Second Sunday of Advent (A)

OTHER HOMILY SOURCES:

2nd Sunday of Advent

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

By Fr Munachi E. Ezeogu, cssp

Wolf and Lamb at Peace

This is one of Aesop’s best known fables: A Wolf meets a Lamb straying from the flock. The wolf decides not to pounce on the Lamb right away but first to give the Lamb a reason why he, the Wolf, has a right to eat him. So he says to the Lamb: “Hi, it was you who insulted me last year.” “Actually,” replies the Lamb in a mournful voice, “I was not born then.” Then says the Wolf, “But you feed in my pasture.” “No, sir,” replies the Lamb, “I have not yet tasted grass.” “Besides,” says the Wolf, “You drink at my well.” “No,” exclaims the Lamb, “I never yet drank water, for as yet my mother’s milk is both food and drink to me.” At that the Wolf seized him and ate him, saying, “Well! I won’t stay without supper, even if you refute every one of my accusations.”

Aesop is not the only one who sees human relationships in terms of wolves and lambs. The philosopher, Thomas Hobbes, said about the human condition that “man is wolf to man.” An African Igbo proverb says that “A fish has to eat other fish in order to grow.” Observing the human community and human relationships, one gets the impression that there are two kinds of people, the oppressors and the oppressed. The dividing line between the two groups runs through gender, ethnicity and race, social class and religious affiliation. Invariably one group appears to be the wolf and the other the lamb. Isaiah in the 1st reading today is aware of this state of affairs among humans. He speaks of the human community in terms of wolves and lambs, leopards and kids, lions and calves, bears and cows. He sees that the wolf eats the lamb, the leopard the goat kid, the lion eats the calf and the bear the cow. But Isaiah’s interest is not simply in the way things are or have always been but in the way things can be. Isaiah is a man of vision. And here he recounts his vision of the day of the Lord, “the days to come” when God will manifest his glory on all humankind.

The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid,
the calf and the lion and the fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.
(Isaiah 11:6)

“Impossible,” some people will say on reading this. “He is dreaming. The wolf can never live in peace with the lamb because it is in the nature of the wolf to eat the lamb.” But that is exactly the point. Just as it is impossible, naturally speaking, for the wolf to live in peace with the lamb, so it is impossible for us to live the life of harmonious coexistence in the new world order as envisioned by Isaiah and all the prophets. A radical transformation of our human nature is required. We need a completely new heart. This radical transformation of human nature is possible only by God’s grace.

Grace transforms nature. God’s grace transforms human nature so radically that one needs to experience it to believe it. Grace working in nature accomplishes so much more than we could ever imagine. This is what Isaiah goes on to describe:

The cow and the bear shall graze, their young shall lie down together;
and the lion shall eat straw like the ox.
(Isaiah 11:7)

The flesh-eating lion and bear now eat grass like the cow. They lose their thirst for blood, their hunger for flesh. Transformed by grace, it is only then that the wolf can live in peace with the lamb. Only then can the ferocious animals learn to accept their weaker colleagues as equals who have an equal right to life and well-being. And only then can the weaker animals learn to trust the ferocious ones and forgive and forget all the violence they had been made to suffer in the past.

Note that Isaiah is not talking here of “tolerating” or putting up with” the other. The peace of this new world order is not merely an absence of war or friction. No. It is a peace of harmonious live-and-let-live based on justice and the mutual recognition that everyone has got the right not only to life but also to the good life. It is only when the lion and the wolf give up their “natural privileges” and begin to eat grass like the cow that one can truly say that “all animals are equal.” As long as some animals lay claim to being “more equal” than others there can be no justice and no peace.

In our personal and business life do we consciously or unconsciously operate on the principle that for us to win someone else has to lose? The vision of the new world order to which the prophets invite us today is founded on the principle that we can all be winners. The story of the Wolf and the Lamb as told by Aesop and Hobbes is not the full story. The full story of the Wolf and the Lamb, as Isaiah tells us today, will end with “and the lived happily ever after.” We pray for the coming of this new world order, the kingdom of God.

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The Second Sunday of Advent (A)

Liturgical Color: Violet [Note: The color blue is not an authorized liturgical color in the United States. Its unfortunate occurrence during the season of Advent or for Marian feasts is not legitimate.]

