Sunday, December 11, 2016

Advent Continues

So the bounce happened once a few weeks ago in parishes. Went to the more modern parish and was surprised as both parishes set up an Angel tree at this time of year and you pull an angel off the tree and it indicates what you need to get for a person more in need. Whether a family for groceries to a teenager needing toiletries.
 Te more modern parish with a relatively large base of families had about 100-150 angels unclaimed while the smaller English/Polish parish I was lucky after the mass the other week to find an angel at all. In the end there was nothing. Is this a case of smaller parish bigger heart? Not sure I do know that this English/Polish parish does gather money monthly and this Christmas angel drive for the needy within the parish and not the diocese. It is funny one can imagine that there are people who are less fortunate within the diocese but no one would think  that within the borders of a parish we would have this mis-distribution of wealth. Funny I always enjoyed giving to this parish because it truly might be helping my neighbour. But with that said does it matter where we give? As long as people who are less fortunate then us benefit that at the end of day is what truly matters.
 If you church/parish has such a program please help as truly it is a gift to someone who might not be able to get anything. Could be a shut in or a young child whose parents just don't have the means to buy a Christmas gift. At least we can brighten their lives even if a little bit on Christmas!

This was Good

Some good reading again from Catholic Exchange about today's mass. Please enjoy.

Scripture Speaks: Gaudete Sunday

This Sunday is Gaudete (Rejoice!) Sunday.  Our Gospel gives us John the Baptist in prison as our meditation.  Isn’t that a bit downbeat?

Gospel (Read Mt 11:2-11)

St. Matthew tells us that John the Baptist “heard in prison of the works of the Christ” in Galilee, undoubtedly from his own disciples.  He sent those disciples to Jesus with a question:  “Are You the One Who is to come, or should we look for another?”  What prompted this question?  It is highly unlikely that John himself had any doubts about Jesus.  John was the very first one to proclaim about Him, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29).  He recognized Jesus as the one Who would be sacrificed, like the Passover lamb, for us.  Some have suggested that John began to waiver in his conviction when he ended up in prison for criticizing Herod.  Perhaps he expected deliverance by the Messiah.  However, John knew the fate of all the prophets God had ever sent to His people.  They were resisted, persecuted, and sometimes killed.  Surely his imprisonment did not surprise him.  He knew that Jesus, too, would be opposed to the point of shedding His blood.  Did he really expect to be sprung from his martyrdom?  A more plausible explanation of this episode is that John’s disciples were disappointed in Jesus’ seeming indifference to John’s situation, so the Baptist sent them to Jesus to clear up their doubts.
The answer Jesus gave to John’s disciples should have been very satisfying to them.  He explained His work entirely within the context of the prophecy Isaiah had given long ago (more on this in our First Reading).  Jesus wanted John’s disciples to know that He was doing the work of His Father, keeping promises that had been made through the prophets.  Jesus did not save John from martyrdom, and even that was part of what had been prophesied of Him.  Isaiah was clear that God’s Anointed One would come as a Suffering Servant, not in great power but in apparent weakness (see Isa 53).  However, by Jesus’ day, Israel’s hope and expectation of the Messiah was centered on His kingship.  They thought the king was coming to free His people from political oppression.  John, sitting in prison, looked to John’s disciples as the perfect opportunity for Jesus to begin this kind of reign.  Jesus had to tell them:  “Blessed is the one who takes no offense at Me.”  His kingship was not going to be like that.
So, where is our Gaudete joy in this Gospel?  First, we should be mindful of how Jesus detailed for John’s disciples that He was precisely fulfilling all the promises God had made about Him.  Are we now, ourselves, waiting for promises of God to be kept?  Of course, we are, so our response to this reminder of God’s trustworthiness can only be to rejoice!  With patience, we can be sure that He will not disappoint us.
Second, Jesus says something remarkable about every Christian believer here as He teaches the crowds about John:  “Amen, I say to you, among those born of women there has been none greater than John the Baptist; yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”  What did Jesus mean?  We know He wasn’t speaking about John’s personal sanctity—his willingness to live and die in obedience to God leaves all of us humbled.  Rather, Jesus was making a contrast for us.  As great a prophet as John was, he lived and died within the Old Covenant.  He prepared the way of the Lord, but he did not live to see its fullness unleashed on the earth.  That fullness is offered to us in the New Covenant, and even a tiny, newborn baby who is baptized into Jesus experiences that in a way John didn’t.  What should our response be to this marvel?  Rejoice!
Possible response:  Lord Jesus, I know sometimes You aren’t doing what I want You to do, but I know You are always doing what You promised to do.  This is my Advent joy.

