Sunday, December 13, 2015

Today's Homily

My brothers and sisters in Christ, welcome to today's celebration of the Holy Mass which commemorates the Third Sunday of Advent.

Today's readings are a continuation of our preparation for the coming of the Lord Jesus. This truth can be perceived three different ways. (1) It can represent our commemoration of the incarnation of God on Christmas Day through the birth of Baby Jesus. (2) It can represent our appearing before the Lord at the end of this life. (3) Or it can represent the final coming of the Lord Jesus in full glory with the saints at the end of the world, which ever may come first in our lives.

Today's readings, rich in spiritual food, echo the glory that is associated with the arrival of the Messiah on earth.

The first reading [Zeph. 3:14-8] begins by stating, "Sing aloud, O daughter Zion; shout, O Israel! Rejoice and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem!" Zion or Sion was the mount in the south western part of Jerusalem. Over a period of centuries, the poets and prophets gave Zion a sacred meaning to the extent of, being synonym to Jerusalem, it became known as the sacred capital. Therefore, when the people of Zion are told to rejoice and exult, this is symbolic of rejoicing and exulting in the most Sacred place of Jerusalem.

The first reading continues by saying, "The Lord has taken away the judgments against you, he has turned away your enemies." Embracing a spiritual approach, from this passage we perceive that through the redemption plan of our Lord Jesus, the enemy, sin, has been conquered. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism that bestows upon us a new heart, a new spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit, we obtain our first righteousness towards salvation in Jesus Christ. Through the Sacrament of Confession, we obtain ongoing righteousness, to the extent that God will no longer remember our past sins. [Jer. 31:34] Through the atoning Blood of Christ, the Lord God forgives our sins.

Next, we heard, "The king of Israel, the Lord, is in your midst; you shall fear disasters no more." Spiritually speaking, disaster means condemnation because of sin. Now that the Lord is in our midst, spiritually present in us through the indwelling Divine Presence of the Holy Spirit, and physically present with us in the Sacred Tabernacles of the Churches, we no longer have to fear death and eternal punishment. Our Saviour, the Living Bread, is physically present among us. By receiving the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist while in a state of grace, by the power of the Holy Spirit, we are assured our salvation and adoption as children of God.

So why is it that we should not fear or let our hands grow weak? It is because the Lord Jesus, the all powerful King of kings, is in our midst, He who is a Warrior who gives victory.

The Lord Jesus shall rejoice with gladness because He has reclaimed what is rightfully His by establishing His spiritual Kingdom on earth in Jerusalem. When the Holy Spirit descended upon the apostles on Pentecost Day in Jerusalem, [Lk. 24:47, 52; Acts 1:4; 2:1-4], the Holy Catholic Church, the Body of Christ, had its beginning. Through the Sacrament of Baptism, believers become new creations [2 Cor. 5:17] that entitles them to become members of the spiritual Kingdom of God on earth. Now, they can worship the Heavenly Father in spirit and truth, such being pleasing to Him. [Jn. 4:24]

Indeed, the Lord Jesus is renewing us in His love. For through His death and glorious Resurrection, we received a new life that springs like flowing water. We have become living stones that shine forth to form a living Temple for God on earth. The Lord exults over us for we are the fruit of His Divine Blood. As precious gems to the Lord, He smoothens the road ahead of us so we may be moved by His Spirit to bloom and become His holy bride, a glorious gift for the Heavenly Father.

During today's Second Reading, [Phil. 4:4-7] we heard, "Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice." Yes, rejoice! For we are the fruits of the Lord's glorious work. Each and everyone of us has been called before creation to become the object of God's Divine Plan. What a joy it is to know that God has counted us among those that He has chosen.

"Let your gentleness be known to everyone." Gentleness is one of the nine fruit of the Holy Spirit. [Gal. 5:23] When others are moved by the gentleness that flows from our humble beings, they are moved by the fruit of the Holy Spirit that flows through us for the glory of God.

