Sunday, December 31, 2017

Holy Family, Year B, 31.12.2017

Ecclesiasticus 3:2-6, 12-14 / Colossians 3:12-21 / Luke 2:22-40
Today the 31st December is certainly not just another day. Today, we have come to the end of the calendar year 2017, and we stand on the threshold of a new calendar year.

Here, as well as in other places all over the world, people will be participating in the countdown to the new year with parties and merry-making. The idea is to start the new year with a “bang” and on a high note.

But on this day, as we prepare to welcome the new year, the significance of this day also beckons us to look back at what lies behind us, to look at what has happened in 2017 as it comes to a close.

Certainly there are many significant events on the local and international scene. Maybe we can recall that the US has a new president; maybe we can recall there was flooding in the MRT tunnel.

Maybe we can recall that 4 churches are opened after extensive and expensive renovation and building programs – Cathedral of the Good Shepherd, Church of Sts. Peter and Paul, Church of the Transfiguration and Novena Church.

Yes, as we look back and recall the events that shaped 2017, we remember with thanksgiving. Yes, we thank God for His blessings and for being with us and bringing us to the last day of 2017 and that we can look forward to 2018 with hope in more blessings to come.

Today, the Church also celebrates a significant feast, the feast of the Holy Family, and the gospel begins with this:

“When the day came for them to be purified, as laid down by the Law of Moses, they took him up to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord ...”

For Mary and Joseph, much had happened and as they present the child Jesus to the Lord, they would surely want to give thanks that they were still holding on together.

From the Annunciation to the Presentation, there were events there were so significant and filled with mystery that is beyond reality.

Mary had a visit from the angel Gabriel who had a mission for her and she said “Yes”. Joseph had dreams and he also said “Yes”. They had to go to Bethlehem and together they said “Yes”. They accepted the stable as the place of birth for Jesus. And now, in obedience to the Law of Moses, they presented Jesus to the Lord.

But much had happened, and more is to come. The upright and devout Simeon came along and took the child Jesus in his arms. For him, at last, his eyes have seen the promised Saviour and his eyes can now rest in peace.

For Anna, the 84 year old widow, her vigil is over and she can now look forward to a peace-filled sunset.

But as for Mary and Joseph, they have to be prepared for what is to come. Especially for Mary, that sword will pierce her soul.

But the experiences of Mary and Joseph with the child Jesus are not just confined to themselves in the celebration of the feast of the Holy Family. Because it makes us think about the experiences of our own families.

We might remember that this feast is termed the “Holy Family” and not the “perfect family” or the “ideal family”.

And that is also the reality of our families isn’t it? Our families are neither perfect nor ideal, whatever perfect or ideal might mean.

But our families must strive to be holy, and here is where the Holy Family is the model for our families.

In spite of their trials and tribulations and having to care for and protect Jesus, they radiated holiness and brought peace to people who encountered them.

Simeon saw what his eyes longed to see and for Anna her waiting was over, and peace came upon them.

As we look at the senior members of our families, do we know what they are longing to see and do we know what they are waiting for? Are they waiting for us to visit them, and to bring the grandchildren to see them? May their waiting not be in vain, and may their eyes close peacefully with the sunset.

And about our children, are we forming them to love God first above all things? Do we bring them for Mass and Catechism classes on Sundays? It is not either-or; it is Mass and Catechism class. 

Yes, it is tough to juggle Mass and Catechism class on a Sunday morning. But these are the formative years. If we choose Catechism class over Mass just because no one checks their attendance at Mass, then when they are done with Catechism class after Confirmation, they will also be done with Church.

Because if in their growing-up years, Mass is seen as optional, then in their later years, Church will also be optional.

It is certainly more beneficial to take the trouble and bear with the inconvenience now than to have the sword pierce our hearts later on.

As this feast tells us, it is about holiness in the family and the difficult and challenging task of formation in holiness.

Let us listen to this passage and see if it sounds familiar:
“The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.”

We may think it is some parent lamenting or the older generation complaining about the younger generation.
But that passage was quoted from Socrates, the ancient Greek philosopher (469–399 B.C.)

Seems like nothing much has changed. But something must change.

Mary and Joseph formed Jesus in holiness and He changed the thinking of the world.

But we can’t just keep thinking about it; we need to get it going. Like the Holy Family, let us strive for holiness as we look forward to the new year.

Let holiness be our focus, and God’s blessings will be abundant.

Friday, December 29, 2017

30th December 2017, Saturday

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

The days between Christmas and New Year can be called the least productive week.

It can also be called the holiday week where even though offices and factories are opened, the workers may want to take leave to enjoy the festive time.

But more than just a festive time and to take a break from work, it is also a time for reflection and to think about the events that are just over and the events that are to come.

After all, life is more than just having a good time and enjoying whatever pleasures there can be.

Or as the 1st reading puts it - "the sensual body, the lustful eye, pride in possessions" - that is only what the world has to offer and can only offer and no more than that.

But there is a mystery to life that gives us a hope for the future in which we look forward to.

The prophetess Anna was one who knew what that mystery was and she looked forward to it and she lived to see it.

May we also be like Anna, spend time in prayer and even fasting, so that we will encounter the mystery of Christmas and look forward to the mystery of the future.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

29th December 2017, Friday

1 John 2:3-11 / Luke 2:22-35

We are celebrating the Christmas season, but by this time now, the Christmas decorations may seem a bit stale already and we would be already thinking when will be a good time to take down those decorations, especially those on the Christmas tree.

Nonetheless, if we have the opportunity, then just sit around in the quiet of the night and look at the Christmas decorations.

