Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mary, Mother of God, 01.01.2014

Numbers 6:22-27/ Galatians 4:4-7/ Luke 2:16-21

Every job has a title (job title), and with that title comes the dignity of the job and the work that is done.

Some jobs are rather dignified and have a high status in society, eg, doctors, professors, lawyers.

By their job titles, we would know what their work entails.

But there are also other jobs that may not have a high status.

For example, the garbage collector (or waste management and disposal technician) is certainly not a high status nor is it glamorous.
Or a grave digger (or burial grounds construction) is another example.

In some societies, garbage collectors and grave diggers are highly marginalized and it’s the work of the lowest classes. 

Nonetheless, they are also considered as necessary services- somebody must get rid of the rubbish and death is inevitable.

It is in that light that we can understand the status of shepherds in the biblical times.

Although they provided the essential service of rearing sheep, they were considered as nomads who are without status, and unclean to participate in the temple worship and their testimony was not accepted in court.

Yet, as we heard in the gospel, it was to the shepherds that the good news of the birth of the Saviour was first announced.

And they hurried to Bethlehem to see for themselves what they had been told and when they saw, they in turn repeated what they had been told.

Everyone who heard it was astonished. And Mary treasured all these things and pondered them in her heart.

And we can also presume that as Jesus grew up, Mary would relate this experience to Him often. And then we will understand why Jesus would often use the imagery of the shepherd and the sheep in his teachings and parables.

Mary understood the shepherds’ experience with the angels. She had her own encounter with an angel and that was how it all started.

And as Mary treasured and pondered all those things in her heart, one truth emerges clearly.

God loves and favours the poor, the lowly and the humble.

It was in the womb of a lowly and humble virgin that God took flesh and came into the world.

It was to the poor and marginalized shepherds that the Good News of the birth of the Saviour was first announced.

Today, we celebrate this great feast of Mary, Mother of God. It is a profound and majestic title.

Of course to say that Mary is Mother of God means that she is the mother of Jesus Christ who is both God and man.

But even though Mary is the Mother of God and she also has other titles like, Queen of Heaven and Mother of the Church, in her heart she is the humble and lowly virgin who is the handmaid of the Lord.

And with her motherly heart, she embraces with her maternal love, all those who are poor, lowly, needy, ordinary, humble and marginalized.

She wants to embrace us who are ordinary and lowly and humble.

She wants to carry us in her arms just as she cuddled the infant Jesus, if only we let her.

We may remember that Mother Mary appeared to St. Bernadette, the peasant girl at Lourdes in 1858.

She said, “I kept looking at her as hard as I could, and she kept looking steadily at me.”

The thousands who flocked to the grotto at Lourdes saw nothing but Bernadette. 

They were so eager to see Mother Mary that they asked Bernadette: Tell us, does our Lady look at anybody but yourself?

St. Bernadette replied, “Yes, indeed, she does; she looks all around at the crowd, and she stops at some as if they were her old friends.”

Yes, Mother Mary looks at each of us, young and old, rich and poor, the distinguished and the ordinary, the educated and the ignorant. She looks at us because regardless of what and who we are, we are all her children.

So as we begin the New Year, let us call out to Mary our Mother to show us how to follow Jesus her Son.

And with Mary, our Mother, let us turn to God for His blessings, not just for ourselves, but also for the lowly and humble, the poor and the marginalized. They are like the shepherds to whom the Good News is first announced.

May the Lord bless us and keep us, may He shine His face upon us and be gracious to us, and may the Lord grant us His peace.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Tuesday, 31-12-13

1 John 2:18-21 / John 1:1-18

It is said that every ending is a new beginning, and that every beginning will have an eventual ending.

And as with every beginning, it is seems the hardest but we must persevere if we want a good ending.

The two readings of today talked about beginnings and endings.

The 1st readings begins with "Children, these are the last days ... " and it goes on to say the enemies of the Church, those antichrists, have appeared.

Yet, those enemies, those antichrists, came out of within the Church. And that is a disturbing thought.

If that is the case, then what happened? The 1st reading says that they had never really belonged to Christ.

Or it may be said that they began well but then they probably got disillusioned, got distracted, got deceived and finally departed from the Church and turned against the Church.

But what happened to them can also happen to us and indeed it has happened and we have not heard the last of it yet.

But the 1st reading brings us back to where it all started, and it is also to remind us of where it all started for us.

We believe that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh and dwells among us. He is the true light that shines in and through our darkness so that we can see where and in who will be our ending.

So as we come to the last day of the year, let us make a good beginning for the new year. And here are just some reminders as we prepare for a new beginning.

Before we assume, learn the facts. Before we judge, understand why. Before we hurt someone, feel. Before we speak, think. And before we start anything, pray.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas, Monday, 30-12-13

1 John 2:12-17 / Luke 2:36-40

What does it take to be a prophet? Of course prophecy is a gift, and those who have this gift are called to serve the community of the Church, along with others who discern the prophecy and clarified further with prayer.

Yet, going by criterion given by Jesus about prophets, a true prophet is judged by the fruits of his/her life.

The gospel called Anna a prophetess. She was described as well on in years and her days of girlhood were over.

She had been married for seven years before becoming a widow. She was eighty-four years old and never left the Temple, serving God night and day with fasting and prayer.

So she didn't seem to do the spectacular deeds or proclaimed oracles from the Lord, which were often associated with prophets from of old.

But when Mary and Joseph brought the infant Jesus to the Temple, she immediately sensed and recognized the presence of the Saviour.

And thereby she proclaimed her greatest prophecy - she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of God's people.

We may not be working miracles or proclaiming oracles. In fact, we may be living very ordinary lives, much like the prophetess Anna.

But like her, may we always live in the presence of God and serve God in the ordinary events of our lives.

In that way, we are proclaiming the presence of Jesus our Saviour to all around us. That already is as prophetic as it could be.

Holy Innocents, Martyrs, Saturday, 28-12-13

1 John 1:5 - 2:2 / Matthew 2:13-18

There are many famous men in Bible whose words and deeds have proclaimed the marvels and the wonders of God.

On Saturday, we celebrated the feast of St. Stephen, the first martyr, who witnessed to Christ even to the point of death and also forgave those who were stoning him to death.

