1st Sunday of Advent
The first day of advent which is today is also the first day of the church year. We pause at the beginning of this new year and say a prayer to God who will be revealed to us in the year ahead, season by season, week by week, day by day, moment by moment. God will be revealed to us - where we live, where we are and through what we do. And we do not have to go anywhere to find God for he is present to us.
One theme of advent might be expecting the unexpected. In advent, the church turns our attention to the two comings of Christ. Both were unexpected. No one expected God to take on Flesh and become a human being. And Jesus warns us that the second coming will be at a time when we do not expect.
But Advent is not simply a matter of history or a distant hope. The coming of Christ into the world should be something more than a memory or a distant hope. So, the church also considers the coming of Christ that exists between the two comings. His coming in the present moment, through sacraments, persons, events that are part of our lives. Through everything and everyone that crosses our paths Christ is being reveled to us.
Since his first coming and his coming at the end of time were both unexpected. It is reasonable to expect that his coming in the present would also be in unexpected ways. Our faith and reason will lead us to be especially awake to the presence of Christ.
Advent is the time when we sharpen our awareness and alertness for the Lord’s coming among us here and now. In this season of advent, we are not just recalling how Christ came about 2000 years ago. Nor it’s only about waiting for the second coming of Christ. But it is about waiting, and longing for the coming of the Lord in the here and now.
What we are watching for, in other words, is to discern what God is doing right now in our lives, being alert to the movements of God’s grace in our lives. When we begin to take a bit of quiet time, even for five minutes a day to sit down and think, then we will notice signs of God’s power and presence around us and within us. It may happen to you at Mass, or you might be at your desk at work, or while you pray and suddenly you are filled with a sense of peace and you know for certain that God is alive and involved in your life. And Advent is a time to be on the watch for those cherished moments and allow them to happen.
A Jesuit priest, Fr. James martin says in the end more than anything else, Advent is a season of desire. Our deepest desire is our longing for God. It is our deepest desire, because it has been placed in our hearts by God. Our deepest desires are God’s desires dwelling within us: desires for peace, for love, for hope, and, most of all for God. Everything that we do is ultimately based on a desire for God.
The church gives us this beautiful season of advent to pay attention to what is most important in our lives and that is our relationship with God. Sometimes we can lose that focus in our lives. Perhaps our preoccupation with our own security and comfort can lead us away from that relationship. Perhaps the worldly distractions, our own cares and concerns can weaken that relationship.
Advent is the time when we sharpen and become more aware of the deepest desire of our hearts. And our deepest desire, planted within us, is our Advent desire for Christ. During this advent season, may God reveal to each one of us evermore deeply our own longing for God. May this season of advent draw all of us closer to the closest desire of our hearts which is of course the desire for God.
Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe
Today we come to the end of the liturgical year and from next week our attention will turn to the season of Advent. Today, we celebrate the feast of Christ the King. In this celebration, we say something very important. We proclaim that Jesus Christ is the Lord and king of our lives. We also say something about ourselves. We proclaim that as Christians we are those who allow Christ to lead us, and to guide our lives.
But what kind of leader is Jesus? What kind of power does he exercise? The events described in today’s gospel is so out of step with the ordinary notion of kingship and power. A title of royalty doesn’t seem to blend well with a man nailed to a cross. Dying on the cross, Jesus is taunted for the fact that he does not save himself.
The leaders and the criminal incite Jesus to save himself. That must have been a very tempting thought – to do something, to do anything, to save himself. To these provoking words the response of Jesus is silence.
But when the other criminal asks Jesus to remember him, Jesus does respond. In his own hour of greatest personal need, Jesus exercises his leadership by responding to someone else’s need.
He responds with a generosity that far exceeds anything this criminal could have imagined. This is the power of Jesus at its most evident. It is a power displayed in the midst of his own suffering, his giving of his life for others. It is a power that effects forgiveness and reconciliation. It is a power which heals and grants life to someone who seemed to be deprived of life.
The message for today is that Christ is king not in his power but in His willingness to lay down His life as an act of love for us. Our celebration of the Feast of Christ the King is an invitation to look upon the cross of Christ in order to discover our true king and to be inspired by his sacrificial love for all people.
Reflecting on today’s feast of Christ the king, I was reminded of a poem from Rabindranath Tagore’s Gitanjali. Tagore was an Indian poet, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1913 and Gitanjlai is a collection of poems by Tagore. This poem is about a person who went begging from door to door in a village. As he goes, he sees a golden chariot coming towards him. Watching the golden chariot, he wondered who is this king of king coming towards him. Soon the chariot came and stopped near where he stood.
The king came down from the chariot and looked at the beggar with a smiling face. At that moment he felt that the luck of his life had come at last. But contrary to his expectation the king himself held out his hand and asked him for alms.
He was not able to understand how a king stepping down from golden chariot can ask for alms from him. He took out the smallest grain of corn from his bag and offered it to the king reluctantly. And the story goes that at the end of day the beggar returned home and emptied his bag on the floor. To his great surprise, he found a little grain of gold in the heap of alms.
