following of Christ involved more than physical nearness. It included their imitation of the character of Christ. Theirs was to be a ministry of character. What they were was more important than what they said or did. Just as with Peter and Andrew, we are to avoid the temptation to substitute eloquence, personality, or clever arguments for true spirituality. In following Christ, the disciple learns to go where the fish are swimming, to use the proper lure, to endure discomfort and inconvenience, to be patient, and to keep oneself out of popularity. In verse 4.20 Peter and Andrew heard the call and responded immediately. In true faith, they left their nets. In true commitment and devotion, they followed Jesus.

    The call came next to James and John (Mt 4.21-22). They, too, became instant disciples. Leaving not only their means of livelihood but their father as well, they acknowledged the priority of Jesus over all earthly ties. By responding to the call of Christ, these fishermen became key figures in the evangelization of the world. Had they remained at their nets; we would never have heard of them. Recognition of the Lordship of Christ makes all the difference in the work we do. He is the King of everything we do.

    What do we learn from these accounts of the call of these disciples? It is a radical following of Christ who calls us at any time. These disciples were at work and were busy. They could have clearly replied to Jesus saying, ‘well, we finish our work, and go home and bid farewell to our family members and then come and follow you.’ Nothing of this sort happened. They immediately followed Jesus without a second thought.

    He calls us to “repent” or to reform our lives. He does not merely present a set of rules to follow; he does not demand a retreat from the world; he does not demand a monkish existence; he does not require a specific devotional life of prayer, sacrifices, and special practices. We cannot narrow down his call to any one of these forms. His call is more universal and demanding: a metanoia, a total change of heart, a complete transformation of one’s life, a radical decision for God. Most of Jesus’ parables are a challenge compelling his hearers to respond to his message. Such a radical decision means that the mystery of Jesus becomes our plan of life, our interpretation of life’s meaning. It means that all our deepest questions about human life—the source of it, the sense of it, the model for it, its purpose, direction, goal, and hope—all of these are answered in the person of Christ.

    Ministry
    In verse 23 Matthew summarizes Jesus’ public life and work this way: he proclaimed, “the Gospel of the kingdom, and [cured] every disease and illness among the people.” He implies that the message of God’s kingdom that Jesus brought is aimed at all people in all their dimensions; not only at their soul, but at the whole person, body and soul, their whole concrete, suffering existence. For Jesus our Lord is not only a preacher and adviser; he is also a healer and helper. And he is for all people, not only for the strong, healthy, capable, and righteous, but also for the weak, sick, incapable, sinning, and outcast. He does not take away all human failure, illness, and tragedy; but he begins to transform the curse of human existence into blessing even now.

    Mission Today
    Today all over the world missionaries and followers of Christ do the same work. They proclaim and serve. They heal through their service and alleviate sufferings through their generosity.

    Concretely today Jesus calls us when we are at work. He will see that we are his instruments of service and Gospel. Through this Gospel we learn how to respond to Jesus’ call. From the first disciples we come to know what real detachment for God’s kingdom is.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • 2nd SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
    Isaiah 49:3, 5-6; I Cor 1.1-3; John 1.29-34

    This first reding from Prophet Isaiah is a prediction about the suffering servant of God. These were prophecies uttered during the Babylonian exile to encourage the Jewish exiles to persevere in their trust in Yahweh, who would soon liberate them from Babylon, and consequently send them the long-expected Messiah, promised to Abraham.

    The opening verses of this letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians have been chosen for the reading because they show the prophecy, read in the first reading, as fulfilled among the pagans, as well as emphasizing the purpose of the Messiah's coming: the sanctification and true enlightenment of all nations.

    These verses from St. John’s Gospel present John the Baptist as a symbolic example of a ‘bridegroom’s friend’, as Christ’s excellent and exemplary witness. The Baptist’s pre-eminent witness was affirmed in two ways: firstly, regarding the content of his testimony and secondly with respect to its style.

    After the celebration of the birth of John the Baptist and Christ the Lord, the liturgy shifts its focus on the mission of both. John the Baptist preaches the imminent arrival of God’s Kingdom and predicts about the one who is going to baptise them with fire and the Holy spirit and confesses that he is not worthy to carry his sandals. Jesus on his part just begins to prepare for his mission choosing his apostles and disciples. Both are fully engaged in their task and the path for God’s Kingdom is being prepared.
    The preaching of John the Baptist was to reawaken in people the sense of urgency for something greater than what they have been seeking in their daily lives. There are a lot of ordinary longings in our lives, but there is one that is underlying all other longings. Ordinary longing signifies emptiness; it recognizes our limitations, our awareness of being incomplete.

    John’s story of the baptism is considerably different from what we find in the other three gospels because John wants to refute the view held by some that John the Baptist was superior to Jesus. Thus, this writer does not give us an account of the particulars of Jesus’ baptism. Rather, he has John the Baptist give testimony to the meaning of the event. Almost the entire reading is composed of the Baptist’s words, which clearly say that the revelation of Jesus as the Lamb of God was the sole purpose of John’s mission. The gospel writer also concentrates on demonstrating that Jesus is indeed the servant of God described in the servant songs of Isaiah.

    “Behold the Lamb of God”
    This phrase “The Lamb of God,” John used twenty-nine times in the book of Revelation, and it has become one of the most precious titles of Christ. It sums up the love, sacrifice, suffering, triumph and final victory of Jesus Christ. While some think that John’s use of the term “Lamb of God” for Jesus may refer to the Passover lamb, the primary reference here is to the Suffering Servant who is described as like a lamb led to the slaughter. The Passover lamb had no connection to sin, yet for the sins of the people it was slaughtered; in the same way the Servant bore the guilt of us all and who takes away the sin of the world.

    Atonement
    After expulsion from the Garden of Eden, Adam and Eve faced a devastating future. Having opened the door to mortality and temporal life for us, they had closed the door to immortality and eternal life for themselves. Due to a transgression they had consciously chosen obeying the temptations of the evil one, they now faced physical death and spiritual banishment, separation from the presence of God forever. What were they to do? Would there be a way out of this plight?

    Unfortunately, as a symbol of genuine repentance and faithful living, the ritualistic offering of unblemished little lambs didn’t work very well, as so much of the Old Testament reveals. The moral resolve that should have accompanied those sacrifices sometimes didn’t last long enough for the blood to dry upon the stones or on the temple altar. They did remember they were to regularly offer for a sacrifice unto God a pure, unblemished lamb, the first male born of their flock.

    According to Old Testament law, animals were used as a blood sacrifice for sins. This ritual was used to demonstrate to the Israelites the seriousness of their sins. The blood was shed to pardon the sin. But the blood from animal sacrifices could not actually remove the sin. A lamb without defect was one of the acceptable animals that was used for this purpose (Lev 4.32). It was necessary for the Israelites to go to the priest time after time to sacrifice animals to pardon their sins.

    The real Sacrificial Lamb
    In Jesus we find the real sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world. He is the one who is going to redeem mankind from sinfulness. The real sacrifice offered on the Cross. That is why John boldly calls Jesus “the Lamb of God”, who takes away the sins of the world.

    When John the Baptist baptized Jesus, John witnessed the Holy spirit descending on Jesus declaring Him to be the Son of God. John knew that Jesus was the Messiah that had been prophesied in the book of Isaiah 53.7, "He was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth." There are over 100 prophecies in the Old Testament predicting the coming Messiah. The Jews were awaiting His arrival. John recognized Jesus as the Messiah, the Son of God, and the person that would fulfill the role as the lamb sent by God to be both the Passover Lamb and provide the blood sacrifice for sin.