Yesterday, was the feast day of St. John the evangelist, who proclaimed the mystery of the divinity of God made flesh in the humanity of Jesus.

But in the same Bible are also many infamous men, and today we hear of a man who was a tragedy to himself and he also caused tragic consequences.

Because of his pathological state of mind and his paranoia, he ordered the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem in order to exterminate the new-born King of the Jews.

That deed was no big deal to him. In fact it counts as nothing for him.

This makes us reflect on the horrible deeds that are done to children and the unborn : abortion, child abuse, child molestation, child labour, child pornography.

For some people, these things also count as nothing for them.

The feast of the Holy Innocents does not just recall the innocent babies being slaughtered and martyred for Christ.

Because their blood now cries out for the children of the world who are suffering.

Their blood also cries out to us to something for children.

So what can we do for our children and for the children of the world?

May this poem (by Dorothy Law Nolte, Ph.D.) help us in reflection and spur us into action.

Children Learn What They Live

If children live with CRITICISM
They learn to CONDEMN

If children live with HOSTILITY
They learn to FIGHT

If children live with RIDICULE
They learn to BE SHY

If children live with SHAME
They learn to FEEL GUILTY

If children live with TOLERANCE
They learn to BE PATIENT

If children live with ENCOURAGEMENT
They learn to HAVE CONFIDENCE

If children live with PRAISE
They learn to APPRECIATE

If children live with FAIRNESS
They learn JUSTICE

If children live with SECURITY
They learn to HAVE FAITH

If children live with APPROVAL
They learn to LIKE THEMSELVES

If children live with ACCEPTANCE and FRIENDSHIP
They learn to FIND LOVE IN THE WORLD.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Holy Family, Year A, 29.12.2013

Ecclesiasticus 3:3-7, 14-17/ Colossians 3:12-21/ Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23

Two days before Christmas, on the 23rd December, there was a meeting between two prominent men.

One has the world’s spotlight on him, while the other has stepped away from the spotlight.

Pope Francis, Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” has something like over 10million followers on Twitter.

Some are of the opinion that Pope Francis is the most influential world leader in 2013.

For someone who became Pope on March 13 this year, the attention on him is quite phenomenal.

By and large, the attention is positive and hence we the Catholic Church should be proud of the Pope.

Well, on the 23rd December, Pope Francis paid a visit to Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI at the monastery of Mater Ecclesiae.

As we will certainly remember, it was Benedict’s resignation from the papacy that opened the way for the eventual election of Pope Francis.

It was a meeting that did not generate much headlines or interest.

Pope Francis paid a visit to Benedict XVI to give his best wishes for Christmas in advance.

They chatted and Pope Francis even told Benedict that he was happy to see him looking well and good.

Finally, before leaving, the two men prayed together in the chapel.

It was a significant moment for them as one prepares to celebrate his first Christmas as the Pope, whereas the other will spend his first Christmas after resigning as a Pope.

Yet, many anxious moments have gone by before coming to this point in time.

When the Vatican announced the unexpected resignation of Benedict XVI on the 11th February, the Church was thrown into a bit of turmoil and confusion.

The reason given was his declining health due to old age. But he also said that he was resigning for the good of the Church.

At that time, we wouldn’t have understood what it meant. But by now we probably would have understood and maybe there will be more things to understand in time to come.

So, the Church as a community, and as a family, has seen anxious and disturbing moments, as well as calm and consoling moments. 

As it is with the Church, so it was with the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

And today’s gospel gives us a glimpse of the turmoil and distress that they experienced as a family.

They are not a “no-worries be-happy” family without anxieties and difficulties.

They were a real family, who faced real emergencies and life-threatening situations in their lives.

Immediately, after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph had to flee from their homeland to escape the death squads that were going after them.

Even though Jesus was the “Emmanuel”, the “God-is-with-us” the Holy Family was not spared of the trauma and the danger of the chaos of life.

Yet, for better or for worse, in good times or in bad, they stayed together.

Joseph did not abandon mother and child in the time of need. Mary did not abandon the child Jesus for her own safety.

Their staying together in the face of trials showed us this truth- that God is with us when we are united.

So it is with the Holy Family, and so it will be with our families, so it will be with the Church community.

Whether it is family or community, we need each other in order to become what God wants us to be.

There is this interesting story about porcupines. An extremely cold winter was coming and the porcupines had to find a way to survive.

At first they decided to group together to keep warm and protect one another.

But unfortunately, their sharp spiky quills poked at each other as their huddled together, so they dispersed.

Of course this left them exposed to the bitter cold and they started to freeze to the point of death.

So they had to make a fundamental life or death choice – either they stay apart and die, or they tolerate and accept each other’s thorns and survive.

And to think of it, we are a bit like porcupines.

We have our own “spiky quills” and with that we hurt others and others hurt us too.

At times, living as members of the family and community can be so painful and hurtful, that we think it might be better off living alone.

But if the porcupines know how to stay together in order to survive, then we must also learn to accept and live with the spiky quills of others.

The Church has suffered much from its own sharp quills. The Church has seen painful and hurtful times.

But under the leadership of Pope Francis, there is healing and restoration.

And the Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has committed himself to praying for the Church as he spends his days in retirement.

We are seeing the fruits of his prayers in Pope Francis and in what God wants the Church to be.

And may their prayers and the prayers of Mary and Joseph also help our families to be what God wants us to be.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, Friday, 27-12-13

1 John 1:1-4 / John 20:2-8

According to tradition, St. John was subjected to torture by being plunged into a pot of boiling oil but he miraculously survived, whereas the other apostles were martyred.

It is also believed that he lived to a ripe old age of about 94 and he died of natural causes.

There could be some truth in that because the gospel that is attributed to him contains a spiritual depth that is not so obvious in the other three gospels.

In biblical art,  the Gospel of John is often depicted with an eagle, which symbolizes the insight to the height of the mystery of the person of Jesus which was expounded in the first chapter of the gospel.

It had that depth of insight to the height of the mystery probably from the reflection and meditation over the years.

There was a story that when St. John was an old man, he was asked to preach to a gathering of believers.

His message was short yet sublime: Dear children, love one another. Learn to love one another as God loves you.

