December 29, 2012

Holy Family


Trying to Understand and Carry Out God’s Plan

One way of reflecting on this Gospel passage from Luke is to focus on the interactions between Joseph, Mary, and Jesus.  As we do this, ask if you find the similar experiences in your own family.

-          The parents were religious observant Jews.  They made the pilgrimage to Jerusalem every year.  They made sure their son is raised in the religious tradition of the people, according to God’s covenant with their ancestors

-          When they discovered that their twelve-year-old son is not where they thought he would and should be, they go looking for him.

-          They were “with great anxiety.”

-          They probably were also terrified. 

        Were they arguing as they tried to figure out what happened? Did they feel guilty?

-          Should Jesus’ answer “Did you not know that I must be in my Father’s house?” be taken as his sincere effort to explain to his parents what had happened? Was Jesus trying to help his parents understand his mission? Did they take it that way?

-          Did they think he was obnoxious, not willing to admit what he had done?  Were they angry or upset at him? 

        Did they get even more confused?

As confused as Joseph and Mary were, Jesus went home with them, and “was obedient to them.”

Under their guidance, he “advanced in wisdom and age and favor before God and man.”

This can be the same reality in a young person’s trying to discover God’s vocation and plan for him or her.

How does it work in my own experience?

Holy Family - December 30, 2012


December 24, 2012


Luke 2: 1-14  (Mass at Night)

God’s Peace

Luke begins his account of the birth of Jesus by placing it in the reign of Caesar Augustus.  

Before becoming the Emperor, Augustus (previously known as Octavian) had defeated Mark Antony, bringing an end to 13 or so years of power struggle and civil war.  With his victory, he became the sole ruler of Rome.  Within a short time, the Roman Republic came to an end, and the Roman Empire began with Augustus as the very first Emperor.

The people of Rome then enjoyed a period of peace that lasted over 200 years, known as pax Romana  (Roman peace, also known as pax Augusta).   

However, for the peoples and nations defeated and conquered by Rome, it was not the same. Augustus expanded the empire with conquests, political alliances, and suppression.  The way Pilate treated the children of Israel, as recorded elsewhere in the New Testament (and other historical records) is an example.

Luke recalls such a world by mentioning the name of Caesar Augustus, Quirinius, the Roman appointed governor of the Province of Syria, and the enrollment that Rome imposed on its conquered territories.  

The pax Romana was a kind of relative and even artificial peace.

To such a world, the true Prince of Peace came.  

He did not come with earthly glory and destructive armies.  He came as “an infant wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.”  Like any human infant, he needed to be wrapped in swaddling clothes to ensure that his limps would not be crooked.  

Yet, this weak infant brought true and lasting peace.  This peace was not just for a selected and privileged few.  His peace was revealed in the humble surrounding of a manger, given first to the poor and lowly people of the land.

It was God’s true and lasting peace “on whom [God’s] favor rests.”

How do I view the way and the power of God’s peace?  How do I promote that peace?  What do I do to build a world with the peace that the Messiah brings?

Christmas - December 25 - 2012

Readings (Mass During the Night)

December 22, 2012

4th Sunday of Advent - C


The Joy of One Visited by the Lord

Elizabeth and her son John are the first human beings who recognize the presence of the Lord.  They are the first to receive the privilege of welcoming the long-awaited Messiah.  Her “old age” (Luke 1:36) can probably be seen as a symbol for that longing.

Elizabeth was once known as “barren” (the words of the angel to Mary in Luke 1:36).  The barren woman receives the gift of motherhood.   

Humanity now knows the fulfillment of “what was spoken by the Lord.” 

She represents the longing human race that is now visited by the Lord. 

And she rejoices.  

4th Sunday of Advent - C (December 23, 2012)


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December 22 - Sixth Day of the Great Days of Advent

O King of the Nations

O King of the nations, you alone can fulfil their desires; cornerstone, binding all together: come and save the creature you fashioned from the dust of the earth.

O Rex Gentium, et desideratus earum, lapisque angularis, qui facis utraque unum: 
veni, et salva hominem, quem de limo formasti.

December 21, 2012

December 21 - Fifth Day of the Great Days of Advent

O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice: come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death.

O Oriens, splendor lucis aeternae, et sol iustitiae: veni, et illumina sedentes in tenebris et umbra mortis.

December 20, 2012

December 20 - Fourth Day of the Great Days of Advent

O Antiphon

O Key of David, O royal Power of Israel, controlling at your will the gate of heaven: come, break down the prison walls of death for those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death; and lead your captive people to freedom.

