Waiting and Preparing

Sunday reading in Brief 1 Advent A

Is 2:1-5; Ps 121(122); Rom 13:11-14; Mt 24:37-44

Waiting and Preparing

Dear friends, today is the first Sunday of Advent and the first day of the new Liturgical Year A. we have just concluded the liturgical cycle of three years A, B, and C. The readings from both the Daily and the Sunday missal are those that we read in Advent of 2019. However, though they are the same, the message they convey to us today is very new. This is because the Word of the Lord is the oldest and the newest at the same time. It cuts across all generations inspiring, consoling, uplifting, teaching, warning, admonishing, and correcting the people. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mt 24:35).

Advent is the time of waiting and preparation for the coming of the Lord in our lives just as the people of Israel waited and prepared for the coming of the promised Messiah. The only difference is that while for the people of Israel the messiah had not yet come, for us he has already come. As the Church of Christ, we relieve every year the events of that first advent seeking to renew our spirits and amend our lives so that the Messiah could be reborn in our hearts on Christmas. We could compare both the Advent and the Lenten seasons with the routine service we give to machines and vehicles every now and then to keep them working well. Just as the car engine needs new lubricants, changing the worn-out parts and tightening the loose parts for the car to function well, our lives too get clogged with many things that prevent us from living according to the demands of our baptism.

In the first reading, prophet Isaiah saw a vision about the days when Jerusalem, the city of the chosen people that was numerously destroyed by external forces, will stand tall and all will go there looking for peace. In those days, the prophet says there will be neither war nor the need for weapons. Injustice, bad governance, and negative competition between neighbours cause tension and conflict. People look for weapons to fight or protect themselves from aggression. However, the message of Christ is that of love, tolerance, justice, and peace.

Advent season is also a time for personal recollection to weed out any bad manners that we may have gathered in the course of the year. St. Paul tells us that daylight has come hence we must abandon all the bad things that we have been doing in the cover of darkness. When God created us, he put in us the conscience that indicates to us when we are doing good and when we are doing evil. Just the way Adam and Eve hid from God because of sin, there are those things that we are afraid of doing during the daylight when people can see us. Those are the things that we need to abandon as we wait and prepare for the coming of our Saviour.

God has given human beings tremendous abilities to discover and transform things on earth to suit their liking. However, God has given no man the ability to know when the last day will be. In his wisdom, God has reserved the knowledge of the things to come to himself for the good of human beings. Were we to know our end or our fate, the world would be very chaotic.

There are things that all living beings do which cannot in any way tell our footing in front of God. Jesus tells us that even during the time of Noah, people were eating, drinking, marring, and getting married while ignoring the cries of Noah about the imminent floods. When the day of the flood came and swept them all, no one even noticed.

Today, many think that becoming prosperous in material things and positions on earth is a sign of blessings. Well, while this is part of God’s blessing to his people, it is not a sign that we are in God’s favor. People become wealthy and prosperous out of proceedings of corruption, theft, and injustice. Even people who consider themselves atheists, and the baptized who do not go to Church or worship eat, drink, marry, and get married, they have good harvests, their flock increase, etc.  The correct measure of having God’s favour whether rich or poor is love, unity, and true peace that our Messiah brought on to us. We may be prosperous in material things but these cannot buy peace.

Dear friends, as we begin again liturgical cycle with the advent season, let us first look back and see what we have gathered from year C and be ready to learn more from this year A. let us also ask ourselves what our measure of true prosperity is.

Have a blessed Advent Season

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

First Sunday of Advent Year A

First Sunday of Advent Year A

First reading Isaiah 2:1-5

Psalm 122

Second reading Romans 13:11-14a

Gospel Matthew 24:37-44

Brethren, today we are starting a new season according to the liturgical calendar advent season. We notice a change inside our churches, the altar clothes are being changed into purple or violet. This season is a time of spiritual preparation in view of the Christmas celebrations. It reminds us of three things: the first coming of our Lord Jesus Christ which happened more than 2000 years ago, his presence among us, and his second coming. The word advent comes from the Latin term adventus meaning “arrival” or “coming,” particularly the arrival of an important personality in the Roman Empire (king or military groups return from battles). On this first Sunday of Advent, the liturgical readings are inviting us to reflect on the theme: “Be watchful”.

