Cycle (B) Advent 1st Sunday

Is. 63:16b-17; 64:1, 3-8; 1 Cor. 1:3-9; Mk. 13:31-37

 Sergeant Charles B. Schlichter, 2nd Medical Battalion, 2nd Infantry Division, had been soldiering most of his life. In June, 1950 he was a surgical technician at Madigan General Hospital. When the news of the outbreak in Korea came over the air, Charles Schlichter had a premonition that  "Something was going to  happen to him. He was diverted to the 2nd Division [in Korea] on 16 July.

Schlichter and the medics of his unit received no real briefing on the Korean situation. Korea was described to them as a minor police action, which might be cleared up before they arrived. At dusk on 30 November, the medical convoy was stopped on the road miles north of the pass. Schlichter could hear heavy firing ahead, see the pink and red tracers bouncing off the hills....It grew darker, and the thermometer fell. The firing reverberated among the hills, and in the convoy men became tired and cold and scared. They were carrying 180 wounded men in the trucks. Then suddenly someone cried out. "It's every man for himself! We're trapped! Get out any way you can!" The two hundred-odd men of the company spread all over the hills, abandoning the  180 wounded men in the trucks. Men ran into the hills until they dropped from exhaustion; they ran as long as the panic held them and their legs would carry them. Others climbed hills, to try to see about them. Air Force planes screamed out of the south, shooting, bombing. It was standard practice for the Air Force to destroy abandoned equipment before the enemy could profit from it. The pilots could not know what cargo those deserted trucks still held. Then the Air Force dropped napalm, the drums bouncing from the frozen ground and engulfing the dusty trucks in flame. In the zero weather, Charles Schlichter's face was suddenly wet with sweat. Some of the men with him closed their eyes. And then they all ran back into the hills. Within a short time, a North Korean patrol had pinned them on a hill, holding them down with submachine-gun fire. (T. R. Fehrenbach, This Kind of War - A Study in Unpreparedness, (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1963).

The medical team was totally unprepared to face the challenges, because they  did not have any idea of the  danger  that  encircled  them. In today's  Gospel Jesus gives picture of a master who went out, with a warning that he would come back at any time of the day. Therefore he expects his household  to be ready to receive him on his return.

The season of Advent, which is  the first period in the Year of Worship, reminds us to be prepared  for the coming of Christ. The word "Advent" means "coming." Jesus came into this world by truly becoming man, a man like us in everything except for sin; historically, he was born in Bethlehem about two thousand years ago. During Advent the church wants  us to prepare ourselves to commemorate this event,  and to be ready  for His second coming.

Jesus said to his disciples, "No man knows  about that day and that hour. Be watchful, be wakeful and be praying, for you do not know when the time is."  These words of Jesus place a great demand on us, that we must so live that it does not matter when he comes. It gives a great  task of   being ready  to receive him  at any moment. Natural calamities and man-made disasters creep into human life  unannounced,  at the most unexpected time. The most powerful earthquake ever recorded struck near Valdivia, Chile on May 22, 1960, at 2:11 PM local time. As many as 6,000 people were killed. The deadliest natural disaster ever recorded occurred through the winter, spring, and summer of 1931 in central China, and between 3.7 and 4 million people were drowned or starved. Mt. Tambora is on Sumbawa Island, in south Indonesia. It erupted in 1815, killing 92,000 people.  It is fact of daily experience that accidents, and medical problems like heart attack away human life without any warning.  A faulty rhythm of heart-beets or a slightly prolonged halt between breaths is sufficient enough for the death-bell to resound. "O what is life, if we must hold it thus as wind-blown sparks hold momentary fire?" wrote Ada Cambridge. Human life is as momentary as a shepherd's tent (Is. 38:12) that is pitched erect at every dusk and removed at dawn!" So, in this season the church reminds us of the need to be prepared.

