Second Sunday of Advent

On the second Sunday of Advent we are introduced to another great Advent figure, John the Baptist. Matthew has him preach, like Jesus, about the coming of the kingdom of heaven. His preaching fulfils the words found in the prophet Isaiah about ‘a voice crying in the wilderness’.

John is dressed like a prophet and lives in the wilderness. Those who come to him receive a baptism of repentance for their sins. John fiercely attacks those who have relied on their status and their traditions for their salvation. They have relied on being ‘children of Abraham’ and have become complacent. For John, the love of God is not limited to the chosen race, and all men and women are called to produce good fruit.

John’s principal task is to point to the ‘one who follows me’. This one is more powerful and will bring a new baptism, in the Holy Spirit. With the preaching of John the Baptist, the liturgy is preparing us for the coming of Christ.

First Sunday of Advent

Reflection

“READY TO GREET HIM WHEN HE COMES”

“You must be prepared in the same way. The Son of Man is coming at the time you least expect.” —Matthew 24:44

Happy Advent! Advent is about the three comings of Christ:

1)      Jesus first came to earth as a Baby, humble and lowly, at Bethlehem (Lk 2:4ff).

2)      Jesus will come again at His Second Coming on the last day (Mt 24:30-31). This coming will be as majestic as His first coming was humble (1 Thes 4:16Lk 21:27).

3)      The third coming of Jesus is the coming of the Eucharistic Jesus into our souls today. Jesus’ coming in Holy Communion is a humble coming, just as He came humbly to earth in Bethlehem. His Eucharistic coming is as easy to miss as was His coming at Bethlehem.

How prepared are we to meet the Eucharistic Jesus when He comes to us today? If we’re prepared for this “third” coming, we’ll welcome His first coming at Christmas and be prepared for His Second Coming.

Therefore, on this first day of the new Church Year, this day of new beginning, invite Jesus to come and reign in your life. “Seek first His kingship over you” (Mt 6:33). Be “sober and alert” (1 Pt 5:8), ever ready to greet Him when He comes. Live so that Jesus may never have to ask: “Why was no one there when I came?” (Is 50:2)

Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

THE CRUCIFIX AND THE KING

“There was an inscription over His head:

‘THIS IS THE KING OF THE JEWS.’ ” —Luke 23:38

Many people have crucifixes on their walls, in their pockets, in their purses, or around their necks. Usually at the top of this crucifix are the letters I. N. R. I. This stands for “Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews.” On Calvary, hardly anyone believed this inscription. In fact, “the chief priests of the Jews tried to tell Pilate…‘This man claimed to be King of the Jews’ ” (Jn 19:21).

What about you? Do you believe the letters on your crucifix? Or are the letters I.N.R.I. just an inscription to which you’ve never paid any attention? If you decide to take your crucifix seriously and be a faithful subject of King Jesus, you must:

  • be rescued “from the power of darkness” (Col 1:13),
  • repent,
  • contradict leaders, soldiers, criminals, and the many people who continue to mock His kingship (Lk 23:35, 36, 39),
  • be willing to be persecuted,
  • worship King Jesus, for He is the King of kings (Rv 19:16) and God Himself, and
  • tell everyone about the perfect King, Who is God and Love (see 1 Jn 4:16).

Are you willing to accept Jesus as your King? If so, kneel down before Him now and give Your most precious gifts to Him (see Mt 2:11). Give your whole life to King Jesus. Start talking to Jesus. Ask Him to show you Who He is. Begin to repent. Keep talking to Jesus until you can again honestly see or carry a crucifix not out of habit but out of love.

 

Thirty Second Sunday in Ordinary Time

RISEN LIFE

“The King of the world will raise us up

to live again forever.”—2 Maccabees 7:9

Both today’s first reading and the Gospel deal with life after death. Both show that we humans have no idea of what risen life will be like. In today’s Gospel, the Sadducees demonstrate this by their misguided assumptions. They were “badly misled” and failed “to understand the Scriptures or the power of God” (Mk 12:24).

The Resurrection of Jesus Christ is an historical fact. It is not merely an idea. Throughout the centuries after Jesus rose from the dead, people have given their lives in martyrdom to defend the truth of Jesus’ Resurrection. Numerous martyrs “were tortured and would not receive deliverance, in order to obtain a better resurrection” (Heb 11:35).

The key to life is to have an encounter with the risen Jesus. After we have met the risen Christ, we become “a new creation. The old order has passed away; now all is new” (2 Cor 5:17). Even in this earthly life, our lifestyle changes completely as we see everything through the perspective of the kingdom of God rather than with the eyes of the world (see Mt 6:19-34).

Since Jesus has risen, we who are baptized into Christ can share even now in this risen life (Col 1:10-13). Our life is hidden in Christ (Col 3:3). We are citizens of heaven (Phil 3:20) while living on this earth. Accept the risen Jesus as your Lord.

 

Thirty-First Sunday in Ordinary Time

MY SAVIOR

“The Son of Man has come to search out

 and save what was lost.” —Luke 19:10

Although God is omnipotent and almighty, He rebukes us gently, little by little, so that we may be able to bear it and be encouraged by His mercy to grow in faith, obedience, and holiness.

Thus, Jesus stayed with sinners. He came to seek and save sinners (Lk 19:10). Even at the end of His life, Jesus was crucified between two sinners (Lk 23:33). He was made to be sin, as it were, for those who need salvation from sin (2 Cor 5:21). Sinners at least are in the position to eventually know they need Jesus (see Lk 18:9ff). Self-righteous people don’t think they need Jesus. They are in danger of becoming, in effect, their own gods and not realizing they are in need of a Savior.