"The Lord is near." How near is the Lord? His Spirit dwells within us when we are in a state of grace. He is physically present in the Sacred Tabernacles of the Catholic Churches. He is here and there, within the reach of all! So near is the Lord that during the Sacrament of the Holy Eucharist, we literally touch His physical Body. The Lord is with us! He has made His dwelling among us!

"Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." Yes, let us worship the Lord God by appealing to Him for our needs with a thanksgiving mind. Having God as our Father, what fear can we possibly have? The fear of death? Physical death only means our freedom from our bodily form so we may worship God in the fullness of our spiritual being. Our fear should not be of those who can kill the body but rather of he who can destroy both, the soul and the body in hell. [Mt. 10:28]

"The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and our minds in Christ Jesus." [Phil. 4:7] Those who enjoy the peace of God know no fear. Surely that surpasses the human understanding of those who fear death. For the Christian who lives his faith in Christ, death is life. Death is a new beginning. Death is a passage from the darkness to the light. Death is letting go of tears and sufferings in exchange for eternal joy and peace. How precious death is to those who have the peace of God. It is as a pearl hidden in a treasure chest, waiting for the day when the Lord will say, "Come to your eternal rest in Me!"

Before finding our eternal rest in the Lord Jesus, we must be sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit. We must embrace holy ways. Today's Gospel Reading [Lk. 3:10-8] teaches us some of the many holy ways that we should be embracing.

If you have two coats, you must share with anyone who has none. With Winter setting in, many of the poor cannot afford a warm coat, they still wearing a Spring or Summer coat. They do not know warmth for they shiver every moment when they step out of their homes. Your generosity can make the difference between they being warm or cold. As Jesus said, what you have done onto them, you have done onto Me. By sharing your coat with anyone who has none, you are sharing your coat with Jesus.

Holiness involves sharing our food with those who have none or very little. Holiness is finding those who are ashamed of their poverty and who will not come forward to ask for food. While it cannot be denied that there are many abusers of our many social agencies that are intended to help those who are really needy, many of the hungry are not registered with these agencies. And what about the children who are starving because their parents are addicted to alcohol or drugs? Do we have a right to say that these children deserve to go hungry because their parents fall short of spiritual wisdom in their human weaknesses? Holiness is not judgmental! It is full of compassion! It reaches out to those in need so it may be accredited to one's favour on Judgment Day.

Holiness embraces honesty. While today's Gospel tells the tax collector to collect no more than the amount prescribed to him, equally it can be said that we should pay no more and no 'less' than what we owe in taxes to our Government.

The list of virtues is endless for those who seek true righteousness. They will always find an area towards which they can improve their holiness so they may become more in the likeness of Christ.

During today's Gospel Reading, John the Baptist said that the One who was coming would baptize us with the Holy Spirit and fire. Baptism with the Holy Spirit represents the Sacrament of Confirmation and the receiving of the indwelling Holy Spirit. It means to be sent forth to preach the Gospel to our brothers and sisters. Baptism by fire means to be sanctified by the power of the Holy Spirit so that we may become holy children of God. Unless we are sanctified, we cannot enter Heaven. For Heaven is the home of those who love, the humble, those who serve, the obedient, those who tell the truth, those who are pure in mind, the gentle, those who share, etc... These are the holy qualities that we should strive for.

John the Baptist ended his words during today's Gospel Reading by saying, "His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.' Does the Lord consider us as wheat or the chaff? That is the question that we have to answer. That is the question that will make the big difference at His coming. That is the difference that will determine if our presence before the Lord God will be a pleasant one or an unpleasant one.

This week, let us reflect upon these things. Let us ask in our hearts, "Am I ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus?" "Am I ready to commemorate Christmas with a true spirit of holiness?" "Am I ready to appear before the Lord if I was to die tonight?" "Am I ready for the final coming of the Lord in His full glory if He was to come in five minutes from now?"

Accordingly, let each and everyone do what is necessary to be sanctified in Christ sor our face to face meeting with the Lord will be a joyful one.

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