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Homily feast of the Epiphany 2017

ephipany-clipart-epiphanyc3goclIn the year 614 AD,  Jerusalem was captured by the Persians (a predominant ethnic group from Modern-day Iran). Many Churches in the Holy Sites, were destroyed. One site spared from destruction though was the Church of the Nativity for the reason that the invaders found a mosaic on the inside walls depicting the three wise men in Persian clothing.

For me it is an interesting snippet of history not only because today we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany which celebrates the story of the manifestation of God to all the world as symbolized by the ‘wise men from the east’ visiting the child Jesus, but also because, the story of the Church being spared from the invaders somehow echoes the story of the child Jesus being spared from Herod’s mandate to kill all the children in Jerusalem.

There is indeed a Divine plan at work in here. God is with us indeed! When it is God’s plan and divine design, no human being, nor human institution can ever block it. God will always find his way and if we look through the eyes of our faith, we can see the beauty of God’s presence and how God reveals himself to us even now.

We celebrate today the feast of the Epiphany- the manifestation of Jesus as Messiah of Israel, Son of God and Saviour of the world.” (CCC 528). Again a Divine plan.

Matthew in the gospel tells us of this manifestation of Jesus to all the world as represented by ‘some wise men from the east.’

St Paul would go even further, in his letter to the Ephesians, by sharing his understanding of the mystery of God’s revelation as an assurance that ‘pagans now share the same inheritance‘, that is, the Jews and Gentiles are all included in God’s plan of salvation.

So indeed, with the Psalmist we can rightly pray and say: ‘Lord, every nation on earth will adore you.’

So now let us reflect on what happened on the Epiphany or how do the wise men experience the manifestation of God in their lives?

First: The wise men found Jesus because they allowed themselves to be guided by a star that brings them to Jesus. This is a call to humility—willingness to learn and listen, as well as a call to be wise and reflective in our lives.

In our lives, we are following stars in some ways. People whom we are looking up to, people whom we believe are shining. But like the wise men, we have to be wise. We need to pray for wisdom and ask ourselves:

(1) Are our stars leading us to the right way of living? (2) Are they serving as the light of our way?

(3) And lastly, are they leading us to Jesus?

Let us remember this: A true STAR is

– Someone who would

-Take us/teach us to

-Achieve the

-Realization of our true dreams and true selves.

Second, they brought him gifts, gifts that are of great significance to the recipient—to the child Jesus. They gave him Gold, frankincense and myrrh.

In biblical interpretation and tradition, the gifts of the wise men, signify the humanity, the divinity and the kingship of Jesus. According to a Jesuit priest, Mark Link, the “three gifts of the magi reveal three truths about Jesus. First, the myrrh symbolizes the humanity of Jesus [for Myrrh later on would be used for his burial]. Second, the frankincense symbolizes the divinity of Jesus [for incense is usually used in the temple rituals, worship and adoration to God]. Third, the gold symbolizes the kingship of Jesus. Jesus came among us to lead us, to inspire us, to invite us to join him in bringing about God’s Kingdom on earth- a kingdom of love, and kingdom of peace, a kingdom of hope.”

For us now, there are at least three gifts we could gift to Jesus (3H’s): Head that is wise yet humble, Heart that is repentant and loving, and Hands that are welcoming and generous. In other words, let us  be people of integrity, one whose thoughts, words and deeds, whose beliefs and actions are in sync not contradicting each other.

Third, the wise men went back to their own countries by a different way. They didn’t go back to Herod. This means they prefer loyalty to the true king of heaven rather than the earthly king. This also means change of hearts- conversion of our lives.

Today Jesus invites us to experience his presence and manifestation in our lives and in our world.

Like the wise men, let us look up to and follow the star or stars in our lives that lead us to Jesus.

Let us also endeavour to offer God the rights gifts we could offer  to him: to be a person who thinks wisely, loves heartily and unconditionally, and gives generously.

Lastly, let us respond to God’s call to conversion (i.e. repentance of our sins and resolve to do good and avoid evil) for it is or it is our insurance for eternal life.

If we take this to heart, like the wise men, we can also experience the beauty of the presence of God among us and even encounter God at work in our lives. Amen.

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Homily for New Year’s 2017


Church in Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem

After my New years Eve Mass and dinner with Filipinos in one of my parishes, I went home at around 11 pm. Upon arriving home I decided I would just wait for the fireworks display to be broadcast live on TV. While waiting I turned on the TV, and of course, one of the things people were talking about while waiting for the countdown is about New Year’s resolutions.