We need to realize that we cannot save ourselves (Ps 49:8Is 26:18). We are less than “a drop of morning dew” (Wis 11:22). Once we know that our salvation is in God and in Him alone, we then know that we cannot stand before God on our own. God is far greater than the universe, and we are so small before Him. We need a Savior. The Good News is that we have a Savior! (Acts 4:12) Accept Jesus, “the Savior of the world” (Jn 4:42).

Thirtieth Sunday in Ordinary Time

CLOUD-PIERCING PRAYER-POWER

“The prayer of the lowly pierces the clouds.” —Sirach 35:17

Are you in a fog? Is your mind cloudy and confused? Do you feel as if there’s heavy cloud-cover when you pray? Even if you are praying in the clouds, you can pierce the clouds, come out of the fog, and come into the light when you:

  • serve God (Sir 35:16). Rejoice to be a slave of Jesus (Col 3:24) — to do His will, not yours.
  • serve God willingly (Sir 35:16). Go beyond Sunday obligation and a minimalist, mediocre Christianity. “Everyone must give according to what he has inwardly decided; not sadly, not grudgingly, for God loves a cheerful giver” (2 Cor 9:7).
  • become lowly (Sir 35:17). Repent of pharisaic arrogance (Lk 18:11), beat your breast, and pray: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner” (Lk 18:13).

The lowly, willing servant of God has a love for God and a faith in Him that can shake and transform the world. The prayer of a servant of God “is powerful indeed” (Jas 5:16). Decide to become a lowly, willing servant of God. Pray with Mary: “I am the servant of the Lord. Let it be done to me as you say” (Lk 1:38).

Twenty Ninth Sunday in Ordinary Time

WORLD WORD-WAR

“As long as Moses kept his hands raised up,

Israel had the better of the fight.” —Exodus 17:11

We are in a war against demons (Eph 6:12). As the Church, we are attacking the gates of hell which cannot prevail against us (Mt 16:18). By the power of the Holy Spirit, we are claiming Jesus’ victory over Satan and applying it to our lives and our world.

Our sword is the Spirit using God’s Word (Eph 6:17) and helping us to pray in our weakness (Rm 8:26). Therefore, “preach the word, [staying] with this task whether convenient or inconvenient” (2 Tm 4:2). Also, accompany the proclamation of God’s Word by praying as Moses did (Ex 17:11-13). “At every opportunity pray in the Spirit, using prayers and petitions of every sort. Pray constantly and attentively for all in the holy company” (Eph 6:18). Pray with and for the ministry of God’s Word. “Pray for us that the word of the Lord may make progress and be hailed by many others, even as it has been by you” (2 Thes 3:1). Pray “that God may put His word” on our lips that we “may have courage to proclaim it as” we ought (Eph 6:19, 20).

On this World Mission Sunday, fight in the power of the Spirit the world war of words — words of witnessing, preaching, teaching, and praying.

Twenty Sixth Sunday in Ordinary Time

“Woe to the complacent!”

A lifestyle focused on comfort, entertainment, and enjoyment leads to complacency, that is, a selfishness because of which we don’t care that much about other people’s lives and salvation (see Am 6:4-6).

Complacency is only one of the side effects of a pleasure-seeking lifestyle. A self-centered lifestyle gradually causes a spiritual blindness and deafness through which we become so hardened that even someone risen from the dead would not be able to touch our hearts (Lk 16:31).

Because we naturally want a lifestyle that is as comfortable as possible, we are doomed to be complacent and hardhearted unless we receive a new nature (see Jn 3:3) and live in that new nature.

The Holy Spirit is our Hope, for He will strongly oppose the desires of our flesh, that is, our fallen, selfish nature (Gal 5:17). Through His Word, the Holy Spirit will crucify our “flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24) and give us a new nature and a new birth (Jn 3:5; see also 1 Pt 1:23). The Holy Spirit gives the possibility and the power of living the Christian life and being freed from the death and damnation of our self-centered lifestyle. Come, Holy Spirit!

 

Twenty Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The parable of the dishonest steward, with which the reading begins, is perhaps the most difficult of all the parables of Jesus. How could Jesus suggest to us as an example a man who is clearly dishonest? The answer to this question comes in verse 8, at the conclusion of the parable, when the steward’s master praises him ‘for his astuteness’. We are not called to imitate the man’s dishonesty, demonstrated both before and after his dismissal, but his shrewdness. The steward quickly grasps how desperate his situation is and immediately seeks a solution. Jesus challenges us to do the same.

 

Twenty Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Chapter 15 of the Gospel of Luke contains three parables: the parables of the lost sheep, the lost coin and the prodigal son. The first two parables are given above and we will focus on these. The parable of the prodigal son was read this year on the Fourth Sunday of Lent.

The evangelist gathers these three parables together because they all teach us about the joy of God at the repentance of the sinner. The opening verses tell us about those among Jesus’ hearers who were severely critical of his welcome to sinners. They ‘complained’. The Greek word in the original text of the gospel also means ‘grumble’. Those who complain here are like the elder brother in the parable of the prodigal son who refuses to join the celebration of his younger brother’s return.

The first two parables are rather startling. Would a shepherd really leave the care of ninety-nine sheep to search for one? Would a woman who found a lost coin really put on a feast to celebrate? The lack of realism in these parables teaches us that God’s behaviour goes far beyond human normality. God forgives in an outstanding way. In giving us a Saviour God shows a love far beyond any human love. The scribes and Pharisees found the forgiving love of God hard to accept. But what about us?