First Reading (Read Isa 35:1-6a, 10)

Here is another splendid prophecy from Isaiah about the coming of our God.  He describes a glorious fruitfulness on the earth, as well as a healing of all that is so debilitating, which is salvation.  We see here the very images Jesus used to assure John’s disciples that, ultimately, those who trust God’s promises will not be disappointed.  The Incarnation was the first step in God’s plan to keep the bold promise made through Isaiah:  “Be strong, fear not!  Here is your God … He comes to save you.”  It will take time, including our own, for the unfolding of all God’s triumphant plan, but the promise to us is sure:  “Those whom the Lord has ransomed will return and enter Zion [the heavenly city of God] singing, crowned with everlasting joy; they will meet with joy and gladness, sorrow and mourning will flee.”
Rejoice!
Possible response:  Heavenly Father, I rejoice to know a day is coming when “sorrow and mourning will flee.”  Help me patiently wait for it.

Psalm (Read Ps 146:6-10)

If we are wondering what promises from God our lives count on, daily, this psalm outlines some of them:
Justice for the oppressed
Food for the hungry
Freedom for captives
Sight for the blind
Elevation for those bowed down
Protection for strangers, the fatherless, and widows
An end to wickedness
And this is only one psalm about God’s promises!  Surely today we can sing, with great joy and confidence, “Lord, come and save us.”
Possible response:  The psalm is, itself, a response to our other readings.  Read it again prayerfully to make it your own.

Second Reading (Read Jam 5:7-10)

St. James gives us helpful instruction in our Advent time of waiting for God to keep all His promises:  “Be patient, brothers and sisters, until the coming of the Lord.”  We need patience in order for our faith not to fail us.  St. James uses the example of the farmer “who waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient with it until it receives the early and the late rains.”  This is an interesting image for us to ponder.  A fruitful crop must have all the rains it needs before it can be harvested.  Some rains will come early, but some will come late.  If we think of the rain as an image of God’s direct action to make human history and our own personal histories fruitful, then we must be prepared for dry spells from time to time.  In our Gospel, the great miracles Jesus worked on earth were the “early rains,” evidences of His kingship.  John’s martyrdom, as well as His own, would look to us like dry spells, as if the crop had been lost.  However, the Resurrection, Ascension, and Pentecost were the “late rains.”  All was not lost!
St. James encourages us to “make our hearts firm” in our waiting and to seek virtue (“do not complain … about one another”).  Then he gives us excellent advice:  “Take as an example of hardship and patience …  the prophets who spoke in the Name of the Lord.”  The prophets teach us that our Advent waiting will one day be over, and that is cause to rejoice.
Possible response:  Heavenly Father, patience in our age of instant gratification is a hard virtue to practice.  Strengthen Your people to wait for the “late rains” of Your love on this world and not give up.

Homily for Today

"The blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:5] Today's celebration of the Third Sunday of Advent continues to prepare us for the coming of the Lord Jesus among us. During this special time of Advent, we are called to embrace a holy mind so that we may perceive for the benefit of our spiritual growth the true spiritual meaning of the Words of God that we have just heard.

The First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 35:1-6a, 10] echoed the anticipation of God's chosen people. The people believed that God would come and save them from their worldly suffering. To them, God's coming was perceived as a second Exodus.

In their perception of the coming of the promised Messiah, the people visualized a transformation of the physical world where the entire creation would rejoice. They envisioned blooming deserts that would manifest the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. [Is. 35:1-2]

They visualized a revived people under the leadership of an eternal King who would arrive to save them and avenge them. Once more the weak hands and feeble knees would be made strong. Those who are physically blind, they would see again. Those who are deaf, they would hear again. [Is. 35:5]

Today's First Reading and the Gospel of Matthew both mention that "the blind shall see." [Is. 29:18-9, 35:5-6, 61:1; Mt. 11:5; Lk. 7:22] Among the hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament that foretold of the coming Messiah, there was one outstanding prophecy that would distinguish the promised Messiah from the false prophets. It was His ability to give sight to the blind.

