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Monday, 31 December 2012

Names and Places in Matthew


Who said to whom?


Who said to whom?

“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold”.

Click on Luke for the answer

HAVE A FAITH FILLED AND BLESSED NEW YEAR 2013


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Num 6:22-27, Gal 4:4-7, Lk 2:16-21


The first day of the New Year brings with it many thoughts, feelings and emotions. The fact that it is January and named after the Roman god Janus with two faces already indicates that it brings with it a looking back and a looking ahead.  Thus it is a day for retrospection and introspection and also a day for planning and goal setting. The retrospection must be with a view to help the planning and goal setting and not an exercise in condemnation of oneself or feeling regret.

It is fitting then that the first reading of today should speak of a blessing. The blessing is what is commonly called a Priestly blessing and pronounced on all the people of Israel. There are three pairs of verbs used in the blessing resulting in a threefold blessing. The first emphasizes concrete gifts—blessing and protection. The second stresses the hope that God will be well disposed toward the person and thus temper judgment with mercy and grace. The third asserts that God will pay attention and heed to his people thus providing fullness of life. The central message of the blessing is Peace, which must be translated as wholeness or completeness. The peace of God embraces every aspect of an individual’s life.

The idea of blessing is taken up in the Second reading of today. Paul in writing to the Galatians speaks of the blessing that God conferred not just on Israel but on the whole world when he sent his Son. The sending of the Son was for one reason alone, namely to reconcile the world to himself and through that to make each of us sons and daughters of God. The Son that God sent in to the world was not an angel but born of a woman, Mary who dared to say that unconditional yes to God’s invitation to be the mother of his Son.

This son whom God sent is human in every single aspect of the word and is therefore circumcised and given a name. The name that the child bears signifies his function. He is named Jesus because he will save his people from their sins. This child will be king, but a new kind of king. He will inaugurate a new world order, a world not like that of earthly kings but under the direction of God’s design for the redemption of all peoples. In this world, God’s Word is heard by all who remain open to that Word. In this world, there is hope for the oppressed, and those who heard what God is doing are filled with joy. God has not forgotten us or abandoned us to the brokenness we have created. God continues to be concerned and to make new and whole. The New Year thus, is for us as Christians, an announcement of hope. It is a call to continue to believe that God continues to be in control of all the events that will take place and that we only have to do what is required of us and leave the rest to God.

Thus the triple celebration of Mary Mother of God, the giving of the name of Jesus and New Year’s Day all close in on one theme: Hope. The past is over and forgotten; it is forgiven and absolved; it is pardoned and made new. The challenge is for us to respond like Mary did to what God is doing in us and in our world. If we like Mary are open and receptive to the working of God in our lives, if we like her are willing to let God do in us, if we like her are willing to say that unconditional and categorical Yes, then the savior Jesus will continue to be made present all through the year.

The priestly blessing of peace pronounced on the people in the first reading of today becomes then a blessing pronounced on each of us as we begin the New Year. We must keep in mind throughout the year that like the Galatians we are no longer slaves but sons and daughters of God. This means living in a fearless and bold manner. It means being able to face all the vicissitudes and challenges of life with equanimity and confident in the knowledge that we are loved unconditionally by God and that God will be with us every step of the way in the New Year.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

Who said to whom?


Who said to whom?

“Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor; and if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold”.

Hint: Read the Gospels of Matthew and Luke from Chapters 15 to 19 for the answer.

What one action will you do to make the incarnate word present today?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Jn 1:1-18


The prologue of the Gospel of John is an extremely rich text. Unlike Matthew and Luke who begin their Gospels with stories of the birth of Jesus, the Gospel of John begins with the pre-existent WORD and the relationship of the word to the world. It is Word which is God and also an incarnate word, a word made flesh. Thus the Prologue is concerned with the sphere of God, the eternal sphere and the sphere of human beings the temporal.

Thus the prologue makes two main points.
The first of these is that the abstract, the incomprehensible, the indecipherable, the unknowable, and the absolute mystery which is the Word and God, have become concrete, comprehensible, decipherable, and knowable and a mystery revealed because of the Word becoming flesh. However, this mystery is not as easy to understand as it may seem. Many take offense at this. They want something more spectacular; some divine figure, some hero or god-man, some fascinating, mysterious being, able to impress everyone with the feats of might and glory. But what they saw was only a man; a man of compassion, a man who claimed to speak the truth. And they saw no glory here. But this is how God decided to come. He wanted to be one of us in all our limitations. Thus no longer can we say that our God could not understand what it is like to struggle against the opposition, to have to flee to another country, to be betrayed by a friend, to grieve the loss of a loved one, to fear suffering and death, to experience a seeming absence of his father. No, our God has truly walked our walk; God's Word of Love has truly taken flesh. Through this act of the Incarnation, God and the Word have become Father and Son. God, the Father is revealed in the Son, Jesus. Through this act, heaven has come down to earth and earth and heaven are reconciled as never before. The incarnation means that human beings can see, hear, and know God in ways never before possible. The relationship between divine and human is transformed, because in the incarnation human beings are given intimate, palpable, corporeal access to the cosmic reality of God. The newness wrought by God in Jesus is so dramatic that a conventional narrative of origins is good, but insufficient. That is because the story of Jesus is not ultimately a story about Jesus; it is, in fact, the story of God. When one sees Jesus, one sees God; when one hears Jesus, one hears God.

