The first reading and the gospel for today both address the mystery of Jesus Christ. Jesus is truly God but He humbled Himself to take on human form. He was not born into royalty, but chose to be born in the home of a poor carpenter. Since He had been given no privileges, when He spoke with such authority in public places, people were astonished. According to the gospel, they remarked: “Is this not Jesus, son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does He now say, ‘I have come down out of heaven’?” John 6:42
Under normal circumstances, the son of a poor man should not have had the ability to speak with authority concerning scripture, and yet Jesus even cast out demons from those who were possessed. The Bible defines demons as fallen angels that turned against God. Although not dogma of Catholicism, there are theories that one of the reasons these angels “fell” was because they could not accept being subordinate to Jesus, who “for a little while” was made “lower than the angels,” that “by the grace of God, he might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9. Demons hate the idea of having to follow someone who seems to be “lower” than they are.
However, even when Jesus was in human form, the true strength and power of His divine nature shone through, and He made these fallen angels cower before Him in fear. Despite Christ’s humility, His authority over the demons rendered them powerless.
“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are–the Holy One of God!” Jesus rebuked him and said, “Quiet! Come out of him!” The unclean spirit convulsed him and with a loud cry came out of him.” Mark 1:24-27
The inhabitants of the world today continue to seek leaders who establish their power through force. It is understandable that just like the people who witnessed Jesus cast out demons, we would question how anyone who comes from poverty could perform such deeds. Even the most humble among us can change the world. If we speak with the authority given to us through faith in Jesus Christ, we can make demons tremble, simply by living in accordance with the way Jesus showed us, humbling ourselves and following His every word.
When I was growing up and talking about the first commandment with my mother, she always said she struggled with keeping it. The first commandment tells us to love the Lord your God with all your heart. My mother believed she might love me, her own and only child, more than God, or at least, she might put me and my needs before His will. I always thought that was a nice compliment, but it also made me wonder if I might feel the same way about a child of mine one day. Your child is your own flesh and blood; I could imagine how it would be difficult to place someone else before him or her. It was not until I heard my priest express this idea in another way that I was finally able to understand why we all need to love God first.
We must love Him first because He loved us first. If this world never knew how the Lord loved us, it would be impossible for us to love anyone else. To take that notion a step further, God is love, so to love without Him would not be real love. “In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as expiation for our sins.” John 1 4:10. In a way, my mom was right–she could not love anyone else more than me, but the only reason she could love me that much is because she knows God and the love He has for her.
The Gospel reading offers a perfect example of the powerful love God has for us, providing us with one of the many examples of the true meaning of love. God so loved the world that whoever believes in Him will always be satisfied. Hunger is one of the most basic human needs that must be fulfilled each day. The Gospel passage refers to the thousands of people who sought Jesus out, listening to Him before feeding themselves. Jesus realized this and in turn, He saw to the needs of this vast crowd, “taking the five loaves and two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied.” Matthew 6:41
What a strong message! God’s love is not only great enough to save us from our sins, but His love encompasses all our needs, even the basic one like food. The world just entered into a new year, which always brings many new resolutions from its inhabitants. Perhaps one resolution could be to seek Jesus more often, like the thousands who heard Him in the Gospel reading. If we seek the Lord first, we will be satisfied in all our needs, because He is love and that is our greatest need
The first reading refers to those among us who can say we know the Lord and who may claim they know Him yet still walk in darkness. To truly know the Lord is not easy. “The way we may be sure that we know Jesus is to keep his commandments. “ 1 John 2:3 It could be said that we all have days when we know the Lord better than others; keeping His commandments can be challenging. Nevertheless, the reading presents hope, which is crucial.
“I do write a new commandment to you, for the darkness is passing away, and the true light is always shining. “ 1 John 2:8
This hope is observed and celebrated during the octave of Christmas. Jesus Christ is the true light sent to earth to overcome the darkness. The gospel today echoes this sentiment through Simeon’s prophecy. “My own eyes have seem the salvation which you prepared in the sight of every people, a light to reveal you to the nations and the glory of your people Israel. “ Luke 2:30
The world today is deep in darkness; many are blinded and cannot even see they are falling away from the Lord, but there remains great hope that outshines even this darkness—Jesus Christ.
While many people stop celebrating Christmas after December 25, our Catholic faith encourages us to observe this hope for eight days. In fact, we should celebrate Christmas all year long. If we truly know the Lord, His light will shine through us every day of the year.