That is why when John the Baptist was in prison and he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one to come or if they had to wait for another, Jesus answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight..." [Mt. 11:2-5] Because the people were worldly minded, Jesus provided physical miracles as a sign that the prophecies were being fulfilled through Him. At the same time, the meaning of the blind receiving their sight did not have just a physical meaning, but also a spiritual meaning. This spiritual insight would come to the people after the glorious Resurrection of the Lord Jesus.

Returning to the First Reading, God's people waited for a Redeemer who would bring them out of their exile, something similar to what was experienced in the Exodus from Egypt. What God was revealing to them was a different Exodus, salvation through Jesus Christ.

The Second Reading from the Letter of James [Jas 5:7-10] reminds us to be patient until the coming of the Lord. In those days, it was the common belief of the people that Jesus would return anytime, "anytime" meaning during the life of the generation that lived in the days of the Lord. [1 Thess. 2:19; 4:15; 2 Thess 2:1, etc.; Mt. 24:3; 2 Pet. 1:16, 3:4, 12; 1 Jn. 2:28] Awaiting the glorious return of the Lord Jesus, some of the faithful had sold everything they owned and gave the money away. Others had quit their jobs and sat around, just waiting.

Regarding this deception, St. Paul told them, "As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way: for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless on is revealed, the one destined for destruction..." [2 Thess. 2:1-3]

While we must be prepared for the coming of the Lord, at the same time, we must not allow ourselves to be deceived by false prophets. For "about that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." [Mt. 24:36]

In the meantime, we must bear our crosses by persevering in our suffering, suffering through the ordinary trials of life and suffering through outrageous injustices such as the persecution of Christians. Both have their merits and bless us with graces according to our sufferings. No matter what we suffer, like the farmer who patiently awaits for the earth to produce the precious crops, we too must be extremely patient. May the Lord strengthen our hearts in holiness that we may be blameless before our God and Father at the coming of Jesus with all His saints. [1 Thess. 3:13]

While awaiting the coming of the Lord, may our gentleness be known to everyone. For the Lord is near. [Phil. 4:5] May we not neglect to meet together, encourage one another, all the more as we see the Day approaching. [Heb. 10:25] "For yet 'in a very little while the one who is coming will come and will not delay.'" [Hab. 2:3; Heb. 10:37]

In the First Letter of John I read, "Children, it is the last hour! As you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. From this we know that it is the last hour." [1 Jn. 2:18] Who are the antichrists? Regarding the Antichrist deception, number 676 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches us:

"The Antichrist's deception already begins to take shape in the world every time the claim is made to realize within history that messianic hope which can only be realized beyond history through the eschatological judgment. The Church has rejected even modified forms of this falsification of the kingdom to come under the name of millenarianism, especially the 'intrinsically perverse' political form of a secular messianism."

In other words, when someone claims that Christ is returning to rule for a thousand years on earth, his claim is an Antichrist deception. The eternal Kingdom of God is not of this world. [Jn. 18:36]

The Second Reading reminds us not to grumble against one another, so that we may not be judged. For the Judge is standing at the doors. [Jas. 5:9] These words echo the Words of Jesus, "Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get." [Mt. 7:1-2]

While we frequently remember the saints and martyrs as our models of suffering and patience, we should not forget the prophets of the Old Testament who spoke in the Most Holy Name of the Lord and who were murdered because of it. [Jas. 5:10; Mt. 23:29-32; Acts 7:52]

Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 11:2-11] related the event when John the Baptist sent messengers to Jesus. No one is really sure as to why John the Baptist sent the messengers. Was he experiencing a moment of doubt while in prison? Was it because he too was waiting for a worldly kingdom and he was being impatient with Jesus who was taking forever to overthrow the Roman Empire? Surely, hearing in prison what the Messiah was doing, [Mt. 11:2] it must have been confusing for John the Baptist. After all, he had no reason to believe any different than the Jewish people who were awaiting a worldly kingdom.

Jesus was asked, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" [Mt. 11:3] To this He answered, "Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them." [Mt. 11:4-5]

Let us take a moment to review the spiritual meaning of each part of this response.

(1) "The blind receive their sight." When Jesus spoke of the blind receiving their sight, He was speaking of their enlightment to spiritual matters. We learn this truth from the Holy Bible when the Apostles asked Jesus how come He spoke in parables. To this, Jesus answered, "To you has been given the secret of the Kingdom of God, but for those outside, everything comes in parables: in order that they may indeed look but not perceive, and may indeed listen, but not understand; so that they may not turn again and be forgiven." [Mk. 4:10-2] For those who have hardened their hearts, it is not meant for them to understand spiritual things.