That is also the central theme in the gospel of John - the love that God has for us, and it can be found in passages like  John 3:16-17; 13:34-35; 15:17.

It is a profound theme and to love one another as Jesus has loved us is a spirituality and a mystery that needed to be constantly reflected and meditated upon in our hearts.

Like St. John, may God also deepen and enlighten us in His love for us so that we will in turn love one another as Jesus has loved us.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

St. Stephen, Protomartyr, Thursday, 26-12-13

Acts 6:8-10; 7:54-59 / Matthew 10:17-22

We are still very much in a festive mood with Christmas carols like "Silent Night" and "Joy to the world" still ringing in our heads and maybe we are still bloated from all the feasting.

Today is also known as Boxing day, and it came from a custom when Christmas presents packed into boxes were given out on this day. But maybe it has become a day to open our Christmas presents because we might have been too busy yesterday.

Well, today the Church opens up the liturgy with, of all things, the gruesome and shocking martyrdom of St. Stephen.

Somehow the tenderness of Christmas is shattered by the violent execution of St. Stephen.

Why didn't the Church move this feast to another time, maybe in Lent, so that we can still have that Christmassy feeling and just talk about angels and shepherds and baby Jesus?

Well, the martyr St. Stephen has a deep connection with the birth of Christ.

Somehow Christmas have been embellished and glossed over with so much sentimentality that we forget that Jesus was born into a hard, cold and violent world.

The Son of God had to born in stable, of all places, and laid in a manger. Not long after He was born, King Herod was looking for Him to kill Him.

That was only the beginning of the violence and the persecution that Jesus was going to face, and it would eventually lead to His execution of the cross.

Yet, when we reflect on the joy of Christmas and the martyrdom of St. Stephen, we see the connection between divine tenderness and human violence.

Christ came to heal our human violence with His divine tenderness, expressed in mercy and forgiveness, as witnessed to by St. Stephen.

Let us also believe that the ugliness of human violence can only be changed with the divine tenderness of forgiveness and love.

The young man by the name of Saul in the 1st reading, who approved of the killing, would later be touched by divine tenderness, then changed his name to Paul and went forth to proclaim the tender love of God and His forgiveness.

So in the face of human anger and violence, let us stand firm on divine love and tenderness.

It is only through God's mercy and forgiveness that hardened hearts will be turned into loving hearts.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Christmas Day, Year A, 25.12.2013

Isaiah 62:1-5/ Acts 13:16-17, 22-25/ Luke 2:1-14

This Christmas is a special Christmas for someone, and it is none other than Pope Francis because he is celebrating his first Christmas as the Pope.

There are already a few “firsts” for him – he is the first non-European Pope (he is an Argentinean); and he is the first Pope to choose the name of “Francis” (of Assisi).

And talking about St. Francis of Assisi, he made a special contribution to the celebration of Christmas – he was the first to stage a Nativity scene.

Back in the year 1223, when St. Francis of Assisi went to a small village to celebrate Christmas, he wanted to highlight the Nativity scene.

So he found a shed and laid it with straw and he got an ox and a donkey and he got some of the villagers to play the different characters of the Nativity scene.

So there was Mary and Joseph and the baby Jesus and some shepherds with their sheep and a couple of angels.

(It was something like the Nativity pageant put up by the children that we saw before the Mass.)

And they sang hymns and read the gospel about the birth of Christ and prayed.

Everyone at the Nativity scene was moved and they felt like as if they were there at that very first Christmas.

And hence from then on, the Nativity scene became the main feature of Christmas celebration.

But more than that, the enactment of the Nativity scene also brought about blessings for the people.

As the account goes, the straw that was laid in the shed, when it was fed to the cattle and sheep, cured them of a disease that was afflicting them.

It was also said that the wooden beams that supported the shed was used to build the church nearby and they were surprisingly durable.

But over and above all the blessings, the people had a change of heart.

They heard and they saw the joyful news of the birth of Christ their savior.

Differences and disputes were reconciled, wrongs were forgiven, kindness and generosity flowed among the people.

Indeed the birth of Christ is good and joyful news. It brings about bountiful blessings and graces.

Today, we are gathered together as the people of God to celebrate the birth of Christ.

The birth of Christ brings about abundant blessings for us.

When we look at the baby Jesus in the crib, we will see that His arms are open and extended.

It is meant to show that He welcomes and embraces us and He also wants to give us blessings in abundance.

And of course the greatest blessing is the gift of Himself.

Jesus took His place in a lowly manger so that we will have a place in heaven.

When we reflect on the Nativity scene, we can see what Jesus is all about.

The shed is a symbol of poverty – Jesus emptied Himself and came down from heaven to be with us.

The donkey is a symbol of humility; the ox is a symbol of sacrifice; the sheep is a symbol of gentleness and docility; the shepherds represent the poor and the lowly.

The symbols of the Nativity scene point to what Jesus is, and they also point to what we are called to be.

Today, we journey back to that first Christmas, to receive the blessings that Jesus wants to give us.

And today, we also journey forward to proclaim the joyful news that Christ is born and that God is with us.

May God be with Pope Francis as he leads the church forward. 

May God be with us as we work for reconciliation and forgiveness so that peace that Jesus came to bring will be a reality.

Monday, December 23, 2013

24th December 2013, Tuesday

2 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-12, 14, 16 / Luke 1:67-79

Somehow, at this time of the year, especially with the festivities and with the year coming to an end, we want to have a good time and forget about our worries and anxieties for a while.

But on a more sober note, we must also remember all the good things that has happened to us, as well as reflect and learn from our struggles and difficulties.

Yet, it is not that conducive to make time to do this recalling and reflecting, because of the frenzy of activities and busyness.

So as much as we may be singing "Silent Night, Holy Night", it may not be really so. In fact, it may well be a noisy and busy night.

Yet, we must make time for ourselves if we really want to experience the silence and the holiness of this eve of Christmas.

We have to make time for ourselves to welcome God as He visits His people and to feel His wonderful gift of love in Jesus. And we have for this morning Mass to do just that.

Just one day before Christmas we are reminded in the gospel what is the meaning of this whole occasion.

It is God fulfilling His promise of salvation. He is sending us our long awaited Saviour.