Both the first reading and the Gospel are stories of thanksgiving. Hannah’s story is a wonderful example of how one should return everything one receives as a gift from God right back to Him. Hannah desired a son so desperately that she humbled herself to the Lord. She kept pleading for a son, so much that the prophet Eli actually mistook her ardor for drunkenness. God saw Hannah’s heart and granted her humble and sincere request to bring forth Samuel.
Everyone has deep desires like Hannah had. God knows these desires of our hearts and wants to fulfill them. He might not fulfill them in the way we think they should be or in a way we even want them fulfilled. Regardless of how God chooses to answer our prayers, it is important that we thank Him. It is easy to forget that everything we have done and every breath we take are gifts from God.
Mary provides the perfect example of how we should give thanks to the Lord every day. We don’t know what deep desires she held in her heart, but it can be assumed she did not want to conceive a child before marriage. The judgment and ridicule she endured must have been difficult to bear. She never lost faith in her Lord, however; instead, she praised Him for His wonders and miracles.
God’s plan for our lives rarely resembles the ones we have for ourselves. We struggle to release our hopes and dreams to the Lord, but thanks to Hannah and especially Mary, we have a guarantee that by humbling ourselves to His will, He will in turn make miracles of our lives. As we prepare for Christmas, we give thanks for the gift of our Savior and the Lord’s Son, but we should also give thanks for our own lives. Each one of us is destined to play a crucial role in the Lord’s plan. Hannah showed her thanksgiving by giving her son back to the Lord. Mary showed hers by agreeing to bring forth a child while still unwed, subjecting herself to the scorn of the people in her village. What can we give back to the Lord in thanksgiving this Christmas?
If we stood in front of Jesus today and He asked the question, “who has done the Father’s will?”, what would our response be?
Today’s Gospel highlights a conversation Jesus holds with the priests and the elders who were the leaders and intellectuals of His time. These men had established themselves as worthy of respect, but Jesus speaks boldly against them, saying that tax collectors and prostitutes will gain entry to the kingdom of Heaven before they do.
If this conversation took place in our time, who would Jesus be talking to and who would the “tax collectors and prostitutes” able to enter Heaven be? This past year, our world has been turned upside down; many people have lost their way and questioned their faith. Yet, in our darkest hour, the light shines brightest. The Father still asks us to “go out and work,” but we grow weary and lack hope. We want to refuse the Father’s request at first, but we can always return to Him, assured He will welcome us back.
This is a key message for the season of Advent, which falls in the “darkest” time of the calendar year, when days grow shorter as we approach the winter solstice. In this period of waiting, we have the opportunity to renew our strength in the Lord. He will give us the strength to go out and work. Amidst all the chaos of the events of this turbulent year, His servants will shine. In the small acts of kindness we perform each day, we are doing the Father’s will.
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. I must admit that for most of my life, I did not understand the meaning of the this solemnity. I thought it observed the miracle of Mary, a virgin, conceiving the Lord, Jesus Christ. Imagine my surprise when I learned that this feast day actually marked Mary’s own “immaculate” conception. From the very moment Mary was brought into existence, she was destined to be the Mother of God. Since she would need to carry the divine body of Jesus within her womb, she would have to be pure and without blemish.
I often find it difficult to imagine what it would have been like to know Mary as she was growing up. She was without sin, and other than Jesus Himself, the only human being who lived her entire life sinless. Being a sinful person myself, It is almost unfathomable to envision someone who did not sin, especially taking into account all the adversity she encountered throughout her life.
The gospel grants us a small glimpse of Mary’s demeanor when she gives the Lord her “yes.”
Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38
Perhaps the best way to conceptualize Mary’s character is to consider her ability to submit herself completely to the will of God. Amidst all the fear and alarm she must have felt, she never turned away from the Lord. This turning away from God is what causes us to sin. When I reject His desire for my life, it is because I think I know better than He does and try to take control of it. Mary gave her life to God without question; as Christians, this should be our ultimate goal–to give ourselves to our Lord and Savior. What a blessing to have Mary as the perfect example of what it means to be a servant of God.
Today we enter the season of Advent, the time we as Christians are called to wait. Considering the circumstances surrounding our world this past year, it seems that everyone is waiting for something–the COVID vaccine, who our next president will be, or just for the end of 2020. We are waiting and hoping that this period of trial will come to an end.
The gift of hope is deeply rooted in this act of waiting. Advent is a gift because we actively participate in the waiting God asks of us. This waiting is hard when we have no idea how long we will have to be patient, and patience is not the easiest quality to maintain. Nevertheless, the Lord has proven to us that He will always deliver great miracles at the end of the wait. So we can have hope although we have no idea what might await us. We can trust that the result of what we hope for will be greater than what we could possibly imagine.