The second point that the prologue makes is the response of humanity to the incarnate Word. Since the Word is not a Word that is thrust on creation, but given freely and in total generosity, human beings must respond to the Word in freedom. This response is either of acceptance or rejection. One cannot ignore the potent power of the Word.

The rejection of the Word by Jesus’ own people while being a historical fact is a rejection that continues even today. Darkness continues to try to overcome the light. This becomes evident when we look at our world which is a world in which corruption, selfishness, injustice, intolerance, and communal disharmony, racial and caste discriminations continue to raise their ugly heads. It is seen when people still concern themselves with only the desire to have more rather than be more. It is seen when the concern to accumulate for oneself even to the detriment of not giving others their just due overpowers us.

Yet, despite this rejection of the Word, there is a note of hope and promise because there continue to be people who will choose light over darkness and selflessness over selfishness. There will continue to be people who fight for justice and will never give up this cause. There will continue to be people who will generously give not only of their wealth but also of themselves in imitation of the one who became human and gave all. Those who opt for the light can continue to do so because their openness to the Incarnate Word and all that he stands for makes them receive grace upon grace from him. This abundance of grace continues to sustain through the most trying times and gives them the courage never to give up or give in, but to continue and carry on. God became what we are, so that we could understand better what God is, and we could believe with all our hearts that God understands what we are.

Those who dare to accept the light and walk in its ways begin to realize that God himself walks with them and ahead of them. They know that God does not stay distant from them, remote and isolated; rather, in Jesus, God chose to live with humanity in the midst of human weakness, confusion, and pain. This bond holds true for all times and all places. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. It is to love, to grieve, and someday to die. The incarnation binds Jesus to the “everydayness” of human experience. The Word lived among us, not simply in the world. The Word became flesh and the Word’s name is Jesus Christ. This Jesus continues to be born in our midst even today. When selflessness triumphs over selfishness; when generosity triumphs over greed; when light overcomes darkness, then Jesus is born again and again.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The Feast of the Holy Family - Christ in/is the centre of the Christian Family


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 3,2-6.12-14; Col 3,12-21; Lk 2:41-52

The book of Ecclesiasticus or Sirach is one of the seven books of the Old Testament considered as Apocryphal by Protestants, but declared as divinely inspired by the Council of Trent in 1546. In the text chosen for the feast of today, the author speaks about family relationships, but addresses specifically children whom he urges to respect and honour their parents. This kindness besides being remembered will also serve as reparation for sin.

In the text from Colossians, the author gives his readers the motivation for living other centred lives: They are “God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved”. Since the Lord has forgiven them, they also must forgive. Above all else, they must clothe themselves with love.


The reading from the Gospel of Luke tells us how, Mary and Joseph also obeyed God and did all that was required of them by the law. As the parents of Jesus, they were not exempted from their spiritual obligations to the Jewish law. They also had to present Jesus at the Temple to the Lord, offering the necessary sacrifice that was required by law. This they did to show their fidelity and obedience to God’s law.

The pressures of secularism and modern life have again reduced the significance of family life in the lives of most people. Busy schedules, increased alienation from each other, and the inability on the part of some to keep up with the fast pace of life, means that families spend much less time together.. Prayer before meals is a thing of the past since families very rarely have a meal together. For many, family life is restricted to socially required ceremonies at births, weddings, and funerals. The result has been that God has receded from the awareness and experience of everyday family life. Many assume that God is found only in certain places, in sacred buildings, in holy books, or in observances led by holy persons. Their lives, on the other hand, move in a secular realm devoid of the presence of the holy. Daily experiences of the fullness of life are reduced and impoverished. They have no meaning beyond themselves, no opening to transcendence. Little room for mystery remains in the everyday as it becomes increasingly subject to secularism and technology.

Reflection on the readings and the feast of today challenge us to look at ourselves and our family life anew. We are called to rediscover the simple joys of being together, of everyday experience through shared meals and simply spending time with each other. We need to learn that, even as individuals, we are not islands, but relational beings. We have come into this world because of family and it is through family that we can continue to sustain ourselves in the world.

Thus the feast of the Holy Family is not so much about the Family of Nazareth not even about our own families but about the foundation on which our lives and the lives of our families are built. If our families like the one at Nazareth are built on the foundation that is Jesus Christ, then everything else will fall into place. To build on Christ means first of all to regard him as the centre of life itself. It means to realize that he too has gone through all the difficulties and turmoil that we go through in our lives and so can understand and identify with us. It means that like him we must continue to believe that no matter what happens in our lives and no matter how heavy the cross we may be called to bear, we have merely to do what is required of us and leave the rest to God. To build on Christ means to continue to trust that all that happens does so because it has been ordained by God and that he is always in control. It means to dare to believe that God will never do anything that he knows is not for our good even if we are not able to understand it fully at the time when it does happen.

Once we do this and let our lives be guided by Christ then it will be possible for children to respect their parents and not despise them even if they are lacking in understanding and have not been able to keep in touch with the changing times and for parents not to antagonize their children, or have unrealistic expectations from them, not to compare them with the neighbour’s children or even with each other in families in which there is more than one child and be as Khalil Gibran advises in his book The Prophet “the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth”.

Then it will possible for husbands and wives to love each other unconditionally and be true to the commitment they made on their marriage day, to be open to and flexible with each other and make changes that may be required because of love.