What will certainly catch our eyes and engross us in wonder and imagination is the lights on the decorations, those steady burning and blinking lights.

Lights are a necessary part of the decorations. Yet Christmas is the celebration of light because the prayers in the liturgy have that theme.

Also Christ the true light has come to dispel the darkness of sin and evil.

And as the 1st reading said, if we claim to have seen the light but hate our neighbour, then we are still in the dark.

For the upright and devout Simeon in the gospel, his eyes have seen the light and that gave him the peace that fulfilled his longing.

May we long for the true light that will give us the same peace to reach out and love our neighbours.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Holy Innocents, Martyrs, Thursday, 28-12-17

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

The first day after Christmas, the Church celebrated the martyrdom of St. Stephen, the first Christian to witness to Christ with his life.

The second day after Christmas, the Church honoured St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, who emphasized the divinity of Christ.

These two men went into Biblical history and Church history as men who who faithful to God and walked in His ways.

Today, we come across a man who was a tragedy to himself and he caused tragic consequences.

Because of his pathological state of mind and his paranoia, he ordered the slaughter of the infants at Bethlehem, and it counted as nothing for him.

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

All this also counted as nothing for those who committed such atrocities and heinous crimes against children.

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

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

The blood of innocent young children cries out for the children of the world and cries out to us.

We have to teach and guide, protect and guard our children. If we cannot get that right, we will not be able to get anything right.

May God bless the children who are entrusted to us and may we care for them and guide them in the ways of the Lord. May Mother Mary and St. Joseph help us in this mission.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

St. John, Apostle and Evangelist, 27-12-17

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.

Monday, December 25, 2017

St. Stephen, Protomartyr, 26-12-17

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.

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.

Christmas 2017, 25.12.2017

Let us see how much we know about Christmas, or actually the lighter side of Christmas. How about some Christmas riddles to begin with?

- What do monkeys sing at Christmas? – Jungle bells, jungle bells, …

- How do cats greet each other at Christmas? – Have a furry Merry Christmas and a Happy Meow Year.

- What would have happened if it were three wise women instead of three wise men? – They would have asked for directions, arrived on time, helped to deliver the baby, cleaned up the stable, and brought the milk powder and diapers and wet wipes.

- He has no hair, no teeth, can’t speak properly, but everyone loves him, especially the womenfolk. Who is he? – A baby boy

So Christmas is finally here, and we would have noticed the crib and our eyes are drawn to the baby in the manger, who is none other than the Saviour of the world, the Word made flesh, whose birthday we celebrate today.

We may not have the baby phots of Jesus but in that baby figure in the manger, we can see that He is like us, He is one of us. God has come into the world and dwell among men.

The Incarnation is more than just a pious imagination. Jesus the Saviour became man so that man will know that the Saviour is real, and not a riddle that we keep guessing.

The reality of Jesus dwelling amongst us is not just celebrated at Christmas. It is celebrated every day.

And here is where we turn our eyes from the crib to the altar. As much as it is nice to look at the baby Jesus, just as it is nice to look at baby photos, we have to turn our eyes to look at the altar because that is where we must see Jesus as He really is.

Jesus laid down his life at the altar of the cross so that He can save us from our sins. On the cross His heart was pierced with a lance and out came love, mercy, forgiveness and healing.

Christmas is a celebration of the birth of Jesus, yet Christmas also tells us why Jesus became man and what God will do to show His love for us, to the extent that Jesus would even give up His life in order to save us.

Hence, Christmas is a celebration of thanks that we offer to God for His most precious gift to us, the gift of His only Son, our Saviour.

Jesus came not just to dwell amongst us, not just to be like us, He came to make His home in our hearts, so that we can truly be filled with God’s love, peace and joy.

And because Jesus is the gift from God to us, then the celebration of Christmas must also turn us into gifts of God’s love, peace and joy for others.

So that if people want to know the true meaning of Christmas, they just have to look at the crib, the altar, the cross, and not least, they just have to look at us.

The meaning of Christmas is not like some kind of riddle that makes others keep guessing what it is all about.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to see Jesus in Christmas, and if we know why we are celebrating Christmas, then others will be able to see Jesus in us.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

4th Sunday of Advent, Year B, 24.12.2017

2 Sam 7:1-5, 8-11, 16 / Romans 16:25-27 / Luke 1:26-38

Very soon we will be opening up our Christmas presents, if we have not opened them up already.

Regardless of whether we were naughty or nice, a Christmas present has a sense of surprise, or mystery.

Because it says something about the recipient and it also says something about the giver.

But nowadays the mystery or surprise is often taken away because to make the task easier we might be asked “What do you want for Christmas?” That makes it easy for the giver. But we better be specific about what we ask for.

A story goes that an angel appeared to a pious and devout man and told him that he will be rewarded with two wishes for being faithful to his prayers and good deeds.

The man thought for a while and said, “My first wish is to have the best wine.” And “poof!” there was a bottle of wine, he tasted the wine and it was very good. Then he said, “My second wish is to have the best woman.” And “poof!” and guess who?  -  St. Mother Teresa! (Who was he thinking of?)

Today is the 4th Sunday of Advent, and this time round, Christmas is just a day away. And as we come for Mass today, have we ever thought of asking God for a Christmas present? And if we are, then what are we asking for?
Whether or not we are asking God for a Christmas present, He has something to give us, and we don’t have to wait till Christmas Day to know what it is.

And if we are guessing what it is, well, it is not the best wine, not the best woman, but none other than Mother Mary. 

Yes, God wants to present to us the gift of Mary on this 4th Sunday of Advent so that we can take a moment to think about what God wants to give us at Christmas.