Themes & Motives: majesty, power, mercy, glory, promise, reform, splendor, royal lineage of Christ, preparation

Introit:
People of Zion, the Lord will come to save all nations, and your hearts will exult to hear his majestic voice. (based on Isaiah 30:19,30)

Opening Prayer:
God of power and mercy,
open our hearts in welcome.
Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy,
so that we may share his wisdom
and become one with him when he comes in glory,
for he lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Lectionary Readings:

  • Isaiah 11:1-10 [A shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse. /v.1]
  • Psalm 72:1-2 / 7-8 / 12-13 / 17 [R. Justice shall flourish in his time, and fullness of peace for ever. /v.7]
  • Romans 15:4-9 [Accept one another, just as Christ also accepted us. /v.7]
  • Gospel Verse: Luke 3:4,6 [Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight his paths: all mankind shall see the salvation of God.]
  • Matthew 3:1-12 [Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. /v.2]

Offertory Antiphon: **
Will you not instead give us life; and shall not your people rejoice in you? Show us, O Lord, your kindness, and grant us your salvation.
Verses of Psalm 25 can also be sung between repetitions of the antiphon.

Prayer over the Gifts:
Lord,
we are nothing without you.
As you sustain us with your mercy,
receive our prayers and offerings.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Preface for Advent I: [The Two Comings of Christ]
Father, all-powerful and ever-living God,
we do well always and everywhere to give you thanks
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

When he humbled himself to come among us as a man,
he fulfilled the plan you formed long ago
and opened for us the way to salvation.

Now we watch for the day,
hoping that the salvation promised us will be ours
when Christ our Lord will come again in his glory.

And so, with all the choirs of angels in heaven
we proclaim your glory
and join in their unending hymn of praise:

Holy, holy, holy Lord…

Communion Antiphon:
Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights, and see the joy that is coming to you from God. (Baruch 5:5; 4:36)

Prayer after Communion:
Father,
you give us food from heaven.
By our sharing in this mystery,
teach us to judge wisely the things of earth
and to love the things of heaven.
Grant this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Prayer over the People:
Lord,
have mercy on your people.
Grant us in this life the good things
that lead us to the everlasting life you prepare for us.
We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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2nd Sunday Advent – Cycle A

Homily # 1

John the Baptist, the subject of today’s Gospel, was an amazing person. He was, you recall, a relative of Christ, perhaps a 2nd or 3rd cousin. After Mary learned that she was to be the mother of God, she visited her cousin, Elizabeth, to help her prepare for the birth of her son, John. According to Scriptural accounts, several great wonders surrounded the birth of the Baptist.

First of all, Elizabeth was far beyond the child bearing age. Then, John’s father was a mute; he had been unable to speak for some months. During the ceremony when he named the child John, his tongue was loosened and he began to speak. John, himself, grew up to be a hermit, an ascetic, a striking figure and a prophet. It had been a long time since God sent a prophet to the Jews and they were attracted to him, fascinated by his powerful speeches.

In today’s gospel we are told that all the Judean countryside (possibly a slight exaggeration) and the people of Jerusalem went out to hear him preach and to be baptized. He had a very strong following.

Most of the greet leaders of history. once the attain a certain level of power, become terribly self centered and hungry for more power. Power tends to corrupt. Witness Joseph Stalin and Adolph Hitler. But what about John the Baptist? At the very height of his power, when everyone was looking his way, he says, “Forget about me; I am not important; I am not even worthy to untie the shoelaces of the man coming after me. Follow him. He will baptize you in the spirit.

We talk during Advent about preparing for the coming of Christ. He is a man who did just that and did it very y well. John preached repentance; he promoted Christ at the expense of his own power. He gave his life because he had the courage to defy those who committed public sin. His life might give us a few thoughts about how we could prepare for the coming of Christ.

Scripture tells there are two different comings of Christ. The first when He came into the world as an infant. The second when He will come to judge the world. Some depict that time as a period of punishment, a time of fear and destruction. But Asaiah, in our first reading, paints a different picture, one of the most beautiful pictures of the Kingdom of God ever found in print.

Read it again during your thanksgiving after receiving Communion. He describes a world so full of peace and harmony that even the wild animals become friends. “hen the wolf shall lie down with the kid; the calf and the young lion shall browse together. The cow and the bear shall be neighbors, the lion shall eat hay while the ox and the baby shall play by the cobra’s den. Have you ever wondered what Heaven will be like. Just read Isaiah!