(2) The lame walk. Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you know me, you will know my father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him." [Jn. 14:6-7] Without Jesus, we are lame. We fall in all our undertakings. We walk in the darkness. With Jesus, even though we may suffer for a while, we can still walk because we have a blessed hope.

(3) The lepers are cleansed. Leprosy is a symbol of the state of our souls when we live in sin. Covered with horrifying stains, we are not worthy of being in the presence of the Lord. But through the Sacrament of Confession, we can be cleansed. Did Jesus not say to His disciples, "'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'" [Jn. 20:21-3]

(4) The deaf hear. As the blind see, the deaf hear. Those who have hardened their hearts, they do not hear anything. This is especially truthful of those who reject the grace of God, therefore sinning against the Holy Spirit. [Lk. 12:10] For them, it is not what God wants. It is what "I want!" They have placed their will above the Divine Will of God. Those who are sincere in their search of eternal life, they hear the voice of the Father in their hearts. And everyone who has heard and learned from the Father, they go to Jesus. [Jn. 6:45]

(5) The dead are raised. The dead are those who have no life in them. They walk the path of darkness. Jesus taught the way that one must follow to obtain the resurrection of life. It is through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. "Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you." [Jn. 6:53]

(6) The poor have good news brought to them. The poor are the sincere who seek the truth, the way and the life through Jesus Christ. Jesus said to His disciples, "Go into all the world and proclaim the good news to the whole creation. The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned." [Mk. 15:15-6] Therefore, the poor are also those who are baptized, the Sacrament of Baptism being their admission into the Body of Christ.

Jesus is the Good News, the Light of the world. "The true light, which enlighten everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him. He came to what was his own, and his own people did not accept him. But to all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become children of God, who were born, not of blood of the will of the flesh or of the will of man, but of God." [Jn. 1:9-13]

These were the teachings of Jesus. Those who embrace a spiritual mind, they understand these Words. They submit themselves to the Divine Will of the Lord in obedience and servitude. They are among the blind who have received their sight. For they know the promise of the Lord for those who persevere to the end. "See, I am coming soon; My reward is with Me, to repay according to everyone's work." [Rev. 22:12]

Third Sunday of Advent

Reading 1IS 35:1-6A, 10

The desert and the parched land will exult;
the steppe will rejoice and bloom.
They will bloom with abundant flowers,
and rejoice with joyful song.
The glory of Lebanon will be given to them,
the splendor of Carmel and Sharon;
they will see the glory of the LORD,
the splendor of our God.
Strengthen the hands that are feeble,
make firm the knees that are weak,
say to those whose hearts are frightened:
Be strong, fear not!
Here is your God,
he comes with vindication;
with divine recompense
he comes to save you.
Then will the eyes of the blind be opened,
the ears of the deaf be cleared;
then will the lame leap like a stag,
then the tongue of the mute will sing.

Those whom the LORD has ransomed will return
and enter Zion singing,
crowned with everlasting joy;
they will meet with joy and gladness,
sorrow and mourning will flee.

Responsorial PsalmPS 146:6-7, 8-9, 9-10

R. (cf. Is 35:4) Lord, come and save us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD God keeps faith forever,
secures justice for the oppressed,
gives food to the hungry.
The LORD sets captives free.
R. Lord, come and save us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The LORD gives sight to the blind;
the LORD raises up those who were bowed down.
The LORD loves the just;
the LORD protects strangers.
R. Lord, come and save us.
or:
R. Alleluia.
The fatherless and the widow he sustains,
but the way of the wicked he thwarts.
The LORD shall reign forever;
your God, O Zion, through all generations.
R. Lord, come and save us.
or:
R. Alleluia.

Reading 2JAS 5:7-10

Be patient, brothers and sisters,
until the coming of the Lord.
See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, 
being patient with it
until it receives the early and the late rains.
You too must be patient.
Make your hearts firm,
because the coming of the Lord is at hand.
Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another, 
that you may not be judged.
Behold, the Judge is standing before the gates.
Take as an example of hardship and patience, brothers and sisters,
the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord.