But to begin with, the whole Christmas event began at the Annunciation, which was the account that we heard in the gospel. 

The angel Gabriel was sent by God to a town in Galilee, called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the House of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.

And the angel Gabriel had a surprise for Mary. He had a present for her.

It was a surprise but in a way, also not a surprise. The present is to be opened nine months later. But the angel Gabriel had all the details of the present.

And it goes like this: “Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God’s favour. Listen! You are to conceive and bear a son, and you must name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.”

So would Mary accept this present? Well she was disturbed and confused and so she said, “But how can this come about, since I am a virgin.”

And the angel Gabriel gave her even more astounding details like the Holy Spirit covering her with His Shadow, Elizabeth in her six month of pregnancy, and that nothing is impossible for God.

As Mary listened to all this, she could be thinking, “This is not what I wanted or expected. And why me?” And probably many other things were going on in her mind.

But here is where Mary has something to teach us. As much as she had her apprehensions and questions, she chose to listen. She listened to what the angel Gabriel had to tell her. And she believed, and blessed is she because she believed.

But of course, accepting that divine present was not without challenges and difficulties. Would Joseph believe her? And then the census were held and being heavy with child, she and Joseph had to make their way to Bethlehem, only to have doors shut to their faces, and giving birth in a manger, and then almost immediately having to flee from the evil Herod.

But she listened, she accepted the gift, she believed in the gift, and now Mary wants us to have that gift too. But like her, we must listen, we must believe that it is a divine gift. 
A young man graduated from university with honours. For many months he had admired a beautiful sports car in a dealer’s showroom, and knowing his father could well afford it, he told him that was all he wanted for Christmas. 

As Christmas Day approached, the young man awaited signs that his father had purchased the car. Finally, on the morning of Christmas Day, his father called him into his private study. His father told him how proud he was to have such a fine son, and told him how much he loved him. Then he handed his son a beautifully wrapped gift box.

Curious, and somewhat disappointed, the young man opened the box and found a lovely, leather-bound Bible, with the young man’s name embossed in gold. He got angry, and he raised his voice at his father and said, “With all your money, you give me a Bible?” and he stormed out and left home.

Many years passed and the young man was very successful in business. He had a beautiful home and a wonderful family, but he also realised his father was very old, and thought perhaps he should go to him. He had not seen him since that Christmas Day.

Before he could make arrangements, he received news telling him his father had passed away, and willed all of his possessions to his son. He needed to come home immediately and take care of things.

When he arrived at his father’s house, sudden sadness and regret filled his heart. He began to go through his father’s important papers and then saw the still gift-wrapped Bible, just as he had left it years ago. With a heavy heart, he opened the Bible and began to turn the pages. His father had carefully underlined a verse from the gospel of Matthew, 7:11, “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him!”

As he read those words, a car key dropped from the back of the Bible. It had a tag with the dealer’s name, the same dealer who had the sports car he had desired. On the tag was written “Merry Christmas”, and the words PAID IN FULL. If he had only listened to what his father said before giving him the gift.

Just a story to help us realize how many times we miss God’s blessings and gifts just because we can’t see past our own ideas and desires.

But today we are presented with the gift of Mary, who listened to what the angel Gabriel had to say. Mary chose to listen to what God had to say, though she had her own ideas and plans.

Mary listened and received the divine gift. May we also like Mary listen to what God is saying in the depths of our hearts so that Christmas will be indeed a celebration of the divine gift of Jesus in our hearts.

Friday, December 22, 2017

23rd December 2017, Saturday

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

If we bother to find out more about our names, we will see that most of our names have a meaning.

More so for Asians, the parents will want to give their children a meaningful as well as nice sounding name, with the hope that they will live up to their names.

The people of the biblical times were certainly no different in this aspect.

The name John means "God is gracious".

Indeed, John the Baptist came to herald the appointed time of grace.

Time was like pregnant with grace, grace that was waiting to burst forth.

John the Baptist came to announce the time of the fullness of grace in Jesus Christ.

As much as this grace is good news, it is nonetheless a painful one.

John the Baptist was like a refiner's fire that burns away the useless dross as we heard in the 1st reading.

Yes, the time is very very near. Let us purify ourselves in prayer and penance to make our hearts a worthy home for the Lord.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

22nd December 2017, Friday

1 Sam 1:24-28 / Luke 1:46-56

It is said that the first six years of a child's life are the most important years, and indeed it is true.

Because those six years are the formative years, a time during which the child learns and absorbs the values, the principles and the way of life that will shape his/her future.

And the child learns this, usually, from the parents.

Jesus is the Son of God, yet during His childhood years, He certainly learned from His parents.

From St. Joseph, He not only learned the carpenter's trade, He also learned to be a man of honour and respect, and also how to discern God's will.

From Mary His mother, He learned humility and to proclaim the greatness of the Lord.

He learned that God will exalt the humble and the lowly.

He learned that the poor are the ones who will inherit the Kingdom of God.

He learned that those who hunger for justice will be filled with good things.

He learned what Mary proclaimed in the Magnificat.

What He learned from His parents, He will later proclaim in the Beatitudes.

As we draw nearer to Christmas, we draw nearer to a new beginning, a new beginning with Jesus.

We are led to the manger, and we will learn about the way, the truth and the life.

As we move on from the manger, the way of love and the truth of God must also form the values and the principles of our lives.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

21st December 2017, Thursday

Zephaniah 3:14-18 / Luke 1:39-45

Pregnancy is a time where many emotions and many facets of life are exhibited and expressed.