Then it will possible for every member of the family to be kind and humble, to be gentle and patient. Each will then be able to forgive because of the example of forgiveness that Christ gives and because of his/her own experience of forgiveness manifested in his unconditional love and mercy.

Friday, 28 December 2012

MATTHEW'S INFANCY NARRATIVE


Across
4. THE PLACE WHERE THE WAILING OF RACHEL WAS HEARD
7. THE FIRST FULFILMENT QUOTATION IS FROM THIS PROPHET
8. THIS SON OF HEROD THE GREAT SUCCEEDED HIM ACCORDING TO MATTHEW
10. THE GREEK WORD FOR THE ONES WHO CAME TO SEE JESUS FROM THE EAST
11. BESIDES THE CHIEF PRIESTS, THIS WAS THE GROUP HEROD CONSULTED TO DETERMINE THE DATE OF BIRTH OF THE CHILD.
Down
1. BESIDES GOLD THIS TOO WAS OFFERED TO THE CHILD BY THE WISE MEN
2. THE ONLY PLACE MENTIONED IN THE FIRST SEVENTEEN VERSES OF MATTHEW'S GOSPEL
3. THE PLACE TO WHICH HEROD SENT THE WISE MEN TO SEARCH FOR THE CHILD
5. HE IS REFERRED TO AS KING IN CHAPTER TWO
6. THE SECOND FULFILMENT QUOTATION IS FROM THIS PROPHET
9. THE SON OF ABIUD IN MATTHEW'S GENEALOGY




Matthew's Fulfilment Quotation


Matthew quotes an Old testament Prophet who predicted the virgin birth. The verses in Matthew's Gospel in which this is done are quoted below.
All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Mt 1:22-23)
Can you name the Old Testament prophet whom Matthew refers to and the Chapter and verse where that prophet writes this?


The Prophet is Isaiah and the text is Isa 7:14

How will you show that the presence of Jesus has changed your life for the better? What three actions will you perform to show that the coming of Jesus has made a difference to your life?

If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 2:3-11; Lk 2:22-35

The text of today consists of the presentation of Jesus in the Temple, the purification of Mary and the Song of Simeon.
According to Jewish law a woman became ceremonially unclean on the birth of a child. During this time, she was not permitted to enter the Temple or touch any holy object. On the eighth day the child was circumcised, after which the mother was unclean an additional thirty-three days—sixty-six if the child was female. At the conclusion of this period, the mother offered a sacrifice, either a lamb or, if she was poor, two doves or two young pigeons. That Luke does not mention a lamb but refers to two turtledoves or pigeons may indicate that Jesus was born to the poor of Israel.  In addition, the first son was to be presented to the Lord as a reminder of the Exodus, and then, bought back with an offering. Luke does not mention that Jesus was redeemed either because he was not aware of this requirement or because he wanted to convey that Jesus was constantly devoted or dedicated to the Lord. In this part Luke emphasizes that the law of the Lord was fulfilled in all respects at the birth of Jesus.
Simeon is introduced immediately after the presentation of Jesus and the purification of Mary. He too like Zechariah and Elizabeth is described as “righteous”. He is also “devout”. He looked forward to the restoration of the people and the fulfillment of God’s redemptive work. The Spirit, who had revealed to him that he would not see death until he saw the anointed one of God, is the same Spirit who rests on him and gives him utterance to speak.
His hymn of praise of God is known as the “Nunc Dimittis” (“Now Dismiss”). It is only loosely related to the occasion of the birth of Jesus. It declares the praise of God for faithfulness and the redemption of the people. Though some interpret “now you are dismissing your servant in peace” to mean that Simeon was now prepared to die, it can also mean that he recognizes that he is being released from his mission to watch for the coming of the Messiah because he has now seen the coming of the one who will bring salvation.  His blessing relates the birth of Jesus to the fulfillment of the promise of salvation and looks ahead to the inclusion of all peoples in the experience of the blessings of God. Even as the parents of Jesus wonder at what is being said by Simeon, he blesses them and then addresses Mary, the mother of Jesus. He speaks about the coming rejection of Jesus. Not everyone will want to see the light, not everyone will want top receive the salvation by God for all peoples. Not everyone will recognize God coming in Jesus. Jesus will be rejected and treated as someone to be opposed. Even his mother will have to share in his sufferings.

Jesus came not to make us comfortable but to wake us up from our sleep and this is what Simeon had prophesied. He came to challenge our way of looking at the world. This challenge is not easy to accept because it means that many of our preconceived ideas and notions will have to be given up and we will have to start anew. It is easier and more comfortable to live the selfish and self-centered lives that we are used to rather than be concerned about others. It is easier to be caught up in our own small worlds, rather than get out of our wells and see that life is much more than simply having more.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

THE INFANCY NARRATIVE OF LUKE

Unscramble each of the clue words.
Copy the letters in the numbered cells to other cells with the same number.

Matthew's Fulfilment Quotation


Matthew quotes an Old testament Prophet who predicted the virgin birth. The verses in Matthew's Gospel in which this is done are quoted below. 

All this took place to fulfil what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
 “Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel,” which means, “God is with us.” (Mt 1:22-23)


Can you name the Old Testament prophet whom Matthew refers to and the Chapter and verse where that prophet writes this?