Secondly, the season of Advent remind us that of all things to forget God and to become immersed in earthly things is most foolish. In the fast pacing world, we do not have time. Often we wish that the day had at least a few more hours, that we can complete all our task. But, unfortunately, it cannot happen. So, we compromise, and postpone certain things. Always, the things that are postponed and dismissed are the things that are relating to God, the family prayer, Holy Mass, a get together in the Parish and other services. Leaving aside our obligations to God, we chase after fleeting momentary things. They stand ahead of us, like a mirage, appearing to be near but never within our reach. Thus, life becomes a futile chase, which leaves behind only a handful of regrets. In this season, the church advises us to be like a wise man who sets his goals high, and makes use of all the earthly things as a means to reach his goal.

In  India, the natives use a technique to catch monkeys. They hollow out one end of a coconut and they put peanuts in there. The monkey puts his hand in the coconut and when he makes a fist to grab the peanuts, he's trapped. It doesn't occur to him right away to just let go of the food to get his hands back. Often we behave in this way. We sacrifice great things just for getting some small and insignificant things. Advent reminds us to set priorities.

In this season of Advent let us dedicate some time for introspection, for strengthening the family bond through family prayer and for cherishing the community life by active participation in the church activities.


Cycle (A) Christ the King

 Ez 34:11-12, 15-17; I Cor 15:20-26, 28; MT 25:31-46

 In the poem Ozymandias, the speaker recalls having met a traveler “from an antique land.” He told him a story about the ruins of a statue in the desert. Two vast legs of stone stand without a body, and near them a massive, crumbling stone head lies “half sunk” in the sand. The face reflects a frown and “sneer of cold command.” The memory of those emotions survives "stamped" on the lifeless statue. On the pedestal of the statue appear the words, “My name is Ozymandias, king of kings: “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” But around the decaying ruin of the statue, nothing remains, only the “lone and level sands,” which stretch out as far as the eye can see.

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” With that, the poet demolishes our imaginary picture of the king, and interposes centuries of ruin between the mighty kings and us: All the works of the mighty kings sink into oblivion in the course of time.  All the mighty kingdoms had met with their inevitable destiny of disintegration. Some lasted for decades, some others for centuries and became a part of history. But there is only one kingdom that grows strengthens from decade to decade, from century to century and from millennia to millennia, conquering the hearts of millions; that is the Kingdom of Jesus, the king of the universe.

During the trial Pilate asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" Jesus replied, "You have said it." (Luke 23:3). "You are a king, then!" said Pilate. Jesus answered, "You are right in saying I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me." (Jn 18:37) After a few hours, the same king stood elevated on the cross with the inscription INRI, (Iesus Nazarenus, Rex Iudaeorum - "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews") By placing this title Pilate had  made an involuntary, but historical proclamation  that Jesus is the King not only of the Jews but of the Universe.  Many a time such involuntary proclamations of Jesus’ Kingship are heard from unbelievers. The soldiers made a crown of long, sharp thorns and put it on his head, and they put a royal purple robe on him, and shouted, "Hail! King of the Jews!"(John 19)

The Feast of Christ the King was established nearly 85 years ago by Pope Pius XI. After the First World War and the Bolshevik Revolution, the inhuman atrocities and untold misery, made people lose their hope and faith in the just world. Then, the Pope reasserted with the proclamation of the Feast of Christ the King, that in spite of wars and insurrections, Jesus remains the King of all history, all time, and all creation and of the entire universe. In 1969, Pope Paul VI gave the celebration a new title, and he assigned to it the highest rank, that of "Solemnity".

This king; the king of the Jews, the King of the Universe, the king of the living and the dead established a kingdom that stands the test of time. As it grows, it declares “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!” What made this kingdom imperishable and mighty are the noble principles set forth and practiced by the king himself.

Alexander, Caesar, Akbar, Napoleon, all leaders in the world, even the greatest, died and left their followers to their lot, or to serve another ruler often less gifted and less kind than they had been. But there is only one king in the whole of history who had served his followers, and left them to serve him alone. The total number of Christians martyred in the early church is unknown. Even today, an average of 171,000 Christians worldwide give up their life to declare loyalty to their king. Approximately 2 billion Christians in the world today declare him to be their king. His kingdom is everlasting, because it is built on the everlasting principles.

