Second Sunday in Ordinary Time
The philosopher Immanuel Kant once wrote that there are three questions that are central to our human existence: What can I believe? What should I do? And what can I hope for? Jesus knows these questions are in the heart of the two who are wondering whether to follow him. So, he invites them: Come and see! Come and listen! I will help you answer your deepest questions. I will help you to see what you can ultimately believe in or trust, what you should do with your lives, and what you can hope for.
I believe we have come to participate in this celebration because we have heard the call of Jesus to come to him and we believe that He can fulfill the longings of our heart. We have come humbly acknowledging that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, the One who has come to reveal who God is.
The disciples of John the Baptist had a great quest to encounter God. It is good for us to learn how their quest or longing was fulfilled. I think the most important words in today’s gospel are found in Jesus’ reply: “come and see.” Think for a bit of how that invitation of Jesus ‘come and see’ changed the lives of Andrew and Peter.
By taking the time to “come and see” Andrew came to a deeper knowledge of Jesus and was touched by the teaching of his new friend. Struck by this encounter with Jesus they rushed to tell others. Andrew convinced his brother Peter that he had to meet this Jesus from Nazareth whom Andrew was convinced was the Messiah. So began the gathering of the disciples of Jesus.
So often in life Jesus offers each of us the invitation to “come and see.” Today it is important to pay attention to the true and deepest longing of our hearts and see how we can fulfill those desires and longings. Sometimes our longing for God or quest for God is interrupted by struggles in our lives, challenges at school or at work, or due to our ill health or broken relationships. It is especially in those moments that we need to spend a bit of time in peace and quiet with Him. In that quiet time with God, we become aware of the blessings in our lives. In that quiet time, we can tell him of our worries and concerns. In that quiet time, our hearts and minds will be filled with peace and joy that no one can take away.
In that quiet time, we will experience renewed hope in our lives, in our relationships and in all that we do. Whether it is our longing for love, acceptance, understanding, the true experience of all these can happen only in our relationship with God.
His invitation to the two disciples to “come and see” to remain with, to abide in Christ is an invitation to begin the journey of discovery and to experience God for themselves. The Lord doesn't invite us to give us a bunch of answers, but calls us to a life-giving relationship of trust and hope.
The Epiphany of the Lord
Once upon a time there was an oppressive King. This king was able to work his will on his subjects in all things except one; he was unable to destroy their belief in God. So, he summoned his three wisest advisers. “Tell me,” he said, “where can I hide this people’s God, so that they will not find him.”
The first wise man said, “Hide their God beyond the farthest star, there they will not find him.” “Not so,” said the second wise man. “One day they may learn to fly beyond the farthest star and there they will find their God. Instead hide him in the depths of the ocean.” “No,” said the third wise man. “One day they may learn to swim to the bottom of the sea and there they will find their God. Instead, hide their God in the everyday life of the people, there no one will find him.”
God still lives among his people. Like the three wise men in our gospel, we must look for the signs which point the way to God.
I can recall numerous experiences where I was given signs and invitation to see God in those I am called to minister to. There have been times I have responded to those invitations with much joy. But there have also been times when I have not responded to the invitation to see God, to encounter God in those I am called to serve.
To find God in our everyday lives we have to be open to the signs he sends us. I believe that maintaining a discipline of prayer will help us to discern those signs and give us the courage to follow our faith wherever it leads us.
Today’s Gospel account begins with the question of the Wise Men: “Where is the child who has been born king of the Jews? That question is at the center of the wise men’s journey. Pope Francis in one of his homilies said The Wise Men who set out from the East in search of Jesus personify all those who long for God in their lives. He goes on to say, this same longing led the elderly Simeon to go up each day to the Temple, certain that his life would not end before he had held the Saviour in his arms. This longing led the Prodigal Son to abandon his self-destructive lifestyle and to seek his father’s embrace. This was the longing felt by the shepherd who left the ninety-nine sheep in order to seek out the one that was lost. Mary Magdalen experienced the same longing on that Sunday morning when she ran to the tomb and met her risen Master.
There is something about the wise men’s journey that might be valuable for us to consider and that is their seeking of the newborn king. As we continue to celebrate Christmas, we are once again reminded that we must continue to search, to seek for a deeper experience of God.
When we are invited to search, we are not searching for someone that we have never found before. Rather we are continuing to look for a deeper knowledge and experience of God in whom we already believe. We don’t just find God once, and then our search is over. As a matter of fact, Christian life is about our constant search for God, our on-going journey towards God.
Today on this feast of Epiphany, the manifestation of Jesus we are assured that we are not the only ones searching. In reality, God is already searching for us. God constantly is looking for all of us no matter where we are in our journey, no matter how close we are to God or how far we are from God. He is drawing us to himself, as he guided the wise men by the star.
The wise men are important for us not so much for their finding the Christ Child, but in their seeking him. Today we are invited to renew our desire to look for God with the same longing and determination of the Wise men.
Solemnity of Mary, The Holy Mother of God
Probably more than ever, we are looking forward to a New Year with great hope. Even though 2020 has been an unusual year, as we look back; hopefully there are moments of blessings that we have experienced from God and happy and joyful events that have happened to us or to the ones we love. But for many in our world, 2020 was a difficult year. So, we pray that God will bless all, heal all, and guide us into the New Year.