Thus in the first reading prophet Isaiah drew the attention of his contemporaries to the establishment of the dwelling place of the Lord. This took place on mount Zion. God has chosen his dwelling place among his people. This is a sign that God is nearer to his nation, the people of Israel; but also to all nations “and all the nations shall flow to it”. Mount Zion is not a tourist place but on the contrary, a place to meet God himself. As his dwelling place, he will judge all nations without exception. In the later days, God will involve his Only Begotten Son in judgment. Jesus Christ is seen as a judge but also as an adviser. He has performed the role of the adviser in the day’s gospel by telling his disciples to be ready “for the Son the man is coming at the hour you do not expect”. He warns his disciples about his second coming “the eschatological coming” in which he himself does not know the angels except the Father however, this coming is imminent and affirmed just as on the day of Noah.

Saint Paul also talked about this in his letter to the Romans when he said “for the salvation is nearer to us now than you to wake from sleep”.  In the second of today’s apostles, Paul is encouraging Romans to live wholeheartedly life means that they must follow Jesus’ footsteps in everything. By the time of saint Paul Romans were known for all kinds of notorious pleasures (drunkenness, debauchery and so) but these are contrary to the Christian faith.

On this first Sunday of Advent, I would like to emphasize how to be watchful as we are excepting Our Lord Jesus Christ.  The first step is to be aware that the dwelling place of God is among us, the second step is to know that the coming of Jesus is near and the third and last step is how to live a wholehearted life.

  1. The dwelling place is among us: In the Ancient Near East, each deity has its dwelling place where its faithful worship. Our God, being more than a deity because he is the Supreme and the Almighty God through whom everything is created dwells everywhere. But for the purpose of being nearer to his nation Israel, he has enthroned himself on Mount Zion. Today, God dwells in each and every heart, therefore we must welcome him and dispose of ourselves in order to receive the graces and blessings from him. The true worship of God begins from the heart; therefore, we need to purify our hearts in order to find favor from him.
  2. The coming of Jesus is near: Dear friends, once we know that the dwelling place of God is our hearts, we will be able to accept the words of Jesus, the Good News that he came to announce. Out of love and compassion, Jesus alerts us about his second coming, we need therefore to get ready to welcome him. The advent season is a time of preparation and is ready to welcome Jesus into our hearts. Are you ready to welcome our Lord Jesus Christ into your life?
  3. Live wholehearted life: Brethren, those who acknowledge the presence of God in their lives and who get ready to welcome Jesus are those who live wholehearted life; in other words, these people live their daily life in accordance with the Scripture and to the precepts of the Lord. Today saint Paul is inviting us to leave the life of sin and embrace life in Jesus Christ.

May this first Sunday of advent help us to get ready as we wait for Jesus Christ during Christmas season. May we be able to celebrate the Christmas event with more of spiritual dimensions.

Jesus Christ: The King of the Universe

Sunday readings in brief 34 Sunday C: Solemnity of Christ the King

2 Sam 5:1-3; Ps 121(122); Col 1:12-20; Lk 23:35-43

Who is my King?

Dear friends, I would like to share with you this beautiful excerpt from Universalis with minimum editing. “The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1925, the sixteenth centenary of the Council of Nicaea at which the doctrine of the consubstantiality of Christ with the Father was defined. Its eschatological character was confirmed by its move, in the calendar reforms of the Second Vatican Council, to the final Sunday of the liturgical year.” This solemnity marks the end of the Liturgical year for all three cycles A, B, and C. Next Sunday will, therefore, be the first Sunday of Advent year A and the liturgical colour will change to purple.

    During its institution, “the Pope asserted that the most effective defense against the destructive forces of the age is the recognition of the kingship of Christ; and, furthermore, a feast which is celebrated every year by everyone is a far better way of deploying that defense than any number of books written by learned people. First, we do; then we come to understand what it is that we are doing.”

    “Each of us has been anointed with holy oil at baptism, as priest, prophet, and king. The feast of Christ the King is thus a good moment to reflect on our kingship and on what “king” means and how to be one. Understanding the feast makes us understand our own call better.” I have heard some Christians claiming that they have been bewitched or are afraid of being bewitched. Witchcraft is a belief in dark powers that were conquered by Christ our King on the cross. When we are baptized, we are delivered from such dark powers and we cannot be subject to them unless we subject ourselves. Only those who believe and practice witchcraft can be subject to them just as only those who are baptized and profess Christ to be their King will be delivered by him from all evil.