Women in the Bible


What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Mary have in common?

  1. They were Jewesses
  2. They are all mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus
  3. They were at the cross when Jesus died

The Feast of the Holy Innocents - Will you perform at least one unselfish act today?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 1:5 - 2:2; Mt 2:13-18

Matthew’s Gospel is the only one of the four which has the story of the killing of innocent children by Herod. A king is born, but a king is already here; and there is room for only one king. The birth of Jesus, the messianic king, precipitates a conflict with the kingship already present in this world.
It is not merely with the historical Herod with whom Matthew is concerned, however, but with Herod as a character in the story, who serves as a foil for the kingdom of God. When this Herod hears of the birth of the new king, he is “troubled”. Matthew is not describing Herod’s psychology but the clash of two claims to kingship that occurs in the advent of Jesus. Herod represents the resistance of this world to the divine kingship represented by Jesus. When “all Jerusalem” is troubled with him, this is not mere sympathy with or fear of Herod. Matthew is again looking ahead to the passion story and implicating Judaism’s capital city as a whole, not only its king, in the rejection of Jesus’ messianic claim. 

When Herod asks the magi the chronological question “When?” to determine the time of Jesus’ birth, he acts hypocritically, claiming that he too wants to worship, but with murder in his heart.

Herod’s slaughter of the innocents is in character with the historical Herod the Great, who was ruthless in maintaining his grasp on power. There is no record of such an act among the detailed records of Herod’s numerous atrocities, nor is it reflected elsewhere in or out of the New Testament. The story seems to be part of Matthew’s Moses typology, with Herod cast in the role of Pharaoh.
Matthew does not sentimentalize the tragedy of the innocent victims or speculate on how the other mothers and fathers of Bethlehem might have interpreted the divine decision to warn one family. His attention is fixed on this event as a fulfillment of Scripture. Matthew does alter his usual formula in such citations of Scripture from his usual “in order that”, and thus avoids saying that the murders happened for the purpose of fulfilling Scripture.

Matthew’s third formula quotation in 2:18-19 is from Jer 31:15. In the New Testament only Matthew explicitly mentions Jeremiah. Jeremiah 31:15 pictures Rachel, matriarch of the tribes of Benjamin and Ephraim (but not of Judah) weeping at Ramah for her “children,” the Israelites, as they are led away captive to Babylon in Jeremiah’s time. Ramah (in the area of Benjamin, five miles north of Jerusalem) was chosen by Jeremiah because one tradition locates Rachel’s tomb there, at the site where Nebuchadnezzar’s troops assembled captives for deportation (Jer 40:1). Another tradition locates Rachel’s tomb at Bethlehem. Matthew combines these traditions to achieve the desired effect. The Jeremiah passage is in a context of hope; it is not clear whether Matthew interprets contextually or whether lamentation is the only note to be heard in this text. In any case, the child Jesus recapitulates the experience of Israel.

Like in Matthew’s day so in ours the war between the two kingdoms continues. Those who regard power as absolute will continue to massacre the innocent. They will continue to destroy others for selfish means. Our response has to be one of courage and hope. Though some will have to suffer because of the selfishness and egoism of a few, there are many more who live unselfish lives for the benefit of others. If each of us were to perform one unselfish act every day, the world becomes a better place for all.

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Women inthe Bible


What do Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Mary have in common?

  1. They were Jewesses
  2. They are all mentioned in the genealogy of Jesus
  3. They were at the cross when Jesus died 

St. John the Evangelist - Will you believe even when you do not see?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20:2-8

Saint John the Evangelist whose feast we celebrate today is in the Gospels the brother of James. The brothers were sons of Zebedee and were fishermen. John along with his brother James and Peter were the trio who accompanied Jesus when he raised Jairus' daughter and also on the mountain at the Transfiguration and in Gethsemane.

The Beloved disciple who is a character only in the Gospel of John has often been associated with the disciple and evangelist John. The Gospel text chosen for the feast is from the Gospel of John and in which the beloved disciple figures. The text speaks about the intuition and faith of the Beloved disciple. On being told by Mary Magdalene that the Tomb in which Jesus lay was empty, he along with Peter ran to the tomb. The beloved disciple saw and believed. He needed no proof. The empty tomb and the words of Jesus before his death were proof enough for him.

What the beloved disciple believed, is the evidence of the empty tomb: not merely that the tomb was empty, but that its emptiness bore witness that Jesus has conquered death and restored life. 

Faith is the ability to see even what is not in the firm hope that it is present even when unseen. This, the beloved disciple had. Do you?

Christmas Quiz


CHRISTMAS QUIZ – REFER TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Mt 1:18-2:23) FOR THE ANSWERS

      I.            Where did the wise men find Jesus?
(a) In the manger (b) In the stable (c) In a house (d) In Nazareth (e) In Egypt (f) The text does not say
   II.            Who saw the “Star in the East”?
(a) The Shepherds (b) Mary and Joseph (c) The Wise men (d) Herod (e) The text does not say
III.            Name the Angel who told Joseph to take Mary and the child and go to Egypt.
(a) Gabriel (b) Raphael (e) Michael (d) the text does not say
IV.            How many wise men came to see Jesus?
(a) Three (d) Five (d) Seven (d) Twelve (e) the text does not say

