THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT
”The season of Advent is like springtime in nature, when everything is renewed and so is fresh and healthy. Advent is also meant to do this to us - to refresh us and make us healthy, to be able to receive Christ in whatever form he may come to us.”
Today, the church begins a new liturgical season (year A). Advent is derived from a Latin phrase, "AD VENIRE", meaning ”to come.” It is a period for spiritual preparation in our hearts and minds to meet the Lord’s coming.
We meditate on Jesus’s coming in three ways:
The liturgical and theological import of Advent is portrayed by the call to PRAYER, PENANCE and SACRIFICE; which is characterized by the color purple (violet).
The significance and impact of this season are captured in the symbolism of the advent wreath that reminds us about immortality and the promise of God’s everlasting life through Christ. This should encourage us to contemplate the essence of the coming of Christ. Every element of the wreath throws light on our faith and our hope in the promise of eternal life to come.
The first candle (1st week) stands for HOPE. It is also called ”THE PROPHECY CANDLE,” which highlights the expectations felt in the anticipation of the coming of the Messiah as foretold by the prophet Isaiah about the birth of Christ.
The second candle (2nd week) signifies FAITH. Also known as ”BETHLEHEM CANDLE”: the exemplary fidelity of Mary and Joseph who journeyed to Bethlehem to make the prophecy come through.
The third candle (pink, 3rd week) elicits JOY; identified as ”SHEPHERD CANDLE.” Because we are at the midpoint of the season, the Church describes it as ”GAUDATE SUNDAY.” Persevering hope and resilient faith will lead us to discover our joy like the Shepherds.
The fourth candle (4th Sunday) emphasizes PEACE; called ”ANGELS CANDLE.” This reminds us of the message of the angels, ”Peace on earth, Goodwill toward men.” Indeed, this is what Christ represents, The Prince of Peace.
In modern times, there is an introduction of a fifth candle (white in color) which stands for LIFE (PURITY). They call it ”CHRIST CANDLE”; placed in the middle of the four and lit on Christmas Eve to teach about the sinless Christ, pure Savior who gives eternal life.
The evergreen wreath reminds us of continuous life. The circle of the wreath means ”no beginning or end”, implying the eternity of God, the immortality of the soul and the everlasting life we find in Christ Jesus. The laurel signifies victory over persecution and suffering (triumph over sin). The pine, holly and yew stand for immortality. The cedar portrays strength and healing. The pine cones speak to us about life and resurrection.
That is why, my dear family of God, in our first reading the prophet Isaiah talks about all nations making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem to affirm their faith in one true God. Advent is a season of refreshment and renewal. As we are hoping against hope in anticipation for the birth of Christ we have to take ”spiritual pilgrimage” in prayer, penance and sacrifice to refresh and renew our commitment, loyalty and fidelity to the Prince of Peace.
So in our attempt to embark on this journey, the Apostle Paul in our second reading teaches us how we can practically achieve our goal. He admonishes us that we should discharge our duties properly by freeing ourselves from our former and ordinary way of life. We must eschew the tendencies toward vices and impure acts. Rather we should be models of virtues.
Finally, Jesus Christ in our gospel readings insists on the urgency of vigilant preparation on our part to meet him. Meaning, Advent is a golden opportunity to put ourselves in order to celebrate the joy of Christmas.
This demands serious intrapersonal introspection and working on your interpersonal relationships. Reach out for the sacrament of reconciliation (confession). Intensify your spiritual communication with God (prayer) and be ready to let go of your personal comforts for the sake of another person (sacrifice).
May the coming of Christ be a dream come true in your life.
Enjoy the beauty of the snow... but be careful when walking or driving! You are in my prayers. Love you.
In 1925 at the promulgation of the feast of Christ The King, Pope Pius XI made a a timeless statement. He said in Latin ”Pax Christi in regno Christi”, to wit, ”The Peace of Christ in the reign of Christ.”
Unfortunately, in the history of mankind, man has striven to seek peace, but peace seems to be straddling the fence. Peace in and around every person creates a suitable environment for progress and success. But have we ever sincerely reflected on the actual source of peace?