Whether it is for the mother who is carrying the child or for the father or those who are close to the parents, the emotions range from joy to anxiety.

Whatever it might be, the fact that a new life is forming in the womb of the mother is a great happening.

So we can imagine when Mary visited Elizabeth and the emotions that bursts forth when the two expecting women met.

Both are going to be mothers-to-be and yet all is not joy. There were shades of anxiety and also uncertainty.

Yet the 1st reading proclaims to us to shout for joy and rejoice and exalt with all our heart.

Especially in this time of waiting in hope for the coming of the Lord at the feast of Christmas.

So even in our anxiety and uncertainty, let us remember what Elizabeth said to Mary: Blessed is she who believed that the promise made her by the Lord would be fulfilled.

Yes the Lord God is in our midst. He has already fulfilled His promise. We only need to pray and believe.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

20th December 2017, Wednesday

Isaiah 7:10-14 / Luke 1:26-38

In the readings that we have just heard, there is one word that appeared rather frequently.

That word is "will" and in the context of the readings, that word is a sign of the future tense.

In the two readings, that word "will" appeared no less than ten times. And that word is used to indicate what will be happening in the future.

In the 1st reading when king Ahaz said, "I will not put the Lord to the test", he was not saying that he has faith in the Lord and hence there was no need to ask for a sign.

His meaning was that he has no need for a sign from the Lord as he had no faith in the Lord and hence he was not relying on God for any help in the troubles and dangers he was facing.

And so the prophet Isaiah spoke: The Lord Himself will give you a sign. It is this: the maiden is with child and will soon give birth birth to a son whom she will call Emmanuel.

And so the prophet Isaiah prophesied what the Lord was going to do and that He will do it.

Similarly in the gospel, the angel Gabriel prophesied about who the Saviour is: He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David; he will rule over the House of Jacob for ever and his reign will have no end.

Indeed the Lord will do things for us. He will reveal Himself to us, He will help us walk in His ways, He will save us from our sins, He will do what we think is impossible.

We only need to have the faith to believe that the Lord God will do all this for us. Let us pray for that faith and we will believe.

Monday, December 18, 2017

19th December 2017, Tuesday

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

In the two readings of today, there is a tone of an initial misfortune.

A married couple having no children was an embarrassment to society at that time, and some people may even think that the couple is under some kind of curse.

The couple themselves would feel ashamed that they have no descendants, because the family line would be terminated.

But for the two couples in today's readings, Zechariah and Elizabeth, and Manoah and his wife, they were blessed for their faithfulness to each other and to God.

Because for the Jewish people at that time, being barren or sterile could be grounds for divorce.

Also the unfortunate couple would be subjected to slanting looks and wagging tongues that poke and cut till they wilt and fade and eventually they will separate.

Yet the two couples remained together, enduring the embarrassment and the shame, and enduring it together.

But God blessed them with sons who would become famous men in bible history.

Which makes us call to mind the times when we experienced misfortune and embarrassment and even shame.

Did we still believed that God did not abandon us, and did we still remained faithful to Him?

When we have survived those moments, then we will know this for sure:

When we abandon ourselves to God, God will not abandon us.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

3rd Sunday of Advent, Year B, 17.12.2017

Isaiah 61:1-2, 10-11 / 1 Thess 5:16-24 / John 1:6-8, 19-28

I came across a group of children in a play-school playing a game. I guess the name of the game is “Who took the cookie from the cookie pot?”

Each child in the group is given a number except for one child who is the “cookie pot”. So the “cookie pot” will say “who took the cookie from the cookie pot” followed by “Number 3 (or whatever number) took the cookie from the cookie pot!”

The child who is number 3 will say “Who me?” Cookie pot will reply “Yes, you!” Number 3 will say “Couldn’t be!” Cookie pot will say “Then who?” and then Number 3 will say “Number 5 (or whatever number) took the cookie from the cookie pot.”

From there, the Cookie Pot and Number 5 will repeat the same question and reply. 

Then whoever fumbles in the dialogue or forgets his number becomes the next “Cookie Pot”. And when there is a new Cookie Pot, the children are assigned new numbers. Young children will find it exciting, but for adults, this is children’s game.

Even though it may be children’s game, it may be a mean to train memory and the children have to remember their numbers and their lines.  Otherwise, they will be the “Cookie Pot” and keep asking questions until someone fumbles.

In the gospel, the conversation between the priests and the Levites, and John the Baptist was like a “children’s game”.
- Are you the Christ? Who me? Yes, you! Couldn’t be! Then who?
- Are you Elijah? Who me? Yes, you! Couldn’t be! Then who?
- Are you the Prophet? Who me? Yes, you! Couldn’t be! Then who?
The priests and the Levites are like the “Cookie Pot” who kept asking questions and getting dead end answers from John the Baptist.

In their frustration, they said to him: Who are you? We must take back an answer to those who sent us. What have you to say about yourself?

John the Baptist stated clearly that he was not the Christ, not Elijah, not the Prophet, and then he said that he is “the voice that cries out in the wilderness: Make a straight way for the Lord.”

John the Baptist said that he was just a voice in the wilderness. But we know he was more than that. He came as a witness to speak for the Light, so that everyone might believe through him. He was not the Light, only a witness to speak for the Light.

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Jesus the true Light, we too like John the Baptist, are to be witnesses to speak for the Light.

And we can’t say “Who me? Couldn’t be! ” because if not we, then who? Our preparation in Advent is to witness and speak for the Light of lights, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

It’s not just about putting up Christmas decorations and singing Christmas carols. There is more than just that.

A missionary priest told of how a few years ago, he made a visit to China where he met an elderly couple who were both doctors.