As king of the universe, as our king, God invites us into a partnership with him to materialize his vision for our world. That vision is well portrayed in the preface of the Eucharistic prayer used for today’s feast. This prayer describes Christ’s kingdom as a kingdom of truth and life, a kingdom of holiness and grace, a kingdom of justice, love and peace. This is the kind of kingdom Jesus came to establish. This is the f vison that God has for us and for the world.
God stretches out his hand and invites us into a partnership with him to materialize his vision for our world. Every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer we pray, ‘thy kingdom come’. It is a prayer both of hope and of longing that God will indeed establish his reign in the world and in our lives.
God’s vision of a kingdom will be materialized not by any force, not just by our prayer but by the way we live our lives- following the example of our lord and king. This week, through the strength we receive from the Eucharist, may we make the reign of Christ a little more present in our world.
33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time
As we get closer to the end of the Church liturgical year we are given, for our reflection, scripture passages that talk about the end times. This message about the end of time was originally addressed to God’s people during times of suffering and hopelessness.
The biblical authors wrote at different times to reassure people of God’s fidelity even amidst great suffering. They were reminded that the God of life would have the final word in history and in their individual lives. And they wrote to convince the believers to remain faithful and not to give up their hope.
So, the startling images in today’s readings were not intended to describe how the end will come; its essential message was an assurance that God’s designs will be fulfilled, despite all appearances to the contrary.
I think we are invited to hear these scripture readings not so much a warning about the end but as a commentary on how we can live our lives meaningfully in the present. This day, this moment, is our time to bear the fruit. As the saying goes ‘seize the day’ make the most of today. Today is filled with possibilities.
When St. Teresa of Calcutta was asked how she started working in the slums, she remembered the moment exactly: "It was on the tenth of September 1946, in the train that took me to Darjeeling, the hill station in the Himalayas, that I heard the call of God. The message was clear: I was to leave the convent and help the poor while living among them.
In the coming years, St. Teresa would repeatedly refer to the big and little acts done out of love for Christ as doing "something beautiful for God." And she would insist that each one of us has the capacity and the opportunity to do something beautiful for God, if only we can learn to see the countless invitations God extends to us.
In just two weeks, on the First Sunday of Advent, we begin again a new liturgical year. We recall the history of our salvation beginning with the prophets, leading on to the birth of Jesus, eventually recalling His death, His resurrection, and His saving deeds.
The Church gives us this annual cycle for a reason – not just as a reminder; but in the hopes that we will unite ourselves to it. We don’t simply, once again, tell the story of Jesus. Instead, we’re meant to hear that story and notice ourselves within it. We’re meant to live it. In this way, not only do we recall the birth of Jesus, but Jesus becomes born again in us. We not only recall His suffering and death on the cross, but we find Him present in the midst of our own suffering. We not only recall that Jesus rose from the dead but we become resurrected people.
Pope Francis has named the thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary time the World Day for the Poor. World Day for the Poor reminds us of the centrality of the Christian act of service, seeking to encounter those experiencing poverty and offering concrete assistance. By now, the stores are full of Christmas gifts and probably plans for gifts, and get-togethers are underway. Coming in the midst of all this, World Day of the Poor invites us to remember a different reality: that of hardship and poverty. World Day for the Poor is important because it keeps us anchored in these realities, and gives us the opportunity to pause, and offer something of ourselves in prayer and service.
The theme for this year’s World Day for the Poor message is “The hope of the poor shall not perish forever”, taken from the Book of Psalms. The Pope comments that, “the situation of the poor obliges us not to keep our distance from the body of the Lord, who suffers in them.” Instead, we are called to touch his flesh and to be personally committed in offering a service that is an authentic form of evangelization. This challenge harkens back to the first reading from Malachi, which emphasizes God’s care and concern for the poor—a care and concern that we are called to imitate.
Dear Friends, let us allow the message of the Holy Father to challenge us. May it invite us to walk side by side with the poor, get to know them, listen and respond to their needs and to encounter in them the God we seek.
31st Sunday in Ordinary Time
What a deeply re assuring passage we have from the book of Wisdom. The reading invites us to see the whole of the universe from the perspective of God. Before the Lord the whole universe is like a drop of dew come down upon the earth. We may not pay attention to a particular drop of dew but God does.
As the reading says “For you love all things that exists and detest nothing that you have made for what you hated you would not have fashioned. Everything that exists has been loved into being. We are being loved into being every moment of our existence. It is easy to feel insignificant while gazing up at a starry night. We could come away with the feeling that we don’t count for much.
Yet the author of Wisdom marvels at how much God loves each speck of creation and every human being. In fact, God’s Spirit pervades everything. Wisdom reveals something else: God is merciful to all — not just a select few. No one is left behind or excluded from God’s love. Knowing that we are not insignificant in God’s eyes and that we are infinitely loved can open our hearts and minds to the presence of grace working in every life.