AlleluiaIS 61:1 (CITED IN LK 4:18)

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
The Spirit of the Lord is upon me,
because he has anointed me
to bring glad tidings to the poor.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 11:2-11

When John the Baptist heard in prison of the works of the Christ, 
he sent his disciples to Jesus with this question, 
“Are you the one who is to come,
or should we look for another?”
Jesus said to them in reply, 
“Go and tell John what you hear and see: 
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.
And blessed is the one who takes no offense at me.”

As they were going off,
Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John, 
“What did you go out to the desert to see?
A reed swayed by the wind?
Then what did you go out to see?
Someone dressed in fine clothing?
Those who wear fine clothing are in royal palaces.
Then why did you go out? To see a prophet?
Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet.
This is the one about whom it is written:
Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;
he will prepare your way before you.

Amen, I say to you,
among those born of women 
there has been none greater than John the Baptist; 
yet the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he.”

Prayers for Today

Lord Jesus, strengthen my trust in your word and my hope in the saving power of your kingdom. Free me from everything that would hold me back from pursuing your kingdom and your will for my life.

Lord, I believe that you are present here with me as I enter into this moment of conversation with you. I trust in your loving providence that guides my every step throughout the day. Because I love you, I desire to look only to you so that you can become the strength of my weakness and the certitude of my entire life.

 Lord, during this period of Advent, I want to draw closer to you. I want you to invade every corner and crevice of my weary heart. Teach me to leave aside all my fears for the future and to be as generous as you have been with me – giving everything you had, indeed your very life, for my salvation.

Sunday, December 4, 2016

Advent: A Preparation for Christmas

Borrowed this from Catholic Exchange;

As each year draws to a close, and Christmas fast approaches, we tend to focus on what is obvious – putting up our decorations, trimming our tree, shopping for friends and family and eating every type of desert known to man.
And before you know it, time has escaped us.
Suddenly it’s Christmas Eve night and all the wonders that come with it – reflecting on Bethlehem, the birth of Jesus, the angels singing, the shepherds in the field, the wise men beginning their decent from the east, all culminating in “Silent Night, Holy Night.”
But wait! Are we even prepared for Christmas? Prepared for all of the beauty and wonder of Christmas?
Truly prepared?
Before the coming of our Lord, is the season of Advent. A time of preparation.
The world tells us that Christmas is about filling our homes with bright lights and greenery, attending office parties, singing carols, listening to Handel’s “Messiah” or the latest pop star’s new Christmas album. The world encourages us to shop, shop and shop!
I love Christmas just as much as anyone (maybe more). But should we not also be more intentional (and joyful) when practicing and experiencing the season of Advent? The coming of our Lord!

How to Prepare for Christmas, through Advent

And what should we be doing to prepare for the coming of our Lord? The obvious things are:
  • Meditate on our Lord’s impending birth
  • Give to those in need
  • Feed the hungry
  • Clothe the homeless
  • Be kind to others
  • Be satisfied with what we have (gratitude)
But perhaps it is not possible for you to go out and help the “homeless.” That’s fine – OK, then how about helping those in your own home?
What ways can we prepare our hearts for the coming of Baby Jesus – in our own homes? How about patience – toward those nearest you? Be more willing to listen, less eager to criticize? Give of your time and your person and not necessarily of your money.
We can also practice more patience with those outside of our homes – especially in stores or driving on the road (Christmas shopping traffic!). We can be more giving and patient toward those in the workplace. Maybe we can be less prideful and more humble.
How about being more temperate with our sweet tooth (or teeth, for that matter)?
Advent challenges us to understand the Christmas season in the contexts of the coming of Christ. Advent also offers us a powerful alternative to the commercialization of Christmas. A reason to exclaim “Merry Christmas!” instead of a bland and politically correct “Happy Holidays.”

A Season for Giving

I’m sure you’ve heard it before; Christmas is a season for giving.
Then make it so. Give to those in need.
I’m sure you’ve heard that Christmas is a time for feasting.
Then make it so. Help to feed those around you who can’t afford to do so.
I’m sure you’ve heard that Christmas is a season of joy, hope and peace.
Then make it so. Grow in these virtues by putting them into practice with friends, family, neighbors and strangers. And most importantly, with the whole reason there is Christmas, for God.
And the next time someone asks you, “Are you ready for Christmas?” you can honestly say, “I’m not but I’m trying to be with the help of the season of Advent.”