Hu Hai was the second emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221BC-206BC). Hu Hai indulged in the super luxurious life. He forged a large number of peasants from around the country to build Epang Palace and the mausoleum in Lishan Mountain. He ordered 50,000 soldiers to defend the capital and all parts of the country were forced ceaselessly to provide provisions to the capital. Several of the Roman emperors, unmatched in wealth and power, fully demonstrated a capacity for luxury and gluttony. Among these emperors, Claudius (ruled 41–54 C.E.) is famous. The luxury banquet laid out in the famous tomb of King Tutankhamen of Egypt (died 1352 B.C.E.), intended for the monarch to enjoy in the afterlife, included a gourmet selection of wines inscribed with names of wine districts— one may call them— the Nile Valley, the Nile Delta, and the Oases. Hundreds of attendants waited on them. Against this background, there came a king, giving a shocking surprise to his followers. He washed the feet of His followers and waited on them. He performed a gesture that had never been heard of, and commanded his followers to do it, and to follow it as a new commandment in his Kingdom. “By humility and the fear of the LORD are riches, and honour, and life.” Teachers Proverbs. (Proverbs 22:4). “Humility is the only true wisdom by which we prepare our minds for all the possible changes of life.” Says George Arliss. The Psalmist asserts that the Lord hears only the humble, “Lord, thou hast heard the desire of the humble: thou wilt prepare their heart, thou wilt cause thine ear to hear” (Psalm 10:17) Hence, humility should be one of the inevitable qualities to gain entry into his Kingdom. This made his Kingdom unique and everlasting.

Secondly, Jesus was the only King who expressed his concern for the sick and suffering, at a time when kings were even ready to sacrifice thousands as a remedy for their illness.

The noble Constantine, Emperor of Rome, was in the full flower of his age, goodly to look upon, strong and happy, when a great and sudden affliction came upon him. Constantine withdrew himself from his lords, gave up all use of arms, abandoned his imperial duties, and shut himself in his palace, where he lived such a secluded life, and all men throughout the empire talked of his illness and prayed to their gods to heal him. When everything seemed to be in vain, Constantine summoned all the doctors, learned men, and physicians from every realm to Rome, that they might consider his illness and try if any cure could be found for his malady. They sat in silence, till at last one very old and very wise man, a great physician from Arabia, arose and said: “Let the Emperor dip himself in a full bath of the blood of infants and children, seven years old or under, and he shall be healed, and his leprosy shall fall from him; for this malady is not natural to his body, and it demands an unnatural cure." Thereupon the council drew up letters, under the emperor's hand and seal, and sent them out to all the world, bidding all mothers with children of seven years of age or under to bring them with speed to Rome, that there the blood of the innocents might prove healing to the emperor's malady.

The kings of the world did everything to cure themselves, but Jesus did everything to heal others. Whenever the sick and the suffering approached Jesus he found time for them. Thus, he went about, healing the deaf, giving sight to the blind, cleansing the leapers and making the lame walk. That tradition is preserved by all his followers, and this made his kingdom everlasting.

Thirdly, He sympathized with the people in their suffering. History tells us that the Kings and Emperors held bloody games in the amphitheater to entertain themselves. Nero played piano while Rome burned during the great fire. But, Jesus went out into the streets with sympathy in his heart. Even on his way to the Calvary, he took time to console the women who lamented at his suffering.

These made the kingdom of Jesus different from all other kingdoms. When the worldly kingdoms disintegrated, Jesus’ kingdom has been strengthened continuously. It declares, “Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”

Since we are the members of this kingdom, we are bound to practice its fundamental virtues, that others will recognize us as the citizens of the kingdom of Jesus.


God Hears Me

We are lot of desires. Most of times, they are not heard. But God hears always. In spite of boundaries God listens to me.

A blind man was heard in a crowd (Luke 18:35-43). The crowd was so big with lot of noises but heard Jesus heard him. We religious and priests are with lots of desires. Most of time they are ignored. We are conditioned with rules and regulations. Jesus hears my desires and knows my intentions. I am heard by God. He will fill me with His blessings.