    During Jesus' 33 years of life on earth, living and experiencing everything that man experiences, He lived without sin. This made Him the pure and spotless lamb that was without defect - a perfect sacrifice. Heb 2.17 says, "For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people." Jesus Christ, by dying on the cross, nailed all of our sins to the cross (Colo 2.14), cleansed us from a guilty conscience (Heb 10.22), freed us from condemnation and from the grip of sin over our lives (Rom 8.1-2), and assured those of us who believe in Him to have everlasting life with Him in heaven (Jn 3.16).

    God sent Jesus into the world to be a one-time sacrifice for all sins. Heb 9.24 says, "For Christ did not enter a man-made sanctuary that was only a copy of the true one; he entered heaven itself, now to appear for us in God's presence."

    This is the Sunday that promises us that Christ is the one who comes to save us and is already here saving us always. The Sacraments are the very presence of Christ amidst us and who helps us to offer our daily lives to him so that he can purify us with his blood. The Holy Eucharist is what cleanses us from our sinfulness with his body and blood offered in the Holy Communion.

    Takes Away the Sin of the World

    Salvation doesn’t cost us anything; it’s free for all who believe the gospel. Discipleship, however, does cost us something. Following Jesus is often not easy. Being a disciple requires making choices—to love and honor God, to treat people for what they are—fellow imagers of God that he loves and wants to bring into his family through the gospel. Think about Jesus’s own life. It wasn’t easy. As St. Peter affirms, “Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps” (1 Pet 2.21). Jesus lived a life of sacrifice. He put God first, followed by his “neighbor” (everyone else): “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Mat 22.36-40) Jesus lived this way not so God would love him or be happy with him. God loved Jesus already, long before he ever came and “did works” (performed) to fulfill the covenant. He loved Jesus “before the foundation of the world” (Jn 17.24). Jesus came to liberate us from our sinfulness and take away that scar of the evil one.

    During this week we need one thing on which to focus our attention, that is on Jesus. John the Baptist wants us to recognize Jesus is the only one who can lead us to God’s Kingdom. Mere repentance preached by John the Baptist allows us to accept Jesus; but it is Jesus who gives us that eternal kingdom through his own life and grace.

    The suffering servant Jesus is beginning his journey of redemption of mankind. He begins to impact even John the Baptist’s disciples who come to him to see and find out all that is about true kingdom of God.

    It's easier to think about our wishes and wants: our favorite food, a winning team, a good grade, a nice car or house, good clothes. Those things are fairly easy to attain, but they don't make any real difference in our life; they quickly prove their shallowness.

    On a deeper level, we desire health and life, we long for loving relationships, and for the good of those whom we love. We might regard those as "natural sacramentals," signs or foretastes of the goodness God desires for us. As sacramentals, the objects of our longing can lead us to our depths. But they also bring the danger of becoming goals in themselves, even transforming themselves into idols by becoming the only things we strive for.

    Our hearts are restless until they rest in God. That is what we call the fundamental and eternal longing that cannot be satisfied with the ordinary things of life. Jesus the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world gives us the real meaning of life and helps us to transcend the trivial things of this world so that we fix our attention and focus on God alone.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • BAPTISM OF THE LORD

    Isaiah 42:1–4, 6–7; Acts 10:34–38; Matthew 3:13-17

    The servant mentioned in the first reading in general is Israel, God’s chosen people. But there are many individualized characteristics in these servant songs that seem to indicate one individual who represents the collective Israel. Only in the New Testament do the scripture writers identify Jesus as the individual fulfillment of these servant prophecies. Jesus is the Son of God, and called servant of God. He is the one who brings liberation and freedom. Through out the advent season we reflected that the one who comes in the name of the Lord is going to bring prosperity and freedom to the house of Israel.

    Good to note how the first reading begins: “Here is . . . / my chosen one with whom I am pleased, / Upon whom I have put my spirit.” The Hebrew word for spirit is ruah (that can also mean wind or breath). The image is that of a force or power of God enabling his servant to act in a manner beyond human capability. It is seen as the power given to the long-awaited Messiah.

    It needs to be pointed out that Jesus did not need the baptism of John. John was baptizing as an external sign of interior repentance. Jesus had no need to repent. But, nonetheless, He comes to John. John resists at first but Jesus insists. Why did He receive baptism?

    Accepting the baptism of John, Jesus affirms all that John had said and done and affirms his sacred role of preparing the way for Jesus and for a new era of grace. Therefore, the Baptism of Jesus acts as a bridge between the Old Testament prophets (of which John was the last) and the New Testament era of grace and truth, and John again we notice is the first prophet of the New Testament.

    Second, it has been said that when Jesus entered the waters of baptism, He was not baptized by the waters, rather, His Baptism was one in which all the created waters of this world were, in a sense, “baptized” by Him. Entering into the waters, Jesus sanctified water and poured forth His grace making all water the future source of salvation.

    Baptism of Jesus was an epiphany and was a moment of manifestation. As He emerged from the waters, “Heaven was opened, and the Holy Spirit descended upon him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from Heaven, ‘You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.’” This manifestation of the sonship and divinity of Jesus took place in a physical, audible and visible form so that all present would know, without question, that Jesus was the Son of the Father. Thus, His baptism is a way in which the Father introduced His Son and His Son’s mission to the world. This mission was to begin immediately and would culminate in the resurrection of the Lord.

    Just when the Baptist's activity seems so successful, it is "then" that Jesus first appears on the scene in a surprising turnabout. John has said that the one who is to come will baptize with the Holy Spirit and with fire. Instead, Jesus comes seeking to be baptized by John. Matthew alone seeks to address the problem by having John attempt to avoid Jesus' request. If, after all, baptism has to do with repentance and with bearing fruit that befits righteousness, why should Jesus have to be baptized? But the threefold reference to baptism in this passage and Jesus' response to John both serve to emphasize the importance of this event coming at the beginning of this narrative of the good news about Jesus.

    Jesus says that this baptism must take place to "fulfill all righteousness," and with his words the reader begins to realize that righteousness has to do with much more than simply human ethical response, but rather has to do with the whole plan of God in this one who comes as savior, and thus is a sign of Jesus' obedient submission to God's marvelous grace. The unique reference to the opening of the heavens "to him" and the clear public announcement of God's good pleasure name Jesus as God's beloved Son (Mark says, "You are…"; Matthew writes, "This is…") and mark this event as revelatory of God's presence and approval.

    What do we learn from this feast of the Baptism of the Lord? First truth is that we too are baptised with the same Spirit of the Lord.

    We are baptized into his very life

    We are grafted to Christ Our Lord. Remember the parable of the vine and the branches. We become the branches of Christ who is the vine. Unless we are one with Christ the Lord, we are not going to bear fruit that will last.

    We become Children of God

    In John 1.12 we find an excellent expression. All who receive Christ through faith become children of God. This is described using the Greek term exousia, often translated as a “right” or an entitlement. There are spiritual hounors given to all believers, simply based on being part of that family. However, this word also implies the power to do something. Becoming a child of God doesn’t simply result in privileges, but spiritual power. A name, legal documents, a conversation, is a symbol of that person. The “name” of Jesus is not a magical formula. “Faith in the name of Jesus” means trust in His person, His sacrifices, and his salvation. This is not for everyone, however. This verse specifies that this power or right is only extended to those who receive him especially through baptism.