They had studied together in medical school, fallen in love and got married. She was a Catholic, he was not. She wanted to convince him to join the Church but he did not wish to be baptized. A short time later she had a child. 

Then during one of China’s political movements, her husband with several other intellectuals, was arrested and sent to a labour camp. The separation was very difficult for the wife, who had to work long hours at the hospital during the day and care for her son at night. 

In addition to her loneliness, she was under pressure from the government to divorce her husband and renounce her religion, so that she could gain political advantages. 

But she refused. Every night after she returned home, she and her son knelt down to pray and ask strength from God to endure the difficulties. 

At the end of the 1970s, she heard that her husband and other intellectuals were to be allowed to come home. When the day came, she and her son went to the railway station. The strange thing was that they were the only family members on the platform to welcome the men. 

Then came the realization. All the other women were unable to endure the long separation, and had divorced and remarried. But that woman remained faithful to her husband. Deeply moved by her fidelity and her faith, her husband took instructions and was later baptized.

That woman and her son bore witness to the Light and her husband saw the Light and embraced the Light.

For many people in the world today, Jesus is a dim and abstract figure. Even “Merry Christmas” is being replaced with “Happy Holidays” and “Season’s Greetings”.

In the words of John the Baptist “there stands among you, unknown to you”. Yes, Jesus needs witnesses to make Him known. The world may know about Christmas but may not know who Christ is.

So, who are to be the witnesses of Christ at Christmas? Who else but us. If not we, then who?

Like John the Baptist, we must bear witness and speak for the Light so that everyone might believe and come to embrace the Light.

Friday, December 15, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Saturday, 16-12-17

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

Moving mountains may not sound as impossible as it seems.

With modern technology it can actually be possible to flatten one mountain and create it somewhere else.

Come to think of it, mankind has been able to accomplish many great and impressive deeds.

In the 1st reading, the great and mighty deeds of the prophet Elijah was recounted and they were indeed impressive.

But his most important task and mission was to turn the hearts of the people of Israel back to God.

All the great and mighty deeds that he worked were signs that affirmed his mission.

John the Baptist did not work any great miracles. He was only the voice calling for repentance and yet he was very much alike Elijah.

Both these great prophets turned the hearts of the people to God.

That brings us back to the core of our Catholic spirituality and our mission.

Our hearts must be always turned to God. We may not be called to work great and mighty deeds.

Nonetheless, we must also help people to turn their hearts to God.

It is easier to move mountains than to move the human heart.

But when our own hearts are moved by God, then will we be able to move the hearts of others.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Friday, 15-12-17

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

One of the easiest ways to cause disappointment is to be silent when a good and charitable act is done to us.

So for example, when our mothers prepare a meal for us at home, we may just be indifferent about it and sit at the table and gobble down the food and not say a word of thanks or compliment our mothers for the food.

To be silent may mean that we are taking things, as well as people, for granted and also that we don't appreciate the good that is done for us.

If our silence means that we are indifferent, disinterested and unconcerned, then our criticism can certainly cause more than disappointment.

Because with criticism there will be hurt and pain, which will in turn cause unrest and agitation, to say the least.

In the gospel, Jesus commented that the people of His generation seemed to only know how to criticize John the Baptist and Himself, but they wouldn't dance to pipes nor mourn with the dirges.

They were not wise enough to see that John the Baptist and Jesus had a message for their salvation.

And as the oracle of 1st reading puts it: If only you had been alert to my commandments, your happiness would have been like a river, your integrity like the waves of the sea.

So as we enter deeper into the season of Advent, let us pray for the wisdom to understand the message of salvation.

To be silent and not to respond would only leave us disappointed and dismayed at Christmas.

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Thursday, 14-12-17

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

The last of the Old Testament prophets appeared something like 400 years before John the Baptist.

During those 400 years, there were no prophets to lead the people of Israel as they met one crisis after another.

There were no prophets to tell them what God had in store for them as they faced turmoils, disasters and tragedies.

In John the Baptist, the people saw a great prophet. Not only was he a great prophet, he was the last of the prophets because he pointed out the Messiah to the people.

As the Messiah, the Word of God appeared in person, the attitude of the people was not necessarily one of welcome.

Because He was a sign of contradiction, and He pointed out to the people things that they did not want to see or accept.

Advent is a time to remember that God had fulfilled His promise of sending the Saviour.

It is also a time to remind ourselves that Jesus had promised that He will return.

Meanwhile we the Church has to continue our mission of being a sign of the kingdom of God in the world.

That would mean that we stand by the truth and be a sign of contradiction in the face of violence and aggression.

But the 1st reading assures us that God is holding us by the right hand and that He will help us overcome all difficulties.

And God tells us this: Do not be afraid. Let us listen to God's Word and have courage.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Wednesday, 13-12-17

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

If there is one thing that symbolizes some stability in the turbulence of the journey of life, that thing would be a seat-belt.

As life unfolds moment by moment, with its twists and turns, with its ups and downs, we can philosophically say that life is always changing.

Indeed, change is always happening, whether on a personal level, or a social level or a much higher level.

It is not that easy to welcome change because change can be unsettling, tiring and frustrating.

So that is why we might need a seat-belt to anchor us down to some stability amidst the fluctuations of life.

In the 1st reading, the people lamented that God had abandoned them and ignored them.

So through the prophet Isaiah, God proclaims to His people that as much as they were wearied by the turbulence of life, He does not grow tired or weary.

He gives strength to the wearied and those who put their trust in the Lord renew their strength and they put out wings like eagles.

In the gospel, Jesus reiterated this point gently when He invited all those who labour and are overburdened to come to Him and He will give them rest.