Jesus will lead us from darkness and from the shadow of death and guide us into the way of peace.

Let us make time today for prayer and reflection. Let us feel the holy silence of this eve of Christmas.

May we be filled with a joyful peace as we prepare to celebrate Christmas.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

23rd December 2013, Monday

Malachi 3:1-4, 23-24 / Luke 1:57-66

The task of choosing a name is an honourable task but nonetheless a difficult task.

Whether it is choosing a name for a person, or for a business, or for a society, there are many factors to be considered.

One of which is that it must sound nice and also meaningful, not just in the predominant language, but also in other dialects and languages.

The name John is a Jewish name (Yehohanan) and it means God-is-gracious.

That name has a great significance for Elizabeth and Zechariah.

Elizabeth was barren and barrenness was seen as a curse from God.

So the conception and birth of John was indeed a gracious blessing from God.

But God's grace did not just give Zechariah and Elizabeth a son.

God's grace will be continued in the life and mission of John.

John's mission was to prepare the people for the time of intense grace from God.

A time of restoration to the dignity as God's people. A time of reconciliation between God and each other.

As Christmas draws near, let us prepare ourselves to receive this moment of intense grace from God, so that we can be a grace-filled and a graceful people.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

4th Sunday of Advent, Year A, 22.12.2013

Isaiah 7:10-14/ Romans 1:1-7/ Matthew 1:18-24

In a couple of days’ time, we will hear that beautiful Christmas carol “What child is this?”

In fact, we are already hearing it at shopping malls and supermarkets, along with the ringing of cash registers.

But just to make sure that we are talking about the same carol, the first few lines goes like this:

“What child is this, who laid to rest on Mary’s lap is sleeping? When angels greet with anthems sweet, while shepherds watch are keeping.”

That’s a beautiful Christmas carol and it captures the essence of the reason of the season – “This, this is Christ the King…”

Yes, everything is made so clearly to us now, so much so that we may take it for granted and may not feel the depth of the mystery of the birth of Christ.

But if Joseph, whom we heard in the gospel, had known about that Christmas carol during his time, he might have changed the title from “What Child is this” to “Whose Child is this”.

Joseph had his dreams and his hopes about his future. Mary was betrothed to him and he would have dreamed of a happy family and children of his own.

And then, this had to happen. He came to know that Mary was pregnant and obviously his first question was “Whose child is this?”
It was certainly not his child; not his, but whose?

To say that Joseph felt disappointment and cheated might be an under-statement.

And to his reaction was an obvious reaction. He decided to call off the marriage.

But being a man of honour, he decided to do it quietly and informally.

He was hurt, but he was man enough to contain it. He didn’t want anybody else to be hurt.

In that sense, he still cared about Mary and he wanted to spare her the publicity, which would be a devastating publicity against the unwed and pregnant Mary.

Yet, that did not answer the question “whose child is this?” Who is the father?

And then as if all the questions in his mind were not enough for him, he gets a dream about an angel telling him what to do next.

Joseph is one of the central characters in the whole Christmas story and yet he is the only one who had nothing recorded of what he said or what he thought.

But it certainly cannot be said that Joseph was a simpleton and simply did what he was told.

Joseph had to lay aside his broken dreams and his disappointments and to make that decision to accept the pregnant Mary and to take her home as his wife.

Therein lies the greatness of Joseph. He took the responsibility to care for Mary and her child.

Even though the angel told him in the dream that the child was conceived by the Holy Spirit, would that really answer the question “Whose child is this?”

Would he be able to comprehend that truth? Would we be able to comprehend that truth?

Who can believe that virginity and motherhood would go together? Because a virgin mother had no precedent whether in the religious realm, or in the secular realm.

So how to believe? And neither can we expect Joseph to believe so easily.

And if we were in Joseph’s shoes, what would we do?

Are we going to follow dreams and mystery, or do what Joseph originally intended – just spare the publicity and settle it quietly.

There is this story of a wise and holy man who lived at the outskirts of a village.

Everyone revered him for being upright and holy.

Then a beautiful girl in the village got pregnant. Her angry parents demanded to know who was responsible.

At first she was reluctant to reveal, but under pressure, the anxious and embarrassed girl pointed to that wise and holy man.

The parents and the village elders went to confront the holy man and accused him of being a cheater and a fake.

To their accusations, his reply was simply: Is that so?

When the child was born, the parents took the child to that holy man and demanded that he take responsibility for the child, since he was the father.

His reply was: Is that so? But he took the child in, and for many months, he took good care of the child. 

But the girl who could no longer take it, finally confessed that the real father was a young man of the village whom she wanted to protect.

The parents and the village elders immediately went to that holy man, they apologized profusely to him and proclaimed his innocence and their respect for him; his only reply was: Is that so?

A reply like “Is that so?” can mean anything from being stoic to enigmatic. Or it may mean we don’t know and we also don’t care.

But for Joseph, he did not know clearly whose child it is that Mary was carrying.

But in the end, he took responsibility for Mary and her child and with that the Christmas Story turned from mystery to reality.

Life had many twists and turns. We may not ask questions like “Whose child is this?”

But our questions would be “Whose job is this?” or “Whose mistake is this?” or “Whose fault is this?”

Joseph also had his questions, but in the end, he took upon himself the responsibility of caring for Mary and Jesus, and Christmas became a reality.

In life, when people don’t do their job, or when a mistake is made and people start blaming each other, it is the poor, the vulnerable and the helpless who will have to suffer the consequences.

But like Joseph, when we take the responsibility upon ourselves, then we can make Christmas a reality.

And we will truly know what Child it is that we are celebrating at Christmas.

Friday, December 20, 2013

21st December 2013, Saturday

Songs 2:8-14 or Zephaniah 3:14-18 / Luke 1:39-45

On the 20th July, 1969, the American astronaut Neil Armstrong stepped out from the lunar module.

Just before his foot touch the surface of the moon, he said this:

That's one small step for man, but a giant leap for mankind.

We may have seen that footage before and we know the excitement behind it.

Today's gospel is also filled with excitement, a much greater excitement.

It was just one small leap from a baby in his mother's womb, but it signals the beginning of our leap back to God.

All because Jesus stepped out of heaven to set foot on earth.