    We are the Temple of the Holy Spirit

    In his letter to the Corinthians St. Paul boldly confesses that we are the Temples of the Holy Spirit (I Cor 6.19).

    All of us become brothers and sisters in Christ Jesus

    We are all related to one another through the sacrament of Baptism. This relationship is far beyond how we are related to one another within our families. This is a spiritual relationship that helps us understand the great mystery of God who has adopted us as his children and hence we are related to one another as brothers and sisters in Christ our Lord.

    Moreover, we connect ourselves with the whole lot of holy people and Saints as our big family through the baptismal grace of Christ. Because of our baptism we are saved; yet like Jesus, we must live out that salvation now in this world like all those saints and holy people lived their grace sharing and helping people around them. This same Holy Spirit was given to us at our baptism; that Spirit empowers us to follow in the way of Jesus with great confidence as real children of God; that same Spirit urges us to fulfill our mission by submitting to the will of God as it comes to us naturally in our ordinary Christian lives and become holy as our Heavenly Father is Holy.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • EPIPHANY

    Isaiah 60.1-6; Ps 72.1-7; 10-14; Eph 3.1-12; Mat 2.1-12

    Epiphany is a wonderful feast that gives us an indication how God chooses his representative from all walks of life. These three kings traveling from far East come to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King. Their travel was harsh with all kinds of hurdles and the most difficult and concerning hurdle was King Herod. They over came all these hurdles to come and worship and present their gifts to the King. The star guided them to the place where Jesus was.

    Why did God reveal Jesus to the Magi? We know the story of the Magi coming to worship Jesus very well. But have you ever stopped to wonder why God revealed Jesus to the Magi and not the “Evil and the Great” King Herod? God has his ways of revealing His greatness through insignificant ways to ordinary people.

    Who were the Magi? Very little is known about the Magi. Matthew doesn’t even record how many of them there were. All the Bible tells us is that they came from the East to Jerusalem. The number is unknown.

    It is accepted that the Magi were a priestly caste from Persia once a mighty country where modern Iran and Iraq are now located. They were probably astrologers. In the second century, church father named Tertullian suggested that these men were kings because the Old Testament had predicted that kings would come to worship the Messiah. Tertullian also concluded that there were three kings based on the number of gifts mentioned, gold, frankincense and myrrh.

    It is in the sixth century, someone decided that their names were Melchior, Baltazar and Gaspar. And the term Magi is the base from which our modern words “magician” and “magistrate” are derived. The Magi, in the eyes of the Jewish people to whom St. Matthew wrote his Gospel, had two explanations against them.

    The first explanation against the Magi was that they were Gentiles – Persians to be precise. After all weren’t the Jews alone God’s chosen people. But the second and more important explanation against them was that they were astrologers. And astrology was expressly forbidden – on pain of death – in the OT. (Dt 18.9-14) So why did God reveal himself to astrologers?

    I can think of three reasons why God revealed Himself to the Magi because Christ came not only for the chosen ones, but to all nations to preach the Gospel for all nations

    First of all, God revealed Jesus to the Magi to show us that the Gospel - that Jesus’ birth heralded - is for all nations. This was well predicted by Isaiah the prophet long ago.

    It is not just to the select few righteous people in the world. We don’t have to wait until we are living a “morally good life” before God seeks us out. If moral perfection was God’s criteria, I doubt any of us would be sitting in church today.

    God accepts us “sinners and saints alike” – and these Magi were perhaps not living a good life? Or had their own ambitions? Were they just rulers? Were they free from violence?

    The Magi sought Jesus. The second reason - that I think God revealed Jesus to the Magi - was that the Magi were SEEKING God despite being not chosen people. The Magi sought Christ out to worship him. God honours a spirit within a person that SEEKS God. We have examples in the Gospels when Jesus met with the Siro Phoenician woman and Samaritans who confessed their full faith in him.

    We won’t get everything right – but if we have a right heart God will honour us
    And God reached out to the Magi by a Star.

    But that wasn’t a chance Star – God had ordained and it had been prophesied over a millennium earlier by Balaam the prophet when he said – referring to Jesus: "I see Him, but not now; I behold Him, but not near. A Star will come out of Jacob; a sceptre will rise out of Israel (Num 24.17)

    The third reason is the very attitude of the Magi because they were docile, and they had several right moves in the direction of God. They obeyed the ordinary revelation of God manifested through a star. The first of these right attitudes was that they were obedient to the guidance of God. They weren’t too big to follow the star. As St. Matthew records them saying: They weren’t star gazers – they put their beliefs into action. And even though they didn’t know the destination they were prepared to step out in faith. Following the leading of the Lord can be quite risky and it can be time consuming. Their faith was so strong that they could overcome all kinds of hurdles and dangers on their way.

    The Magi probably had to go from Persia to Jerusalem – a journey of a good 1000 miles – on foot and travelling with camels. Even though the Scripture narrative shows us that their arrival was quick, but then given the distance they had to travel and must have taken many weeks to arrive at Bethlehem.

    Scriptural References
    By this moral story Matthew shows how Christ is the fulfillment of these prophecies. Thus, in the Book of Numbers, Balaam prophesies: “A star shall advance from Jacob” (Num 24.17). Also, Isaiah prophesies: “Caravans of camels shall fill you . . . / All from Sheba shall come / bearing gold and frankincense” (Isaiah 60.6). Again, Psalm 72 (vv. 10–11) foresees: “The kings of Arabia . . . shall bring tribute. All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him.” Finally, Micah praises Bethlehem: “You, Bethlehem . . . From you shall come forth for me; one who is to be ruler in Israel” (Micah 5.1). In sum, Matthew uses this popular legend to show the fulfillment of all these prophecies. Also, this passage shows the mind of Matthew as proclaiming Christ the Savior of the Gentiles. Matthew’s Gospel was completed after 80 ad. At that time the infant church was growing fast in the Gentile world—in Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, Asia Minor, and Greece. In this context the Magi were representatives of these people, who had come to believe and worship Christ.

    Today this great narrative of Matthew must provoke us to take the Gospel to all nations through our lives lived in witness to Christ. The witnessing could happen in our neighbourhood families, in the place of work, in our society, during a celebration etc. There are multiple opportunities for us to evangelize and proclaim the life of Christ’s kingdom here on earth.

    Life is a journey of faith. Faith is what makes us children of God. All are invited to this great experience of having an encounter with Christ our Lord, along with Mary and Joseph. Let us bring all our talents, time, resources, pains and sorrows to offer them to Christ. He will make us return to our daily life through another better way as did the Magi who got back to their country through a different route.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • MARY MOTHER OF GOD – SOLEMNITY
    Numbers 6:22–27; Galatians 4:4–7; Luke 2:16–21

    God gave to Mary a very special privilege be Theotokos- Mother of God Himself. Mary becomes the Tabernacle of God here on earth as she bears in her womb the Son of God. The Holy Trinity, the undivided unity becomes incarnate in the person of Jesus in the womb of Mary. That is why she is the Mother of God.

    The Gospel today presents Mary as the mother of Jesus: The shepherds “found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger.” Why did the shepherds find Jesus and not others? They were meek and humble of heart, we can hear the words of Christ himself “learn from me for am meek and humble of heart”. Shepherds worked hard to earn their living. Their task was to protect the sheep, lead them to pasture, accompany them in their perilous journey. Jesus would do the same to his own people, he would accompany them, lead them, pasture them, and protect them from predators.