To join in the trend, I tried to re-visit my new year’s resolution I made in January this year. I made a resolve to lose weight. And as you could see: ‘I lost 12 months’. I made a resolve to lose my belly fat. ‘I lost my belly button.’ (pun intended).

So this new year I made another resolution, something more realistic and doable. Today the 31st of December I have decided, is going to be my last day on Facebook (for the year 2016). I will come back sometimes on the 1st of January 2017. Again pun intended. It’s good to start the New Year with humour.

New Year’s resolution is pretty commonplace this time, but more often, it just remains a thought, not an action, it just remains a plan not implementation. In short, it doesn’t happen. We can only laugh at it at the end of each year.

Perhaps we need to go deeper in our new year’s resolution though. We need to go further than just looking physically well and healthy. We need to go  deeper than how we live this new year. We need to go deeper into how we can live for eternity. We need to have a spiritual resolution that would benefit us not just in this life, but forever.

To realize this, we need to know Jesus more personally and we need to follow him more closely.  Because only Jesus Christ is the way, the truth and the life. The bible also reminds us this: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among mortals by which we must be saved,” but Jesus. Acts 4:12.

Each New year’s day, the Church celebrates the Feast of Mary as the Mother of God. Through our reflection on this feast, we can get to know Jesus more personally and follow him more intimately.

But first let us try to understand how can Mary be the Mother of God, when she is just one of God’s creatures.

There is a logic about this that goes: ‘Mary is the mother of Jesus. Jesus is God. Therefore, Mary is the Mother of God.‘ This has always been a belief in the Church even from the earliest centuries. One  of the Fathers of the Church for example, Irenaeus, said: “The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God” (Against Heresies, 5:19:1 [A.D. 189]). Also Hippolytus, Gregory the Wonderworker, Peter of Alexandria, Methodius, Cyril of Jerusalem, Ephraim the Syrian, Athanasius, Epiphanius of Salamis, Ambrose of Milan, Gregory of Nazianzus (“If anyone does not agree that holy Mary is Mother of God, he is at odds with the Godhead” (Letter to Cledonius the Priest 101 [A.D. 382]). Jerome, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Cyril of Alexandria, John Cassian, Council of Ephesus [A.D. 431]), Vincent of Lerins, these Fathers of the Church all taught that Mary is the Mother of God. (source: Catholic Answers)

Mary as the Mother of God though doesn’t mean that Mary is older than God or that she is the source of Jesus’ divinity. No. “She is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God “in the flesh” (2 John 7, cf. John 1:14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.” (Source: http://www.catholic.com/tracts/mary-mother-of-god). There is no denying Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ.

For us followers and believers of Christ, we can then go to Christ through Mary’s help. Mary is the help of Christians.  

As the mother of Jesus, Mary brings Jesus to us. As our mother too, she brings us to Jesus.
Through Mary we can know Jesus more personally and follow him more closely. 

Three things we can learn from Mary as the Mother of Jesus/Mother of God.

First, her faithfulness to God and to her specific mission in life is worth imitating. Even if at times things are hard to understand for her, or don’t make any sense, she nevertheless, remained faithful and obedient to God’s will.

Second, her availability to God and to others is selfless. What Mary showed us in terms of our relationship with God is that devoting most if not all of our time to God and to others, are not lost times for us, they are not times gone to waste, they are times of grace and blessings for us. And because her of her amazing availability to God,  we have encountered our Lord Jesus who let his face shine on us and who is  gracious to us. And it is through Mary, that God has sent his Son, to be born a subject of the law according to St Paul, to redeem us as the subjects of the law and to enable us adopted sons of and daughters of God.

Third, her humility, prayerfulness and openness to life and all that it brings is worth reflecting and worth learning. In humility she accepted who she is before God, no pretence. In her constant prayers she is sustained in her faith. In her openness to life she is an ideal mother, who would do everything, take all the risks just for her son to live.

As our spiritual resolution therefore for the new year, let us ask Mary to pray for us that like her we may be faithful to what God is calling us especially in life, to make ourselves available for God and for others, and to grow in humility, prayerfulness and openness to life.

So I pray: May the Lord bless you and keep you.

May the Lord let his face shine on you and be gracious to you.

May the Lord uncover his face and bring you peace. Amen.