Homily # 2

Advent – a time of anticipation, preparation, reflection and trepidation. A build up to an event. Christmas – the birth of a child. The commercial aspect has been going on for some time now – we are quite used to that – almost immune. But now the excitement in you is starting to build. It’s almost enviable.

Think about a birth in your family. Maybe the birth of your child – or a brother or sister. Three weeks to go – 21 days! How did you feel? A boy or a girl? How will this child affect our lives? Because our lives will most certainly be affected! This baby will unite us – bind us as family. Are we prepared? What to name the child? And soon after the birth we may ask when will we baptize the child? And maybe our lives are so full of traditions and what to do, where and how that we tend to forget the basics.

So it can be with Christmas. Where will we celebrate Christmas? At home? With family? Who will come? Who will prepare the meal? If it is anything like our family this task is shared out and each family member is responsible for preparing and bringing one of the dishes. It becomes part of the tradition. If we are not careful it becomes all of the tradition! And we forget the basics!

Our readings today appear to have a strange central theme. Baptism. Baptism at Christmas! The gospel talks of John the Baptist delivering his message of “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand” saying “I baptize you in water for repentance”. But if we look closely – he is preparing for the advent of the coming of the Lord. The one who will baptize with the Holy Spirit – uniting all people – raising children for Abraham. And St Paul shows that this unity of the “people of God” was extended even to the pagans – through the Love of Christ – through his paschal sacrifice – his death and resurrection – our Eucharist.

In preparing a couple for the baptism of their child, I was reading through the Roman Ritual of the Rite of Baptism for Children, and I noted the emphasis that was being placed on the Paschal character of baptism, which is far superior to the purification of the old law to which John the Baptist called the community.

It may seem odd to be talking about baptism and Christ’s paschal sacrifice now – at this time of the year 21 days before Christmas – but that was exactly why Christ was brought into this world.

Christ was born to be our savior – to live – to suffer and die and to rise again – to defeat death and reunite humanity with its creator – our God and Father.

Our first reading talks about a world at peace. The wolf living with the lamb; panther with the kid; calf and lion together; the young child with his hand in the viper’s nest and there is no hurt or harm. Total peace, for “the country is filled with the knowledge of the Lord”.

It is only when we are filled with the knowledge of the Lord, that we are totally at peace. When we receive the Eucharist, we are fully united with Christ, filled with the knowledge of Christ and we are at peace – at that moment – and hopefully a little while longer. Our baptism introduces us to the Lord. The Eucharist fills us with the Lord. That is why Christ was born. That is Christmas. That is what we are preparing for, in anticipation, on this second Sunday of Advent.


Homily # 3

Isaiah 11,1-10; Psalm 72[71]; Romans 15,4-9; Matthew 3,1-12

Isaiah is writing in the last part of the eighth century before Christ from or near Jerusalem.  He is giving his view of a coming king in terms so laudatory as to suggest that he is thinking also of the definitive Messiah in some distant future.  Jesse is the father of David and hence of all the kings of Judah and of the Messiah.  The spirit of the Lord was a divine force given to individual persons to fulfill a mission which would otherwise be beyond them.  The gifts reflect Isaiah’s own experience with good kings:   wisdom, understanding, counsel, power, knowledge, fear of the Lord.  To these six gifts the Greek version of the Old Testament adds “piety”, so as to provide the seven gifts which the Church presents to the faithful as the “Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit”.  With the help of God’s spirit the ideal king will act with justice in favor of the weak.  This justice leads to peace which is presented as the absence of violence.  Ultimately the “knowledge of the Lord” takes over as a guarantee of the continuation of this peace.  The stature of this Messiah of justice and peace will become a beacon not only for Israel but for the Gentiles as well.

The responsorial psalm, as usual, takes up the theme of the first reading.   It is a song of praise for the royal family of Judah which comes from Jesse.  It speaks of the judgment which the ideal king should have so that he can judge his people, especially the poor, justly.  They are his prime concern.  All nations will bless him because they recognize in him a person ruled by the ideal of what is just.

Paul in his letter to the Romans speaks of the importance of not giving up no matter what.  Such people receive God’s help to be tolerant and understanding toward each other after the example of Christ, so that all can give glory to God.  All of this can be traced to God’s mercy which prompted Him to send Christ to redeem us.