    And then adds: “Mary kept all these things, reflecting on them in her heart.” On this day as we begin the first day of the New Year, it should be a moment to reflect in our heart. Mary kept all these things in her heart. Its an invitation to all of us to keep all the things in our heart; that is being grateful to God for the past year and look forwards with courage and strength to the new year of challenges and difficulties.

    This passage is an incisive choice for this feast of the Mother of God, for it includes the two outstanding reasons why Mary is our mother and our model. First, Mary is the mother of Jesus, by whom we are all made God’s children. As mother of Jesus, she is preeminent of all God’s creatures. As “Mother of God” she is the mother of God’s children. And secondly, Mary is the exemplar of faith. As she reflected on the all that happened, she slowly discovered the meaning of God’s way of salvation; as she continued to fulfill God’s will, she became “our tainted nature’s solitary boast.”

    As we are reflecting on the Gospel of Luke we find that throughout the Acts of the Apostles, Luke shows the early church behaving as Mary did, giving itself completely to Christ’s mission and making time for discernment and reflection as it carried Christ into the world. Luke presents Mary as a symbol of the church so skillfully that we can almost miss his emphasis. Her freedom to serve Christ’s mission, bring him into the world, and ponder the significance of his life became the pattern for both collective and individual discipleship. This is very well reflected in prayer and service of the faithful in the early church.

    When we give ourselves over to Christ’s mission in big ways and small, we offer Christ to the world in new ways. Today evangelization has taken a renewed enthusiasm among many missionaries. It is to preach Christ through prayer and good works as Mary did in the early church.

    World Day of Peace
    Today is the world day of peace (and the feast of Mary, the Mother of God). And this story exemplifies well a Christian approach to peace and solving social problems. We have to admit that Jesus did not produce any program for the renewal and transformation of social structures; he did not outline any political or cultural ethics; he has no practical answers for modern social ills; he has no detailed solutions for the grievances of one country against another or for territorial disputes. He does not even give an entirely clear statement on the morality of war or revolution. Therefore, Christians—even Catholic leaders—can have very diverse opinions about civil disturbances and revolutions within countries, about border disputes between countries, about practical solutions in Israel, Ireland, Afghanistan, North Korea, and India and in many violently unjust situations in African or South American countries.
    How can we create peace around us? It is through self sacrifice. If Mary and Joseph were peace loving couple, then those who love peace become like Mary and Joseph.

    In sending his disciples forth on mission, Jesus told them: “Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace be to this house!’ And if a son of peace is there, your peace shall rest upon him; but if not, it shall return to you” (Lk 10.5-6). Jesus’ mission was to preach and teach the peace of God. When he was with the people, he always promoted peace among all types of people. He was friendly with the Samaritans, the Romans, the pagans etc. He never rejected anyone. This is a great example of Jesus Himself to all of us.

    Christ, the Prince of Peace, does have an impact on peace in the world. One way is along the lines of the story we began with. For the whole thrust of Christ in the New Testament is toward the reformation of the individual. This reformation is accomplished not by law and order but by the free decision of the individual person. That is, Jesus does not set up social laws to bridle cruelty and injustice, for that achievement would still leave us with a cruel world. Rather Christ positively teaches justice, forgiveness and love, so that people and institutions might really be changed. The implication is that radical social action alone is not enough to cure our social ills; we also need compassionate and just human beings. What a change there would be in so many social and political crises if the values of Christ were taken seriously: his identification with the weak, poor, underprivileged, and oppressed; his teaching on forgiveness of enemies; removal of prejudice and superiority in political situations. Such is Jesus’ way of reforming the social order—not by specific social movements or political systems but by the reform of the individual members and promoting peace wherever there is a possibility. Through his Beatitudes Jesus invited a special world order that will promote peace if we begin to realize how rich are these teachings and practice them. In his parable of the last judgement Jesus forcefully affirms that those who love the weak and oppressed will share his kingdom of peace (Mat. 25).

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • HOLY FAMILY – FEAST


    Holiness is the integration that places God unambiguously at the centre of one’s life and concern. Holy Family of Nazareth is a wonderful example for our daily life that placed God as their centre. Why this family is Holy? Because of holiness of all the three: Jesus, Mary and Joseph. God is Holy and He invites everyone to be holy as he is. The Holy Family lived a holy life bowing to God’s will in every detail of their life. Jesus’ whole concern was to do the will of the Father, Mary accepted God’s will as fiat. Joseph surrendered to God’s will because he was asked to take Mary as his wife and to take care of Jesus in the face of dangers the family faced right from the beginning of their family life.

    Mary and Joseph are faithful disciples of Christ. He lived with them and they were transformed in life.

    Ordinary life of Mary and Joseph transformed every bit of their intentions and experiences.

    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).

    Joseph’s Docility
    We have the gospel from Matthew. After the Magi had departed the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph and instructed him to take the child and flee to Egypt.

    It was such a difficult task for Joseph with all kinds of tensions surrounding he had leave for Egypt.

    Joseph, acting with complete docility, rose up, took the Child and his Mother by night, and fled into Egypt (Mt 2:14). Thus, began the first of the persecutions that Christ Jesus would undergo on earth all throughout history, whether against Himself or against members of his Mystical Body.

    It was the flight to Egypt that saved the little babe of Bethlehem. It was a very harsh journey and dangerous too. There were two main roads to Egypt. The easier road was also the more traveled one; it passed through Gaza and then ran south along the Mediterranean coast. The other road, less used and therefore the more prudent one, passed through Hebron and Bersabee before crossing the Idumean desert and entering the Sinai Peninsula. In either case, it would be a long trip of several hundred miles lasting from ten to fourteen days. This would be the safest route because of its rugged nature.

    Before beginning this arduous journey, everything had to be done in haste. In Hebron or Bersabee (the latter about forty miles from Bethlehem), they could procure provisions before setting out across the desert. In that initial stage of the trip, they may very well have joined up with a small caravan, for it would have been almost impossible to travel that road alone. The oppressive heat, lack of water, and danger of bandits made it advisable not to cross the desert on their own. The historian Plutarch writes that, in 155 B.C., Roman soldiers making the same trip to fight in Egypt were more fearful of the hardships to be faced in the desert than of the battles to be fought ahead.

    What we find here in this explanation the daring spirit of Mary and Joseph in taking this arduous journey to Egypt. It required strength, determination, courage, endurance and patience. Imagine a little baby had to travel a long distance with such a cold weather and uncertainly on the way because of robbers, violent people, dusty roads and at times no roads etc.

    Let us compare all these situations to our own life. Today we have all kinds of comforts and conveniences in our surroundings. How can we celebrating the feast of Holy Family live a life of dedication discipline and detachment? How can we help our family members to understand that life is difficult, yet it is worth living?

    Life is a journey and a challenge. Holy Family’s journey opens us a very powerful theme of difficulties we face along our spiritual journey. It is a journey every member of a family must undertake. Its going to be harsh, difficult, with all kinds of uncertainties and insecurities on the way. The virtues of Joseph and Mary will help us traverse this terrain of our family life’s journey.

    Practical Conclusion
    Today family life has become very difficult to live. In this modern world there are multiple concerns for the parents to take care of their children.