    In order to understand our Kingship as a human being, “one possible point of entry is in Genesis, where Adam sits in state and God brings him all the animals for him to give them names. To give names to one’s subjects is the act of a king (as it is in many cultures). The responsibility of a king is then to care for his subjects, which is why we are obliged to act as custodians of creation: something no other creature is. How far that responsibility takes one can then be seen in the King of the Universe, who is simultaneously the ruler of all and the servant of all. He rules in triumph, and he rules from the Cross.” Jesus Christ is referred to as the son of David the king of Israel who was anointed by God to shepherd his people. David was a God-fearing king and the prefiguration of the Messiah King who was promised to perpetuate the kingdom eternally. Christ became the King of the new Israel which comprises people from every tribe and nation.  

    Perhaps a way into a meditation on all this would be to ask, “Over who am I, personally, king?” and hence “Who am I called to serve?” The servant-king identity is what we ought to understand as Christians. The kings of this world use wealth and the power of arrogance to rule over their subjects. Christ our eternal King rules from the Cross where he gives his life continuously for our salvation. He is a king with the attitude of a servant king as opposed to many who are servants but with an autocratic attitude. On the Cross, Jesus demonstrates that he is a non-violent king who forgives and restores those who repent.

Dear friends, having understood what the feast of today entails, I invite us to reflect on how we execute our mandates in the positions of leadership. What attitude do we wear when dealing with the people we are supposed to lead and serve?

Have a blessed Sunday

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

Thirty-fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time year C: The Solemnity of our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe

First reading 2 Samuel 5:1-3

Psalm 122

Second reading Colossians 1:12-20

Gospel Luke 23:35-43

At the end of each liturgical year, we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. This solemnity is considered as the climax and the summit of all feasts and solemnities in the Catholic Church. It proclaims and recognizes the Divine messianic and kingship of Jesus. Saint Cyrille from Alexandria said that the Savior is really a king, he himself did not deny this fact before Pilate, he affirmed his kingship which is peaceful and different from humans’ kingships “So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” “You have said so,” [Luke 23:3].

The Feast of Christ the King, also known as Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe, festival celebrated in the Roman Catholic Church.  It was established by Pope Pius XI in 1925. Originally, it was celebrated on the last Sunday of the month of October, but in the revised liturgical calendar promulgated by Pope Paul VI in 1969, it was moved to the last Sunday of Ordinary Time (immediately preceding Advent). As we celebrate this Solemnity today, the liturgical readings invite us to reflect on the theme “Jesus Christ the king”.

In the first reading, we hear how the elders of Israel asked David to rule over them. This took place while Saul was still a king over the twelve tribes of Israel. King Saul knew about this, and he realized that his kingship was in danger; so as any modern king or president, he exiled the future king David. However, his subjects went to look for David in his place at Hebron. David’s kingship is approved by all the tribes of Israel but also by God. The people saw David as a potential leader because he was anointed by Samuel to be a king. David did not fight for power like Saul or what modern leaders do. He was elected by God himself and all the tribes agreed to that.

            David’s kingship was a prefiguration of Jesus’ leadership. David ruled over only the tribes of Israel but Jesus’ kingdom was extended to all; it’s in this sense he is the king of the entire universe. But his kingdom and his leadership are beyond human understanding. For this reason, there was a misunderstanding about his kingship while he was on the earth and this misunderstanding still continues up today. Saint Luke in the gospel of today is talking about this misunderstanding and incomprehension about the kingship of our Lord Jesu Christ. There are three categories of people who have rejected the kingship of Jesus and these people are first the Jewish his own people, second, the Romans represented by Pilate, and the third category of people is the group of bandits. These three groups have mocked Jesus saying to save himself if he is Christ the messiah. The mockery of the ones of the bandits crucified with Jesus caught attention; as a reaction, the second bandit rebuked him by summoning him. His sermon can be summarized in threefold: (1) he pointed out to him that he has maligned God, (2) he claimed the innocence of Jesus, and (3) he reminded him of his sinfulness. At least not all people have rejected him there were some groups of people who acknowledge the power of Jesus over the universe among which the second bandit belong to.

The Jews and Romans spread false information about the kingship of Jesus, and the Gentiles Christians found it difficult to perceive Jesus as King. In order to correct this, saint Paul in the second reading teaches the Colossians about the nature and the roles of Jesus in the creation.  According to the apostle, Jesus has played two significant roles in the creations which are: redemption and forgiveness of sins. There is no king on earth who can give redemption to his subjects except the divine king and beyond this, he has forgiven sins because “he is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

As we are celebrating this solemnity today, I would like to stress three things based on the readings: (1) kingship comes from God, (2) misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship, and (3) the work of Jesus as a king.