CHRISTMAS QUIZ – REFER TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE (Lk 2:1-20) FOR THE ANSWERS
      I.            What sign did the angel tell the shepherds to look for?
(a) A babe in a stable (b) a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger (c) Wise men with the babe (d) A baby that would not cry
   II.            Which animals were present at Jesus’ birthplace?
(a) Cows and sheep (b) Sheep, goats and donkeys (c) Camels and goats (d) the text does not say

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

St. Stephen - Stephen dared to die for his Lord. Will you dare to live for him?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59; Mt 10:17-22

St Stephen is regarded as the first Christian martyr. He was one of the seven deacons appointed by the Apostles when there was dissatisfaction about the distribution of alms. In the first reading of today, the Acts of the Apostles tells the story of how Stephen was tried by the Sanhedrin for blasphemy against Moses and God and also of speaking against the Temple and the Law. He was tried, found guilty and stoned to death.
The Gospel text for the feast of today is part of the Mission Discourse of Matthew. The sayings found in Matthew’s Mission Discourse here are found in the Eschatological Discourse of Mark (Mk 13:9-13). This is an indication that for Matthew, Mission is already eschatological and this is proved through the life and death of Stephen. The punishment, which is referred to here, is not random, but official punishment from members of organised authority. Even in this difficult situation the disciples are offered encouragement. They will depend not on their own strength, but on the Holy Spirit. They are to be missionaries even in the courtroom. Their imprisonment and trial must be regarded as an opportunity to make mission known. Mission takes priority even over family ties and if family ties have to be broken because of mission then so be it. The affirmation of the coming of the Son of Man is probably meant to provide succour to the missionaries in their distress.
Stephen had not read the Mission Discourse and yet had been influenced by the life, Mission and Death of his Master Jesus Christ. He was also confident of the resurrection and of victory even in the face of defeat and death. He knew that if he continued to stand for the truth, he would indeed be victorious.
It is important to note that Stephen did not go around looking for trouble nor did he desire martyrdom for the sake of dying for Jesus. However, he was unafraid to stand for the truth even if it meant giving up his life.
The Jesus who challenged Stephen is the same Jesus who challenges us today. He is not calling us here to be sadists and look for suffering, persecution and pain. Rather he is challenging us to go about doing what we have to do, to be as prudent as possible about it and if despite that persecution, suffering and pain come, to be prepared and ready for it and not to be afraid.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Christmas Quiz


CHRISTMAS QUIZ – REFER TO THE GOSPEL OF MATTHEW (Mt 1:18-2:23) FOR THE ANSWERS

      I.            Where did the wise men find Jesus?
(a) In the manger  (b) In the stable  (c) In a house  (d) In Nazareth  (e) In Egypt  (f) The text does not say

   II.            Who saw the “Star in the East”?
(a) The Shepherds (b) Mary and Joseph (c) The Wise men (d) Herod (e) The text does not say
III.            Name the Angel who told Joseph to take Mary and the child and go to Egypt.
(a) Gabriel (b) Raphael (e) Michael (d) the text does not say
IV.            How many wise men came to see Jesus?
(a) Three (d) Five (d) Seven (d) Twelve (e) the text does not say

CHRISTMAS QUIZ – REFER TO THE GOSPEL OF LUKE (Lk 2:1-20) FOR THE ANSWERS
      I.            What sign did the angel tell the shepherds to look for?
(a) A babe in a stable (b) a child wrapped in bands of cloth and lying in a manger (c) Wise men with the babe (d) A baby that would not cry
   II.            Which animals were present at Jesus’ birthplace?
(a) Cows and sheep (b) Sheep, goats and donkeys (c) Camels and goats (d) the text does not say

Christmas is about who we really are


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts:  Isaiah 52:7-10; Heb 1:1-6; Jn 1:1-18

The birth of every child brings the message that God wants the world to continue, that he is not yet fed up with the ingratitude and sinfulness of the human race. In most cultures in the world, the birth of a child is a cause for great rejoicing and celebration. How much more profound and joyful must this celebration be if the child, born in our midst, is the Son of God?

Christmas is the birth, not merely of a child, but the birth of the child who would change the destiny of humans forever. It is the celebration of the unconditional love of a gracious and generous God who holds nothing back but gives of his very self. It is the celebration of the fact that God wanted so much to be part of the human race that he took on flesh and blood, and thus, became limited so that he could reveal to us our own limitlessness.

This is what the second reading from the letter to the Hebrews speaks about. Though God had been constantly conversing with humanity from the beginning of creation, through prophets and kings, through blessings and punishments, these did not seem to have had the desired effect. Humanity, as a whole, moved further and further away from God. Thus, in the fullness of time, God decided that the way to draw people back to himself would be if he became one like them, in every aspect of their being. This was so that he could feel with our feelings, think with our thoughts and, in doing so, show us who we are meant to be.

The prologue of John, which is the Gospel text for today, echoes this idea when, at the centre, it speaks about the “logos” (the word) becoming “sarx” (flesh) and dwelling among us. This means that the abstract, the indecipherable, the incomprehensible, and the inconceivable, through one decisive act, become concrete, decipherable, comprehensible, and conceivable. The impossible has become possible.

The possibilities that the birth of Jesus have opened up are innumerable. No longer is humanity a disadvantage or a limitation. No longer is humanity something to be looked down upon or to be ashamed of. No longer is humanity weakness. After the birth of Jesus, humanity takes on a new look and a new meaning. Now, there are no limits. Now, humanity need not be confined.  Now, there are no restrictions on how far we can go.  Jesus has shown the way.