In the midst of all the fluctuations and turbulence of life, we need to listen to the call of Jesus, especially the call to come to Him in prayer.

In Him we will find rest for our weary souls; in Him we will renew our strength and put out wings like eagles.

In Him is our safety and our eternity.

Monday, December 11, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Tuesday, 12-12-17

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

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 of 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.

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.

May we also give Jesus the authority over our lives so that we will be living images of His presence to others.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

2nd Week of Advent, Monday, 11-12-17

Isaiah 35:1-10 / Luke 5:17-26

To be exiled would generally means to be away from one's home and country, and forbidden to return and even threatened with imprisonment or death upon return.

Usually the exile is forced upon an individual or a group or a nation, and it also usually means a deportation outside the country of residence.

Israel experienced one such exile in 586 BC when the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and razed the Temple to the ground and the inhabitants were exiled in Babylon.

It is difficult to understand the sufferings of the exile. It is enough to say that it was tragic with everything and all hope being lost.

But the 1st reading was precisely for the exiles in Babylon to give them the hope that God had not abandoned them nor forgotten them.

Triumphant and encouraging words were used: Courage! Do not be afraid. Look, your God is coming, vengeance is coming, the retribution of God; He is coming to save you.

In a way, we can say that the paralysed man in the gospel was in some form of exile - an internal exile.

He might have been forgotten and abandoned but he still had the support of some friends who brought him to Jesus, even though it took more effort than they expected.

Yet in the end, the paralysed man was healed and liberated from that internal exile.

As for ourselves, we are also called to look into our hearts and into our lives to see if we are living in some kind of spiritual exile, as in that we have chosen to stay away from God because of some anger or bitterness or resentment.

But God wants to save us and liberate us. The 1st reading would describe those who are freed and liberated as "shouting for joy, everlasting joy in their faces; joy and gladness will go with them and sorrow and lament be ended".

May we too experience such joy and gladness in our Advent journey towards Christmas.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

2nd Sunday of Advent, Year B, 10.12.17

Isaiah 40:1-5, 9-11 / 2 Peter 3:8-14 / Mark 1:1-8

By now the unmistakable sounds of Christmas music will be dominating the airwaves.

As early as the beginning of November and even before the Orchard Road light-up, Christmas music is heard in supermarkets and shopping malls.

And the repertoire can be anything from party-music “Jingle Bells” to the holier “Little Town of Bethlehem”.

For those of us (like myself) who are from the CD era when we collected music on compact discs, we would be taking out those discs and playing our favourite Christmas songs or converting them to MP3.

And it is a nice, warm, sentimental feeling, hearing those songs. After all, it is only at this time of the year that we play this kind of music.

And these Christmas songs are like the evergreens of holly and pine. We don’t seem to get tired of hearing them. I too, have my favourite collection of Christmas songs, I play them year after year, I am so familiar with them but I still love to hear them over and over again.

But more than just a nice, warm sentimental feeling, these Christmas songs bring about some reflection and reminiscing.

They give a portrait of how we have celebrated, or survived, past Christmases, and they also prepare us for a Christmas that is to come, 14 more days, to be exact.

Maybe there is a voice in those Christmas carols or songs, a voice that reminds us of the past as well as reminds us that there is a future.

In the 1st reading, as the people of God lived in the wilderness of exile, the prophet Isaiah is the voice of God as he spoke these words, “Console my people, console them” says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem and call to her that her time of service is ended, that her sin is atoned for, that she has received from the hand of the Lord double punishment for all her crimes.

The consoling voice of the prophet brings the Word of God to His people, and the voice of consolation also gives a direction: Prepare in the wilderness a way for the Lord. Make a straight highway for our God across the desert.

So, in the wilderness of exile where life is as barren as the desert, the Lord consoles His people and promises to bring them home. They just have to prepare themselves by making a straight highway for the Lord to bring them out of the land of exile and back to their homeland.

In the gospel, in the beginning of the Good News about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, it declared that God is going to send a messenger and he will prepare the way for His people. 

John the Baptist was the messenger and his voice cries out in the wilderness, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.

But his call for repentance is also with a voice of consolation that though the past was in sin, the future is salvation.

It is the voice of consolation that gave the people their hope in God’s Word, and in repentance they turned towards salvation.

Over the past week, I had the privilege to be the voice of consolation for two people.

One was to a lady who, six months ago, was diagnosed with lung cancer. Six months ago, when she came to see me and talked about her situation, she raised this question: Will I do her funeral?

It was a difficult question but I knew I had to give her a reply and so I said yes. It brought her much consolation, but I remembered that I had to ask Jesus to help me fulfill this obligation.

Last Thursday was her funeral and I told her children I had come to fulfill a promise. It was not just my promise to her but the Lord’s promise to her. I can only thank God that I was able to fulfill it.

I told her children that their mother is going to spend her first Christmas in heaven and that consoled them.

On Wednesday evening, I went to visit Fr. John Baptist Tou in the hospital. He was in the ICU and critically ill. The doctors had earlier advised that Fr. Tou may not have much time left.

When I saw him, I too felt that there was not much time left for him, so I administered the Last Rites and I told him, though he was unconscious, to hold on to Jesus’ hand and He will bring him home. 

And I left a picture of the Sacred Heart next to his pillow. He passed on peacefully the next day. The funeral will be on Monday, at the Church of St. Bernadette.

In the wilderness of sickness, the Word of the Lord came upon those two people. Like John the Baptist, I was just the voice that brought them the consolation that they needed.