Hail Mary…

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We are on special: not as discounted but as PRICELESS

Homily for Christmas Mass  year A 2016


Church Shepherd’s Fields, Bethlehem

I went to the supermarket the other day, and I could see there are many things on special. It made me think, that actually one reason we celebrate Christmas is because we are special too, not ON SPECIAL as in ‘discounted’ but SPECIAL as in PRICELESS. 
To realize this makes our Christmas even more meaningful.

We are special, not in the eyes of the world but because God makes us to be so. The world might say to us, we can only be special if we lived in a house of luxury, if we went to a luxurious holiday, if we are rubbing elbows with the rich and the famous, or if we have the fame and the popularity ourselves.

But God looks through our hearts. We are special for him not because we are rich, or have the things that we wanted to have, but because our true value is in our hearts not on the externals. Just like Christmas presents. What’s important is not the wrapping but what’s inside.

For God, we are worth every penny, we are worth risking for and we are worth dying for.

God loved us human beings so much that he wanted to become like us to experience what it is to be really human. Such is the depth of God’s love for us as St Paul reflects that Christ ‘sacrificed himself for us in order to set us free from all wickedness and to purify a people so that it could be his very own and would have no ambition except to do good.’ (Tit 2:14)
If we were not special, he wouldn’t bother to be born like one of us so that we would become like him– a resident of his heavenly kingdom. If we were not special for him, he wouldn’t take the risk of stripping himself of his glory and majesty and chose to be born in a lowly manger on top of hay.

If we were not special for God, he would have just left us completely groping in the dark of our sins and sinful human condition. But because we are so special God himself came to be the light for us ‘who walked in the darkness‘ as Prophet Isaiah would say in the first reading. (cf Is 9:1-7)
God loved us so, that he sent his only Son, Jesus– the one who would save us from our sins.

We are that special, that St Paul could say in our Second reading tonight: ‘God’s grace has been revealed, and it has made salvation possible for the whole human race and taught us…to give up everything that does not lead us to God.’

This means that because we are special, God generously opened for us the source of his graces and the fountain of his riches.
If we were not that special to him, we wouldn’t have heard the ‘news of great joy, a joy to be shared by the whole world’: THAT GOD is born for us, that God has come in the flesh to show us that there is more to life than our sinful nature, ‘that today is born our Saviour, Christ the Lord.’ (Lk 2:11)
If we are special and if God gives us a special gift of himself as we have remembered and re-lived tonight, then this calls for a celebration and rejoicing. We are to celebrate our value, we rejoice indeed as we received the gift that  God has given us- Jesus our Lord. 
To rejoice let us first reflect on the child lying in the manger. He was not wrapped in fancy clothing. He wasn’t born from a rich family. He wasn’t born in the children’s hospital where every care he would need would be provided. He chose to be born in a humble, simple ordinary human family, so that we could identify with him quite easily, so that we could get access to him as we are, so that we could reach out to him quite easily without any royal protocols and all other pomposity.

The real present for all of us this Christmas is the child in the manger. But look at him. He wasn’t wrapped with fancy wrappings, he was wrapped in swaddling clothes, ordinary to remind us that the real value value of the gift is not on the fancy wrapping, or the size of the gift, but on what’s inside and what does it mean for us.

To receive the gift of God for us is to acknowledge our sins of poverty too. This means that we accept the fact that we need God, that we need one another, that we need a saviour, that we are weak, vulnerable, that we can’t really do whatever we want, however we want it, and that not everything is under our control.
Another way to receive Christ this Christmas is to open our hearts to the other Christs in the streets, in the homes, in our workplaces, everywhere- i.e. the people who like the child in the manger are weak, helpless, vulnerable, simple, and hungry for our love, our care, our support, our time and our compassion. I’m thinking particularly this time the many children in the world who are displaced with  or without their families, in the detention centres, in the refugee camps, those people suffering in many countries due to famine, injustice, political conflicts, and greediness of the powerful and the influential.

This Christmas is an opportunity for us to realize that Christ is born for everyone, so we also have the task to look for him in everyone, and to let everyone know that God cares for them, that God is Emmanuel, He is with all of us, among us.