Today is another step closer to Christmas.

At Christmas, Jesus will again step in our hearts and make His home in us.

Let us also take a step closer to Him as we hear Him calling out to us in the words from the 1st reading: Come then, my love, my lovely one, come.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

20th December 2013, Friday

Isaiah 7:10-11 / Luke 1:26-38

The word "sign" in every day language can have a few meanings.

A sign can give information, as in the information given in a signboard.

A sign can also give directions, as in a road sign.

Or it can mean a symbolic happening, as in when someone says that a certain event or encounter was a sign to him.

But when the Bible uses the word "sign" as in the 1st reading, it means that God was intervening for His people.

In this case, God was pledging that He will be with king Ahaz and the prophet Isaiah was calling on king Ahaz to trust in God for deliverance rather than having recourse to a superpower.

In the gospel, God was also intervening when He sent the angel Gabriel to tell Mary that God was with her (Rejoice most highly favoured, the Lord is with you).

The world was sinking lower and lower into sin when God intervened and sent His Son, born of a woman, born a subject of the Law, to be the Saviour.

At every Mass, we celebrate God saving intervention when we respond to those words: The Lord be with you.

May our response also truly express that we want to be with the Lord so that we will be signs of His intervention and saving love to the world.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

19th December 2013, Thursday

Judges 13:2-7, 24-25 / Luke 1:5-25

Most married couples have a hope and a longing - they hope to have children.

No doubt, when children come along in a marriage, it will be a life-changing as well as a life-challenging experience.

Children are a profound sign of the fruit of love in a marriage and certainly children brings much joy to the parents because their union have brought about another life.

Yet with children, the parents are now called to unite themselves even deeper in love to make the sacrifices for bringing up their children.

But for married couples who are not able to have children, their hopes and dreams may have come to a stand-still because they just cannot be fulfilled.

Today's scripture readings tell of two married couples who were barren - Manoah and his wife, and Zechariah and Elizabeth.

They did not chose to be childless; they just couldn't have children. Certainly they had hoped for children and in the culture of that time, children was a sign of blessings, and barrenness a curse.

When God looked with favour on these two couples and granted them sons, it was for them a life-changing and life-challenging experience.

They are to bring up their sons and form them for the work that God had in store for them.

As for us, God has granted us His greatest blessings by giving us His only Son. It must be a life-changing and life-challenging experience for us.

May the gift of God's only Son form us to continue the work that His Son had began on earth.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

18th December 2013, Wednesday

Jeremiah 23:5-8 / Matthew 1:18-24

We are familiar with that Christmas carol "What child is this?". The first few lines go like this "What child is this, who, laid to rest, On Mary's lap is sleeping? Whom angels greet with anthems sweet, While shepherds watch are keeping? ... "

If Joseph were to sing that Christmas carol, he would just change one word in the title. And it would be "Whose child is this?"

In the Christmas story, everyone had something to say. Even Mary who is usually quiet had that long song of the Magnificat when she visited Elizabeth.

The only one who had nothing recorded of what he said was Joseph. And yet, he was one of the central characters in the whole Christmas story.

It was he who made the decision to accept the pregnant Mary to to take her home as his wife.

Oh we may say that the angel appeared in his dream and told him exactly what to do and so he would have no problems as to decide what to do.

Still that does not answer the question "Whose child is this?" Nonetheless Joseph took responsibility of Mary and her child, even as he pondered on that question.

Maybe Joseph would find out the truth along the way. What is remarkable is that Joseph had the integrity of an upright man to care for the mother and child.

We in turn can ask ourselves this question : Whose child am I? Obviously we are the children of our parents.

But more than that, we are also children of God. As children of God, let us be like Joseph and be persons of integrity, and hence let us also take responsibility of those who are weak and helpless.

That will show whose children we are.

Monday, December 16, 2013

17th December 2013, Tuesday

Genesis 49:2, 8-10 / Matthew 1:1-17

We may wonder why today, the 17th December, the readings are diverted from the 3rd week of Advent to the specified readings for today and right till the 24th December.

Well, if we do a bit of counting, then we will see that today till Christmas eve is a total of eight days.

This period of time is called the "octave before Christmas". Certainly it means that the preparation for Christmas has entered into a more intensified period, spiritually of course, and maybe materially too.

Of interest are the titles used in the gospel acclamation for each day. Today in the gospel acclamation, Jesus is addressed as "Wisdom of the Most High".

This intensified period of preparation is to help us to remember and to be aware of the celebration we are preparing for.

In the gospel, we heard of the genealogy of Jesus, from Abraham right down to Joseph. We remember how the promise of God was passed on from generation to generation, with its twists and turns, the straight and the crooked, glory and exile.

Yet through it all, the promise of God has prevailed and finally fulfilled in Jesus Christ. Yes, we must remember that God kept His promise from age to age.

When we remember that, then we become aware of what we are preparing to celebrate - the presence of God among us, the Emmanuel.

And with that we also celebrate our hope that one day we will be with Him in eternity.

God came to be with man so that man can be with God. Let us remember that and celebrate and strengthen our hope in His promise.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

3rd Week of Advent, Monday, 16-12-13

Numbers 24:2-7, 15-17 / Matthew 21:23-27

Whenever it comes to making a decision, it is usually more convenient to just sit on the fence.

And that might usually mean that we want someone of authority to make that decision.

So that whatever the outcome of that decision may be, we won't have to bear any responsibility or accountability.

In the gospel, Jesus was questioned by the chief priests and elders about His authority.

In doing so, the chief priests and elders may have inadvertently recognized the authority of Jesus.

And yet when Jesus asked them about the authority of John the Baptist, they chose to sit on the fence when they replied with "We do not know."

Nothing weakens authority so much as in sitting on the fence when a decision has to be made; besides that, sitting on the fence can be quite painful.

We may think that we are not people of authority and so this won't be our problem.

But being a people of faith, we have to make decisions when it comes to issues regarding faith and morals.

Faith that sits on the fence is not faith at all. Jesus did not sit on the fence, and neither should we.

Jesus made the decision to save us. May we make decisions that will proclaim Jesus as our Saviour.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year A, 15.12.2013

Isaiah 35:1-6, 10/ James 5:7-10/ Matthew 11:2-11

There used to be a complaint that they don’t make things like they used to.