However, even as this is true, there is another, and sad, side to the story. The prologue explains it by stating that “the darkness tried to overcome the light”, and “he came unto his own, but his own received him not”. Surprising, astounding, and startling as this may sound, it was true of the time when Jesus came.  It continues to be true even today. Darkness constantly tries to overcome light.

Why would darkness try to overcome the light? Why would his own not receive him? The answer to these questions can be found in the person of Jesus and all for which he stands. First, when he came, he did not come as many were expecting, in pomp, in splendour, and in glory. He did not come, as many would have wanted, mounted on a horse. He did not choose to be born in a palace, as kings usually are. He came in humility, in nothingness, and in total helplessness. He came in the form of a child. This kind of a God seemed, and still seems, an aberration to some and they cannot, they will not, accept him. Second, in a world where authority is interpreted as domination and where rulers expect to be served and not to serve, Jesus’ approach of interpreting authority as service, and his desire to serve and not be served, was regarded as an anomaly. Third, when all logic seems to point to the fact that it is better to have more and accumulate as much as one can for oneself rather than share with others, the life of Jesus, a life spent for the well being of others, was an abnormality. In other words, when Jesus came, he did not fit the pre-conceived and stereotyped notions that people had. He was different, and difference, because it may not be understood, is often rejected.

Yet, despite this rejection of the Word, there is a note of hope and promise.  There continue to be people who will choose light over darkness, who will choose selflessness over selfishness. There will continue to be people who will fight for justice and will never give up this cause. There will continue to be people who will generously give, not only of their wealth, but also, of themselves, in imitation of the one who became human and gave all. Those who opt for the light can continue to do so because their openness to the Incarnate Word and all that he stands for makes them open to receive grace upon grace from him. This abundance of grace continues to sustain them through the most trying times.  It gives them the courage never to give up or to give in, but to continue and carry on.

By taking on our humanity, Jesus has shown us that we can be divine. He has shown us how far we can go, even in our humanity. We can love more, we can dare more, we can believe more, and we can be more. Nothing is now outside the scope of our humanity which, after the birth of Jesus, is no longer a limitation but an advantage. The oracle of Isaiah, composed towards the end of the exile, and which announces the return of the exiles to Jerusalem, finds its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus. Captivity and limitation have come to an end. Now, only freedom and limitlessness are real.

Thus, Christmas is not merely the celebration of a historical birth that took place over two thousand years ago. It is about becoming conscious of who we really are as human beings. It is the celebration of life in all its fullness. It is the celebration of the transformation of limit to limitlessness, of selfishness to selflessness, of bondage to freedom, and of fear to unconditional love.

Those who dare to accept the light and walk in its ways begin to realize that God, himself, walks with them and ahead of them. They know that God does not stay distant from them, remote and isolated.  Rather, they know that, in Jesus, God chose to live with humanity in the midst of human weakness, confusion, and pain. This bond holds true for all times and all places. To become flesh is to know joy, pain, suffering, and loss. It is to love, to grieve, and someday, to die. The incarnation binds Jesus to the “everydayness” of human experience. The Word lived among us, not simply in the world. The Word became flesh and the Word’s name is Jesus Christ. This Jesus continues to be born in our midst, even today. When selflessness triumphs over selfishness, when generosity triumphs over greed, and when light overcomes darkness, then is Jesus born, again, and again, and every day is Christmas.

Doublets


A Doublet is a verse that is found twice in the same Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew contains 22 Doublets (see an example in Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9) and the Gospel of Luke has 10.

However, the Gospel of Mark has only one (Click on one for the texts) doublet. Can you find it by looking in Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of the Gospel of Mark?

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Doublets

A Doublet is a verse that is found twice in the same Gospel. The Gospel of Matthew contains 22  Doublets (see an example in Mt 5:32 and Mt 19:9) and the Gospel of Luke has 10. 
However, the Gospel of Mark has only one doublet. Can you find it by looking in Chapters 8, 9 and 10 of the Gospel of Mark?

Does fear still rule the larger majority of your actions? What will you do about it today?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12.14.16; Lk1:67-79

Zechariah’s song, which is traditionally called “The Benedictus” (Blessed), is the text which the Church reads on the day before Christmas. It may be seen to be divided into two parts. The first part praises God for his messianic deliverance and the second speaks of John the Baptist’s role in this deliverance.  The progression of thought in the Benedictus shows that the true end of God’s redemption is not merely deliverance from political domination, but the creation of conditions in which God’s people can worship and serve God without fear. When people are released from external domination, they can worship in peace. The people of God are a covenant people, saved and rescued by the hand of God.  God has thereby fulfilled the promises to Abraham and to David. Holiness and righteousness are to mark God’s people “all the days of our life”. The hymn comes to a climax as it describes the place of John in God’s redemptive work. John’s birth announced God’s new deliverance. John would be a prophet who would go before the Lord.  Four infinitives outline the progress of God’s redemptive work. The first two describe the role of John the Baptist. The last two allude to the inauguration of the kingdom, “when the day shall dawn upon us from on high”.