The Church assigns the first day of every year as the solemnity of Mary, the mother of God. I believe Mary can be a great model for us to follow as we begin the year 2021. I would like to reflect with you on 4 aspects from the life of Mary that can be helpful for us in our own journey of faith.
First, Mary was the first disciple, the first one called by God to witness to the Messiah. When the angel came and asked Mary to become the mother of the Messiah, she said “yes" and she remained faithful to that "yes" even in the most difficult of times. And unlike the other disciples; she didn't run away in troubled times. She walked with Jesus up to Calvary. She can help us to remain true to our faith, our promises and commitments and give us the courage to do whatever God asks of us in the New Year.
Second, Mary is revealed as someone who keeps God's word. Remember the scripture scene where Mary and her relatives come to see Jesus. And Jesus made this response, "But who is my mother, my father, my brother and sister? The one who does the will of God. That's my mother, my brother, and my sister." He was not denying his mother. I think what he was saying was that Mary's claim to greatness was not that she was his biological mother, but that she kept the word of God. Mary can help us remain true to the word of God.
Third, Mary is a faith pilgrim. Remember the story in Luke? The angel said, "You are to be the mother of God." And she asked a question, "How can this be?" How many people throughout the ages have asked Mary's question, "How can this be?"
"How can I carry on? I don't know what I'm going to do. Maybe sometime during this New Year we will find ourselves asking Mary's question, "How can this be?" We will need Mary’s help to find the strength. We will need her example of trust and faith to live with that question.
Fourth, Mary stands here at the beginning of every New Year because she is the God-bearer, and she reminds us that we too are God-bearers. She gave to the world the living Christ, and we are called to always remember that our role as Christians is also to give Christ to the world. As we begin a New Year, let us follow the example of our Blessed Mother Who as the first disciple and faithful pilgrim kept God’s word and walked closely with God.
Our first reading today gives blessing for new beginnings. The blessing that God gave to Moses for the Israelites came as the Israelites were preparing to set out for the Promised Land.
As we begin this New year, may the Lord bless you and keep you; may the Lord make his face shine upon you and be gracious to you; may the Lord lift up his countenance upon you and give you his peace in the New Year.
The Feast of the Holy Family
Over the years the church has canonized many popes, bishops, priests, along with women and men religious. On Sunday October 18, 2015, Pope Francis presided at Mass in St. Peter’s Square during the Synod on the Family which included the Rite of Canonization of Louis Martin and Marie-Azelie Guerin Martin, the parents of St. Thérèse of Lisieux. This was the first time that a married couple with children was canonized.
When the Holy Father officially proclaimed them saints, I believe he was also sending a great message to the whole world. As the basic unit of the universal Church, each family is called to holiness. Celebrating the feast of the Holy Family, is a time to reflect on this call, this mission to holiness and learn and understand how we can and our families can grow in holiness.
What makes the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph Holy? In the family life of Mary and Joseph, God is truly at the centre. And, this, perhaps more than anything else, is the Holy Family's great gift to us today: their God-centeredness. They did not just live their day-to-day life. They had a purpose for their life as a family and that is to live in accordance with God’s plan for them. It is through their faithfulness and obedience to that plan of God, that they made their family a holy family.
Our Gospel reading takes place after the birth of Jesus; after the shepherds have visited; and after the Magi have brought their gifts. It is now forty days after the birth, and following Jewish religious practice, the child Jesus is brought to the Temple to “present him to the Lord.”
Following our reflection from last Sunday, we see that Mary, and Joseph, have continued their “Yes” to God. And now, in the Temple, Mary is faced with having to say “Yes” again as they hear the prophecy of Simon. Our call too is to continue to say “Yes:” to love, to hope, and to trust in God.
We might be tempted to think that the Holy Family we celebrate today was a perfect little family. A careful analysis of the Scriptures will soon reveal that Joseph, Mary and Jesus had to negotiate the normal struggles of family life. But this family is holy because it is responsive to the demanding word of God spoken even in the trying circumstances of their lives.
The members of the Holy family did not allow the challenges to distract the peace, love and unity that existed among them. They confronted their fears, and struggles with a selfless, sacrificial love that bound them together as a family.
As we know, there are many sides to the reality of family life. There are often the moments of joy, gratitude, contentment and peace. But there are also difficulties that emerge among members of families.
The advice of Paul to Colossians is so important for sustaining any relationships – be it a relationship between husband and wife, parent and child, or brothers and sisters. St. Paul invites us to “put on” a garment of heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, forgiveness, gratitude and a willingness to let Christ rule our hearts. Perhaps we could all look at these virtues and ask which of these virtues does each of us need to develop and share as members of a family?The feast of the Holy Family reminds us, no matter what the circumstances, faith and trust in God, prayer, striving for mutual love, and a spirit of forgiveness remain at the heart of the holy family. As we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family, let us ask God to bless all of our families. May the holy family be an inspiration for us to continue being a family of love, unity and peace.