Wednesday, 31 December 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Num 6:22-27, Gal 4:4-7, Lk2:16-21
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.
Tuesday, 30 December 2014
Wednesday, December 31, 2014 - What one action will you do to make the incarnate word present today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1Jn 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.
Monday, 29 December 2014
Tuesday, December 30, 2014 - Have you accepted the revelation that Jesus makes? How will you show this in your life today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1Jn 2:12-17; Lk 2:36-40
Luke is fond of pairing male and female figures in his narrative. The role of Simeon and Anna in the Temple at the end of the birth narrative balances the role of Zechariah and Elizabeth at the beginning of the narrative. Anna’s character and piety are emphasized, but not her words. She was a descendant of a family from the northern kingdom, and a devout widow, advanced in age. Anna evidently married young and was widowed seven years later. The reference to 84 years probably records her age, but may be read as the number of years she had lived as a widow.
Anna’s blessing, though not recorded, is characterized as praising God and speaking about the child. Since this description corresponds to the content of Simeon’s oracles, we can probably say that Anna’s prophecy matched his. Similarly, the reference to “all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” serves as an inclusion, balancing the description of Simeon as one who was “looking forward to the consolation of Israel” at the beginning of this scene.
Simeon and Anna, who represent the pious ones, declare that Jesus is the one who will bring salvation for Israel, but not all would receive this salvation. Jesus himself would be rejected, and many in Israel would reject the gospel, but it was also meant for “a light for revelation to the Gentiles”.
Sunday, 28 December 2014
Monday, December 29, 2014 - 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?
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 turtle doves 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 fulfilment 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 fulfilment 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 to 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-centred 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.
Saturday, 27 December 2014
Sunday, December 28, 2014 - The Feast of the Holy Family - Christ in/is the centre of the Christian Family
To read the texts click on the texts: Sirach 3:2-6,12-14; Col 3:12-21;Mt 2:13-15,19-23
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 Gospel text for today omits 2:16-18 to focus on Joseph and his response to God’s word in dreams. The response of Joseph to the word of God is one of total obedience. However, by inserting what are termed as formula or fulfilment quotations into the narrative which speak about Jesus and not Joseph, Matthew’s real intention seems to be to reveal who Jesus is.
While there is surely a connection between the first and second readings and the feast of the Holy Family because of the exhortations to different members of a family, we may wonder why the text from Matthew was chosen and what it has to do with today’s feast. However, when we realize that even though at first glance Joseph seems to be at the centre of the narrative, a little deeper reading brings out what Matthew seems to intend. His intention seems to focus and centre on Jesus first through his quotation from Hosea 11, 1 “Out of Egypt have I called my son”, which in its original context was applied to Israel, but is here applied to Jesus, and second through his fourth formula quotation “He shall be called a Nazarene” not found in the Old Testament, but through which he may have intended to refer to the Messianic king promised in Isaiah 11, 1 which Isaiah refers to as a “branch” which in Hebrew is nêzer. This intention of Matthew seems to be the reason for the choice of the text and the point which the church wants to make through the celebration of this feast namely: Every Christian family can only be so in truth if it has Christ as its centre.
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
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. Nazareth
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, 26 December 2014
Saturday, December 27, 2014 - St. John The Evangelist - St. John proclaimed Jesus by writing a Gospel. How will you proclaim Jesus today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 1 Jn 1:1-4; Jn 20:2-8
Saint John 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.
Thursday, 25 December 2014
To read the texts click on the texts: Acts 6:8-10,12; 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.
Wednesday, 24 December 2014
The Introduction and the Entrance Antiphon of today’s liturgy makes clear that for those who celebrate Christmas the word of God is no longer merely the message spoken by the prophets, but the messenger of God in person. The Word of God is a child born for us on whose shoulder dominion will be laid. This is seen clearly in the readings that have been chosen for today.
In the first reading from the Second Book of Isaiah which is a prophetic oracle of salvation, the prophet announces through a messenger the return of the exiles to
had experienced war, destruction and sorrow will now experience peace, unity
and happiness. This is the good news that is proclaimed. Jerusalem
The letter to the Hebrews takes up the theme of the good news spoken through God’s word in a variety of ways. In the old days, this was spoken through the prophets, but in the now, the new days God will not content himself with merely speaking through intermediaries but speaks through a part of himself when he speaks through his son. His speaking is definitive not because God will not speak again, but because in Jesus, God has said all that he would want to say. God will not need to speak like this anymore.