Sadly enough, we claim we are searching for peace but we look for it from wrong places instead of going to Jesus Christ. We have been hoodwinked into accepting that we are in charge of everything including our destiny. It is only a cliche!
This reminds me of a funny (joke) piece of advice a mother received from her son.
The mother was tired of struggling with her strong-willed little son, Thomas. She looked him in the eye and asked him a question she felt should bring him in line: ”Thomas, who is in charge here?” Not missing a beat, he replied, ”Jesus is, and not you mom.” LOL
As we close the liturgical year the church reminds us who is in charge of our lives and where we ought to accord our loyalty. Everything begins with him and culminates with him. We celebrate the enthronement of the victorious Christ as King in Heaven in all his glory.
Our first reading indicates how and why David was anointed as the king of Israel. As the king, he was the viceroy of God in the midst of the people. He ruled according to the mind and the rule of God.
As Christians, we are called to acknowledge authority and leadership in our society and families. Also, as people called to authority and leadership we are to act in accordance with the will of God but not according to our own parochial whims and caprices.
That is why Apostle Paul seeks to correct the misconception circulating among the newly converts Christians concerning the authority of Christ. He insisted that, ”...For in him were created all things in heaven and earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him...” (Col 1:16)
Sisters and Brothers in Christ, this encourages us that, like it or not, we must accept Jesus Christ as our God, our Savior and our King and allow him to rule our lives. He is indeed in charge, but not you! Christ must be in full charge of our lives; give him sovereign power over our bodies, our thoughts, our hearts and our will. Without him, you are naught!
Finally, the gospel reading showcases how the persecutors of Jesus sneered, jeered and reviled him while he was hanged on the cross. Little did they know that in their mockery they were rather affirming his Kingship and proclaiming his Kingdom in disguise.
He is indeed a king with a saving and liberating mission: freeing us from all types of bondage, enabling us to live peacefully and happily on earth, promising us an inheritance in the eternal life of heaven. The cross is his throne. His sermon on the mount his rule of law.
So as Christians we can live in peace only when we surrender our lives to him everyday. When we give priority to his teachings in our daily choices and moral decisions. By this, we declare our loyalty to him by the quality of our fidelity and commitment: expressed in service, love and solidarity. This sustains our opportunity to be the children and heirs of the Kingdom of Heaven.
What is your priority in life? Let Jesus Christ be your first priority... Let him be your King... Your loyalty and fidelity to him will change your life story... May God increase our faith!
Wishing you a happy Thanksgiving week. May your celebration be a fantastic one!! Try to visit (call) your family... Enjoy the chills... Don't forget to bundle up and drive safely! God bless you. Love you.
“The last judgement shall fill sinners with terror, but will be a source of joy and sweetness to the elect; for the Lord will then give praise to each one according to their works.”
- St. Alphonsus Maria de Liguria.
As the year is coming to a close most business institutions might have made evaluations and analysis to know either their financial gain or loses: to ascertain the progress or the otherwise of their business activities. This gives them the idea to know which plan or direction to make a forecast for the next fiscal year. In business circles they call this ”stock-taking.”
In much similar way the church is inviting us to have a ”SPIRITUAL STOCK-TAKING” as the church is winding up to close our liturgical year. So our readings remind us that this world will come to an end one day. We have no knowledge of when or how, but that end will certainly come!
It is within this context that Malachi in the first reading prophesied about the day of retribution and judgement: where the Lord will punish the wicked and transgressions and reward those who remained faithful to Him till the end.
So as Christians it behooves on us to honestly make assessments of ourselves how we have lived our lives throughout this year. Know that when the Lord appears in His glory each one will receive the sentence they merited while on this earth. The just will enter with Him into eternal glory but the wicked will go to their place of suffering, sorrow and remorse. Where do you belong?
Judgement will seal our eternal fate. Unfortunately, the thought of death is a frightening one for most of us; but it is one of the realities that confront our human existence. It would be utter folly, then, to try to ignore or forget it!
