December 25, 2010


Holy Family - A
Matthew 2: 13-15, 19-23

God in a Human Family

Besides the direct communication with the angel, everything about the family of Joseph, Mary and Jesus is typical of any human family.

There are challenges and difficulties. There are moments of uncertainty and the unknown. There are even life-threatening dangers.

Then there are the love and sacrifices. Joseph did everything he could to protect the child and his mother. And while they were in Egypt, far from homes and relatives, the parents must have worked hard to provide for the family. Then there must have been the sufferings of being away from everything and everybody that was familiar.

There is also the use of human intelligence, thinking and initiative. When Joseph "heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod" he thought of not going back there.
Archelaus was in fact a "cruel" ruler. In addition, his territory suffered from such "political chaos" that eventually the Romans replaced him with their own governors. On the other hand, Galilee, which was ruled by Herod Antipas, another of Herod's sons, was relatively more peaceful [1].

All of these took place in the Holy Family. The Son of God truly came to live among us and shares with us all things that are human but sins. He calls Nazareth, an earthly town, his own home. "He shall be called a Nazorean."

Let us think of our own families. We share so many things in common with the Holy Family. And the Emmanuel is also in our families. He is God-with-us.

[1] Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina Series). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 45.

Holy Family (December 26, 2010)

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December 24, 2010


Christmas - Mass at Midnight
Luke 2: 1-14

True Love is Not about Me

Caesar Augustus decreed "that the whole world should be enrolled." It's typical for an earthly ruler to exercise his control over his subjects. Moreover, a census would give the emperor a count of the population under him and thus how much tax revenue he could expect.

The local governor Quirinius of Syria carried out the emperor's degree as he exercised his control over his territory. Obedience to the emperor was both his duty and the security of his job, and possibly even his life.

Earthy rulers subject others to their control.

It's not so with the newborn savior and those who are called to serve him.

The Son of God was born to Joseph and Mary. They were two ordinary people who obeyed earthly authorities [1] even though they had been told by the angel of their unique roles and special mission in God's plan. In their obedience to earthly rulers, they rendered the control of their lives over to God.

The Son of God was born and "wrapped in swaddling clothes." This practice was "to keep the limbs straight by mean of restraint" [2]. This one detail proves that the Savior, "though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance" (Philippians 2: 6-7).

The Son of God was then "laid in a manger" a humble indication that he himself is the nourishment for God's children [3]. In appearance, there is no glamor here.

The Savior's humble birth is the result of his obedience to the Father and of his love for humanity.

Thus, the angel's "good news of great joy" to the shepherds, "a savior has been born for you." In fact, the news of great joy is not for the shepherds to keep. It is "for all the people."

Yes, for the newborn Savior and those who are called to serve him, it is never about me!

It is then we give "glory to God in the highest and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests."

[1] Luke Timothy Johnson, The Gospel of Luke; Sacra Pagina Series. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 52.
[2] Ibid.; p. 50.
[3] Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of the Lord: Reflections on the Gospel Readings - Year A. Homebush, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1992; p. 73.

Christmas - Mass at Midnight

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst

December 18, 2010


4th Sunday of Advent - A
Matthew 1: 18-24

Emmanuel - God is with us

Matthew 1: 18-24 is one of the rare Scripture passages where the translation or interpretation is provided right in the text for all the Hebrew words.

This was done not just for a practical reason, but, more importantly, for a theological one. The evangelist apparently wanted to make sure that his readers understand the meaning of the names given to the main figure of his writing - the child to be born.

The angel tells Joseph, "you are to name him Jesus." What the angel says next is more than just a translation of the name Jesus, which means "Yahweh helps."[1] The name itself is rather common, and the most famous of the Biblical characters with the name is probably Joshua, the assistant of Moses who succeeded Moses as the leader of the Israelites.

The child to be born, and entrusted to Joseph's care, is not just another Jewish male whose name echoes the religious faith and understanding of God's role in the life and history of the people. Rather, this child "will save his people from their sins.” He is different than all the others with the same name. And he will fulfill this mission of saving his people from their sins on the cross.

Then the name Emmanuel is given with a whole lesson on the fulfillment of God's plan.

The name was first mentioned in Isaiah 7:14, at a time of "distress" in Jewish history, was then understood as the fulfillment of God's promise to the House of David in 2 Sam 7:12-16 with the birth of "the ideal king." [2]

However, in Matthew's understanding, the child to be born is the real fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy. He is not like any other king from the House of David, good, bad or mediocre, who comes and goes. In this child, God's promise truly reaches its completion.

In fact, the very last sentence in Matthew's Gospel is "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age" (28:20). Jesus says this as sends his disciples out to continue his mission before his ascension into heaven.

Such is the grandeur of God's plan. Yet, every little detail in that plan counts.

And Joseph and Mary, two human beings, are each entrusted with a part in that plan.

So am I.

And I am not alone trying to fulfill what God plans for me. "Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age," says the Emmanuel.

Quotes taken from the footnotes in The New American Bible

4th Sunday of Advent - A (December 19, 2010)


December 11, 2010


3rd Sunday of Advent - A

What you hear and see

Jesus tells John the Baptist's disciples very clear signs of the Kingdom of God: "the blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them."

Those are incredible miracles that show the presence of God's reign.

John the Baptist prepared for the coming of that Kingdom of God. He was the messenger sent ahead of the Messiah to prepare the way.

The time of preparation is now over. We are now living in the Reign of God.

And by God's grace, each of us, member of that Kingdom, is "greater" than John.

However, it's not just about membership. Those who are called and chosen to follow the Messiah are also commissioned to share in the Messiah mission of being and giving sight to those who cannot see, empowering those who cannot walk, cleansing and welcoming the lepers rejected by society, opening the ears of those who cannot hear, giving voice to those who have no voice, bring life to those who live under the spell of death and evil, and proclaiming the good news to the poor.

3rd Sunday of Advent - A (December 12, 2010)

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December 5, 2010


2nd Sunday of Advent - A
Matthew 3: 1-12

Produce good fruit

The Pharisees and the Sadducees appeared to be doing exactly what other people are doing. Like the rest of "Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan," they had come to John to be baptized.

The people, as Matthew describes, "were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins."

The Pharisees and the Sadducees, however, in John's words, did not seem to have the right motivation. Were they just going through the motion? Was it because people were going to John to be baptized, they may as well? If that is the case, then it is not enough what we do.

Nor is it enough who we think we are. The Pharisees and the Sadducees cling to their membership in Abraham's family. And John points out clearly that being children of Abraham by heritage is not enough. In fact, though it is not mentioned in this text, the Pharisees and Sadducees were the religious leaders at the time. That did not seem to matter to John either.

Moreover, John denounces them as evildoers with the metaphor "brood of vipers." [1]

The demand John sets for them is not to cling to who they are nor what they do. Rather, the imminent coming of God's Kingdom demands a change of heart and attitude, resulting in fruit of repentance. True repentance must produce fruit.

[1] Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew (Sacra Pagina Series). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991; p. 55.