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Saturday, December 3, 2016

Sunday, December 4, 2016 - Second Sunday in Advent - Keep on keeping on

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 11:1-10; Rom. 15:4-9;Mt 3:1-12

Zion is here and again like in Chapter 2, the center of the peaceful cosmos described in these verses by the prophet Isaiah. This peace is seen on two levels. The first is on the level of the future king’s (“A shoot”) character and rule. He will be filled with the spirit of the Lord and will have the gifts required to judge fairly and not by mere appearances. The ruthless and wicked will be judged with integrity and fairness. The poor and the meek will be protected completely. The second level is seen in the peaceful cosmos where humans, animals and the rest of nature will live in harmony without the need to destroy each other.

In these verses of the penultimate chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul begins by exhorting his readers to the hope Christians must attain through the examples of endurance, perseverance and hope found in the scriptures. This perseverance or refusal to give up must lead to tolerance and harmony found in the example of Christ himself. Christ is the only model on which Christians must base their words and deeds.

“The voice in the wilderness” found in the Gospel text of today belongs to John the Baptist who uses strong images to describe what the coming of the Messiah will entail. Though particularly strong with the Pharisees and Sadducees, John calls all people to repentance. No one is excluded. This repentance must be shown in action and not merely words. Like in the case of the king mentioned by Isaiah, “the one who follows” will here separate the wheat from the chaff. While the wheat will be gathered into the barn, the chaff will be burned in a fire.

In what is known as the third “Emanuel prophecy” Isaiah prophesies about whom many thought would be King Hezekiah. He was prophesied as one who would be filled with the gifts of the spirit which were wisdom, insight or understanding, counsel, power or might, knowledge and fear of the Lord. However, he did not come up to the expectations of the prophecy and of the people and so people began to look for a new successor to King David who would fulfill this expectation.

The world had to wait for eight centuries for this expectation to be fulfilled in its entirety. It was fulfilled in every single aspect in the person of Christ. He was and is the one who continues to stand as an ensign or signal to all peoples everywhere. He is the one who though he followed John the Baptist was more powerful than John the Baptist could ever hope to be and who baptizes not merely with water but with the Holy Spirit and fire.

In his coming and in his person he invites each one of us to make a choice. We can choose to be struck with the rod or to be judged with integrity. We can choose to burn in an unquenchable fire or to be gathered up into God. The choice is entirely up to each one of us. It must also be remembered that just because we have the name Christian and have been baptized does not necessarily mean that we have chosen life over death. The choice that we make has to be shown in our lives.

When we look around at the injustice, poverty, division and disharmony that continue to exist in our world, it is not easy to believe that the Messiah King has indeed come and set his seal over all humanity. But he has indeed come. Why then do we seem to prefer to choose death over life? Isaiah seems to offer an answer to this question when he speaks of the “knowledge of the Lord” which we seem to have lost. The consequence of this knowledge is indeed harmony and transformation but because we have lost it we are caught up in disharmony and sameness. Paul takes this point further when he reminds us that we may not have persevered and lost hope. We have removed our gaze from Christ and have stopped relating to each other the way he relates to us. We have instead of being selfless preferred to be selfish, instead of reaching out have preferred to be locked up in our own small worlds and instead of enduring and persevering have lost hope and given up.

The challenge then is to go back to “our root” Jesus Christ and continue to keep our gaze fixed on him. We continue to learn from him that only in dying to ourselves can we hope to be born to new life and be gathered up like wheat into his barn.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Audio reflections of December 3, 2016, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier SJ

To hear the Audio reflections of December 3, 2016, the Feast of St. Francis Xavier SJ, click HERE

Saturday, December 3, 2016 - St. Francis Xavier SJ - Will I in imitation of Francis Xavier keep on keeping on or will I give in and give up at the slightest sign of trouble?

To read the texts click on the texts: Zeph 3:9-10,14-20;Rm 10:8-17; Mt 28:16-20

The baptismal name of Francis Xavier was Francisco de Jaso y Azpilicueta and he was born on April 7, 1506. In 1525, having completed a preliminary course of studies in his own country, Francis Xavier went to Paris, where he entered the collège de Sainte-Barbe. Here he met the Savoyard, Pierre Favre, and a warm personal friendship sprang up between them.

