Christmas - 2009
Isaiah 62:1-5; Acts 13:16-17; 22-25; Mathew 1:1-25
Jesus is the light of the world
Second Word War lasted for about 6 years. It shattered the peace, joy and hope of millions. Soldiers began to experience the futility of war and longed for a dawn of peace. But peace seemed an utopia. A blood chilling night of December 24. German soldiers hid themselves in the cold bunkers watching for the movement of the enemy, the English soldiers who occupied the opposite dark bunkers. Death hung over their heads like the sword of Damocles.
Heaven provided a contrast with clear sky, shining with twinkling lights and free from the fire emitting war planes... It rekindled in their hearts the sweet memories of Christmas. Stars and candles, plum cakes and chocolates, Christmas trees and carols flashed through their minds.
Then there emerged a light from a bunker “a candle”. All the enemy canons were directed to it. Soon one more make its appearance. Then another, and another. The whole area was lit with bright candle lights. Instead of cannons all came out with candles. A Christmas in a battle field. In the place of bullets they exchanged sweets and sweet memories of the divine song of the angels
“Glory to God in the highest
And peace to men of goodwill”
Dear brothers and sisters. December 21st is the shortest Day for the year in the Northern hemisphere. After that the length of the day progressed. So the Romans, in ancient times celebrated the feast of light. And the celebration fell on 25th December.
St John says in his Gospel:
“In the beginning was the word.
The word was with God, and the Word was God.
The Word is the true light that enlightens all men.”
St Paul, in today’s second reading proclaims that Jesus is the radiant light of God’s glory.
The light comes from the east, goes the wise saying... The sun rises in the east and slowly dispels the darkness that engrosses the world.
Today we celebrate the birth of Jesus, the ever shining light of God’s glory. St John quotes the words of Jesus, “I am the light of the world.” In John’s language light stands for goodness, for holiness, for live, for joy, for life and for God himself.
We are all familiar with the importance of light. In India it is customary that a light is lit and placed in the front of any house. It dispels the darkness in the house.
When Jesus was born a huge light, never seen before, appeared in heaven. It proclaimed the birth of a divine child, and the wise men followed its path in search of the child.
The star, the song of the angels and the message of the birth of Jesus divided the human race and put them into two camps. Herod and the high priests found their throne challenged; they conspired against the child, they hatched plans to annihilate the light. They spent sleepless nights pondering over it.
But on the other hand the comet was a joy for the simple shepherds, the wise men and the whole creation. They flocked to the manger to glance at the new born babe, the promise of ages.
As the comet stands above us brightly lit, proclaiming the birth of Jesus let’s recall the words of Isaiah (52:7-10)
How beautiful on the mountains
Are the feet of one who brings good news,
Who heralds peace, brings happiness and proclaims salvation.
May the peace of the infant Jesus reign in your hearts and houses.
do not express it. Hold it for a moment.
When you feel to shout at your neighbour,
delay it by a breath.
Before you point your finger at your co-worker,
wait for a second.
Micah 5:1-4; Hebrews 10:5-10; Luke 1:39-45
The foundation to establish peace is submission to the will of God...
Repeated prophecies about the coming of a messiah abound in the sacred writings. But these prophesies were shrouded in obscurity. A clear picture of the messiah is given in about 700BC by prophet Mica. We listened to his description in the First reading.
The Messiah is a man like us. He will be born in Bethlehem, and he will bring peace. He will restore harmony in nature, harmony among creatures, harmony between man and man, and harmony between God and man.
How will peace and harmony be restored? It is not by sacrifice, neither by holocausts but by submission to the will of God. The letter to Hebrews postulates it. “God, here I am! I am coming to obey your will.” This is the new law established by Jesus; obey the command of God. The one who does it will be hailed by ages. Mother Mary submitted herself to the will of God, so Elizabeth called her “Blessed are you among women.” And the whole world for the last 2000 years has been hailing her as “Blessed.” This is the theme of the today’s Gospel.
Whenever harmony among men; harmony between God and man was lost God sent his messengers to restore peace and harmony. That mission is continued even today. Today we are the chosen instruments to bring peace to the world.
Any attempt to bring peace is held in very high esteem. Nobel Prize is awarded as recognition of individual’s endeavour to establish peace. Volunteers enroll themselves in the National and International organizations to bring peace to the world. Yet peace remains a mirage. Because most of our attempts are like building castles on the sand. Devoid of a strong foundation, they collapse. Today’s second reading and the Gospel affirm that the foundation to attain peace is submission to the will of God.
On the morning of the 4th of December 1982 in Melbourne (Australia) Nick Vujicic was born. His parents were shocked because their first born had neither hands nor legs. A baby boy without legs and hands. It took a number of months of tears, questions and grief before coming to term within their own hearts. Nick grew up with the support of his parents and gained strength to challenge his own destiny. Now young and has a Bachelor’s degree in Commerce. He is also a motivational speaker and loves to go out and share his story with others. In his speeches he emphasizes that God has a plan, and we must accept the plan of God and submit to the will of God. These words come from a man who does not have hands and legs. That makes it all the more meaningful.