It seems that in the past things are made to last a life-time, and maybe even longer than a life-time.

From machines to tools to toys, the things of the past were made of heavy durable material.

One example is the old “Singer” sewing machine from our mothers’ or grandmothers’ time.

Amazingly they still work, and no electricity is needed, but you would need the skill of hand and foot coordination.

But with the rise of industrialization and mass production, and with cheaper and less durable materials, things are made to just hold together till they have left the factory (or when the warranty expires).

And when they land into our hands and after a whole they malfunction and spoil and we bring it back to the shop or the agent, they will tell you that buying a new one would make more economical sense than repairing it (right?).

And so a culture is created, and it is called the “throw-away” culture.

So, when the TV is spoilt, just throw it away, the hi-fi set is spoilt, just throw it away, the computer is spoilt, just throw it away.

After all, with the abundance of cheap goods, why bother to repair something old when you can get something new and get it cheaply.

So, we have this “throw-away” culture. Oh, by the way, the statistics for 2012 states that a Singaporean throws away about 1400 kg of waste a year, and Singapore generates 7.3million tons of waste for 2012.

That’s a lot of waste and it seems that we love to throw away things.

But it may not just be spoilt things that we throw away.

The “throw-away” mentality may have also crept into the way we treat people.

If a person is not of any use to us, we may just “throw” that person out of our lives.

Because just as we use things, we may also “use” people. And when things are of no more use to us, we will also just “throw” them away.

Today’s gospel began with John the Baptist in prison. 

Just last week, we heard of how he appeared in the wilderness and crowds came to him and they confessed their sins and were baptized by him.

His words were sharp, like an axe that was ready to cut down any tree that does not bear good fruit.

He spoke of the one who is to come, the one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit and fire.

And the one who is to come has a winnowing fan in his hand to clear the threshing floor and gather the wheat, but the chaff he will burn in a fire that will never go out.

So John the Baptist spoke of Jesus as a fiery judge, a dispenser of wrath and no chance will be given to those who do not repent. But what he said Jesus would do somehow did not match with what Jesus actually did.

Instead of condemnation, Jesus showed compassion; instead of axing and chopping the sinners, Jesus was sitting and chatting with them.

In the darkness of his dungeon, John the Baptist would have felt that he was like something thrown away and of no use anymore.

And when he heard what Jesus was doing, he would be having a broken feeling. He was to prepare the way for the one to come. But could he have been wrong?

Hence, he sent his disciples to ask Jesus if He was the one to come.
The reply Jesus gave was not a “Yes” or “No”. Rather He told the disciples to tell John the Baptist what they heard and saw.

The “thrown away” and “broken” John the Baptist is presented to us on this 3rd Sunday of Advent to point out an important aspect.
Jesus healed the sick: the blind see again, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear.

But the one most in need of healing then was John the Baptist as he laid broken in his dungeon.

Anything that is broken is usually considered useless and thrown away.

If such was the case with John the Baptist, then it would be a sad ending. And that is not Good News. That is more like sad news.

In this modern age, a ceramic bowl that is broken is usually thrown away. It doesn’t make any sense to try to join the broken pieces back together.

There is this Japanese art of fixing broken pottery with lacquered resin mixed with powdered gold. It is called kintsugi.

Kintsugi may have originated in the 15th century when a Japanese shogun sent a broken Chinese tea bowl back to China for repairs.

When it was returned repaired with ugly metal staples, it prompted Japanese craftsmen to look for a more aesthetic means of repair.

With kintsugi, broken valuable pottery was repaired and rejoined and the cracked veins now have beautiful gold finishing.

Kintsugi means “to repair with gold”. But the important point in the art of kintsugi is that the broken piece is now more beautiful for having been broken.

John the Baptist in his awful dungeon may have been broken and disappointed.

But the news that his disciples brought back to him from Jesus was like the gold lacquer that rejoined his broken heart and made it more beautiful than before.

That is why we now call him St. John the Baptist.

As for us, the struggles and the tumbles of life have caused cracks and breaks in our hearts.

Where others would write us off and throw us away, Jesus wants to save us.

Jesus is the Divine Healer and as the Divine Craftsman, He heals our broken hearts with His golden love so that we become more beautiful for having been broken.

It does sound strange, “we become more beautiful for having been broken”, but that is the Good News.

And when we do not lose faith in Jesus, that is really Good News.
Because we know we won’t be thrown away.

Jesus is there to lead us and save us.

Friday, December 13, 2013

2nd Week of Advent, Saturday, 14-12-13

Ecclesiasticus 48 : 1-4, 9-11 / Matthew 17 : 10-13

If there was one prophet in the Old Testament that we can say is really dramatic, it is surely the prophet Elijah.

And the 1st reading makes special mention of this dramatic prophet, and rightly so.

Elijah was a fire-and-brimstone prophet. He worked great and awful deeds like calling down famine upon the land, calling down fire from heaven to consume the sacrifice he offered and putting the 450 false prophets by slitting their throats, just to mention a few.

But all that dramatic deeds were intended to turn the people back to God and for the restoration of Israel as the people of God.

But people can just be interested in the dramatic and the spectacular and not see the meaning and the message behind it.

We live in an age where people, Catholics included, are easily attracted by the dramatic and the spectacular and the extra-ordinary.

We may even expect the end times and the second coming of Christ to be kind of dramatic and spectacular, with awesome signs.

But as Jesus said in the gospel, Elijah came in the person of John the Baptist, and God came to visit His people in the Word made flesh.

But John the Baptist and Jesus were just too ordinary, and hence did not live up to the people's expectations.

The season of Advent prepares us to encounter God in the ordinary.

Amidst of the festive celebrations, let us quieten our hearts to hear the voice of God in the ordinary.

When Jesus first came to this world at the first Christmas, it was just another ordinary day.

When He comes to us today, it will also be in an ordinary way.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

2nd Week of Advent, Friday, 13-12-13

Isaiah 48:17-19 / Matthew 11:16-19

There is this famous quote :“Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers.”

If we think that this sounds familiar but we are not too sure who said it, it was Socrates, the Greek philosopher who lived  from 469 BC–399 BC.