The mark of the redeemed is that they live out of the knowledge of God that has been given to them. Darkness is dispelled by the revelation of God’s being and God’s grace toward us. Finally, through John’s call for justice and righteousness, and far more through Jesus’ unique ministry, God would “guide our feet into the way of peace”
                    
The Benedictus links the promise of salvation and redemption inseparably to the achievement of peace. God’s people cannot have redemption without peace, for each is necessary for the realization of the other. It affirms that God’s purposes are being fulfilled in the delivering of his people from the hands of their oppressors. Their feet are being guided in the way of peace so that they may worship without fear.

Who said to whom and where

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Who said to whom and where?


Who said to whom and where:
“I have no silver and gold, but I give you what I have; in the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” (Hint - Read the first three Chapters of the Acts of the Apostles)

The Fourth Sunday in Advent - Believe that you have received it and it will be yours.


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Mic 5:1-4; Heb 10:5-10 Lk 1:39-44

The visitation of Elizabeth by Mary is often interpreted as Mary’s concern for Elizabeth. Mary had heard from the angel that Elizabeth was in her sixth month and so rushes to her aid. This is true but only at the very superficial level. If this were the only point, then it would seem strange that Mary who rushed to Elizabeth’s aid would leave three months after arriving there i.e. soon after Elizabeth’s delivery of John; a time when she would really need all the help that she could get. Thus Luke makes a much deeper point when he narrates the incident of the visitation. It is that Mary was so full of the “good news” that she could not contain it within herself but had to share it. It was “good news” not only for her but for the whole world. It was news that could not be kept locked up within herself, but had to be proclaimed to everyone.

This good news is what Micah speaks about in the first reading of today. The ruler of Israel is struck upon the cheek with a rod, things seems totally out of control and there is a feeling of being closed in all sides and defeat is staring us in the face. Yet… there shall come forth one who is to rule and take control over the most distressing situation. This movement from suffering to hope reminds us that God is at work to see that our individual life pilgrimage will move in the same direction. Although hope seems beyond present thought or feeling, Micah’s words repeat again and again the liberating intention of God not to let people remain trapped in their experience of exile. It is important to note that these hopeful words from Micah do not belittle the reality of suffering. Nor do they promise a quick fix, a way to bypass the pain yet to be endured before the dawn of better days. Pain is taken seriously and is part of the human condition. However, the point is that even in the midst of pain there is hope. God is working to make all things well. The mention of both Bethlehem and Ephrathah makes a double connection with David, including both geographic location and family identification. The small size of Bethlehem which is one of the little clans of Judah is of no consequence to God. When God is about to do something great, human estimates of status, size, power, and influence are completely irrelevant. In fact, God often deliberately chooses someone whom we would probably dismiss as the most unlikely candidate for carrying out God’s mission.

This is evident in the choice of Mary chosen by God to bring Jesus into the world. She was from Nazareth an obscure village from which the Messiah was not expected. She was a simple village girl. Yet, it was she who was chosen unknown as she may have been to be part of the earth shattering event that would change the course of history forever.  In other words, the Incarnation occurred within a very real world, a limited world, a broken world, a world that was very much in need of healing.

The verbs used to describe Mary’s visit to Elizabeth all convey haste or urgency. The urgency is because of the wonder of what God has done. Mary is so full of it that she cannot keep it to herself and must share such wonderful news. Elizabeth responds to Mary’s visit with four oracles. The first declares the blessedness of Mary. Elizabeth recognises that Mary is blessed by God because of her openness and generosity. The second oracle discloses the identity of the child in Mary’s womb. The child is indeed the Lord. The third explains the leap that the child in Elizabeth’s womb gives. It is a leap of joy. Even in the womb of his mother John the Baptist begins his role as the precursor or pointer to Jesus. The fourth and final oracle speaks of unconditional faith and trust. It speaks of the courage to believe even when things are in the future. It speaks of total confidence in the God’s word, knowing full well that even if all evidence seems to point to the contrary, God will fulfil what is promised. It speaks of knowing the future and what it will bring not because one can foretell it, but because one knows that God it is who holds the future. This is the confidence of Mary. It is the confidence with which she dared not merely to say Yes to God but to add that it be done to her according to God’s will. This was because she knew that what God could do in her would be infinitely greater that what she could ever do, even with God’s help. This attitude of Mary resulted in her womb becoming that locale in which the greatest of all events would take place. Her womb became the locale in which all expectations would be exceeded. Her womb became that place in which not merely would a ruler be born, but in which the king of all kings would take residence. Her womb became God’s first home on earth.

The letter to the Hebrews confirms Mary’s disposition and attitude when it speaks about the disposition and attitude of Jesus. His focus was to do God’s will and to let it be done to him. Like Mary, Jesus too knew that what God could accomplish in him would be infinitely greater than anything else.

As we stand at the threshold of Christmas, we are invited to adopt the attitude of Mary. It is true that even today things are not as they ought to be. It is true that injustice, prejudice, disharmony, intolerance and fanaticism still raise their ugly heads. It is true that the poor are poorer today than they were some years ago and the rich have only gotten richer and often at the expense of the poor. However, it is also true that our God choose to come 2000 years ago and chooses to come even today into such a corrupt and broken world. Like Mary we are challenged to believe that if we let it be done to us, Christ will be born in our minds and hearts and the vision of Micah for a just world will be fulfilled because our God lives in our world.