Matthew presents John the Baptist and his call for repentance.  Repentance is normally accompanied by a resolve to change one’s life.   John accompanies this call to repentance with a call to baptism.  This ancient rite symbolizes in John moral purification and serves as an introduction to the kind of life he has in mind for those who accept his message in anticipation of the coming Messiah.   The Pharisees, with their exaggerated emphasis on oral tradition involving the Law, provided Jesus with enemies and with a few friends who served as allies against the Sadducees who controlled the Temple and its worship.   In his preaching John emphasizes the importance of good conduct for those who claim descent from Abraham.  He contrasts his own baptism in purificatory water with the baptism of the Messiah who will baptize in purificatory fire which will include the action of the Spirit.  The Messiah will separate those who are truly repentant from those who are not.

The meaning of the above texts is the same today, after September 11, as it was before.  But the relevance that these texts has for the lives of all Christians in the world has changed enormously.  Basic questions about human existence—justice, Christ as Messiah, the gifts of the Spirit, sticking it out, sin, repentance, conversion of heart—have now assumed an immediacy which was not as much in evidence in the Christian community before September 11 as afterwards.   Now, more than ever, Christians have the sensation that we are all in God’s hands.  Only He can direct the course of history.  But if we are to cooperate with Him as followers of His Son we must follow the guidelines which He has revealed to us in His word.  Loyalty to Christ, perseverance in seeking justice, concern for the poor, the realization of the fundamental nature of repentance and change of heart and of their importance for any world order in which peace is a paramount concern—all of these considerations are more firmly now than ever (or should be) in our individual and communal awareness.   It is in this atmosphere that the Christmas of 2001 can be a time of a more profound realization of what the coming of Christ can mean for our lives.  The challenges the Christian world faces today are daunting.  But with the help of the gifts of God’s Spirit, and the knowledge of God and of His Christ which they bring, these challenges can be met.  With Christ’s Spirit Christians are undaunted.


Homily # 4

Didn’t you think you were on the way to Bethlehem and the manger, you know, Christmas, baby Jesus, peace and all?  And suddenly the Church gives you John the Baptizer?

Don’t you wonder what are they thinking?  After all, our understanding from the Bible would have John being virtually the same age as Jesus. So while we are on our way to little Jesus, why is an adult John out here shouting repent and offering baptism?

What would we do if John the Baptist or anyone else dressed in camel hair, not too clean, probably reeking of what he ate, came running down the aisle shouting at us, REPENT!? (By the way, canned grasshoppers aren’t all that bad tasting) Would you ask why you should repent or of what you should repent? Would you simply discount him because of appearance or tone?

The surprise in John is that his presence here puts us in a great place to reflect on the Jesus infancy story in a most proper way. The position of John in our path to Jesus ought to tell us two things.

First it focuses us in direction we must head so that we know how to meet and follow the grown up Jesus. Oh, the baby Jesus is cute like all babies, no threat to any of us. He does not call for anything more than any baby we have ever known. Feed, burp, change, get to sleep, be entertained by. It is wonderfully sentimental.  But the people of Israel did not wait 4000 years to stop and remain oohing and aahing over a baby, no matter how necessary it is that the Messiah enter the world as a baby. For all those years they were expecting a Messiah to walk among them. And John, standing in our path and keeping us from being settled into peaceful time with a baby, is reminding us how we are going to get to that Messiah.

The second thing his presence tells us is that we must repent, we must be converted, we must come to believe Jesus through the message he, John, is preaching.  John is preaching repentance and plunging into a new life with that repentance. Jesus does not say no to John’s message and plunging either. Jesus steps into that cold river as an example to all.

Fr. Walter Burghardt, now in his 87th year or more, challenges us in one of his story homilies to really accept the plunge in the cold river, the call to repentance. And he offers some examples of people who we might consider great sinners needing to repent. And we watch and say great, Jesus is bringing peace to them. But his homily does not stop there, for in his homily John would have come and stood before each of us intently seeking our repentance, our conversion and entry into the water. Do we own that repentance is necessary for us? Or is repentance for the person over there, on the other side of the aisle, whom we think know has cheated on his wife or has embezzled or done some other wrong?

John won’t let us go. He stands there awaiting the chance to free us to follow Jesus. Do we look him in the eye, do we try to ignore him, do we just try to avoid eye contact?