It was at this same college that St. Ignatius Loyola, who was already planning the foundation of the Society of Jesus, resided for a time as a guest in 1529. Ignatius soon won the confidence of the two young men; first Favre and later Xavier offered themselves with him in the formation of the Society. Four others, Lainez, Salmerón, Rodríguez, and Bobadilla, having joined them, the seven made the famous vow of Montmartre, on August 15, 1534. After completing his studies in Paris and filling the post of teacher there for some time, Xavier left the city with his companions on November 15, 1536, and turned his steps to Venice, where he displayed zeal and charity in attending the sick in the hospitals. On June 24, 1537, he received Holy orders with St. Ignatius.
The following year he went to Rome, and after doing apostolic work there for some months, during the spring of 1539 he took part in the conferences which St. Ignatius held with his companions to prepare for the definitive foundation of the Society of Jesus. The order was approved verbally on September 3, 1539, and before the written approbation was secured, which was not until a year later, Xavier was appointed, at the earnest solicitation of the John III, King of Portugal, to evangelize the people of the East Indies. He left Rome on March 16, 1540, and reached Lisbon about June. He remained there for nine months, and was noted for his apostolic zeal.

On April 7, 1541, he embarked in a sailing vessel for India, and after a tedious and dangerous voyage landed at Goa on May 6, 1542. The first five months were spent in preaching and ministering to the sick in the hospitals. He would go through the streets ringing a little bell and inviting the children to hear the word of God. When he had gathered a number, he would take them to a certain church and would there explain the catechism to them. About October, 1542, he started for the pearl fisheries of the extreme southern coast of the peninsula, desirous of restoring Christianity which, although introduced years before, had almost disappeared on account of the lack of priests. He devoted almost three years to the work of preaching to the people of Western India, converting many, and reaching in his journeys even the Island of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Many were the difficulties and hardships which Xavier had to encounter at this time; yet he persevered and never gave up. In the spring of 1545 Xavier started for Malacca. He worked there for the last months of that year, and although he was successful, he was not as successful as he would have liked to be. About January 1546, Xavier left Malacca and went to Molucca Islands, where the Portuguese had some settlements, and for a year and a half he preached the Gospel to the inhabitants of Amboyna, Ternate, Baranura, and other islands in that area. It is claimed by some that during this expedition he landed on the island of Mindanao, and for this reason St. Francis Xavier has been called the first Apostle of the Philippines.

By July, 1547, he was again in Malacca. Here he met a Japanese called Anger (Han-Sir), from whom he obtained much information about Japan. His zeal was at once aroused by the idea of introducing Christianity into Japan, but for the time being the affairs of the Society of Jesus demanded his presence at Goa, and so he went there taking Anger with him. During the six years that Xavier had been working among the people, other Jesuit missionaries had arrived at Goa, sent from Europe by St. Ignatius; moreover some who had been born in India had been received into the Society. In 1548 Xavier sent these Jesuits to the principal centres of India, where he had established missions, so that the work might be preserved and continued. He also established a novitiate and house of studies, and having received into the Society Father Cosme de Torres, a Spanish priest whom he had met in the Malucca. He started with him and Brother Juan Fernández for Japan towards the end of June, 1549. The Japanese Anger, who had been baptized at Goa and given the name of Pablo de Santa Fe, accompanied them. They landed at the city of Kagoshima in Japan, on August 15, 1549. The entire first year was devoted to learning the Japanese language and translating into Japanese, with the help of Pablo de Santa Fe, the principal articles of faith and short treatises which were to be employed in preaching and catechizing. When he was able to express himself, Xavier began preaching and made some converts, but these aroused the ill will of the Bonzes, who had him banished from the city. Leaving Kagoshima about August, 1550, he penetrated to the centre of Japan, and preached the Gospel in some of the cities of southern Japan. Towards the end of that year he reached Meaco, then the principal city of Japan, but he was unable to make any headway here. He retraced his steps to the centre of Japan, and during 1551 preached in some important cities, forming the nucleus of several Christian communities, which in time increased with extraordinary rapidity. After working about two years and a half in Japan he left this mission in charge of Father Cosme de Torres and Brother Juan Fernández, and returned to Goa, arriving there at the beginning of 1552. He then turned his thoughts to China, and began to plan an expedition there. During his stay in Japan he had heard much of the Celestial Empire, and was anxious to spread the Gospel there. In the autumn of 1552, he arrived in a Portuguese vessel at the small island of Sancian near the coast of China. While planning the best means for reaching the mainland, he was taken ill, and as the movement of the vessel seemed to aggravate his condition, he was removed to the land, where a hut had been built to shelter him. In these poor surroundings he breathed his last.