After this mass, as you go, you will be handed with a star on which a name of a country in the world is written. Please remember that particular country in your Christmas celebrations. Please pray for its citizens, especially the children. If you can and if it is possible when you go on holiday consider going to the country you are praying for. 
Finally let us always remind ourselves as we sit around our dining table this Christmas, that the real star of Christmas is Christ. Christmas without even thinking of and thanking Christ for coming to us, does not make so much sense. Take the word Christ out of Christmas, what’s left is MAS. It doesn’t mean anything. In Spanish  mas means more. Without Christ, we will just be craving for more and more and we will never be satisfied. Only Christ is the answer to all our dreams, aspirations, longings and plan. With peace and the blessings from the Most High, I wish you all a blessed and a solemn Christmas celebration.
Merry Christmas everyone

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Mary and Joseph (in the Nativity Scene)

Homily for 4th Sunday of Advent 2016 AD


Church in the Shepherd’s Field near Bethlehem

Christmas is really now in the air. The Christmas buzz all around us. The Christmas blitz and do’s all happening. It is really exciting.

But we need to ask ourselves: ‘How’s our preparation for Christmas?

We may have already the perfect plan for our Christmas lunch. We may have already wrapped the presents and put them under the tree. We may have already organized for our Christmas party.

But we can get caught with these external preparations while neglecting our spiritual preparation which is what is more important. If we are just caught up with all the busyness of Christmas’ do’s and not even giving to reflect what is this season all about and pray, then we just end up exhausted, drained and lose the plot of this special season in our faith.

I remember as a kid, my way of getting into the spirit of Christmas is to go on carolling with others kids in my neighbourhood to get some change for Christmas. One time, we went to this woman’s house and started singing. This woman was known to be grumpy and thrifty. Just as we started singing, I heard this voice from inside the house: ‘Go away you noisy brats! We are already sleeping in here. Don’t disturb us and the kids!

I thought: “If they were really sleeping, then why did she hear us? She must be dreaming of telling us off.”

I thought, she should have at least shown some consideration for us. It’s Christmas time first of all. Anyhow, we moved on. It’s amazing that yes generally gift-giving is one of the marks of Christmas spirit yet there are still people who refused to live up the spirit of Christmas.

But living up to the spirit of Christmas is more than just giving or receiving gifts. To experience the true Christmas joy is to realize that Christmas is not just about giving presents but being present (our presence). It is not just about giving cards, but showing that we care for one another. It is not just about fun with family and friends, but faith in and friendship with God. It is not just about shopping but worshipping the Emmanuel (the God-made-man). It is not just about something or some things, but someone. It is not just about kris kringle, it is about Christ.

And while waiting for the coming of Christ as part of our spiritual preparation for Christmas,  as symbolized by the empty manger, let us reflect on the different figures in our nativity scene.

We reflect on Mary and Joseph, simple and unassuming couple, yet both could attest that if God is welcomed in our lives, if God forms a big part in our families, great things can happen before us. Even if things may not be different as we hoped to be, but with God we can see things in a different perspective.

First we look at Mary. And each letter in Mary’s name means something for her and more so for us.

M– Mary is a model believer in humility, trust and fidelity to God even if at times things are difficult, hard to understand or even if at times things seem not make any sense at all.

A– means that Mary is always available for those in need. She went in haste to assist her elderly and pregnant cousin Elizabeth. Nazareth is about 150 kms from where Elizabeth lived. Then it would take Mary about a week or so walking to get where Elizabeth and Zechariah lived.

R– Mary is a real mother. She walked with Jesus her son, from the womb to the tomb. She never left her son’s side till the end.

Y– Mary’s attitude to God’s will is always ‘YES’ and she yearns for heaven.

Secondly we look at Joseph. The Gospel never records of Joseph having spoken a word. But as the saying goes: ‘Action speaks louder than words’. And St Joseph’s actions is indeed very loud and throws us a challenge to take God seriously in our lives.

J–  Just. The gospel describes him as a man of honour, a just man (doing what is right, just, proper and true). In Deuteronomy 22:20, the Jewish law says that if a woman is found to be with child before marriage, thus assumed to be no longer virgin before marriage, she is to be stoned to death in public. Joseph, as just man, wouldn’t want to break the law and he wouldn’t want put Mary into a public disgrace, shame and humiliation, so he decided to call the marriage off. A really good example of a just man- a person who does not only consider what the law says, but also consider how does the law affect the human person.

O– obedient to God’s will. As we have heard in the gospel, things were not that easy, or clear for Joseph at the beginning. In fact he wanted to get out of it. But this is amazing of our God. When we obey God’s will and commandments even if at times, we may find it hard to understand it, great things happen to us, amazing things happen right before us and we can appreciate more of the fact that God has chosen us personally to carry out his will not only for our good but for the good of others too.