    Work: Work has become the priority in every family as the modern society has pushed the members to earn more because they must spend more on their children, on food, clothing, home etc. Daily work also has made family members distance themselves as they must be away from home for their daily source of income.

    Workload has created tensions between the children and parents as they must prepare for next days work. Hence, children feel neglected and abandoned. Parents scarcely get time to spend with their children and with one another. This becomes a vicious circle of activities and offers not enough time to relax and enjoy life.

    Food: Family lives together must have at least one meal in common. The modern lifestyle does not allow most of the family members present for food in their families. Work and friends have taken all the time they have. If a family must be stronger it should have time to have food together. When preparing food and consuming food there is such a lot of reciprocal interaction that can bond the members together.

    Prayer: Family that prays together lives and loves together. Prayer as we define it as recitation of psalms, Rosary, Angelus etc. All these prayers and many other types of vocal prayers including reading of the Holy Scripture can help members to understand life and all that comes with it.

    Recreation: Today the word ‘recreation’ has become quite individualistic enjoyment. With our smart electronic gadgets recreation in common has lost its lustre and importance. We need to revive its sense especially in our families.

    Let us ask the Holy Family to bless us with the grace and strength to live our lives united with our family members in happiness and pain; poverty and joy; sickness and health.

    Let us end on a positive note. We can all find plenty of inspiration today for Christian families in the first part of this reading to the Colossians. “Put on then, as God’s chosen ones . . . heartfelt compassion, kindness . . . gentleness, and patience.” These are critical virtues in any family; the motivation for doing so is that by baptism we have been clothed in Christ (cf. Galatians 3.27), and so should put on these virtues that correspond to our new life in Christ. And because we are all very human, we need forbearance and forgiveness: “Bearing with one another and forgiving one another . . . as the Lord has forgiven you.” I suspect husbands and wives know even more than I how necessary forgiveness is among spouses. Family life is such a close existence that it is bound to include offenses and human failures; it demands this Christian virtue again and again. “And over all these, put-on love, that is, the bond of perfection.” And for our children, parents know that love is not taught by words; it is caught by them—in the home, more than anywhere else. God bless our families. They are the fount of our personality and of all our Christian living.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • CHRISTMAS – YEAR A


    Christ is born. A long-awaited prophesy is fulfilled. Saviour has come, Emmanuel – God with us.

    Each year when we celebrate this awesome Day and season of Christmas we are thrilled, and we expect something new will soon happen to us or something new is awaiting us. It has a very powerful message to all of us. The newborn King of the universe is among us brings always something new. A new initiative, new idea, new way to lead a better life, new person to meet who can enrich our life. But above all we need to know Jesus is the one who brings all things new to us. It’s a deeply spiritual season to bring us back from our boredoms and darkness. The king of the Light is with us and its time to rejoice. He is the one who is opening our eyes to see the real light, the one who will make us walk and will cure our diseases and infirmities.

    In the process of the Birth of Christ our Lord, we find the spirituality of “a knock at the door”. Who is knocking at our door? Joseph seeking a place in the inn to make Mary comfortable as she is about to give birth to Jesus.

    But there was a reply, no room in the inn. Very sad to know that there is no room in the inn for Jesus. He had to be born in a place, but there is nowhere to go.

    Cold Night of indifference
    Its indeed a cold night. We can just imagine if a newborn baby does not get enough warmth. The baby could become sick and weak. In the case of Baby Jesus, the animals must shelter this Royal little one. With their company to provide much needed warmth Mary and Joseph find great relief. Surely God stoops low to come from lightsome heaven to our war-torn, dark, cold, indifferent world. As He stoops, He stoops to the lowest place, being born not in a palace or even in a comfortable home. He stoops on to a manger. God will defeat Satan’s pride with humility. All who will find Him this fateful night must also stoop. True, God is non-competitive as Bishop Barron says often in his teachings.

    Humility
    Even to this day, when one visits Bethlehem and wants to see the place of Jesus’ birth, one must first enter the church through what is called the “Door of Humility.” For security reasons, this door was built to be only about four feet high. One must stoop greatly to enter through it. Yes, we must stoop to find our God. The site of the birth is at the other end of the basilica, under the altar area. Here again, more stooping is required; down steep stairs, through another low and narrow door, and into the cave. To touch the spot, one must kneel and reach forward into a narrower part of the cave. Here Jesus Christ was born of the Virgin Mary, says the inscription. The only way to get there is to stoop.

    Finding God
    One of the best lessons we can learn from this very situation of Jesus born on a manger is to understand how we can find God in ordinary events of life. The whole of the Scripture tells us how God found ordinary people to communicate His message. There is no need for highly qualified atmosphere for God to communicate what He wants us to know. He manifested himself to shepherds, fishermen, children, poor and the sinners, tax collectors, Zacchaeus, the blind, the deaf, the dumb etc.

    The Knock
    Christmas is a time to find out who needs some comfort. It is our duty to seek and find out those who are in need of our help.

    Jesus knocks at the door of our souls. He may knock at dawn, during the day or at midnight. Scripture says, Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me (Rev 3.20). An old song says, “Somebody’s knocking at your door! Oh Sinner, why don’t you answer?”

    At Christmas one unique truth we learn is that the Lord comes always and meets us on various occasions. It is up to us to let him in or tell him there is no room in our inn.

    There is a beautiful Christmas custom in Ireland. The centre piece of Christmas holiday in Ireland is the dinner. After the often-lavish meal the kitchen table was again set and on it was placed some bread and milk and the table adorned with the welcoming candle. If Mary and Joseph, or any wandering traveller happened to pass by they could avail of the hospitality.

    If you will receive the gift of Him tonight and make greater room for Him in your heart, you will have victory and transformation in Christ Jesus. There will come to you the increasing gift of transformation into the very likeness of God. Tonight, is a night of gifts and Jesus stoops low to give us a priceless gift: the power to become children of God. Is there room in the “inn” of your heart? If there is one you have become the child of God already.

    Reaching out to Others
    Let us celebrate this Christmas with a great desire to reach out to Christ who is homeless, poor, naked, stranger, wanderer. When we can help someone in need our Christmas will be brighter, and its joy will last longer.

    What is Christmas many may ask especially when the world has commercialized this festive season. For those who do not recognize Christ as their Saviour, Christmas Solemnity will probably does not bring any other meaning than sharing gifts and receiving gifts, see some colourful lights and pass on to the next year.

    There is much to learn from Christmas. It’s a gift, it shows us humility, manifests poverty, we learn from the shepherds, the ordinary people of village. That’s exactly is the strategy of God who cares for the weak, the widow, the stranger, the abandoned and the lost.

    Why did the Lord Jesus need to come from Heaven to earth and to be born in Bethlehem’s manger? There was a three-fold purpose, and this is mentioned in Galatians 4.5, 6 and 7.

    He came in order that we might be REDEEMED (verse 5). To redeem, in this case, means to deliver from the bondage and the curse of the Law. The curse of the Law is the penalty which comes because we have broken the Law, and we all have broken the Law, and therefore we are under the curse and are in danger of punishment. But Christ came to redeem us from the curse of the Law, and He did this by offering His life and shedding His blood on Calvary’s cross (1 Peter 1.18-19). Thank God, every believer can sing: “Free from the Law, O happy condition, Jesus had bled, and there is remission …”

    He came that we might receive the FULL RIGHTS of sons (verse 5). God’s purpose in the incarnation is that we might become sons of God, and this sonship is based upon redemption - “to redeem?…that we might receive…”. The Son of God became the Son of man that we, sons of men, might become sons of God. Who, then, are the sons of God? They are those who have the Spirit of adoption in their hearts - compare Galatians 4.6 with 1 John 3.1.