One can only wonder at the apostolic zeal of Francis Xavier who in the short span of ten years traversed so many seas and visited so many countries to preach the Gospel. He is regarded as the Patron of Missions primarily for these reasons. He was canonized with St. Ignatius in 1622.


The Gospel text of today is taken from the last Chapter and last verses in the Gospel of Matthew and is commonly known as the “Great Commission”. The risen Jesus meets his disciples on a mountain in Galilee and after making a revelation to them issues a command. The command is to “make disciples” which in Matthew is not done merely by baptising, but primarily by teaching people to do what Jesus has done. This is what Francis Xavier. The assurance that Jesus gave his disciples of his abiding presence is the assurance that motivated Xavier to persevere. It must also be our reason for perseverance since Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

MORNING OFFERING


Audio reflections of Friday, December 2, 2016

To hear the Audio reflections of Friday, December 2, 2016 click HERE

Friday, December 2, 2016 - Have you tried seeing with your heart instead of only your eyes? What difference does it make?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa29: 17-24; Mt 9:27-31

Chapters 8 and 9 of the Gospel of Matthew are known as the “Miracle Cycle” of Matthew, because in them we find ten miracles in series of three miracles each. The fact that the Miracle Cycle follows immediately after the Sermon on the Mount and that both are framed by a summary statement in 4:23 and 9:35 is an indication that Matthew’s intention is to show, through such placement, that Jesus is the Messiah, in words (through the Sermon on the Mount) and in deeds (through the Miracle Cycle).

Many regard this story as a doublet of the healing of blind Bartimaeus found in Mk 10:46-52.  Matthew’s story, however, has the healing of two blind men and does not name them. A similar story of the healing of two blind men is found in Mt 20:29-34, and since, in both cases, the one blind man of Mark has become two blind men in Matthew, he pieces the story together with details and elements from his own sources.

The story begins with the blind men following Jesus. While on the one level, this will mean walking behind Jesus, on the deeper level, it means that they are doing what disciples are called to do. Their address for Jesus: “Son of David” (this is the first time in the Gospel that Jesus is called “Son of David”) and “Lord” indicates that they are believers. They have faith. Though physically blind, they are able to see who Jesus is and see the extent of his power to heal them. This faith is the reason why they receive their sight.

The command of Jesus to the blind men not to tell anyone what he had done is disobeyed by them. While some see the command as retention of Marks’ messianic secret (the Markan Jesus tells some of those whom he heals not to make it known, since he does not want people to mistake the kind of Messiah that he has come to be), others see it as an illustration by Matthew that not everyone who says “Lord” obeys the will of the Father manifested in Jesus. These have faith, they themselves say, but yet they do not do.


Blindness is not only an external ailment or limitation. The fox says to the Little Prince in Antoine Saint De Exupery’s book “The Little Prince”: “It is only with the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye.” There is, thus, also blindness of the heart. As a matter of fact, in many cases, blindness of the heart is worse than blindness of the eyes. Heart blindness closes itself to another point of view. It is a blindness that refuses to look anew at things, events, and people. It prefers the pessimistic and dark side of life.  Heart blindness can only be healed when one turns in faith to God, manifest in his Son, Jesus. 

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

MORNING OFFERING


Thursday, December 1, 2016 - St. Edmund Campion SJ - When faced with a difficult situation, do you often take the easy way out or the right way out?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 53:3-11;Jn 17:11b-17

Edmund Campion was born in London on January 25, 1540. He received his early education at Christ’s Hospital popularly known as The Bluecoat School and St. John’s College Oxford. He received his degree in 1564. He was chosen to give the funeral oration on the occasion of the burial of Sir Thomas White the founder of St. John’s College. When Queen Elizabeth I (1533-1603) visited the College, Campion was chosen to lead a public debate in front of her. He was because of his learning and oratory skills tipped to be a future Archbishop of Canterbury.  He was referred to by William Cecil who was one of the principal architects of the reformation as the “diamond of England.” It was the hoped that Campion would become a defender of the new faith which, though favored by the temporal power, lacked learned apologists. Yet even as he was ordained to the Anglican diaconate, he was being swayed toward Rome, influenced in great part by older friends with Catholic sympathies. In 1569 he journeyed to Dublin, where he composed his “History of Ireland”. At this point Campion was at the summit of his powers. He could have risen to the highest levels of fame had he stayed his course. But this was not to be. By the time Campion left Ireland, he knew he could not remain a Protestant. Campion's Catholic leanings were well-publicized, and he found the atmosphere hostile upon his return to England in 1571. He went abroad to Douay in France, where he was reconciled with the Church and decided to enter the Society of Jesus. He made a pilgrimage to Rome and journeyed to Prague, where he lived and taught for six years and in 1578 was ordained a Jesuit priest. In 1580 he was called by superiors to join fellow Jesuit Robert Parsons in leading a mission to England. He accepted the assignment joyfully, but everyone was aware of the dangers. The night before his departure from Prague, one of the Jesuit fathers wrote over Campion's door, "P. Edmundus Campianus, Martyr."