O clavis David, et sceptrum domus Israel: qui aperis, et nemo claudit; claudis, et nemo aperit: veni, et educ vinctum de domo carceris, sedentem in tenebris.

December 20 - Fourth Day of the Great Days of Advent

Today's Gospel - the Annunciation

December 19, 2012

December 19 - Third Day of the Great Days of Advent

O Radix Jesse

O Root of Jesse you stand as a sign to the peoples; before you kings shall keep silence, all nations bow in worship: come and save us, and do not delay.

O Radix Jesse, qui stas in signum populorum, super quem continebunt reges os suum, quem gentes deprecabuntur: veni ad liberandum nos, jam noli tardare

December 18, 2012

December 18 - Second Day of the Great Days of Advent

O sacred Lord of ancient Israel,

who gave him the holy law on Sinai mountain:
come, stretch out your mighty hand to set us free....

December 17, 2012

December 17, First Day of the Great Days of Advent

Today, December 17, begins the Great Days of Advent. We are now in the second part of Advent, focusing on preparing for the celebration of Christ's birth. (The first half of Advent focuses more on Christ's second coming).

Among the tradition of these Great Days of Advent is the "O Antiphons" (more familiar in the song "O Come, O Come, Emmanuel") These prayers are used at Mass as the Alleluia verse and at evening prayer.

Each of these antiphons highlights a title of Jesus, the Messiah.
May these prayers help us focus on Jesus Christ, the reason for the season.

And today, the prayer is

O Wisdom,
O holy Word of God,
you govern all creation with your strong yet tender care.
Come and show your people the way to salvation....

O Sapientia

(The song: posted on

December 14, 2012

3rd Sunday of Advent - B

Luke 3: 10-18

"What then Should We Do?"

Remember how last week’s Gospel passage ended? John the Baptist announced that “all flesh shall see the salvation of God.” (3:6)

We skipped a few verses here, but it’s still in the same context when first John calls people to change their lives. In response, they ask him, and we begin today’s passage, “What then should we do?”

John instructs people to live God’s way in their own lives, not in some foreign ways of existence. They are to take care of those who are less fortunate. And they are to do what they are supposed to do as their life circumstances present to them.

Most interestingly, John does not tell the tax collectors and the soldiers to quit. These tax collectors and soldiers were not even working for a legitimate government. In fact, they were assisting the Romans in their occupation of Palestine. Yet, they can still be just.

So, how can I be just in my very circumstances of life so I can live and bring about that reality where “all flesh shall see the salvation of God”?

What is John saying to me?

3rd Sunday of Advent - C (December 16, 2012)


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December 8, 2012

2nd Sunday of Advent - C


“All Flesh Shall See the Salvation of Our God.”

Luke places John the Baptist and his preaching in the historical context with a list of names.  “In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, and Herod was tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene, during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas.”

Some of these people we know because they are mentioned elsewhere in the New Testaments or historical records.

The names of the Roman Emperor Tiberius Caesar and Pontius Pilate, the Roman governor of Judea, brings to mind the oppression and bloodshed that come with the Roman conquest and occupation of the land. [1]

Pontius Pilate was “a cruel and malicious” ruler [2], accused of “constant executions without trial, unending grievous cruelty.” [3]  And remember the way he handled the trial of Jesus?

And the mess in the family of Herod and Philip! Herod stole the wife of his brother and was responsible for the death of John the Baptist's death because John told him it was wrong to do so. 

Annas and Caiaphas were heads of the religious leaders that put Jesus to death.  There, they behaved more like power-hungry and cunning dictators than religious leaders.  

Not mentioned here, but there were other people who were waiting for the fulfillment of God's promise.  John, his parents, Mary and Joseph, the shepherds, the Magi, the people who came to the desert to listen to John, …

To such a world, to such reality of the human race, the Lord came.  And “all flesh shall see the salvation of our God.”

[1] & [2] Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan. Little Blue Book for Advent 2012, entry for Tuesday – Second Week of Advent.
[3] The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, p. 1249.

2nd Sunday of Advent - C (December 9, 2012)


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December 1, 2012

1st Sunday of Advent - C


Be Vigilant at All Times

In this new liturgical year – Year C, the Sunday Gospel is often taken from the Gospel According to Luke.

However, we begin the liturgical year not at the beginning, but near the end of the Gospel with a reading from chapter 21, out of 24 chapters, of Luke.

Advent begins with the call for us to be ready for the return of the Messiah at the end of time, not his first coming at Bethlehem.  That will come in the second half of Advent.