Homily

Welcome my brothers and sisters in Christ to today's celebration of the Second Sunday of Advent. As we continue to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ during the Advent Season, we are told to "Prepare the way of the Lord, (to) make his paths straight." [Mt. 3:3]

Last Sunday, we learned that Advent serves the purpose of preparing us for the coming of the Lord as the Judge, either at death or at the end of this world, whichever may come first. It also taught us to prepare ourselves to receive the Real Physical Presence of our Redeemer through the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist. And it taught us to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas, the birthday anniversary of the Lord's coming into this world as God incarnate. Consequently, it can be said that while the reign of God is at hand, it is already here, but not yet fully.

Today's First Reading from the Book of Isaiah [Is. 11:1-10] consisted of a descriptive prophecy related to the coming of the ideal king from David's line. It began by proclaiming that "A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots." [Is. 11:1] Jesse was the father of king David, from whom the Judean kings descended.

The Gospel of Matthew affirms that Jesus was the King referred to, He being of the root of Jesse who was the father of David. [Mt. 1:5-6; Rev. 5:5, 22:16]

Regarding the King to come, Our Lord Jesus Christ, it was said that "The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge..." [Is. 11:2] The Spirit of the Lord is the Holy Spirit, the life-giving breath that comes from Yahweh. It is the same Spirit who endows men with the gifts of extraordinary power, wisdom, understanding, counsel, might and knowledge.

At His final coming, the Lord "shall not judge by what his eyes see, or decide by what his ears hear; but with righteousness he shall judge the poor, and decide with equity for the meek of the earth; he shall strike the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips he shall kill the wicked." [Is. 11;3- 4]

When the Divine judgments arrive, they shall be as severe as a chastising rod and a hot lethal breath. "And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of His mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of His coming." [2 Thess. 2:8]

At that time, "Righteousness shall be the belt around his waist, and faithfulness the belt around his loins." [Is. 11:5] The belt, also known as the "girdle," was a loincloth that was worn next to the body. In the prophecy of Isaiah, it was foretold that the King to come, Our Lord Jesus, would wear the symbolic garments of righteousness and faithfulness close to His body.

The aforementioned words remind us of the words of Saint Paul in the Letter to the Ephesians. "Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of His power. Put on the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For our struggle is not against enemies of blood and flesh, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers of this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armour of God, so that you may be able to withstand on that evil day, and having done everything, to stand firm. Stand therefore, and fasten the belt of truth around your waist, and put on the breastplate of righteousness. As shoes for your feet put on whatever will make you ready to proclaim the gospel of peace. With all of these, take the shield of faith, with which you will be able to quench all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God." [Eph. 6:10- 17]

And especially now in the Advent Season, we should "Pray in the Spirit at all times in every prayer and supplication. To that end (we should) keep alert and always persevere in supplication for all the saints." [Eph. 6:18]

When Isaiah said, "The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them..." [Is. 11:6] he was providing a picture of a Messianic era when paradise would be restored. This era, partially fulfilled through Jesus Christ, is approaching its final day when the coming of Christ shall be upon us.

While we cannot see the spiritual Kingdom of God that has come on earth as it is in Heaven, we believe that through the Sacrament of Baptism, we have been admitted into the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth, the mystical Body of Christ to which the Catholic Church is united as the visible image of the invisible. We also believe that our participation in the celebration of the Holy Mass through which we receive the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist is our participation in a great spiritual Feast in the Real Presence of Jesus, His mother, the saints and all the angels.

The First Reading ended by saying that "On that day the root of Jesse shall stand as a signal to the peoples; the nations shall inquire of him, and his dwelling shall be glorious." [Is. 11:10] What is that day? Was it in the past? Is it now? Or is it in the future? "On that day" is a reference to the past and to the present. It is a reference to the hope of the gentiles in Jesus. [Rom 15:12]

"Whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, so that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope." [Rom. 15:4] The Words of God that were written in former days in the Holy Scriptures, they give us Christians a basis for our hope in Jesus Christ.

What was written in former days was in the hope that we too may live in harmony with one another in accordance with Christ Jesus, so that together we may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Rom. 15:5-6] We are to be united! We are to welcome one another, just as Jesus has welcomed us, for the glory of God. [Rom. 5:7] As all the activities of Jesus were for the glory of God, [Phil. 1:11, 2:11] and continue to be so to this day, we too are called to glorify God in all things, day and night, here and there, in all our thoughts, all our words and all our actions.