Therefore, the question, ”How will I fare if I am called before the judgement seat of God today?” is worth contemplating. The hope is that it is never too late to make amends. God is working on you... He has not given up on you... There is always a second chance to grab... Take advantage of that!
Apostle Paul in our second reading addresses a pertinent situation where some individuals in the Christian community were unwilling to earn their daily bread and were abusing the charity of their fellow Christians.
There are some Catholics who are too lazy to be serious with their faith principles but are also quick with prejudices, judgment and demanding preferential treatments from the others. We are challenged to avoid all of these attitudes and be up and doing. As a Christian just walk the talk... Challenge yourself... Put your faith into action... This is what the saints did. Your good works will save you on the last day!
Jesus Christ finalizes all in the gospel reading that the end time will surely come but it still remains a mystery as to when and how. We should not allow ourselves to be misled by all the negativities happening in the world or anyone pretending to be Him. Also, the last days will come with persecution for those who believe Him and are His disciples. He encourages that we should not be afraid, but by our perseverance we would secure our lives.
My dear sister and brother in Christ, today Jesus has reminded you that your end is coming, that you should put your ”spiritual account” in order. This is an act of God’s mercy... He does not need you... It is you who need Him... Don't risk your own eternal welfare. Try to repair your broken relationship with God!
May the Lord increase your faith.
Stay blessed... Be hopeful... Enjoy the chills but bundle up!.. Love you.
According to Pope Benedict XVI, ”Faith in the Resurrection of Jesus says there is a future for 0every human being; the cry for unending life which is part of the person is indeed answered.”
Man, throughout history, has battled with one of the questions about the mystery of life. That is, so after death what happens next? The obvious answer is, nothing. If so, then why worry oneself trying to follow religious and moral values and principles? After all, life is all about here and now! Meaning, with death life is completely finished.
This fantasy has polluted the mind of many in our world today to approach life with secularism, materialism, hedonism, atheism, ego-centrism, nihilism, etc. Unfortunately, this is the vision of the world that is unable to move beyond what is scientifically verifiable, and cheerlessly into a sense of emptiness which is thought to be definitive destiny of human life.
Indeed, if Christ is taken away, man’s hope remains an illusion. Of course, death does not have the last word. Life is still victorious with the hope of the Resurrection that awaits us.
It is in this vein that the author of our first reading (written to make known the persecutions that the Jews in diaspora, Alexandria, went through at the hands of the pagans because of their fidelity to their religion) portrays the unflinching faith in the resurrection belonging to seven brothers and their mother, who refused to defy their religious beliefs and instead accepted suffering and martyrdom.
As true Jews and committed ones as such, they were not intimidated by the threats of their pagan rulers. Their hopes in the life after death emboldened them to face the realities of cruelties. One of them convincingly proclaimed, “... you are depriving us of this present life, but the King of the world will raise us up to live again forever. It is for His law that we are dying.” 2 Macc. 7:9
As Christians, this should strengthen us that there is an eternal glory awaiting us after the transition from this physical world. So we should not kowtow to anything other than the values and the principle of our faith even if we have to lose our life. Your resilient dedication, commitment and fidelity 'til the end will usher you into the new life after death. After all, why are you a Christian! I believe you want to be saved and enjoy the fruits of the resurrection. Do not let anyone take that from you.. remain focused... walk the talk...
Paul, in our second reading, continues to manage the aftermath of the confusions in the hearts and minds of the new converts created about the second coming of Jesus Christ. This time around, he inspired them to continue to support one other to endure this crisis. He encouraged and sustained their hopes in Christ.
Beloved in Christ, in times of crises and suffering in life we must know that it is only Christ who strengthens and guards us against evil people. Your endurance enkindles your hope; your faith remains undimmed.
Finally, Jesus Christ, in our gospel, corrected the wrong notion of the Sadducees concerning the resurrection. His insistence on the fact that the dead will rise is indicative that life is not limited to death. Life goes beyond death, therefore, man must live a good life here on earth, for our destiny goes into the celestial realm. That is why the Psalmist echoes, ”Lord, when your glory appears, my joy will be full.”