And if we are parents and adults, we would nod our heads in agreement. What Socrates said of the youth during his time, and we are talking about that long ago, sounds so true even for today's youth.

Yet we must also remember that our elders had said such things about us before, and now we in turn are repeating it to our youth.

Is it like some kind of vicious circle, or is it that the oppressed becomes the oppressor?

Whatever it may be, criticism can never lead to any kind of conversion, be it the one criticising or the one being criticized.

In the gospel, Jesus pointed out the criticism against Him and John the Baptist. Yet that was nothing new because the prophets in the past had been subjected to such criticism and eventual persecution.

But Jesus did not come to continue the culture of criticism. Rather He came to bring about a culture of conversion.

He came to fulfill what the prophet Isaiah said in the 1st reading: I, the Lord, teach you what is good for you, I lead you in the way that you must go.

So may we have the wisdom to show and lead our youth in the way they should go as we ourselves walk the way that the Lord wants us to go.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

2nd Week of Advent, Thursday, 12-12-13

Isaiah 41:13-20 / Matthew 11:11-15

December 12, 1531 was a very special day in the history of the Catholic Church and Mexico.

Prior to that, on December 9,1531, a poor and humble Aztec Juan Diego saw an apparition of a young girl at the Hill of Tepeyac, near Mexico City, and he recognized her as the Virgin Mary.

Juan Diego told his story to the Spanish Archbishop of Mexico City,  who instructed him to return to Tepeyac Hill, and ask the "lady" for a miraculous sign to prove her identity.

The first sign was the healing Juan's uncle who was suffering from a deadly illness. Then Mary told him to gather flowers from the top of Tepeyac Hill.

Although December was very late in the growing season for flowers to bloom, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, not native to Mexico, on the normally barren hilltop.

Then Mary arranged these in his peasant cloak or tilma. When Juan Diego opened his cloak before the Archbishop on December 12, the flowers fell to the floor, and on the fabric was the image of the Virgin of Guadalupe.

With that, and also within a short time, about six million native Mexicans were baptized and Christianity grew from then onwards. It also brought about a reconciliation between the Spanish conquerors and the natives.

The 1st reading is also appropriate for today which regards to the miraculous image of our Lady on the tilma of Juan Diego: "so that men may see and know, may all observe and understand that the hand of the Lord has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created this".

Indeed, the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe is nothing less than a divine piece of art by the divine painter.

Yes, God wants us to know that He is always present among us, not only through the miraculous image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, but also in our Advent preparations, as we prepare for the Word to be made flesh in our lives again.

As Jesus said in the gospel, if anyone has ears to hear, let him listen!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

2nd Week of Advent, Wednesday, 11-12-13

Isaiah 40:25-31 / Matthew 11:28-30

In order to go anywhere in life, we must have goals.

Goals help us to set directions and keep focused on what we need to do to achieve those goals.

That means that we also must have a plan as to how to achieve those goals, because without a plan then our goals are merely wishes that exist in our imagination but not in reality.

Needless to say, if we set these goals for ourselves, then we would be determined to achieve it.

And experience has taught us that if we don't achieve our goals, then we will disappointed and get disillusioned, and begin to lose motivation.

As the 1st reading puts it, even young men may grow tired and weary, and youths may stumble.

In the gospel, Jesus offers us a goal and a direction in life when He said: Come to me, all you who labour and are overburdened, and I will give you rest.

It also means to say that when Jesus is our final goal, then the other goals in life will find their fulfillment in Jesus.

It also means to say that if all our goals in life are not directed towards Jesus, then we will grow tired and weary and stumble whenever we face setbacks.

But when our goals in life are in Jesus and towards Jesus, then He will renew our strength and we will put out wings like eagles.

Monday, December 9, 2013

2nd Week of Advent, Tuesday, 10-12-13

Isaiah 40:1-11 / Matthew 18:12-14

Mark Twain said that the two most important days of your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why.

Between these two so-called most important days of our lives, we will be having our questions about life and its purpose.

And as we try to find out the meaning of life and its purpose, we will slowly come to understand why we have to learn the painful lessons of life.

It is to help to come to the realization that we won't live forever in this world.

As the 1st reading puts it: All flesh is like grass and its beauty like the wild flower's. The grass withers and the flower fades when the breath of the Lord blows on them.

But life is not just about finality and termination.

Because as much as the grass withers and the flower fades, the Word of the Lord remains forever.

And the Word was made flesh in Jesus. And Jesus tells us in today's gospel that it is never the will of our Father in heaven that one of these little ones should be lost.

May we find out one day that in order for God to find us and save us, we have to be little and humble.

God first came to us as a little and humble baby. May we return to God as His little and humble children.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Immaculate Conception of the BVM, Monday, 09-12-13

Genesis 3:9-15, 20 / Ephesians 1:3-6, 11-12 / Luke 1:26-38

The Immaculate Conception is about the conception of Mary in the womb of her mother without any stain of sin.

Church doctrine states that, from the first moment of her existence, Mary was preserved by God from the Original Sin and filled with sanctifying grace that would normally come with baptism after birth.

The Immaculate Conception was proclaimed as a dogma in 1854 by Pope Pius IX. It means that it is to be accepted as an infallible statement of faith.

But why such a focus on Mary? Yet, we must remember that any teaching about Mary must eventually point to Christ.

The teaching on the Immaculate Conception points to the grace of God which preserved Mary from sin at her conception in order that she will bear the divine Son of God in her at the Annunciation.

Although God removed sin from Mary at her conception, He did not remove her free will and her freedom of choice.

At the Annunciation, Mary made her choice for God's plan to be fulfilled in her.

We have been cleansed of sin at our baptism. It is for us now to remain in God's grace by choosing to do God's will always, just as Mary chose to do God's will.

On this feast of the Immaculate Conception, let us also ask for Mary's intercession for the grace to do God's will always.

Let us pray that prayer found on the Miraculous Medal, or otherwise also called the medal of the Immaculate Conception.

The prayer goes like this: O Mary, conceived without sin, pray for us who have recourse to you.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year A, 08.12.2013

Isaiah 11:1-10/ Romans 15:4-9/ Matthew 3:1-12

By this time of the month, which in Church terms is the second Sunday of Advent, most of us would already have gotten one thing done.