Campion crossed the English Channel as "Mr. Edmunds," a jewel dealer. His mission was nearly a short one: At Dover a search was underway for Gabriel Allen, another English Catholic expatriate who was rumored to be returning to England to visit family. Apparently Allen's description fit Campion also, and he was detained by the mayor of Dover, who planned to send Campion to London. Inexplicably, while waiting for horses for the journey, the mayor changed his mind, and sent "Mr. Edmunds" on his way.
Upon reaching London, Campion composed his "Challenge to the Privy Council," a statement of his mission and an invitation to engage in theological debate. Copies spread quickly, and several replies to the "Challenge" were published by Protestant writers, who attached to it a derogatory title, "Campion's Brag," by which it is best known today. Campion and his companions traveled stealthily through the English countryside in the early summer of 1581, relying on old, landed Catholic families as hosts. They celebrated Mass, heard confession, performed baptisms and marriages, and preached words of encouragement to a people who represented the last generation to confess the faith of a Catholic England.

There were close calls. Many homes had hiding places for priests—some even had secret chapels and confessionals—and the Jesuits had to rely on these more than once. Campion took extraordinary risks, never able to turn down a request to preach or administer the sacraments, and more than once he escaped detection while in a public setting.

His fortune changed while visiting the home of Francis Yate in Lyford Grange, which was west of London. Yate was a Catholic imprisoned for his faith who had repeatedly asked for one of the Jesuit fathers to tend to the spiritual needs of his household. Though it was out of the way and the queen's searchers were reportedly in hot pursuit, Campion was unable to resist the request.

He traveled to Lyford, heard confessions, preached well into the night, and departed without difficulty after celebrating Mass at dawn. Some nuns visiting the home shortly thereafter were upset to hear they had just missed Campion, and so riders were dispatched to persuade him to return, which he did. Word of his return reached George Eliot, born and regarded as Catholic but in fact a turncoat in the pay of the queen; he had a general commission to hunt down and arrest priests. Eliot arrived at Lyford with David Jenkins, another searcher, and attended a Mass. He was greatly outnumbered by the Catholics, and, fearing resistance, made no move to arrest Campion. He departed abruptly to fetch the local magistrate and a small militia and returned to the Yate property during dinner. News of the approaching party reached the house, and Campion and his two priestly companions were safely escaped to a narrow cell prepared especially for that purpose, with food and drink for three days.

Later Eliot and Jenkins both claimed to have discovered the priests, offering the same story: A strip of light breaking through a gap in the wall leading to the hiding place was the giveaway—both men took credit for noticing it, and each reported being the one to break through the wall. No doubt each sought the credit for capturing the infamous Campion, for no priest was more beloved by the Catholics or more despised by the crown.
Campion was taken to the Tower and tortured. Several times he was forced to engage in debates, without benefit of notes or references and still weak and disoriented from his rackings and beatings. He acquitted himself admirably, all things considered: a testament to his unparalled rhetorical skills.

His trial was a farce. Witnesses were bribed, false evidence produced; in truth, the outcome had been determined since his arrival. Campion was eloquent and persuasive to the last, dominating the entire procedure with the force of his logic and his knowledge of the Scripture and law, but in vain. He and his priestly and lay companions were convicted of treason on November 14 and were sentenced to death. His address to the court upon sentencing invoked the Catholic England for which he had fought, the Catholic England which was about to die: "In condemning us, you condemn all your own ancestors—all the ancient priests, bishops and kings—all that was once the glory of England."

On December 1, 1581 the prophecy hanging over his door in Prague was fulfilled: Campion was hanged, drawn, and quartered. The poet Henry Walpole was there, and during the quartering some blood from Campion's entrails splashed on his coat. Walpole was profoundly changed. He went overseas, took orders, and 13 years later met his own martyrdom on English soil. Campion was beatified by Leo XIII in 1886.