S– silently yet faithfully doing his mission. The Church has survived for millenia now because of the many missionaries/Christians who were just silently carrying out their Christian duties day in and day out towards their families and communities. These are the people like Joseph who believed in this maxim: ‘It is better to have God approve than the world applaud.’

E– exceptional in keeping the Holy Family intact in the face of threats of it being destroyed by those in power. Our time now there are many things that break the families, or threaten to destroy the power of the families. Let us ask St Joseph to pray for us and our families we may stand up for whatever threats that come on our way.

P– prayerful, patience and persevering in overcoming trials and challenges that the Holy Family face. The Gospel tells us that the angel of the Lord came to Joseph in a dream. But this could be interpreted as happening in the context of prayer. He would have thought about it and prayed about it.

H– a humble husband and a man of hope. Humility means keeping our feet on the ground and true to our selves. Hope means and I like this: ‘Hang On, Pain Ends’.

Today, let us resolve to keep up with our spiritual preparation for Christmas learning from Joseph and Mary, in their humility, trust, obedience to God’s will, and faithfulness in their mission in life. Let this be our prayer. Amen.


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Fourth Sunday of Advent 2016 AD

Christmas is in the air. Christmas ‘buzz’ is all around us.
On this 4th Sunday of Advent, we are reminded to keep
our focus more closely and more especially now to the
coming of Christ. Let us not just focus on how we
celebrate Christmas or who are we celebrating it with, but
more so on why do we celebrate Christmas. Christmas is
called so because of Christ- the child lying in the manger.
Yes there are people who would suggest (for the sake of
inclusiveness they’d argue) that this time is a special
But there is no denying that when we take on this holiday,
it is because it is Christmas.
Let me share with you a definition of Christmas by an Irish
priest, Fr Flor McCarthy (SDB). I have shared this at the
Carols by Candlelight at the Park last Sunday.

C for Christmas ‘stands for Christ. If we leave him out
            of Christmas, it is like celebrating a wedding without the
H stands for the hope he gives us- the hope of a life
            without end.
R stands for the revolution he began: turning hate to love,
            war to peace, and everyone into everyone’s neighbour.
I stands for Israel, the land where he was born. But it also
            stands for me. For Christ could be born a thousand times
            in Bethlehem, but it would all be in vain unless he is born
            in me.
S stands for the salvation he brought: those who lived in
           darkness saw a great light.
T stands for thanks- [giving] thanks to God the Father for
           the gift of his Son. The best way to say thanks is to make
           room for him in our hearts.
M stands for Mary who (through her amazing Yes and
          trust in God’s will) brought Jesus to birth.
A stands for the angels who at his birth sang: ‘Glory to
          God in the highest, and peace to his people on earth.’ It
         was the sweetest music ever heard on earth.
S stands for the star that led the wise men to Bethlehem.
          Now Christ is the star we follow. His light will guide us
          through the night until the sun of eternal day dawns upon

Hope you all have a week of joy and blessings.

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Reflection on the 7 sorrows of Mary

Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows
1. The Prophecy of Simeon: (Lk 2:34-35 ‘You see this child: he is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected- and a sword will pierce your own soul too-so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare’)

Reflection: Let us reflect on Mary’s sorrow upon hearing of the pain and sufferings Jesus, her son, is to go through.

Prayer: Let us pray for the many parents (or mothers, fathers) who are suffering for and deeply hurt by their own children.

“Father, assure them of your comfort, protection and healing, through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

2. The flight into Egypt: (Mt 2:13-14 ‘Get up, take the child…and escape into Egypt…because Herod intends to search for the child and do away with him…So Joseph got up, and taking the child and his mother with him, left that night for Egypt…)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the pain and the sorrow of May upon having to leave in a hurry, their home, carrying only the things they could carry and which they badly needed, to save the life of Jesus.

Prayer: Let us pray for the many refugees and asylum seekers who had to leave their homes and homeland, risking their lives, to save their own lives, especially the lives of their children.