    He came that we might become HEIRS of God through Christ (verse 7). Compare Romans 8.16-17, where we are told that we are co-heirs with Christ. Because He shared our humanity, with all the consequent sufferings which this involved, we, by His grace and through faith in Him, are to share His glory. In the parable of Luke 15, the father said to his elder son, “My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours” (Luke 15.31).

    Practical Conclusion
    Christmas is a time of rejoicing, sharing, and a time to become aware of all the spiritual riches we have through Jesus our Saviour. It’s a time too to know what we have; and what we can do, with what we have, for the glory and praise of God.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • FOURTH SUNDAY IN ADVENT
    Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

    The angel appearing to Joseph in his dream utters similar words of Isaiah Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son and they shall name him Emmanuel. Matthew wants to make it very clear to his community that God was acting in a very precise way to make people understand that he is the one who is directing the history of mankind. He will send His Son to liberate them from oppression and give them freedom from slavery.

    It was foretold by the prophets and proclaimed throughout the whole of Sacred Scriptures that He would be the One who would fulfil and bring them to completion the promises made (II Sam 7). Our God will be Incarnated and born due to the generous willingness of the ‘Virgin’ who, from the very beginning of time, was chosen to be the Mother of the Savior.

    What a prediction that has saved the world through the birth of Jesus the Son of God through the Blessed Virgin Mary.

    During the reign of the evil King Ahaz, war broke out between Judah and Israel. Pekah, the king of Israel, entered into an alliance with the King of Syria (Rezin). The latter two went to Jerusalem to besiege it.
    When Judah’s King Ahaz learned of the coalition against him, his heart sank along with his people. He was an evil king and could not reasonably expect God’s intervention for him or in fact doubted God could save him. God had not given up on Judah. God sent the prophet Isaiah to Ahaz to give him a promise of the perpetuity of Judah.

    The message from Isaiah was one of comfort. Even though the kings of Israel and Syria formed a confederacy against him, God will intervene. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask for a sign to authenticate the promise from God. He refused. So, Isaiah gave a sign from God, “a young woman will conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel”.

    God did not want to abandon Judah. The word “Immanuel” means God with us. The virgin’s son was God manifest in the flesh. This sign was not fulfilled during the days of Ahaz. This is a promise that God will be true to the descendants of David. Judah will have a future. That future will be established through “Immanuel.” This was a sign for the perpetuity of the nation.

    The New Testament clearly saw this passage fulfilled in Christ. At the end of the genealogy of Jesus Matthew makes this statement, “So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Mt 1.23).

    Both the Old and New Testaments promise the coming of Jesus Christ. God keeps his word. God indeed came in flesh and was born of a virgin. He was supernaturally conceived without a human father, “Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, and did not know her (did not have sex with her) till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus” (Mt 1.24-25).

    “Now the birth of Jesus the Messiah was like this” (v. 18a). Matthew began this Gospel by asserting that Jesus is “Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham” (1.1). Now he reasserts that Jesus is the Messiah. In his description of Jesus’ birth, he gives none of the details about the manger or the shepherds that we find in Luke. His account of Jesus’ birth focuses primarily on Joseph, through whom Jesus is the son of David (1.1-16). Message for us is that the promise is fulfilled and we believe and welcome Jesus in our life. The birth of Jesus was in a village, on a manger; since there was no inn available, he was born among animals.

    “For after his mother, Mary, was engaged to Joseph, before they came together” (v. 18b). Jewish marriage starts with an engagement arranged by parents, often while the boy and girl are still children. Prior to marriage, couples begin a yearlong betrothal like marriage except for sexual rights. Betrothal is binding and can be terminated only by death or divorce. A person whose betrothed dies is considered a widow or widower. Here we find the courage of Mary, who accepted the will of God. Joseph had to endure secretly great anxiety.

    “She was found pregnant by the Holy Spirit” (v. 18c). There are numerous stories in Greek and Roman mythology of such conceptions, but “it is most important that we do not lapse into paganism by…presenting Jesus as a demigod, half human by virtue of birth from a human mother, half god since begotten by a god. Christian doctrine affirms Jesus’ full humanity and full divinity. A great challenge for both Mary and Joseph. Joseph’s faith had to be like that of Abraham who trusted in God and put all his faith in him.

    “Joseph, her husband, being a righteous man, and not willing to make her a public example, intended to put her away secretly” (v. 19).“But when he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream” (v. 20a). This is the first of three occasions in which an angel appears to Joseph in a dream. In each instance, the angel calls Joseph to action and Joseph obeys. Joseph’s silence. Matthew does not record one word that Joseph says. In this first appearance, the angel commands Joseph to take Mary as his wife. In 2.13, the angel will tell Joseph to take the mother and child to Egypt to escape Herod’s wrath. In 2.19, the angel will, at the death of Herod, tell Joseph to return to Israel. In a fourth obedience, after being warned in a dream (no angel this time), Joseph will go to Nazareth (2.23). There is total obedience on the part of Joseph. An obedience that demanded a lot of sacrifice on his part.

    “Don’t be afraid” (v. 20b). The angel will repeat these exact words to the women at the tomb following Jesus’ resurrection (Mt. 28.5). Jesus will use the same words on several occasions (Mt. 10.31; 14.27; 17.7; 28.10). He is not to hesitate but is to wed Mary. Both of them are magnanimous accepting what God had planned for them.

    “She shall bring forth a son. You shall call his name Jesus, for it is he who will save his people from their sins” (v. 21a). Mary’s role is to bear a son, and Joseph’s role is to name him. By naming him, Joseph will make Jesus his son and bring him into the house of David. Joseph in the Old Testament was the son of Jacob who rose to prominence in the kingdom of Pharaoh the king of Egypt. Joseph even though betrayed by his brothers becomes their rescuer.

    The name, Jesus, “is the Greek form of the Hebrew Yehosua, which means ‘YHWH is salvation’. It is related to the name Joshua––Moses’ successor.

    “For it is he who will save his people from their sins” (v. 21b). The first Joshua saved the people from their enemies; the second Joshua (Jesus) will save the people from their sins. Jesus was with the tax collectors and sinners most of the time and he said that he came to call back the sinners. It is therefore reassuring to see, at the outset, that Jesus has come to save us from our sins.

    Practical Conclusion

    How can we imitate the virtues of Joseph? : no complaint, no self importance, just obedience, fearlessness and silence.

    One of the best things on this Sunday to learn to take courage in our lives no matter what comes and what goes away. Like Joseph we need to listen to God all the time. Joseph could have had a comfortable life if he wanted to do what he desired. But he obeyed God. To be sensitive to his message and promptings. One thing I repeat we learn from Joseph is silence. He accepts God’s word transmitted to him through the angel. He does not utter a word, rather obeys and takes this challenge gratefully. Advent is a time of silence of Mary and Joseph, which can help us reap rich spiritual benefits. Joseph’s obedience is remarkable in contrast with the disobedience of King Ahaz. Joseph’s reliance on God and King Ahaz’s reliance on worldly Assyrian Kingdom that destroyed him.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • THIRD SUNDAY IN ADVENT - A
    Isaiah 35:1-10 ; Psalm 146:5-10 or Luke 1:46b-55 ; James 5:7-10 ; Matthew 11:2-11

    This Sunday is called Gaudete Sunday, a Sunday of rejoicing. “Rejoice with the joy of singing” says Isaiah. A true joy that is created when the Lord comes with recompense. He is the one who liberates and frees. What more? The eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then the lame shall leap like a deer, and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy. For waters shall break forth in the wilderness, and streams in the desert. All these things that happen to people and to the earth will bring joy and gladness unending.