Today's Second Reading teaches us that "... Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy." [Rom. 15:8-9]

To fulfill the promises of God the Father to the patriarchs, Jesus had to be born as a Jewish citizen and He had to minister to the Jewish nation. But, while this is so, the promises of God are to be shared by both, the Jewish people [Ps. 18:50] and we the gentiles. [2 Sam. 22:50] Despite our ethnic background, as Saint Paul tells us, the Christian community is called to be united as one.

"As it is written, 'Therefore I will confess you among the Gentiles, and sing praises to your name.'" [Rom. 15:9] At the incarnation of God, the world sang praises to His Most Holy Name. Since the days of the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ, the world has been singing praises to His Most Holy Name. At His glorious coming, the world will sing praises to His Name. And finally, throughout the days of the eternal Kingdom that awaits those who persevere in their living faith, the children of God shall sing endless praises to His Most Holy Name.

Accordingly, we must "Prepare the way of the Lord, make His paths straight." [Mt. 3:3] Today's Reading from the Gospel of Matthew [Mt. 3:1-12] began by telling us that Saint John the Baptist proclaimed a baptism of repentance in the wilderness of Judea. In the desert of Judea, there is a steep slope that falls from the central ridge of the country to the valley of the Jordan and the Dead Sea. According to Catholic tradition that has been handed down, when reference is made to baptism in the Jordan, it indicates that St. John the Baptism preached near the river, most likely not far from Jericho.

John's message was one of repentance in preparation for the Kingdom of Heaven that was at hand. It is the same message that Jesus proclaimed when He began His ministry in Galilee. "Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven has come near." [Mt. 4:17]

When the great prophet Isaiah prophesied a forerunner who would be crying out in the wilderness, he was clearly making reference to John the Baptist. [Mt. 4:3] The introduction of John the Baptist in the Gospel of Matthew is quite abrupt, lacking details as to who he was. The reason for this is because John was a well-known figure in the early days of the Christian community. There was no need for any lengthy introduction. This is affirmed in Chapter 19, verses 1 to 5 of the Acts of the Apostles. There, we read that when Paul passed through Ephesus, he came across John's followers who were promoting the baptism of repentance. They had never heard of Baptism in the Name of the Lord Jesus.

If St. John were here today, he would have no problem preparing himself during the Advent Season. To him, prayer and fasting was part of his life. In his days, there was no fast food hamburgers, high class restaurants, or 11 course meals. In humility, John wore a garment of camel's hair that was held together by a belt around his waist. His food consisted of locusts and wild honey. Surely, if he was here today, he would put us to shame by the way we live.

John the Baptist's lifestyle was similar to the prophet Elijah. In 2 Kings 1:7-8, we read, "'What kind of man was he who came to meet you and told you these things?' They answered him, 'A hairy man, with a leather belt around his waist.' He said, 'It is Elijah the Tishbite.'"

Before Jesus came into the world, it was prophesied that prior to the arrival of the Messiah, Elijah would return. [Mt. 11:14] As with many other prophesies, this was a symbolic prophecy. Yet, some of the people waited for Elijah to literally return. On this subject, we read in the Gospel of Matthew, "The disciples asked Jesus, 'Why, then, do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?' Jesus replied, 'Elijah is indeed coming and will restore all things: but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but they did to him whatever they pleased...'" [Mt. 17:10-2] The symbolic prophecy of Elijah referred to the coming of John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Messiah.

Towards the end of today's Gospel Reading, we heard the following word of John the Baptist, "I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire." [Mt. 3:11] In these words, John alludes to the coming of the Holy Spirit in tongues of fire on Pentecost Day. [Acts 2:3]

At the same time, when speaking of a baptism of fire, it can be interpreted as meaning to receive the Holy Spirit in the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation. It can also be interpreted to mean the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit that sanctifies the souls so that they may become more in the likeness of Jesus Who is the First Fruit [1 Cor. 15:20] of many to follow.

As we "prepare the way of the Lord" in our lives, we are called to review the status of our disposition towards the grace of God the Father that is manifested through the purifying fire of the Holy Spirit. During Advent, we are called to be repentant of our sins. We are called to pray unceasingly, (pause) to make penance, (pause) to fast (pause) and to perform acts of charity towards our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Are we granting the Spirit of God the freedom to freely flow through us so we may shine as lights in the world? Or are we resisting the purifying of the Holy Spirit, choosing the pleasures of the world, its fame and it wealth? As we reflect upon this, let us not forget that "every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." [Mt. 3:10] May the power of the Spirit of Christ strengthen us all in our struggle to become living saints, not in name only, but also in action.