Luke wrote to Gentile Christians (not of Jewish origin) probably at the end of the first century.   The earlier part of Chapter 21 records Jesus’ prophecy of what would happen to Jerusalem (21: 20-24).  Luke’s readers knew what had happened to the country of the Jews and of the Jerusalem temple [1] .   They experienced Jesus’ words fulfilled. 

Jesus also warned his disciples of the persecution they will endure because of his name (21: 12-19).  

Luke's readers had also heard the stories of what happened to Jesus’ disciples, who failed to heed his warnings.  They were not “vigilant at all times” and failed to “pray” at the hour of Jesus.

Jesus’ warnings must have been very real for them: “Beware that your hearts do not become drowsy from carousing and drunkenness and the anxieties of daily life, and that day catch you by surprise like a trap.”

It has been 2,000 years since Jesus spoke these words.

Are we better at paying attention to his warning?

[1] Francis J. Moloney, This is the Gospel of the Lord – Year C. Homebush, NSW, Australia: St. Paul Publications, 1991p. 48.

1st Sunday of Advent - C (December 2, 2012)


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November 24, 2012

Christ the King

John 18: 33b-37

The King of Truth

Jesus’ kingship is different than the kingship expected by the Jewish leaders or familiar to Pilate.

Jesus’ “own nation and the chief priests handed [Jesus] over to [Pilate]” because he did not meet their expectations.  Earlier in the Gospel of John, they had wanted to make him king after he multiplied the five loaves and two fish and fed them (Chapter 6). 

And once they have turned against him, he became a “criminal.”  When Pilate asked them of what they accused him of, without specifying the crime, they replied, “If he were not a criminal, we would not have handed him over to you.” (John 18: 29-30)

Pilate, a Roman, expected a different kind of a king, probably the type of oppressive Roman rulers that he is familiar with. In addition, the fact that the rulers handed Jesus over seems to suggest to Pilate that Jesus must have done something to cause his falling out of favor with his “own nation.” That is why he asked Jesus, “What have you done.”

Both Pilate and Jesus’ Jewish opponents limit their understanding of kings and kingdoms to worldly kings and kingdoms.

Jesus does not meet their worldly expectations.

On the contrary, Jesus’ kingship and kingdom, though in the world, are not of the world.

Are we willing to listen to the King who has come to testify to the truth, God’s truth?

Christ the King - November 25, 2012


Image source:  Christ Before Pilate by Nicolaes Maes

November 17, 2012

33rd Sunday

Mark 13: 24-32

The end! 

We know that it will happen.  But nobody knows when and how.

Jesus used images that were familiar to his listeners from both the prophets [1] and their life experiences of nature to remind them that the world as they know it will end. 

Then Jesus taught them the attitude they must have: to trust.  

The location of the passage in the Gospel of Mark and in the cycle of the Sunday readings can shed some light on its meaning.  Last Sunday, Jesus gave us the example of the poor widow’s total trust in God.  Then, after this Chapter 13, the events related to Jesus’ passion and death begin.  In Jesus, we have the supreme model of trust in God’s plan of love.

With that attitude, the disciples need not to worry about when and how the world will end.  

Instead, they can focus their lives on Jesus’ words, which alone “will not pass away.”  Moreover, their lives, words, and actions can witness and preach that words of Jesus to others.

 [1] Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  Peabody, MA: Hendrikson Publishers, 2002; p. 268.

33rd Sunday - B (November 18, 2012)


November 10, 2012

32nd Sunday - B


The Extent of One’s Trust in God

In terms of monetary value, the widow gives very little. She puts in two lepta, which “were worth one-sixty-fourth of a day’s salary.” [1]  That is the payment for seven and a half minutes of work by a laborer who works eight hours a day. 

But as Jesus points out, she has given more than anybody else.  The seven and a half minutes work worth of salary is “all she has, her whole livelihood.” 

Is Jesus here encouraging his disciples, who have left all to follow him?  When they were called, some left their “nets, boats, hired hands, and father,” another left his tax collecting table to follow Jesus. [2]

Then, we have the example of Jesus himself, who by now, in the Gospel of Mark, is already in Jerusalem   In just three chapters (chapter 15), will give his very life out of obedience to the Father for the salvation of all of humanity.  [3]

That is the attitude of trust in God when giving that we, the disciples of Jesus, are called to follow. 

 [1,2, & 3] Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of Mark: A Commentary.  Peabody, MA: Hendrikson Publishers, 2002; p. 247.