    Our Rejoicing
    When we rejoice at something that we have or achieved, it lasts just for a while. There is another type of rejoicing that comes from the Lord, it is called the inner joy, spring of living water gushing from our heart because we are favoured by the Lord, that lasts forever. God is here. God will come. Isaiah offers assurance for present and for future. In the future, Isaiah asserts that God will act for the people to reverse oppression and deliver them. The prophet does not describe specific conditions of oppression but speaks in general terms in a direct address to the audience: God "will come and save you" (35:4b). When the Lord does something in our life it remains as a permanent mark throughout our life. It brings us joy unending.

    God's arrival brings something more. When God comes, "the eyes of the blind and the ears of the deaf will be opened. Then a lame man will leap like the stag; a silent man's tongue will shout. Because waters will break open in the wilderness, and streams in the desert" (35:5-6). God's arrival transforms every inability into ability and every lack into miraculous abundance. God's coming brings the capacity to see and hear to those whose senses are starving for light and sound.

    Can we see God in our lives? Is it possible that we are still blinded by the world and its temptations? When God brings us light and sound, it is our duty to offer our senses and our souls. Isaiah 35 invites us to reflect on this Advent season not only as God's coming in Christ, but also as our coming home. God comes. God is here. We leap and shout and sing. And together we walk home.

    St. James invites us to be patient, like the farmer patiently waiting for the crop. It’s virtually a long wait until the crop can be filled in the barn. When we look around us today, literally people lose patience. They cannot wait a second or a minute just to help someone else in need. Our attention to mass media has dulled our minds towards our neighbours. That is precisely what St. James mentions in this reading that we should stop grumbling against our neighbours and stop judging them. The real judge is God himself who is practically at the door. We need to strengthen our hearts and wait in patience for the Lord’s coming.

    In the Gospel of Matthew, we find a question from John the Baptist. He was unable to see what Jesus was doing as he was in the prison. So, he sent his disciples to find out what’s happening.

    Jesus comes on the scene as one who proclaims the kingdom of God, calls upon people to trust in God, heals the sick, and befriends tax collectors and persons labeled “sinners.” It is little wonder that John, now sitting in prison with time to think, questions whether Jesus is the one to come or not. Jesus fits neither John`s expectations nor those of Jewish messianism in general. John’s question in 11:3 is therefore totally understandable: “Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?”

    Jesus speaks of his mission in one of the clearest statements in the gospels about it: “the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them” (11:5).

    Gaudete Sunday must evoke in us a great love and devotion to Jesus who makes all things new. Never in the history of mankind such revolutionary acts were seen or performed. Jesus is the Lord and God making history quite interesting and new. He is God himself, fully human liberating people from their bondage.

    It’s now our turn to imitate Christ in everything we do. St. Mother Teresa of Calcutta lived the example of Christ during her life time showing light to those who were in darkness, helping the lame to walk, taking care of the lepers and making the deaf understand what others wanted to communicate and many who felt that they were dead, were raised to life through her prayers and hard work as a missionary.

    This kind of mission in imitation of Christ our Lord will bring joy to the one who shares his/her life with those who are less fortunate and helpless.

    The alternative hymn we have for our liturgy today is the Magnificat of Mary. She was filled with gratitude to God and sang this hymn in praise to Him. My soul magnifies the Lord, my spirit rejoices in God my Saviour. When we help some one who is in need, we participate in the mission of God who is always keen on liberating his people from oppression. Mary went to help Elizabeth her cousin who was 6 months pregnant. It was a great joy for Mary to be of help to Elizabeth.

    Let us rejoice then on this Sunday preparing for the coming of the Lord. May His love and mercy allow us to be stronger than ever in making others rejoice in what life offers them. At the same time, we keep our hearts open to God’s infinite mercy that it may flow within us.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • SECOND SUNDAY IN ADVENT - A
    Isaiah 11.1-10; Romans 15.4-9; Mathew 3.1-12

    Lot of people today are interested in predicting what will happen in a few years from now. Some predict how the present poorly maintained ecological system would impact our environment and the entire planet. Others predict what’s going to happen if there is a nuclear war among the nations. Many are interested to know what will happen in another 10 years from now. Most of these predictions may not be realized.
    Today’s first reading entirely reflects on how Isaiah predicted that Jesus is the new stock of Jesse will bring justice, understand the weak and help the poor. He will be able to defeat the wicked and help the needy and the lost.

    The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him; that is what we have seen in the Gospels, a spirit of counsel and of strength. He stood firmly against all injustice and corruption. His delight was to do the will of the Father, establishing His Kingdom here on earth.

    In the Gospels we find Jesus judging the poor with justice, providing them everything they needed. He struck the wicked with the rod of his mouth and outwitted the Pharisees and Scribes.

    Then Isaiah predicts that all animals will live in peace and harmony, that is going back to the very life of the garden of Eden. Wolf and the lamb, leopard with the kid, calf with the young lion and little child will guide them. There will be no harm done on the mountain of the Lord. All will be filled with the knowledge of God. Well, we have a fuller knowledge of all these prophesies fulfilled in the person of Christ the Lord because his kingdom was an everlasting kingdom for all, including the gentiles. Jesus invited all of people to listen to him and welcomed them with warmth and generosity.
    Prophet Isaiah was optimistic of God’s deliverance and his rule. He encouraged people who were dismayed but hopeful of the realization of God’s kingdom.

    In his letter to the Romans Paul affirms that whatever was written was for our instruction. He insists that the Sacred Scriptures help us to endure patiently all our trials and temptations. This in view of accepting Jesus Christ that we must live in harmony with one another. When we can accept Jesus our Saviour, we also show that Gentiles are called to fellowship with us. The invitation extends to all people to come to Jesus and be saved.

    St. Paul reminds us that we have a history. It is the history of our salvation recorded in the Old and New Testaments – all of which was written for our instruction. It is there to encourage us and help us to endure the hardships we face. It also gives us a well-founded hope in what Jesus has promised!

    Paul teaches us that we are a community of disciples who live lives of faith. We truly need the support of one another. And we must look beneath the appearances of others and discover the truth that lives within them.

    John the Baptist appearing in the desert of Judah is a sign that his mission was to extend not only to the people of Jerusalem, but to the entire region. Most of the teachers and preachers appeared in Jerusalem, but John appeared in the desert. Jesus later appeared not only in Jerusalem but all over the entire Israel.

    John’s apparel of camel’s hair and leather portrayed him as a prophetic figure like Elijah (2 Kgs 1.8) whom it was believed would return to herald the messiah (Mal 4.5). The diet of locusts and wild honey recalled the wilderness period when the newly escaped refugees from Egypt were being formed as a people by God in the Sinai. But locusts were also a symbol of divine judgment in scripture (Ex 10.12-20, Deut 28.42), as honey was a sign of promise and blessings (Ex 3.17). Perhaps John’s diet signaled that the coming reign and its emissary, Jesus, would bring both judgment and promise upon the earth, a fact that is borne out in the rest of the gospel, that he said he came to bring fire on earth.