The first reading chosen for the feast is from the fourth servant song in the Book of Isaiah and is apt for the feast. Like the servant before him and his Lord Jesus Edmund Campion chose to be true to his convictions even in the face of the most frightening consequences. Like in the case of the servant and the Lord himself, it is not possible to comprehend fully the extent of Campion’s courage and determination. Yet, even this conclusion which at first glance seemed like defeat for Campion but was indeed victory fitted in with God’s plan for the world. In the eyes of those around him at that time, Campion was despised and humiliated. He was tortured and beaten. He was bruised and degraded. However, the fact that he is remembered today more than 400 years after his death is testimony to the fact that he was indeed victorious. This victory was spoken of by Jesus in his priestly prayer which is the Gospel text for today and in which besides asking his Father to protect his disciples from the evil one, he is also aware that they will have trouble in the world and be hated by many because they will stand like him for the truth. This Campion did to perfection.



Audio reflections of Thursday, December 1, 2016

To hear the Audio reflections of Thursday, December 1, 2016 click HERE

Thursday, December 1, 2016 - Is the home of your life built on rock or sand? How will you show that it has been built on rock today? Is the home of your life able to withstand the storms that threaten it from without? If No, what will you do about it today?

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa26: 1-6; Mt 7:21, 24-27

The three chapters beginning from 5:1 and ending at 7:29 contain one of the most famous discourses of Matthew, known as “The Sermon on the Mount”.  This is the first of the five great discourses in the Gospel of Matthew.  Each of the five ends with the phrase, “and when Jesus had finished…” (7:28; 11:1; 13:53; 19:1; 26:1). The Sermon on the Mount begins by showing Jesus as a Rabbi, teaching ex-cathedra (5:1) and ends by showing Jesus as the Messianic prophet, addressing the crowds (7:28). The Sermon is a composition of Matthew. An analysis of similar texts in the Gospels of Mark and Luke indicate that many verses found here in Matthew are also found in Mark and Luke in different contexts. This does not mean that Jesus did not say these words. It means that Matthew has put them together in this manner. Most are agreed that the theme of the Sermon is found in 5:17-20, in which Jesus speaks about having come, not to abolish but to fulfil the Law and Prophets.  He issues a challenge to those listening to let their “righteousness” be greater than that of the scribes and Pharisees in order to enter the kingdom.  This they will do if they internalize the law rather than if they simply follow it as a set of rules and regulations.

The text of today is from the conclusion of the Sermon. It begins with Jesus stating emphatically that mere words on the part of people, even if one addresses him with lofty titles and fervent pleas, will not gain one entry into the kingdom.   Entry into the kingdom is determined by “doing” the Father’s will. Right action is more important than right words.

What it means to do the Father’s will is brought out clearly in the parable of the two builders. The point here, besides action, is one of foresight. The builder who builds his house on sand is doing, at first glance, as well as the one who builds his house on rock. It is only when the rain falls, the storm comes, and the wind blows, that the difference is seen. The house built on rock continues to stand, whereas the one built on sand falls. The wise person represents those who put Jesus' words into practice; they too are building to withstand anything. Those who pretend to have faith, which is a mere intellectual commitment, or who enjoy Jesus in small doses as and when it suits them, are foolish builders. When the storms of life come, their structures fool no one; above all, they do not fool God.

The sermon speaks of grace, but the grace of God is known only in that community committed to doing God’s will, as revealed in Jesus. There can be no calculating “cheap grace.”  One must take the Sermon on the Mount seriously as the revealed will of God to be lived. The subject matter of the sermon is not the person of Christ, but the kind of life Christ’s disciples are called to live. One cannot avoid Christology and appeal only to the teaching or great principles of Jesus, for these are inseparable from the claims of his person. But, for Matthew, the converse is also true: “Correct” Christological understanding can never be a substitute for the ethical living to which Jesus calls his disciples. Christology and ethics, like Christology and discipleship, are inseparable for Matthew.


While some regard the Sermon as an ideal to be read and not lived, others see it as being capable of being lived out by only a select few. These kinds of interpretations miss the point. Since the Sermon is addressed to both the disciples and the crowd, there is no doubt that it is meant for all. It is a challenge to be lived out by anyone who professes to be a disciple of Jesus.