We would have already taken out the Christmas tree from the store room and started decorating it.

By and large, setting up the Christmas tree seems like no big deal. We can choose whether it is a 4ft or 5ft or 6ft tree or taller even.

And we can also choose what types or species of Christmas tree, whether fir or pine, and even what colour. After all they are artificial and can come in whatever shape and colour.

But buying a Christmas tree is not as simple or easy as it sounds.

Just the other day while I was looking around for Christmas decorations, I overheard a lady asking the salesperson for a particular kind of Christmas tree with a particular kind of fiber optic lights on its branches.

The salesperson said: Oh that one. No stock now. Come back in a week’s time.

The lady was exasperated: A week’s time?!?! I took leave just to come here to get that tree and then you say no stock. And Christmas is coming. So how???!!!.

So how? Just to put up the Christmas tree and the decorations can be like a really good Advent spiritual preparation.

Because we will have to learn how to handle the frustrations and disappointments of the season.

Like … cannot find the right Christmas tree, so how?!?! The lights cannot work, so how?!?! Cannot find the right present, so how?

So how to have a merry Christmas when we cannot get what we want, when we cannot get things to work, and when we can find what we need?

Yet when we look at the commercials and advertisements, everything seems so perfect: the perfect Christmas tree, the perfect decorations, the perfect gift.

So we dream, not so much as a white Christmas, but a perfect Christmas. But can we ever have a perfect Christmas?

Today we have someone telling us how to have a perfect Christmas. And crowds went to him to hear how it is possible.

Today, John the Baptist appears in the gospel and the people from Jerusalem and all of Judaea and the whole Jordan district made their way to him.

His message for a perfect Christmas is simple, and can be summarized into one word: Repent!

And his message also comes with an axe, and with that John the Baptist goes for our precious nicely decorated Christmas trees.

But why would he want to do that? Let’s listen again to what he said:
Even now the axe is laid to the roots of the trees, so that any tree which fails to bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Of course he is not referring to Christmas trees in particular, but nonetheless the Christmas tree has a biblical and religious significance.

The Christmas tree is a symbol of Jesus. He is the shoot that springs from the stock of Jesse, the scion that trusts from Jesse’s roots, as we heard in the 1st reading.

Jesse was the father of king David, whose reign brought about the golden age of Israel.

But after his reign, Israel declined and the kingdom was split and was overrun by her enemies over and over again.

Eventually when Israel was exiled into Babylon, king David’s line of descendants became an obscurity.

But the prophet Isaiah wrote of hope, that one day a shoot will spring forth from the stump of Jesse and bring about Israel’s glory.

Jesus was that shoot that sprang into a tree, a life-giving tree, a hope-giving tree, a tree that bore fruits of love.

And that is why the Christmas tree is an appropriate symbol for the season, provided we know what it stands for.

That is why we decorate our Christmas tree with meaningful symbols like the star, the lights, the little angels and those other ornaments that symbolize what Jesus is about and what He came to give us.

Hence our lives must also be like the beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Otherwise it has no connection to our faith.

In other words, our lives must bear good fruits, not just to show our repentance, but also to bear fruits of love for others.

Repentance is a beautiful spiritual experience when we see God’s self-sacrificing love in the beautiful mystery of the Incarnation at Christmas.

We may have heard of the story of the “Giving tree”. The story reflects the self-giving love of God at Christmas. The story:

Once there was a tree and she loved little boy. And every day the boy would come and he would gather her leaves and make them into crowns and play king of the forest. 

He would climb up her trunk and swing from her branches and when he was tired, he would sleep in her shade. 

And the boy loved the tree very much.. And the tree was happy. 
But time went by, and the boy grew older. And the tree was often alone. Then one day the boy came to the tree and the tree said: 
"Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be "happy" 
"I am too big to climb and play" said the boy. "I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?" 

"I'm sorry" said the tree, "but I have no money. I have only leaves and apples. Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in city. Then you will have money and you'll be happy." 

And so the boy climb up the tree and gathered her apples and carried them away. And the tree was happy... 

But the boy stayed away for a long time and the tree was sad. 
And then one day the boy came back and the tree shook with joy, and she said: "Come, Boy come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be "happy".. 

"I am too busy to climb trees," said the boy. "I want a house to keep me warm," he said. "I want a wife and I want children, and so I need a house. Can you give me a house?" 

"I have no house" said the tree. “The forest is my house, but you may cut off my branches and build a house. Then you will be happy" 

And so the boy cut off her branches and carried them away to build a house. And the tree was happy. 

But the boy stayed away for a long time and the tree was sad. And when he came back, the tree was so happy she could hardly speak. "Come, Boy" she whispered, "Come and play" 

"I am too old and sad to play. "said the boy. "I want a boat that will take me away from here. Can you give me a boat ?" 

"Cut down my trunk and make a boat," said the tree. "Then you can sail away and be happy." 
And so the boy cut down her trunk and made a boat and sailed away. 

And the tree was happy But not really…
And after a long time the boy came back again. 
"I am sorry, Boy, "said the tree, "but I have nothing left to give you — My apples are gone." 
"My teeth are too weak for apple, "said the boy. 
"My branches are gone," said the tree. "You cannot swing on them — " 
"I am too old to swing on branches" said the boy. 
"My trunk is gone," said the tree. "You cannot climb — " 
"I am too tired to climb," said the boy. 
"I am sorry" sighed the tree. "I wish that I could give you something. . . but I have nothing left. I am just an old stump. I am sorry..." 
"I don't need very much now" said the boy. "just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired" 
"Well" said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could, "well, an old stump is good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down... and rest." 
And the tree was happy … (by Shel Silverstein)







God so loved the world that at Christmas, He gave us His only Son Jesus. 

On Good Friday, Jesus allowed Himself to be chopped down and reduced to a stump in order to save us.

But out of this stump, Jesus rose, and He want us to rise with Him.
Yes, to rise with repentance from our sins so as to bear good fruits, fruits of love that will bring about peace and joy.

So may our Christmas tress symbolize who Jesus is for us.
And may it also symbolize what we want to be for others.