December 27, 2008


Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph
Luke 2: 22-40

"My eyes have seen your salvation"

Simeon represents the people of Israel, who for generations have been "awaiting the consolation" that God promised His people. He now sees that promise fulfilled the very moment he holds the child Jesus in his arms, and he cries out, "My eyes have seen your salvation." He also recognizes that God's promise of salvation and glory to Israel is now extended to the Gentiles as their "light of revelation."

God's promise begins its fulfillment when Mary and Joseph say "Yes" to God's plan for them to be the parents of God's Son. They collaborate with God to bring about salvation to humanity. Then, when they carry out the prescription of God's law to dedicate the firstborn to the Lord, they enable Simeon and Anna to see salvation. In this way, the whole Holy Family becomes the sign and instrument of God's salvation.

The Holy Family, in this way, becomes a model for all Christian families of their call to witness to the presence of God's Kingdom and to bring about God's salvation in our world (1). By collaborating with God in their family life, love and dedication to one another and to their children, as well as to others, especially those in need, Christian couples live the reality of God's Kingdom and share that reality with others (2). Through Christian families living out God's love, people can see God's salvation with their own eyes.

(1) Vatican II, Lumen Gentium (Dogmatic Constitution on the Church), paragraph 35.

(2) John Paul II, Familiaries Consortio (Apostolic Exhortation on The Role of the Christian Families in the Modern World), paragraphs 12 & 13 .

Holy Family (Dec. 28, 2008)

December 20, 2008


4th Sunday of Advent - B
Luke 1: 26 – 38

“The Lord is with you”

“Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you.” Through this greeting of the angel, we learn the real meaning of Mary’s honor – God is with her. That makes her full of grace.

We too share Mary’s blessing because the Trinity is truly with us.

God the Father dwells within us and among us, his people. God is no longer present in our midst in a tent as with the people of Israel during the days in the desert. Nor is God confined to any physical structures and buildings. As Jesus affirms us in the last supper discourse, God now dwells among his us, his beloved.[1] That is a part of our Christian faith. Therefore, we apply the same greeting to ourselves many a time in our liturgical celebrations, most notably at the beginning and at the end, to remind ourselves that we too are full of grace because God has chosen to be with us.

God the Son enters into human history at Bethlehem and remains with us. As the angel announces, “Of his kingdom, there will be no end.” And Jesus reassures his followers before the Ascension, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”[2] In the Eucharist, we receive and bear within us the same Jesus whom Mary conceived and bore in her womb.

God the Holy Spirit dwells within us since we are His temples. St. Luke seems to stress this reality in his writings. To Mary’s question, the angel explained the impossibility “the Holy Spirit will come upon you.” Jesus would use these very words in Acts 1:8 as he instructs the Apostles to be his “witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."[3] Yes, the same Holy Spirit who enabled the virgin to be a mother now enables us to bring Jesus into our world.

And who are we? Mary saw herself as God’s lowly servant (Luke 1:48). “She is young in a world that values age; female in a world ruled by men; poor in a stratified economy. Furthermore, she has neither husband nor child to validate her existence.”[4] But “she found favor with God.” Just like Mary, we are God’s instruments and witnesses only thanks to the fact that God has chosen us. We are full of grace because God is with us.

[1] “In a little while the world will no longer see me, but you will see me, because I live and you will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father and you are in me and I in you. Whoever loves me will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our dwelling with him.” John 14: 19 - 20, 23.
[2] Matthew 28:20
[3] Johnson, Luke Timothy, The Gospel of Luke. Sacra Pagina Series, Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 38.
[4] Ibid.

December 13, 2008


3rd Sunday of Advent – B
John 1: 6 – 8, 19 – 28

A witness sent from God

“A man named John was sent from God. He came for testimony.” This is probably one of the shortest descriptions of any human being with some importance. But it is enough to tell us who John is.

As one sent from God, John’s testimony is authentic and reliable. Because he is from God, he does not hesitate to tell people who he truly is, or rather, who he is not. It is interesting to note that all of his answers are in the negative. He openly “admits” that he is not the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet. He does not need to put on airs.

As one sent from God, John’s testimony has God as its authority. Consequently, he does not need to explain the reason behind his action. Moreover, there is a strong sense of certainty when he speaks of himself and of the One who is to come (verses 26 – 27).

Today, as Pope Benedict XVI has often pointed out, we face “the terrorism of relativism.” Everything can become just a matter of opinion. And everyone is entitled to his/her own ideas and feelings. Worse, the view of the majority is often considered the truth even if that view is morally wrong.

In such circumstances, John the Baptist has much to teach us. We must constantly scrutinize the authority behind many issues that we face. At the same time, if we speak God’s word, we need no extra authority or any air to back us up. Before we arrive there, however, we must allow God’s word to speak to us and change our hearts. Then, we can “testify to the light, so that all might believe.”

December 3, 2008


2nd Sunday of Advent - B
Mark 1: 1 -8

The Gospel of Mark begins with a very solemn tone. It is solemn in both style and word choice. It tells us from the very outset of what and who the book is about - this is the gospel of Jesus Christ the Son of God.

The author bases his solemn proclamation on two authorities - the word of God spoken through the prophet Isaiah and the testimony of John the Baptist, who is well-known to Mark's audience. (1)

God's word continues to be an authority in our time. It is an authority on its own because "God's word is alive and active." God's word is also an authority in people's acceptance of it. Most Jews and Christians believe and honor the Bible as the revealed word of God.

The challenge for us, then, is to identify the new John's for our time. In his appearance and his message, people recognize John as the promised messenger. That is why "people of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins." Who in our time have that authority and authenticity? Will we be willing to listen to them?

But the call to be messengers for Jesus is not reserved to a chosen few. It is the vocation of all the baptized. Here is another challenge for us, namely to be the new John's for our time. The Messiah is coming; and there is still the need for people to be his messengers. People may recognize the authority and testimony of God's word. But do they see us as John's, the messengers of the Messiah? Moreover, are we the type of messengers as authentic and well-known to our people as John was to his?
(1) Moloney, Francis J. The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary. Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2002; p. 37.

2nd Sunday of Advent - B (Dec. 7, 2008)