Welcome to Sadbhavana : Carmelite Provincialate
Rev. Fr. Rudolf V. D'Souza OCD,
6TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME – YEAR A
Sirach 15:15–20; 1 Corinthians 2:6–10; Matthew
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
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
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
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
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.”
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
“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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Isaiah 60.1-6; Ps 72.1-7; 10-14; Eph 3.1-12; Mat
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
It was such a difficult task for Joseph with all
kinds of tensions surrounding he had leave for
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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).
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
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
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.
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
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 ;
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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