St Francis of Assisi is recognized as a man of peace. His message revolutionized Assisi and spread to the ends of Italy and to the whole Christendom. The call of Gandhiji to give up violence and love peace crossed the boundaries of India, and worked miracle in Mont Gomery (America), through Martin Luther King.
How did these small men achieve great success? Only by listening to the call of God and with the unconditional response, “Here am I lord to do thy will.” That was the prayer of Jesus throughout his life, even at the last moments in Gethsemane and Calvary, “O father, let Thy will be done.”
But our prayer often happens to be “Lord let thy will be done in heaven, and let my will be done here on earth.”
Everywhere we want our ideas to be accepted, we want everyone to recognize us, we expect everyone to behave as we want them to, we desire everyone to think as we want them to. So there arises disagreement and discontent. They proliferate from individual to the family, from family to the society, from society to the nation, and from the nation to the international level. Harmony gives way to chaos. We try to avoid those who do not agree with us. Some try to annihilate those who do not agree with them. And it gives rise to bloodshed and homicide.
Dear brothers and sisters we may not be able to establish peace in the Middle East. We may not be able to bring peace to Vietnam. We may not be able to set peace between China and Myanmar. But we can exert our influence around us, in our work place, and in our society. We should remember that:
Little drops of water
Little grains of sand
Make the mighty ocean
And the beauteous land
Little deeds of kindness,
Little words of love,
Make our earth an Eden,
Like the heaven above
And the little moments,
Humble though they be,
Make the mighty ages.
-Mrs. J. A. Carney
When you feel angry with your friend, do not express it. Hold it for a moment. When you feel to shout at your neighbour, delay it by a breath. Before you point your finger at your co-worker wait for a second. And these fractions of seconds will transform you into men and women of peace.
Let us pray with St Francis, “Lord make me the instrument of your peace.”
Then we will be ready to welcome Jesus into our silent, holy hearts where all is calm.
C. 3 Sunday of Advent
(Zeph 3:14-18; Phil 4:1-7; Luke 3:10-18)
Love for our neighbour turns us into precious grain for the Lord
In today’s Gospel John the Baptist tells his listeners that “His winnowing fan is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.”
John clearly tells us that there are people who can be compared to precious grain, while others in God’s eyes are useless chaff or husk. Who are these grains? They are the ones who share one of their two tunics with their brothers; the ones who share their food with those who don’t have anything to eat; the ones who do their duty justly, and be contend with their pay.
The shortest way to reach God is our brothers, who are around us. The lesson John conveys is that any person can attain salvation if he is concerned about his neighbour’s needs. A person may be truly poor, but no one is so poor as to be unable to help his neighbour in some way or other.
Love for neighbour is at the core of the message of the prophets, the message of John the Baptist, and the message of Jesus. Love for neighbour is the very essence of the Gospel.
The great poet Urlloor wrote:
“There is no wonder if God becomes invisible to those
Who do not have eyes to see their brothers?”
The story relating to Poonthanam is very thought provoking.
One day the Lord assured Poonthanam that He would visit him. Poonthanam prepared delicious food and waited for the Lord. Then a boy came to him. He requested Poonthanam to give him at least a little food to taste. But Poonthanam drove him away.
Then came a traveller. Poonthanam turned him away without showing any hospitality.
The third visitor was an old man. Poonthanam refused to treat him too. He waited for the Lord’s arrival, but he was disappointed since god did not visit him till the night fall. Then he went to bed.
The Lord came to him in his dream. Poonthanam asked him:
“My Lord why did you not keep your word? I waited for you the whole day.”
The Lord replied, ‘I came to you thrice but you refused to welcome me.”
Poonthanam learned a great lesson - The invisible god makes himself visible to us through our brothers.
Whenever social justice was at stake, God intervened. He sent his prophets to raise their voice against it.
Saul raised his hand against Gibeonites (2 Sam 21:2) and God punished them with famine that lasted for three years.
King David raised his hands unjustly against his subject Uriah, and took his wife. God’s judgment fell on him through the voice of Nathan (2 Sam 12:11).
When injustice spread in the society, and men rose against men, Ezekiel condemned it and prophesied against them.
The message of John reminds us that one who wants to find place in the presence of God should be willing to share his belongings with his brothers.
Often we tend to limit the concept of sharing with the material possessions alone. Along with material possessions we can share many things, our talents, our time and our sympathy.
The following poem has a good message:
I lay in sorrow, deep distressed
My grief a proud man heard;
His looks were cold, he gave me gold.
But not a kindly word.
My sorrow passed - I paid him back
The gold he gave to me:
Then stood erect and spoke my thanks,
And blessed his charity.
I lay in want, in grief and pain:
A poor man passed my way.
He bound my head, he gave me bread,
He watched me night and day.
How shall I pay him back again?
For all he did to me?
Oh, god is great, but greater far,
Is heavenly sympathy.
A sympathetic glance, an innocent smile, a kind word and a gentle touch can often work wonders in the life of many.
People gathered around Jesus to listen to his words of kindness. Even on the way to Calvary, crushed under the weight of the cross, he stopped to console the lamenting women of Jerusalem.
Dear brothers and sisters God wants us to be generous with our brothers. To be kind and gentle to them. Our acts of generosity and kindness will turn us into precious grains in the sight of God.