This is also the theme of the prologue of the Gospel of John. However, John puts it even more elaborately than Hebrews does. Jesus is here described as the one who was with God from all eternity, who was, is and will be divine. This Word “became flesh and dwelt among us.” But again this totally other "Word" has a history and a purpose. He comes into the world as life and light. He asks to be accepted in faith. His own did not accept him; throughout history he offers himself to all of good will. Those who do accept him he empowers to become children of God, to have a new birth, to be born of God in the new birth of the Spirit.
The impossible has become possible, the totally incomprehensible has become somewhat comprehensible and our humanity is never again to be seen as a limitation but as an advantage. We have been blessed with a new and radiant vision. God could not be seen, but now in Jesus he is visible. Our God is not a God out there or up there, but a God who is with us and for us and showed us this in the unique and astounding way of becoming like us. We share through the Incarnation in the very life of God. Our cry after the Incarnation is not a plaintive “I’m only human”, but an exuberant, “I’m human”. This is what Christmas means and this is what the birth of the Christ child is saying. Before the Incarnation of Jesus, we human beings thought we could be only this brave, but the Incarnation has shown that we can be braver. Before the Incarnation we thought we could only love so much, but the Incarnation has shown that we can love even more and to the very end. Before Jesus’ incarnation we human beings thought we could be only so much, but the Incarnation of God shows us that we can be more. We have become through the incarnation, children, women and men of the Magis, the greater, the more. The Incarnation has made each of us aware of the immense potential that exists in us because we have been graced through the humanity of the divinity. Christ became human to show us that even in our humanity we can become divine. The Incarnation does not simply invite us to be good men and women, rather through the Incarnation; Jesus makes us into people who can use all their strengths and defects to the service and the glory of God. This is the proof to us that it is not by our own will power that we are able to become children of God. It is by God's grace, by God's unmerited and unconditional love of us.
Thus, Christmas is not merely the celebration of a historical birth or a 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 and fear to freedom and unconditional love.
Christmas belongs not only to a few who call themselves Christians but to the entire earth. The lowly animals, birds, plants, trees indeed the whole of nature participates in this nativity of the divine light at Christmas. Our compassion for our human brothers and sisters is increased when we realize that the animals, birds, plants, trees and the rest of nature is also made up of wondrous beings in even more humble, limited and unrecognizable form than ourselves.
As the Logos (Word) descends into the earth and becomes sarx (flesh) to bring Light to the world, we realize that it is in and through this Light that we have life.
To read the texts click on the texts: Isaiah52:7-10; 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
finds its fulfilment in the birth of Jesus. Captivity and limitation have come
to an end. Now, only freedom and limitlessness are real. Jerusalem
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.
Monday, 22 December 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014 - Does fear still rule the larger majority of your actions? What will you do about it today?
To read the texts click on the texts: 2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-12,14,16; Lk 1:67-79
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.
to read the texts click on the texts: Mal3:1-4, 23-24; Lk 1:57-66
Two days before the birth of the Messiah, the Church invites us to reflect on the birth, naming, and circumcision of his precursor or forerunner, John the Baptist.
Luke does not give us too many details about the birth of John, and he narrates it with a short sentence. He focuses more on the events that follow the birth and, through them, show that God’s word spoken through the angel, Gabriel, is being fulfilled. Elizabeth does bear a son and the people rejoice at the birth because of the great mercy shown by God.
Circumcision of the child on the eight day was in accord with Gen 17:9-14 where God makes circumcision on the eight day a sign of the covenant with Abraham. It was the father who normally named the child and, in doing so, recognized the child as his own. Sometimes, the child was named after the father, especially if the father was a person who was highly esteemed. Objections were raised to the name “John” (“God had been gracious”), chosen by Elizabeth. That the people made signs to Zechariah to ask him what he wanted to name the child indicates that, besides being dumb, he was also deaf. The moment Zechariah writes the name “John” on a writing tablet, Zechariah regains his speech. Once again, God’s word comes to pass. The fear and amazement with which the people respond to these happenings is an indication that they experienced God’s awesome power. The question that the people ask, about what the child would turn out to be, is answered in summary form by Luke when he ends this narrative by stating that “the hand of the Lord was with him.”
God’s word is a word of power and will come to pass, no matter how many obstacles we may put in its way. It is a word that enhances and builds up, a word that gives life. To be sure, we may not always be able to understand and accept it for what it is, but in the final analysis, it is always a word that is for our good and for his glory.
Sunday, 21 December 2014
Monday, December 22, 2014 - What image do you have of God? Does your image lead you to have confidence in God? How does this show in your life?
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 modelled 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 favour 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.