And like John the Baptist, I also knew that I am just the messenger who must proclaim the Word of God, for the voice of the messenger will fade and disappear but the Word of God will remain.

In this time of Advent, as we hear these Christmas carols, let us also listen to the voice in them. May that voice bring us consolation in the wilderness of our lives so that we will turn to the Word of God and find hope, and in turn let us be messengers of the Word of God and be a voice of consolation for others.

Friday, December 8, 2017

1st Week of Advent, Saturday, 09-12-17

Isaiah 30:19-21, 25-26 / Matthew 9:35 - 10:1, 6-8

We are always attracted to this phrase: Free of charge!   Of course we would rather be receiving it than to be giving it.

Indeed, we get a spurt of happiness whenever we get something free, and more so when it is something valuable.

As we think about it, let us also reflect about the free and valuable things that God has given us daily - the warm sunshine, the rain, the fresh air, the cool evening, the beautiful moon, etc.

Most of all, the life that is beating in our hearts and the love that we experience around us.

All these are certainly blessings from God. But what if God were to charge us for His blessings?

What if God were to charge us for the help He gave us, for the times He saved us from trouble and danger, for healing us when we were sick?

But God doesn't need our money nor does He want us to pay Him back anything.

God is all loving and generous and merciful and compassionate. Furthermore it is out of His great love for us that He created us in His image and likeness.

Jesus, the greatest gift from God wants us to know this and that is why He said in today's gospel: You received without charge, give without charge.

It is not just about the material blessings that we have received from God that we are called to share without charge with others.

Our greatest treasures are in our heart, and in there are the gifts of love, care, compassion, forgiveness, patience, understanding and all the blessings that God has given us free of charge.

Let us share these gifts and blessings without charge with the others around us.

That will be one way of preparing to celebrate Christmas, because at Christmas we celebrate the greatest gift of God.

We celebrate the gift of Jesus, who was given to us free of charge.

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Immaculate Conception of the BVM, Friday, 08-12-17

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

The Immaculate Conception is 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. Catholics believe Mary was free from any personal or hereditary sin.

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.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

1st Week of Advent, Thursday, 07-12-17

Isaiah 26:1-6 / Matthew 7:21, 24-27

For those of us who have gone up to the highest floor of a really tall building, we would have enjoy the view from there.

It is really quite amazing that we can be so high up and seeing things that we don't usually have the opportunity to see.

And as we take in the sights, it will probably not cross our minds that we are not standing on the ground but that we are way up in the air in a building made of concrete and beams.

And it will also not cross our minds to question the stability of the building which we assume is safe even though it may be very tall.

But as much as we marvel at tall buildings, nothing is more assuring than having our feet on solid ground.

The 1st reading talks about a strong city that is guarded by wall and rampart. But that is only possible when the people in the city put their trust in the Lord who is the everlasting Rock.

Similarly, Jesus tells a parable of a sensible man who builds his house on rock and a stupid man who builds his house on sand.

The Advent question for today is what are we building and what are we reaching for?

Whatever it might be if the Lord is not our Rock that we are building on, then we are reaching out into thin air.

May we put our trust in the Lord our Rock for He came to show us how to build the kingdom of God so that heaven can be within our reach.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

1st Week of Advent, Wednesday, 06-112-17

Isaiah 25:6-10 / Matthew 15:29-37

In this particular season, whether we want to call it the festive season, or the Advent season or the rainy season, a famous figure will appear to bring some cheer, and a short popular description of this figure will tell us who this is.

He has a white bushy beard, quite roundish, dressed in red with white trimmings, and his famous quote is “ho, ho, ho”.

Yes, we are talking about Santa Claus, who appears around this time in the festive decorations and also in advertisements. But Santa Claus is not a clever figment of commercial imagination.

The name, Santa Claus comes from the Dutch Sinterklaas which means St. Nicholas.

St. Nicholas was a 4th century saint and the bishop of Myra (which is modern day Turkey), and his feast day is today, 6th December.

Many miracles were attributed to the intercession of St. Nicholas and he became known as Nicholas the Wonder Worker.

He had a reputation for secret gift-giving, such as putting coins in the shoes of those who left them out for him. And so he became the model for Santa Claus.

One of his famous acts of charity was towards a poor man who had three daughters but could not afford a proper dowry for them.

This would mean that they would remain unmarried and in the face of poverty, they might be forced into prostitution.

When St. Nicholas came to know about it, he decided to help the poor man secretly.

Under cover of night, he went to the poor man’s house and threw three small bags, each filled with gold coins, one for each daughter, through the window opening of the man’s house.

But later, the poor man found out about it and came to thank St. Nicholas. In humility, St Nicholas said that it was not him he should thank. Rather he should thank God and God alone.

Yes, thank God for the gift of saints like St. Nicholas to show His great love and His help to those in need.

And the words of today's readings are fulfilled: On this mountain, the Lord of host will prepare for all peoples a banquet of rich food , a banquet of fine wines, of food rich and juicy, of fine strained wines. On this mountain, he will remove the mourning veil covering all peoples. The Lord will wipe away the tears from every cheek.

And on the hills of Galilee, Jesus felt sorry for the people and fed them with more than enough.

God's compassion and love for us is renewed every Christmas and Advent is a time to realise God's love for us through people who show us His love.

May St. Nicholas pray for us that we too in turn will show God's love to those in need during this Advent.

Monday, December 4, 2017

1st Week of Advent, Tuesday, 05-12-17

Isaiah 11:1-10 / Luke 10:21-24

The meanings of words change, not all the time, but more like over time. The meanings of some words changed so much that it may be surprising, and the present meanings are so different from the past.