St. Augustine concludes it in Latin, ”Resurrectio Domini, spes nostra.” Meaning, ”The RESURRECTION of the Lord is our HOPE.” I believe this your hope!... Go for it. May the Lord increase our faith.
See you at Mass... Enjoy the chills...but stay warm... Love you.
When the Lord appeared to St. Faustina he said, “The flames of MERCY are burning me. I desire to pour them out upon human souls. Oh, what pain they cause Me when they do not want to accept them.” - Faustina Diary, ( 1074, Paragraph 2)
Is mercy still relevant in our contemporary world today? I think it is not! This is because we live in a world where the negative influences have deceived us into thinking that we can’t trust one another so people think that it is stupid and foolish to be merciful. Instead, vengeance, litigation in court, tit for tat, etc. have been used to prove how strong one is. Of course, the world has made us enemies to ourselves; because litigation, etc. can bring money, but what does mercy bring?
Unfortunately, we carry this misleading concept into our Christian beliefs and faith. We sometimes want to think for God; that once we have trespassed there is no mercy and forgiveness for us. But the mercy of the Lord can never be fathomed! It is part of the Divine mystery. It is constant. It is ever sure and unlimited. His mercy epitomizes His love for us.
It is against this background that the sage of wisdom (the author of the first reading) sought to bolster the faith of the Jews in diaspora in the city of Alexandria on the issue of God forgiving the sins of evildoers. He encouraged that God has patience. He gives us a second chance hoping that we will repent. God does not loathe what He has fashioned Himself.
This affirms the benevolent, compassionate and forgiving mercy of God. He does not give up on us. He does not condemn us but waits for us with love and hope to save us. The mercy of God is the gate that receives us to salvation. The mercy of God is an invitation for our repentance. What are you waiting for? Just open up to Him... Avail yourself and be ready... Your life will never be the same.
Apostle Paul in our second reading had to diffuse a misconception about the imminence of the parousia (i.e., the second coming of Christ) that was spread amongst the new converts. Paul’s aim was to encourage them to continue to persevere in the faith, continue to glorify Jesus Christ, and stop the idle waiting. Because of misleading information about the second coming of Christ and the sense of urgency created, almost all of the Christians had ceased working or stopped living their faith, etc.
Bad enough, in our 21st century there are a lot of antithesis and deceptive theories that sound convincing, which have taken a lot of Christians away from their faith and their churches; especially the Catholics.
By this, sisters and brothers in Christ, we are reminded to be very careful not to allow ourselves to be influenced negatively, and be alert to discern deeply with our decisions and choices. There are a lot of “sugar-coated lies” out there in our world today; decipher well before you act.
Our gospel reading presents to us the episode of Jesus and Zacchaeus (a tax collector, a sinner) The former’s entrance into the life (house) of the latter engendered repentance and subsequent salvation. Zacchaeus’ readiness and availability to respond to Jesus’ invitation brought about a change of his life story.
I don’t know your life story: you might be battling with a past experience, you might be dealing with a guilt in your conscience, you might be struggling with a particular sin (i.e., attitude, behavior, character, etc.) you’re addicted to, there may be a stigma you might have created for yourself in the society, a mistake you goofed about which is hunting you and giving you a sleepless nightmare, or the worst of it all you feel so much depressed and ashamed to the extent that you be contemplating causing suicide... Oh no don’t do it!
Like Zacchaeus give Jesus a chance to enter your heart. Be bold to give up on your sins. Avail yourself to take advantage of the mercy of God. Just open up to Him. He has not given up on you. He loves you... He is ready to save you... are you ready to be saved? Just grab it! The saints are interceding for you... you are never alone. May God bless you. Let’s meet at Mass.
Be assured of my prayers. Stay warm...Drive safely...
Fr. Emmanuel hails from Ghana and is passionate about the Gospel and bringing the love of Christ to all people. He speaks several languages, enjoys soccer and cooking, and loves St. Francis of Assisi.
liturgy & sacraments