Monday, December 31, 2018

Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God

Truly Blessed

Luke 2:16-21

I would like to see "blessings" in the first reading to reflect Mary as "Mother of God".   This also gives inspiration to us to face the New Year with joy and hope.

Let's be inspired by the word "blessings"as we face the New Year.  Mary too is "blessed among women" for being the Mother of God.   Let's reflect on the benediction prayer in the first reading as inspiration to enter the New Year as also to venerate Mary, mother of God.

The first in the Book of Numbers is the sentence "May the Lord bless you and keep you." Blessings have various meanings.  It may mean "barak" meaning "to kneel" before God in total adoration to Him who provides for all our needs.  Mary's "Magnificat"reflects her total dedication to God as her spirit rejoices in God her Saviour.

The second phrase is "May he let his face shine upon you."  Mary is totally immersed in the mystery before her, the loving Son who whether sleeping or awake, looks back at her with tender, loving eyes.  A second meaning of blessing is "esher" or "happiness".  One cannot fathom the feeling of the beatific vision.  But this cannot be possible if we don't make efforts to strengthen our faith in God enough to see his divine face shining upon us to guide us each moment of our lives.

The third phrase is "May he lift his countenance upon you and give you peace." Usually, when God lifts is face, he passes judgement of life or death.  But with this assuring presence, he brings peace.  Peace is a process of becoming, a state of total health and well-being.  Peace can only be attained if we work for social justice and social change.   Working for justice is an integral component in the preaching of the Good News.  The third aspect of blessing is "eulogeo" or a kindness.  Mary lived a life of kindness, service, and compassion, and today, she never fails to pray for us still.

Facing the New Year filled with blessings is our elusive dream.  Only a year dedicated to God is a blessed year.

Monday, December 24, 2018

The language of God


Christmas midnight mass


Luke 2:1-14 

The Parable of the "Language of God" by Rev. Joseph Healy goes this way:

Once upon a time there was a man in the Serengeti District of western Tanzania called Marwa. In the sixth grade he studied the Christian religion. At Baptism he chose the name Emmanuel which means "God is with us." After finishing high school Emmanuel read magazines and books about God. He believed that God is truly present among us, but he asked: "What language does God speak?"

Emmanuel posed his special question to different church leaders in his village. The old catechist answered. "I think that God speaks Latin." The chairperson of the parish council guessed, "God speaks our local language Ngoreme." But the searching youth Emmanuel had doubts. "When I get the right answer," he said to himself, "I’ll know immediately and feel great joy." So the young African set off on a journey. In the neighboring parish he asked again: "What language does God speak?" One Christian suggested Kuria, another local language.

Again Emmanuel had doubts. He began to travel across the whole of Tanzania visiting small towns and big cities. In one place the Christians were certain that God spoke Swahili. People in western Tanzania said Sukuma while residents in the northeast said Chagga. Emmanuel was not satisfied with these answers. Remembering the African saying -- "traveling is learning" -- he journeyed outside Tanzania. The Kenyans said Kikuyu and the people of Uganda answered, "God speaks Ganda." In West Africa he got different replies: Lingala in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Hausa in Nigeria and Arabic in Morocco.

He decided to travel the whole world if necessary. Passing through Europe he was told "French, German and Italian." The Christians of North America said "English" while South Americans replied, "Spanish." In his heart the young Tanzanian knew that these answers were inadequate. Determined to find the real truth he went to China where the local people insisted that God speaks Mandarin or Cantonese. Emmanuel was tired from his long travels but he resolutely pushed on. In India he was told Hindi. He reached Israel late in December. The local inhabitants said, "Surely God speaks Hebrew."

Exhausted by his long travels and the unsatisfactory answers, Emmanuel entered the town of Bethlehem. The local hotels were filled. He looked everywhere for a place to stay. Nothing was available. In the early morning hours he came to a cave where cows and sheep were sheltered. He was surprised to see a young woman with her newborn baby.

This young mother said to the traveling youth, "Welcome, Emmanuel, you are very welcome." Astonished to hear his name, the young African listened in awe as the woman called Mary continued: "For a very long time you have traveled around the world to find out what language God speaks. Your long journey is over. God speaks the language of love. God loved the world so much that he gave his only son so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life."

Overjoyed to hear these words of Mary the young Tanzanian understood Gods language of love for all people, for all races, for all nations. Emmanuel exclaimed, "Truly, today God is with us.""

This parable reminds of how powerful this language is more than all other languages.   It is not like the language we've used in as we communicate to others everyday.  How do we use the language of love in the sinful areas of our lives? I shall use the images coming from the gospel.

First, no room at the inn.  "Sorry, there's no more room left." The first act of violence done to our Lord is closing the doors for him to work in us.  But how did the Holy Family tackle this?  Not through hatred, but through a quiet understanding and acceptance of man's wounded humanity.  This is a language of love.

Second, Mary wrapped Jesus in swaddling clothes and placed him in a manger.  These are signs of abject poverty.  While we wallow in material things, our dedication to help our brothers and sisters remains wanting.  We keep them wearing swaddling clothes.  How did Jesus tackle this?  Jesus identified himself with them so we may remember Jesus in our suffering brothers and sisters.  This is love.

Third, the night. The night represents the darkness of sin and hopelessness. How did heaven tackle this?  Angels lit up the night sky and sang "Glory to God in the highest".  The night cannot dispel the light.  That light is the hope in our hearts that no matter how violent, how poor, and how rejecting situations are, nothing can stand in the way of the Lord to help and save us.  We should light up our lives for others.  Then our Christmas would be complete!

Saturday, December 22, 2018

"Small"


4th Sunday of Advent 


Luke 1:39-45

The readings are in exultation of what is small. I'm immediately reminded of the spirituality of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, "The Little Way".  It calls for the sanctification of life using the ordinary and everyday things.

We don't need to look for the greatest acts that will lead us to heaven.  Heaven is right here in the midst if we care to see the profound.  Surely God is in the most ordinary things.

The first ordinary being is us.  No matter what exultation we do to ourselves, we cannot deny our littleness before the whole world, before others, and most especially, before God.  But nevertheless, we are loved by the Lord with such profundity.  In Psalm 8, it says, "What is mankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?" We must be so loved by the Lord more than we love ourselves.

The second ordinary being is the Blessed Virgin Mary.  In the Magnificat, she sang, "for he has been mindful of the humble state of his servant.  From now on all generations shall call me blessed."  Even now, she never fails to lead us to God the moment we think of her.

And last but certainly not the least, our Lord Jesus, our birthday celebrant, the tiny child who was born of poor parents in a lowly stable and be visited by the poor shepherds.  We can only look at the Blessed Image with such devotion and constantly remind ourselves that it is not in being proud that we are saved, but by the humility of Jesus.

May these inspire us to take the humblest path to sanctification.