“Father, assure them of your guidance and care through the collaborative efforts of world’s leaders and citizens to welcome them and offer them refuge. Through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

3. The loss of the Child Jesus in the temple: (Lk 2:43-45 ‘When they were on their way home…the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, without his parents knowing it. They assumed he was with the caravan, and it was only after a day’s journey that they went to look for him among their relations…When they failed to find him they went back to Jerusalem looking for him everywhere)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the worry, the anxiety, the distress, and the fear of Mary and Joseph, on the thought of their 12 year-old child who was lost in a foreign land, who knew no one and with no provision for himself.

Prayer: Let us pray for those mothers and fathers who have to bear the distress of having lost their child or children through death, separation, abandonment, indifference and neglect by their children, or through other forces like drug and alcohol addiction, or mere ingratitude.

“Father, assure them of your unconditional love and your never-ending care, through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

4. The meeting of Jesus and Mary on the Way of the Cross: (Lk 23:27 ‘Large numbers of people followed hi, and of women too, who mourned and lamented for him’)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the heartbreak of Mary upon seeing the sufferings of her Son, who was sentenced to death in a very cruel, unjust and shameful manner.

Prayer: Let us pray for those people, mothers, fathers, like Mary who are to face the painful sight and circumstance of their child or children or loved ones, being treated cruelly and unjustly, being bullied endlessly and even being put to jail without due process of the law.

“Father assure them of your truth that sets us free, the truth that gives us life and happiness forever, through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

5. The Crucifixion: (Jn 19:18, 25-27 ‘They crucified Him. Near the cross of Jesus stood his mother and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala…Jesus said to his mother, ‘Woman, this is your son.’ Then to the disciple he said:. ‘This is your mother’)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the sorrow of Mary having witnessed the dying moments of her son and having heard his last words.

Prayer: Let us pray for those mothers and fathers who are by circumstance, witnessing the death of their child or children due to terminal illness, or due to death inflicted by violence.

“Father, console them with the promise of the resurrection wherein they will be reunited with their loved ones once again, and where they will live together forever in heaven, through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

6. The taking down of the Body of Jesus from the Cross: (Mk 15:43, 46 ‘Joseph of Arimathaea, a prominent member of the Council…boldly went to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. Joseph took Jesus down from the cross, wrapped him in the shroud and laid him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock.’)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the pain of Mary of having had to bury her own son.

Prayer: Let us pray for those people, parents especially who have to face the hard truth of burying their own son or daughter, due to early death, or due to death inflicted by external forces or elements.

“Father, console them through the likes of ‘Joseph of Arimathaea’, who would take the bold moves, even put his life at risk and even gave up his personal insurance to give the dead a dignified funeral and burial, through Christ, your Son, our Lord. Amen.”

7. The burial of Jesus: (Jn 19:41-42 ‘At the place where he had been crucified there was a garden, and in this garden a new tomb in which no one had yet been buried…they laid Jesus there’)

Reflection: Let us reflect on the how irreparable the loss Mary must have felt, on how much void the death of Jesus must have left in the heart of Mary.
Prayer: Let us pray for those people who until now are still struggling to come to terms with the death of their loved ones, especially those mothers who have lost their one and only child.

“Father, comfort them with the promise that for ‘your faithful, life is changed, not ended’ through Christ, your Son our Lord, Amen.”

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

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Rest, retreat, re-energize with God

Homily for 16th Sunday in Ordinary time year B

2012-01-06_13-08-59_19Two of the many stresses I had on my training to the priesthood are writing essays and exams. Getting over those things are very stressful for me I felt that once I finished them, I could really felt a big burden was lifted up  from me. My friend and I used to celebrate the after-exam and after-essays moments- regardless of our marks– by going to the movies. I used to book the movie online to choose a good seat in the cinema. I remember one time, I was so excited when I booked the movie that I didn’t realize I booked in the cinema some 600 kilometres from where we were. I said to my friend: “I think, we’ve got a situation here. I’ve booked in Bathurst (NSW), when we were in Melbourne (VIC). I don’t think, we’ll get there on time for the movie.” I was just making light of the situation of course, after learning I have to wait for another couple of days for my booking to be refunded.

Another time, having not learned from my previous mistake, out of excitement once again, I booked for the movie in Adelaide, South Australia. Anyhow, we’ve sorted it out in the end and we still ended up going to the films. We really enjoyed those times, though the bookings at first gave me stress.

Friends, to get on with life, we need more than just doing many things, even good or even amazing things we do. We need to find ways to get out of our ‘busyness’. As a motivational writer Dr. Wayne Dyer would wisely say: ‘I am a human BEING, not a human DOING.