    John the Baptist urges us all to repent and to change – especially from the dishonesty within ourselves. Few of us are people of complete integrity. Most of us are hiding something – and most of us want to appear better or more than who we really are. However, we must become disciples who aspire to honesty and integrity. We cannot be like the Pharisees and the Sadducees of today’s Gospel. They came with everyone else to the Jordan – but their coming was only for the sake of appearances and to judge and to find fault with John. They were far from the conversion and repentance that John was urging. And, as such, they would not escape the wrath of God. For they would not be able to accept the truths, the gifts, and the salvation that Jesus came to bring!

    John the Baptist affirms so strongly the power of God. He was convinced that God could raise children for Abraham from those very stones in the desert. He would not care the faithless pharisees and scribes who lived a life of luxury. What counts is not our appearance but the fruitful outcome of our life. Repentance requires that we be genuine in our approach to life and situations. If a tree refused to yield fruits, it will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

    The readings of todays liturgy invite us:
    To see in Jesus the saviour of mankind and the one who will not judge by our appearances. He will do justice to the poor and the weak. Jesus will gather the nations and that is what John says, ‘gathering wheat into the barn.’

    However, John clearly affirms that Jesus who will baptise people with fire will be their real saviour. Humility of John is evident when he says that he is unworthy to carry Jesus’ sandals. John was a very powerful prophet and preacher. That is why people from Jerusalem, Judah and Jordan came to listen to him.

    Let us celebrate this second Sunday in Advent with a resolution that will transform us. Looking at John the Baptist we must be inspired to repent and come back to Christ our Saviour. It is purely our decision, and no one can force it upon us.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD


  • FIRST SUNDAY IN ADVENT – YEAR A
    Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:36-44

    We are in this holy season of Advent. It’s a time for waiting for the Lord to come into our lives. We all wait for so many things to happen in our life. A little baby waits for her mother to come and feed her. Parents always wait for their children to return from school; a friend waits for another friend at home or at a location that they had decided to meet. Waiting for relatives to come; waiting for a bus, waiting in the airport for the flight, waiting patiently for our turn to meet a doctor etc.

    But this waiting during Advent is a very special one for the chosen ones that their Lord will come to rule them. This is what Isaiah waited concerning Judah and Jerusalem. It was after the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem a patient waiting for the fulfilment of God’s promises to re establish the reign of God in Judah and Jerusalem was due.

    The prophet elaborates stating that the people will climb the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. It will be the desire of the people then to be instructed by the Lord. They would not heed any other earthly king’s instruction.

    The Psalm we sing during the Holy Eucharist will resonate the great happiness of people who long to go to the house of the Lord. The Psalmist then knew already that the city of Jerusalem was a well-built city by King David and he gathered all the nations together, all the tribes of Israel. But Isaiah’s prediction came after its destruction.

    St. Paul in his letter to Romans very clearly mentions that its time to wake up from sleep. When we are in sound sleep, we practically forget what’s happening around us. We don’t even know if there is any imminent danger around us. St. Paul’s intention was to remind his listeners that they should wake up to their reality around them as he was preaching Christ the Lord of heaven and earth.

    The Gospel of Mathew particularly attracts our attention. Jesus warns his disciples that it will be like those days of Noah when the Son of man comes. People will be busy with their worldly affairs, busy in their business, marrying and giving in marriage, eating and drinking and merry making. Well during the time of Noah people did not give heed to what Noah was doing. They perhaps mocked him for building that huge ark. Noah work was hard, first he had to build the ark, then gather all that was necessary to keep them alive during the predicted flood. Then he had to gather all kinds of animals and species in pairs to keep them alive on board.

    The analogy of Christ's return being like a thief in the night is an important one, and we find it also used elsewhere (e.g. 1 Thessalonians 5:2). The imagery itself implies an arrival at an unexpected or surprising time, hence the exhortation to stay awake. As verse 44 says, he will come at an unexpected time.

    Our waiting is manifested in our deep faith and hope we have. It is faith that instructs us to be awake.

    What we should do then? Prepare our hearts, minds and our surroundings for the coming the Lord. He may come today, tomorrow or day after. It all depends on us how we prepare ourselves well for the day of the Lord.

    Advent is a time to renew our spirit. We all know how tired we are because of our daily lifestyle. We tire ourselves working, spending time with our friends, earning, spending on things we desire, and gradually we get old without our awareness. What we need to do is to pause for a while and think of the real goal we have in our mind. What’s that goal? Some material achievements? They are good in themselves, but greater than these achievements we need to aim at our personal joy in the Lord’s coming to whom we need to give an account of what we have been doing.

    We the faithful must stay vigilant and awake, knowing that Christ will return, though the timing remains unknown. The phrase "the day or hour," or even just the phrase "the hour," simply means the timing. It is not suggesting that the general time frame of Christ's return can be known in advance, but that the specific day or hour is obscure.
    Judah and Jerusalem must be ready for the Lord’s coming. They must be encouraged to wait in hope.

    Paul inform the Romans that they have to wait for the Lord fully awake. Jesus warning serves us better understand the uncertainly when the Lord will appear.

    Jesus’ return sudden and unexpected
    He shares several examples to illustrate, beginning with an allusion to the days of Noah in verses 38 and 39. Jesus doesn’t focus so much on the evil prevalent in that day, but instead focuses on the ordinariness of daily life: people are eating, drinking, and getting married. They have no concept that life as they know it is about to change radically, that their eternity is about to begin.

    The scenario reminds me of Christmas time. We calendarize Christmas, or “Christ-Mass,” because of the birth of a Savior. But, for the most part, the holiday is completely overtaken by the commercialism of the season. Advent that is just before Christmas has become the mecca of consumerism. Instead of preparing our souls, all these activities save our economy. There is nothing wrong with a strong, family-oriented celebration centered around gift-giving. I love Christmas as much as anyone else. However, I am thankful that the Lectionary organizers always start off the church year, the first Sunday of Advent, with the second coming of Christ: Jesus came once; Jesus is coming daily in our lives and will come again on the final day. It takes us back to the basics.

    So, Jesus talks about the extraordinary happening in the middle of ordinary, everyday life. Jesus’ return will be sudden; it will be unexpected. To illustrate, he gives a couple of examples from everyday life. Two farmers are working in the field; one is taken one is left behind. Two women are grinding wheat: again, one taken, one is left behind (vv. 40-41).

    “Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.” (vv. 40-41)
    In both settings, there seems to be little difference between the two men, or between the two women. They look the same on the outside. Yet, one heads to eternal life and one heads to destruction. In the blink of an eye. Everything changes. Without warning.

    Our role is to be ready
    Jesus says simply, “Keep watch...” (v. 42)
    He gives an example involving home security. Back then they didn’t have police as we do today. The military might protect the upper crust of society. But if you were middle class or lower, you were on your own. Jesus said, “If you knew when the thief was coming, you would be ready to catch them in the act.” But since we don’t know, we must maintain a state of readiness around the clock. So many people today have perimeter cameras up around their homes. When they go on holidays, they check their phones several times a day if there is any intruder in their home property. This will alert them, and they can have a control over the situation. Yes, keeping awake is the right word for ADVENT.

    Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

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