With that reflection on the unconditional love of God for all that God has made, we turn to the Gospel which is the much-loved story of zacheus. As a tax collector — and oppressor of his people to the Romans — there was not much in him to love. Being hated and despised was just part of his life.
When Jesus came to town, he was content to remain in a tree where he could see Jesus and not get in the way of others. But it was not to be — he attracted all sorts of unwelcome attention, for Jesus stopped under the tree, looked up and informed Zacchaeus that he would come to his house for dinner.
People could not comprehend why He would consent to eat with Zachaeus. But Jesus looked beyond the outward appearance of Zacchaeus’ life. The unconditional love and mercy did its magic — Zacchaeus was a transformed man. He was touched and changed by the acceptance and love of Jesus.
The gospel points out that, before his conversion, Zacchaeus was a short man, someone lacking in height. But Meeting Jesus, it seems, made Zacchaeus grow bigger in stature. Jesus accepted Zacchaeus as he was; and in that encounter, Jesus brought out what was good in him. Zacchaeus turned his life around.
Fr. Ron Rolheiser, a contemporary spiritual writer shares a story that was told to him by one of his friends. He shares the story of his friend’s neighbour who frequently drops in to drink coffee and chat. The neighbour is a good man from a wonderful family and has been blessed with lots of love and good example in his life. But, like the rest of us, he has his weaknesses.
One day, as he was sitting with my friend, he made a very racist remark. My friend, instead of accusing him of being a racist or shaming him with the inappropriateness of his remark, called him instead to his own essential goodness: “That comment surprises me,” he said, “coming from you. I’ve always considered you and your family big-hearted people. I’ve always envied your family for its goodness and understanding. That remark simply doesn’t sound like you!”
The man’s reaction was instant, positive. Immediately he apologized: “You’re right,” he said, “I don’t know why I sometimes say stupid things like that!” Jesus shows us that mercy and unconditional love can be transforming, life-changing and brings the best inside us.
30th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The Pharisees often don’t fare very well in the pages of the gospel. But it seems this Pharisee in today’s gospel did many good things: He fasted. He prayed and he gave ten percent of his income to the temple. The Pharisee, thanks God for the blessings, but also lists the faults of others.
The Pharisee in the gospel, good man though he is, stands self-righteous before God. The Pharisee acted as though he was a finished product. There was no room for him to grow in God’s plan.
On the other hand, the tax collector goes to the temple in repentance. Even his body language displays his repentance: he stood away at a distance, and did not even raise his eyes. But it is above all in his prayer that we see his repentance, “O God, be merciful to me a sinner.” He came to God as he was.
He knew that he was a work in progress and that God was the master craftsman who would help him become the person he was created to be. He knew that God was not done with him yet and in humility placed himself in God’s tender care. Therefore, God met him where he was and he went home justified.
For our reflection on these Scripture readings it will be helpful to imagine them as a kind of mirror in which our own lives are reflected. Every one of us, if we are honest, will recognize that we are in some ways like that Pharisee.
I say that in a good sense. Pharisees in the gospels are often portrayed as hard-hearted, legalistic, and hypocritical. In reality, though, the Pharisees were a pretty good bunch in Jesus’ time. The Pharisees were serious believers who committed themselves to a strict life of prayer and observance of God’s Law. Jesus was not so much against them. He was only urging them to live up to what their vision was at its best.
All of us are Pharisees. We are basically good people, basically good Christians. And because of this we have lots to be thankful for. But the Pharisee part of us is only one part of who we are. It doesn’t take much reflection to recognize that all of us are a work in progress.
We have rough edges; We struggle with our commitments, with our relationships, with discipline in our study or work etc... We may want to change, to be better persons, to be better friends, but we still struggle. And so, we need to open ourselves up to God’s mercy, so God can continue to fashion us.
God isn’t finished with us yet. He is still working on us. We are like clay in the potter’s hands. We are a work in progress. As we gather around this altar, grateful for the gift of Christ’s love and mercy, we pray for the grace to let God fashion us according to his will.
Today we have with us the young people of our parish who will officially begin their preparation for the sacrament of confirmation. In a short while they will be presented to the Parish community. And along with their Sponsors and parents we will be asked to provide the support needed by these Candidates during their preparation time.
And you, young people as you begin the preparation today, it is the beginning of a new and deeper kind of Christian commitment. It is the beginning of your life as an adult member of the Church.
When you were baptised, your parents made a decision to raise you as a Catholic Christian person. This is your chance to decide to renew and recommit yourself to the promises that were made on your behalf at your Baptism. So, what are you committing yourself to in the sacrament of Confirmation? Well, first of all to living a CHRISTIAN WAY OF LIFE.
This means trying to be loving and kind in all that you do. It means caring about justice and truthfulness. And most of all it means having a relationship with God. Central to this relationship is living a life of prayerfulness ‐ both personal and to pray together as a community at church.
And this is how we come to know and express our faith in God. It is also how we find the strength to sustain our commitment to live just and loving lives. And so, I invite you to take seriously this time of preparation and we as a community of faith assure you of our prayers and support.