Second Sunday of Advent

Reading 1IS 11:1-10

On that day, a shoot shall sprout from the stump of Jesse,
and from his roots a bud shall blossom.
The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him:
a spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
a spirit of counsel and of strength,
a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD,
and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.
Not by appearance shall he judge,
nor by hearsay shall he decide,
but he shall judge the poor with justice,
and decide aright for the land’s afflicted.
He shall strike the ruthless with the rod of his mouth,
and with the breath of his lips he shall slay the wicked.
Justice shall be the band around his waist,
and faithfulness a belt upon his hips.
Then the wolf shall be a guest of the lamb,
and the leopard shall lie down with the kid;
the calf and the young lion shall browse together,
with a little child to guide them.
The cow and the bear shall be neighbors,
together their young shall rest;
the lion shall eat hay like the ox.
The baby shall play by the cobra’s den,
and the child lay his hand on the adder’s lair.
There shall be no harm or ruin on all my holy mountain;
for the earth shall be filled with knowledge of the LORD,
as water covers the sea.
On that day, the root of Jesse,
set up as a signal for the nations,
the Gentiles shall seek out,
for his dwelling shall be glorious.

Responsorial PsalmPS 72:1-2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

R. (cf. 7) Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
O God, with your judgment endow the king,
and with your justice, the king’s son;
he shall govern your people with justice
and your afflicted ones with judgment.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
Justice shall flower in his days,
and profound peace, till the moon be no more.
May he rule from sea to sea,
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out,
and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.
He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor;
the lives of the poor he shall save.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.
May his name be blessed forever;
as long as the sun his name shall remain.
In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed;
all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.
R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever.

Reading 2ROM 15:4-9

Brothers and sisters:
Whatever was written previously was written for our instruction, 
that by endurance and by the encouragement of the Scriptures 
we might have hope.
May the God of endurance and encouragement 
grant you to think in harmony with one another, 
in keeping with Christ Jesus, 
that with one accord you may with one voice 
glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Welcome one another, then, as Christ welcomed you, 
for the glory of God.
For I say that Christ became a minister of the circumcised
to show God’s truthfulness, 
to confirm the promises to the patriarchs, 
but so that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.
As it is written:
Therefore, I will praise you among the Gentiles
and sing praises to your name.

AlleluiaLK 3:4, 6

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths:
all flesh shall see the salvation of God.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

GospelMT 3:1-12

John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea
and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!”
It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said:
A voice of one crying out in the desert,
Prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight his paths.
John wore clothing made of camel’s hair 
and had a leather belt around his waist.
His food was locusts and wild honey.
At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.

When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees
coming to his baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!
Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?
Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance.
And do not presume to say to yourselves, 
‘We have Abraham as our father.’
For I tell you, 
God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones.
Even now the ax lies at the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit 
will be cut down and thrown into the fire.
I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, 
but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I.
I am not worthy to carry his sandals.
He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.
His winnowing fan is in his hand.
He will clear his threshing floor 
and gather his wheat into his barn, 
but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”

Prayers for this Morning

Lord, let your light burn brightly in my heart that I may know the joy and freedom of your kingdom. Fill me with your Holy Spirit and empower me to witness the truth of your Gospel and to point others to Jesus Christ.

 Lord Jesus, you know all things and you govern the world with love. I believe in you. You don’t rule with a heavy hand, but instead you guide us gently towards you. I trust in your mercy and I know you are leading me home to heaven day by day. You can only desire what is good for me. Thank you. You give me the courage to say I love you, though I know my love is so weak. I wish to make more room for you in my life, putting you above all else.

Lord, you chose to become like me in order to bring me closer to you. Help me to continue to grow in a prayerful spirit, and unite me with you so that at the end of my life I can enjoy your presence, not just under the veil of the Eucharist, but in person. Lord, help me to embrace a way of life which is in consonance with my drawing nearer to you each day. So many worries, so many needless matters, Lord, distract me from seeking a closer friendship with you. Help me to put things in their proper perspective and value what matters to you alone. Lord, reveal yourself to me.

Homily for Today

Unto us it is given so we may blossom in Jesus! Good morning to everyone and welcome to our guests who have found their way to our humble...