"Awful" used to mean “worthy of awe” and in the long past it can be used as in “the awful majesty of God.” But that doesn't sound right nowadays. Today, it means something is bad or that someone looks terrible. It also means exceedingly great as in “an awful lot of money.”

Long ago, "naughty" means naught or nothing. Then it came to mean evil or immoral, then it came to mean mischievous, and then it came to have sexual connotations.

Likewise the word "innocence" may have other meanings besides naive or ignorant or immatured.

Also, the virtue of innocence is often trampled upon in a social culture where winning is everything and the only thing worth measuring.

But when Jesus talks about the innocence of children, He is talking about a person's knowledge of God, and it is expressed in a life of peace and love.

Knowledge of God brings about a capacity for peace and love, and a peaceful and loving person cannot hurt or harm anyone.

That is the kind of person we are called to be, because we already have the knowledge of God, we have that wisdom, we have that insight.

In this time of Advent, we go back to our innocence of heart so that we can see clearer and understand deeper.

We need to understand the true meaning of peace and love in this time of Advent so that we can truly have the peace and love that Jesus came to give us.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

1st Week of Advent, Monday, 04-12-17

Isaiah 2:1-3 / Matthew 8:5-11

In our civilised society where there is law and order, it is an offence to carry a knife of a certain length which is categorised as an offensive weapon.

The punishment for such an offence can be quite severe, especially for carrying offensive weapons.

But even a kitchen knife can be turned into an instrument of harm if it is in the hands of someone with a harmful intention.

But in our civilised society, we won't carry a weapon like knife even if we intend to hurt someone. But we carry those "knives" in our hearts. 

And those "knives" come out of our mouths in the form of abusive and hurtful words, slandering and disparaging words, lies and deceiving words.

So hammering swords into ploughshares and spears into sickles may only eradicate weapons that harm and kill.

But the weapons that we carry in our hearts are more dangerous as they can inflict invisible injuries and torment the lives of others.

But in the gospel, we hear of a centurion, a solder who is familiar with weapons and bloodshed, approaching and pleading with Jesus to heal his servant.

The centurion knows that weapons can harm and kill, no weapon can ever heal and save. He had to abandon whatever weapons he had, whether in his hand or in his heart, and turn to Jesus who came to heal and save.

May we be able to discover what are those "weapons" that are hidden in our heart and to surrender them to Jesus as we begin our Advent preparation.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

1st Sunday of Advent, Year B, 03.12.2017

Isaiah 63:16-17; 64:1, 3-8 / 1 Cor 1:3-9 / Mark 13:33-37

The season of Advent officially begins today with the 1st Sunday of Advent.

Advent is an exciting time especially for children. Because as they see Christmas decorations appearing at Orchard Road and shopping malls and everywhere else, they also want to be part of this decoration excitement.

They too would want some Christmas decoration at home, so parents would have to drag out the Christmas tree and untangle the lights and search for those other Christmas decorations tucked away somewhere in the house.

But as much as most Christmas decorations have some kind of spiritual meaning, there is one that stands out from the rest and it symbolizes the season of Advent.

At the beginning of the Mass, we blessed the Advent wreath and we lighted the first candle of the wreath.

The Advent wreath is rich in symbols. The four candles represent the four weeks of Advent in which we prepare for the celebration of the birth of Jesus.

The circular wreath symbolizes the eternity of God who is without beginning or end, and that He loves us with an everlasting love.

The evergreens of holly and pine represent our hope in the saving love of God, a hope which is fulfilled in the birth of the Saviour and the hope of eternal salvation.

As Advent progresses, from the 1st week to the 4th week, the number of candles  are lighted accordingly.

This has a profound spiritual meaning in that Jesus, the light of world is coming to scatter the darkness of our sins, and with each passing week, the light of the candles in the Advent wreath grows brighter in preparation to celebrate the birth of Jesus, the true light.

So in Church, the Advent wreath is the symbol of the Advent season and it is placed within the sanctuary to remind us of the need to prepare ourselves spiritually for the celebration of Christmas.

And as in Church, so it should be at home. Especially with the children on school holidays, we the parents and adults must keep the spiritual traditions alive and find meaning and direction for our faith in the Advent season.

With the stress and busyness of life, the family hardly has time for prayer, and if parents and adults do not lead the way and show the way, the children would not have any spiritual directions to follow.

So Advent is like a spiritual alarm clock that rings into our hearts and bids us to wake up and prepare ourselves for the coming of our Saviour. 

Yes, we must wake up but as like most mornings, the alarm clock wakes us up and then we put it to snooze and we fall back to sleep.

That’s why in the gospel, Jesus urges us to stay awake, and be on our guard against complacency and carelessness.

More so in this time of Advent when we should be preparing ourselves with prayer, we will be tempted to busy ourselves with shopping for gifts and just getting materially prepared for Christmas but neglecting the spiritual aspects.

So if we don’t have an Advent wreath, then it would certainly be meaningful to get one, either from a Catholic bookshop or from the department store. It is quite easily available actually.

Jesus wants to come into our lives with His light and blessings.

He wants to bring us healing from the darkness of our sins and help us be reconciled with one another especially in the family.

He wants to be in our families so that we can experience His love and joy and peace with each other.

But we must invite Him, and the Advent wreath would be the means to bring the family together in prayer and to let the light of Christ shine in our hearts and bring about the warmth of love and peace that we always wanted for our families and for ourselves.

We only need to stay awake and be vigilant in prayer. Lighting the candles of the Advent wreath and praying together as a family may be a little and humble act but the blessings that Jesus gives will be bountiful.

We just have to stay awake in prayer to receive true blessings.