Jesus in the gospel ( Mk 6:30-34) would recommend to his disciples more or less the same thing. After sending his disciples for a mission, they had come back, happy, excited and eager to report to him what they had done. Obviously they must have done a lot, amazing things perhaps, preaching, healing, being with the people. The people even loved them because, they were following them still as the gospel today suggests.

Jesus must have been very happy and even  ‘proud’ of them. Yet, he understood  that his disciples are not just human ‘doings’. They are also human ‘beings’. So, he urged them: ‘You must go away to a lonely place.’ In effect, he is saying to them: ‘Go, make a little retreat. Reflect on your lives. Put your mission into perspective. Reflect on who you are now, rather than just thinking on what you have done recently.’

Jesus also said to them: ‘Go by yourselves.’ This is an invitation to re-energize, to rest and to draw positive energy either on our own or with positive, like-minded people, with those people we are familiar and comfortable with- our friends. It’s amazing how much moments like these get the stresses out of ourselves.

I remember in one of those after-exam moments, I rang my friend, who was then assigned in a parish (Mount Gambier, some hundreds of kilometres away from Melbourne) for his pastoral placement, if he liked to go to the movies. Coincidentally, he had also some things to do in Melbourne the following day, so he obliged and drove all the way from Mount Gambier and we went to see Avatar. Though he was late, we still went to see the film an hour after it started. The attendant there said to us: ‘Sir, are you sure you still want to go in? The movie started an hour ago.’ My friend said: ‘Not a problem. It’s a three-hour movie anyway and besides, I drove all the way from Mount Gambier to be here.’ That was really a good way to relieve our stress.

The other thing Jesus would tell his disciples after their mission is to go and spend quality time with God in prayer, as he himself would always do. ‘Prayer may not be everything’, as the late Bishop Joe Grech would say, ‘but it is the first thing.’ In prayer, we can experience in a more real and personal way the hand of the Lord at work in us. Prayer assures us of the hand of the Lord, our Good Shepherd guiding us to the right path, the path that is restful, the path of peace and serenity, the path of life and love (cf Psalm 22/23).

It is always a challenge for us to spend some times with God, especially when we think we still got plenty of things to do or to attend to. But even when we go on a holiday, we also tend to give God a break by not taking an effort to attend mass or to pray.

Few weeks ago, a woman came to me and said: ‘Father, my family is going on a holiday in the outback Australia. I don’t know if there is Catholic Church or a mass available nearby. What could we do if we can’t find a Catholic Church there?’ I said to her: ‘If it is really impossible (note: impossible), to attend mass, just remember the time you usually attend mass here and use that time, half-an hour perhaps, to gather together as a family in prayer, as a spiritual communion with the parish.’

I am just  so inspired by this mother’s motive to  make sure God is part of their family holiday. It is very inspiring to see people really making an effort to spend time with God amidst busyness in life.

There is a poem about not giving time for God in worship or prayer and it is worth reflecting. We may have fallen into this few times before. The title is ‘No time to pray

I knelt to pray but not for long,
I had too much to do.
I had to hurry and get to work
For bills would soon be due.

So I knelt and said a hurried prayer,
And jumped up off my knees.
My Christian duty was now done
My soul could rest at ease.

All day long I had no time
To spread a word of cheer.
No time to speak of Christ to friends,
They’d laugh at me I’d fear.

No time, no time, too much to do,
That was my constant cry,
No time to give to souls in need
But at last the time, the time to die.

I went before the Lord,
I came, I stood with downcast eyes.
For in his hands God held a book;
It was the book of life.

God looked into his book and said
“Your name I cannot find.
I once was going to write it down… 
But never found the time.”

(source: http://www.ellenbailey.com/poems/ellen_345.htm)

One reason not to pray, I sometimes hear from people is that God is  boring,  irrelevant, out of touch, deaf to our prayers, etc. Yes, it is indeed a challenge. Yet as my good friend said: ‘God is like a healthy food. You may not like it, because it is dull, boring, tasteless. But if you take it, it is good for you.’

Today, Jesus is inviting us to do less, and be more. For Jesus it is not about how much we have done, no matter how amazing they may be. Rather for him, it is how much love we put in what we do. We can only realize this, if we step back from the busyness of our lives, make a retreat and see where is God and where is the love in all that we do. Let us do this and our stress be lessened and our life becomes more worth-living. Amen.