  1. Kingship comes from God: David was not king on his own on the contrary he was elected by God himself and the elders of Israel acknowledged this. This explains why they went to Hebron to remind him of the words of the Lord “You shall be the shepherd of my people Israeli, and you shall be prince over Israel”. Dear friends, the first reading is inviting us to let God decide or chose people whom he wants in the right places.  Due to corruption in the secular world, people get power by force and they are ready to exterminate whoever talks.  May we be Christians who do not impose things on God but Christians who allow the Holy Spirit to blow wherever he wants!
  2. Misunderstanding of Jesus’ kingship: In one of his teachings, saint Ephrem said that Jesus Christ is the peaceful king who has the cross as his scepter. This cross is the bridge between death and life upon which souls pass to enter life. Dear friends, the peaceful king was among the Jews and the Gentiles but they did not recognize him because they were not ready to accept him as the Son of God. Suppose that Jesus is in our midst today, would we accept him or behave like the Jewish?  Do we really understand the solemnity we are celebrating today and what it entails? The gospel is inviting us to bear in mind two things: one to go beyond the appearance; those who crucified Jesus judged him based on the arrival without knowing that they have actually mocked and crucified the divine king. The second bandit is teaching us a lesson by saying to Jesus “remember me when you come in your kingly power”. He has seen in Jesus the perfect king, the only one who save him and the entire universe.
  3. The work of Jesus as a king: through Jesus, we have received redemption, and our sins have been forgiven. A true king must be ready to die for his subjects; this is what Jesus did on the cross on our behalf. Jesus has set an example of how to conduct our leadership; being a leader in the secular world or church does not make us superior to others.

            May we be humble enough to learn from Jesus the divine king who accepted the cross for our sake as men and women of faith?

Fr. Issere Agre, SVD

When that day comes

Sunday Readings in brief 33 C

Mal 3:19-20; Ps 97(98); 2 Thess 3:7-12; Lk 21:5-19

When that day comes

Dear friends, today is the 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time C. Next Sunday will be the feast of Christ the King and the end of the liturgical years C. During this season, we learn a lot about the kingdom of God and what is required of us in order to enter it. Towards the end of the season, the readings focus on the end of times and that day when we will all be required to give an account of our lives as baptized Christians.

In the first reading describes that day as a burning furnace that will consume the arrogant who will be like firewood. However, for the righteous who will have kept the faith and the fear of the name of the Lord, that day for them will bring healing and restoration. As St. Augustin of Hippo reminds us, God created us without us but he will not save us without us. Our attitude towards the kingdom of God preached to us by Christ will determine whether we will rejoice or weep when that day comes. The time to prepare is here and now.

During the time of St. Paul, many false prophets emerged and started preaching about the end of time. They went around Thessalonica instilling fear in people and demanding sustenance from them. St. Paul is distancing himself from such people and stating that no one should be given food without work.

Today, many have turned to preach as a source of easy income that is not even taxed. Many have taken the advantage of the freedom of worship and the democratic space for religious activities without interference from the state. Instead of teaching people the values that will improve their lives on earth and help them attain the kingdom of God, many have turned worshippers into customers. Instead of Catechesis on positive transformation of individuals and society at large to foster, peace, love, and justice, many have resulted into merchants of miracles and fortune. The Gospel of repentance of responsibility is out of fashion.

Sunday preachers, occasional healers, and visiting miracle workers have replaced continuous catechesis with Christian basic values of honesty, humility, love, non-violence, etc. Idleness has invaded many religious people who instead of working in the vineyard entrusted to them are waiting in worship places for the people to work and bring them their upkeep while interfering with everyone else’s business. St. Paul says that this is unacceptable and anyone who does not work should not also eat.

Jesus warns us not to be deceived or frightened by such false prophets who even at times claim to be him. The way they instill fear in people, one would think that they would be themselves seated at the judge’s seat on that day. Surprisingly many rich and powerful people who are afraid or unprepared to die as well as poor people who are afraid of work, are turning to them and offering huge offerings seeking divine protection. They are repeatedly being swindled of their money and death has never had a cure or vaccine.

Salvation is not waiting for us at the end of the road so we can buy it when we arrive. Salvation is a process that begins with baptism and ends with Judgement. How we live our lives in between is the evidence that will determine our fate when that day comes. The only question that should bother us every day is whether when that day comes we will have our accounts balanced to render them to the just Judge.

Dear friends, as we conclude this liturgical year, I invite us to look back and see what improvement we have made in our lives through the help of scriptural lessons throughout the year. Let us also prepare to start the coming liturgical year A with the resolve to be better learners.

Have a blessed Sunday.

Fr. Lawrence Muthee, SVD

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