“Blessed are the eyes that see what you see.For I say to you,many prophets and kings desired to see what you see,but did not see it,and to hear what you hear, but did not hear it.” Luke 10:24
This past year has been difficult, and in many ways unbearable, but we are now at the beginning of a brand new liturgical year. We are fortunate to start this year fresh with new, and as Jesus describes them, childlike eyes. We are still waiting for Jesus, but He is coming for the salvation of His Father’s children, for you and me.
“On that day, the root of Jesse, set up as a signal for the nations, the Gentiles shall seek out, for his dwelling shall be glorious.” Is 11:10
This Advent season will be unlike any other, but if we look at it with childlike eyes, we will appreciate the season in new ways. God will bless our lives during this time of waiting; we simply need to be open in order to see these blessings.
Jesus refers to the end times of this world in the gospel reading; He tells us what must happen before His second coming. The path to eternal salvation is not easy and will become terrifying as the end approaches. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.” Luke 21:11 How is it possible not to live in fear knowing all this must come to pass?
Many of us are about to celebrate Thanksgiving. It may not be so easy to find reasons to be thankful this year, which has been filled with many of the signs Jesus described, particularly a plague. However, Jesus also assures us we do not need to be afraid. Now that is a gift for which to be thankful! Our faith in the Lord will not only save us at the end of the world, but our devotion to Him will keep us safe while these insurmountable odds stack up against all those dwelling in this world before that time. We have our Savior who has promised never to desert us. Although others in the world may perceive these signs as reasons to fall into despair, we have the blessing of knowing these wars have already been addressed on the cross at Calvary. Furthermore, the war has been won and we are allied with the Victor.
This Thanksgiving may appear very different than past celebrations of the holiday. Many will be separated from their loved ones, but no one will be alone at the feast because Jesus will be attending each of our celebrations, the best Guest and our reason to be thankful, not just on Thanksgiving, but every day of our existence.
The end of November marks the end of yet another liturgical year, and in preparation for this conclusion, we listen to scripture about the final judgment of this world. These scriptures are read every year, so there is nothing inherently new or surprising. Nevertheless, the Holy Sprit has the ability to enter into our souls at any and every moment in our lives and can transform a passage from the Bible into new revelations to be gleaned from it. The Holy Spirit is always talking to us, and He speaks through the Word of God.
He is breathing new life into our scriptures this year. This world is not the same since the calendar year began back on January 1, and we, as children of God, have also been changed throughout the course of it. We have suffered so much heartache, struggle and true fear. We were expelled from our home, the Church. Of course we would interpret scripture differently–we can look to it as a source of hope and faith. Take the story of Zacchaeus. He was a tax collector and a sinner, but when he had a chance to see Jesus, he stopped at nothing just to catch a glimpse of his savior. As most know, Zacchaeus was “vertically challenged” and had to climb a tree in order to do so. Jesus saw Zacchaeus for not only who he was, but who he would be. Zacchaeus repented and offered up everything he had for the greater good. Jesus, in return, celebrated with Zacchaeus, for He had found another soul that was lost and now was saved. “Today salvation has come to this house because this man too is a descendant of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save what was lost.” Luke 19:10
The truth is that with the conclusion of each church year, we come closer and closer to the final judgment and the end of the world. We must stay awake and be vigilant because we do not know when the final day will arrive. It is time to stay focused and give all we have to help the greater good of all God’s people just as Zacchaeus did. This world is fleeting, the goods of this world will pass away, and all that will be left is our Lord and His loving mercy.
We live in a flawed world that seems to increasingly “forget” what it means to be devoted, upstanding and genuinely good. People are losing faith and falling into despair because they are accepting lies as truth. Only the Father’s truth remains constant and His will never waver.
“For the grace of God has appeared, saving all and training us to reject godless ways and worldly desires and to live temperately, justly and devoutly in this age, as we await the blessed hope.” —Tim 2:11
Our salvation is promised, thanks to Jesus Christ’s death on a cross. He has already defeated the sins plaguing our world today. We still have the responsibility to live our lives by following the example Jesus set for us. We need to do what our Master commands.
“When you have done all you have been commanded, say, We are unprofitable servants; we have done what we were obliged to do.” —Luke 17:10
What are we obliged to do at this time? Jesus also suggested we behave like servants staying awake because we do not know the hour the Master will return, and we must be vigilant so we are ready when He does. In the face of all the trials in the world, now is the best time to follow these commands, to live our lives as examples for others and thereby reveal a life governed by Christ as our King.