The Beatitudes


The Beatitudes that Jesus uttered are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke?
(a) Which Gospel has more beatitudes?
Matthew has more beatitudes than Luke. Matthew has 8 + 1 Beatitudes (the reason for this way of speaking - {namely 8 + 1} – is because the first and the eighth beatitudes in Matthew end with the same predicate/result “theirs is the kingdom of heaven”. The ninth one in Matthew or the +1 is quite different from the first eight) and Luke has only 3 +1 beatitudes and 3 + 1 corresponding woes
(b)                        Which Gospel has woes corresponding to the beatitudes?

Friday, 21 December 2012

The Beatitudes

The Beatitudes that Jesus uttered are found in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke? 
(a) Which Gospel has more beatitudes?
(b) Which Gospel has woes corresponding to the beatitudes?

What image do you have of God? Does your image lead you to have confidence in God? How does this show in your life?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: 1 Sam 1:24-28; Lk 1:46-56

The verses which make up the Gospel text of today are commonly known as “The Magnificat” or Mary’s hymn of praise. It seems to have been modeled on the prayer of Samuel’s mother, Hannah, in 1 Sam 2:1-10 and contains many Old Testament concepts and phrases. It communicates a picture of Mary as someone quite steeped in scripture. It reveals God primarily as a God of the poor. God is the one who will vindicate the poor by removing the rich and mighty from their positions and raising the lowly.

The hymn may be seen to be divided into four parts. The first part consists of praise to God for what he has done in and for Mary; the second part speaks of God’s power, holiness and mercy; the third part shows God acting as a Sovereign in reversing social conditions in favor of the poor and downtrodden; and the fourth and final part recalls God’s mercy and promises to Israel.

The hymn speaks of the effects of the Lord’s coming for all of God’s people. It begins on a note of salvation as Mary acknowledges her dependence on God. It was the grace of God that sustained and brought her to the position in which she finds herself. She has not achieved anything on her own, it is all a gift of God and thus, Mary acknowledges her humble state, referring to herself as God’s servant. She is to be called “blessed’ because God, in his mercy and goodness, had raised her to this level.

God has shown this mercy and goodness to the poor by showing the strength of his arm, by scattering the proud, and deposing the powerful. The poor, on the other hand, have been raised, and the hungry have been filled. God remembers not only those of old but also the present generation. He is a God not only of the past, but also a God of the present, the now.

The stress on God as a God primarily of the poor stands out in Mary’s hymn of praise. In a world where the rich seem to be getting richer and the poor, poorer, one wonders whether the Magnificat is a hymn that can make sense to the poor, to those of low degree. Yet, it is important to remember that God’s ways are not our ways and so, the poor must, in confidence, sing this song as their song. The confidence with which Mary sings this song runs through the entire hymn. She uses past tense to denote God’s future actions, thus expressing that God will indeed accomplish his will, and the poor will be vindicated. What is important for the poor to realize is that they, like Mary, need to continue to open themselves to all that God wants to do in them. They need to continue to acknowledge their dependence on God by doing all that is required of them and then, leaving the rest in his capable and strong hands.

The Colours of Mass vestments


Name one occasion/season when vestments of the following colours are worn by the Priest celebrating the Eucharist:

White: during the Easter and Christmas seasons; on the feasts of Our  Lord, of our Lady and of all the Saints who are not martyrs. It is also used at times for Masses for the dead.

Red: On Palm Sunday, Good Friday, Pentecost and on the feast of Apostles, Evangelists and Martyrs.


Green:  during the ordinary weeks of the year.

Violet/Purple:  during the seasons of Advent and Lent; and usually for Masses for the Dead.

The Colour of the Mass Vestments

Name one occasion/season when vestments of the following colours are worn by the Priest celebrating the Eucharist:

White

Red

Green

Purple/Violet

Are you generally a happy person, or do you go about life as if the burden of the whole world is on your shoulders? Will you give up that burden today?


If you wish to read the texts click on the texts: Song of Solomon 2:8-14; Lk 1:39-45


The text of today, which concerns Mary’s visit to Elizabeth, is also the scriptural basis for the second Joyful mystery of the Rosary.

Since the angel does not ask Mary to visit Elizabeth, or even suggest it, the alacrity with which Mary goes to visit Elizabeth expresses clearly that Mary trusted the angel’s word. Mary’s greeting of Elizabeth results in a sign which is that the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leaps and Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. This could also indicate that the announcement of the angel to Zechariah that their child would be filled with the Holy Spirit is being fulfilled. Being filled with the Holy Spirit, Elizabeth is also able to utter an oracle which seems to have as its source, the Spirit of God. She recognizes Mary and the child in her womb as blessed. Not only has Elizabeth been blessed, because God answered her prayer for the gift of a child, she has also been blessed by a visit from the one who is called to be the mother of her Lord. The leap of the babe in Elizabeth’s womb was a leap of joy. John has already begun to fulfill his calling as one who would declare the Lord’s coming and prepare the way for him. Mary is blessed because she dared to believe in God’s word.

When joy or happiness is shared it is doubled; when sorrow or sadness is shared it is halved. The joy of Elizabeth and Mary on their respective vocations is shared by the other and hence, both experience a doubling of their joy. This joy is experienced by even the child in Elizabeth’s womb, because it is a genuine joy felt by its mother.

Life is too short to cry or be sad. Life is too short not to be happy or not to share in the joy of others.