Dig a little he says with his eyes, his menacing presence.  And you finally say, I do all I am commanded in faith.  I also work all those hours in a job I cannot stand so my family can have everything, but it does not get to know me. Then change, he says.  Or I might say I am super mom and they have to have me there for everything even though nothing is left for me to be. Then change, he says.    Come into the water.

Our Eucharistic prayer this day is a call to give thanks for the witness of John and the witness that he calls us to give. Our prayer today is for all of us  to own the need to repent if we are to truly accept the challenge of Jesus in the mission he has given us.

And to what will we be sent this Sunday? Perhaps it is to make an advent journey unlike any we have ever made before, a journey to life in which we move out of the shadows of being mother martyr or father earning to have, and being people who care for ourselves while we care for others. Jesus did that when he stopped to pray.   After he saw John at the river he prayed and the advent of the messiah in the world began to be publicly known.  Immanuel will come, and the path to joy in him is through the cold plunge into the river with John the Baptizer.

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Steps of Repentance

From Rachel Woods,
Your Guide to Latter-day Saints.
FREE Newsletter. Sign Up Now!

This second gospel principle is important but there are certain things we must do to repent and receive forgiveness.

The Steps of Repentance:

1.    Feel Godly Sorrow
“For I will declare mine iniquity; I will be sorry for my sin.” (Psalms 38:18)

o    First recognize that you’ve committed a sin against God’s commandments.

o    Feel true sorrow for what you’ve done and for disobeying Heavenly Father.

o    Feel sorrow for any pain you may have caused toward other people.

2.    Confess to God
“By this ye may know if a man repenteth of his sins—behold, he will confess them and forsake them.” (D&C 58:43)

o    Pray to Heavenly Father and be honest with him.

o    Tell him of your sin(s).

o    If necessary confess your sins to your local LDS bishop.

3.    Ask for Forgiveness
“And it came to pass that I did frankly forgive them all that they had done, and I did exhort them that they would pray unto the Lord their God for forgiveness.” (1 Nephi 7:21)

o    Pray to God for his forgiveness.

o    Forgive others who have hurt you.

o    Forgive yourself and know that God loves you, even though you’ve sinned.

4.    Rectify Problems Caused by the Sin(s)
“And if it be stolen from him, he shall make restitution unto the owner thereof.” (Exodus 22:12)

o    Make restitution by fixing any problems caused by your sin.

o    Problems caused by sin include physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual damage.

o    If you can’t rectify the problem sincerely ask forgiveness of those wronged and try to find another way to show your change of heart.

5.    Forsake Sin
“He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy.” (Proverbs 28:13)

o    Make a promise to yourself and to God that you will never repeat the sin.

o    Recommit yourself to obeying God’s commandments.

o    Continue to repent if you sin again.

6.    Receive Forgiveness
“Behold, he who has repented of his sins, the same is forgiven, and I, the Lord, remember them no more.” (D&C 58:42)

o    The Lord will forgive you when you truly repent with a sincere heart.

o    Allow his forgiveness to come upon you.

o    When you feel at peace with yourself you can know you are forgiven.

o    Don’t hold onto your sin and the sorrow you’ve felt.

Let it go by truly forgiving yourself, just as the Lord has forgiven you.

Through Christ’s Atonement we are able to repent and be cleansed from our sins. I know that each of us can be forgiven and receive peace, because I have followed these steps of repentance and have felt the glorious feeling of peace that comes with sincere repentance.

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Repentance

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2 Repentance (also called contrition) must be inspired by motives that arise from faith. If repentance arises from love of charity for God, it is called “perfect”
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1 Interior repentance is a radical reorientation of our whole life, a return, a conversion to God with all our heart, an end of sin, a turning away from evil, with
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9 The process of conversion and repentance was described by Jesus in the parable of the prodigal son, the center of which is the merciful father: the fascination
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2 Christ sent his apostles so that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.” Go therefore and make disciples of all nations,
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0 The movement of return to God, called conversion and repentance, entails sorrow for and abhorrence of sins committed, and the firm purpose of sinning no more in
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1 After his Resurrection, Christ sent his apostles “so that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in his name to all nations.” The apostles and their
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his master three times bears witness to this. Jesus’ look of infinite mercy drew tears of repentance from Peter and, after the Lord’s resurrection, a threefold affirmation
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defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. “There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance
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catechumens who die before their Baptism, their explicit desire to receive it, together with repentance for their sins, and charity, assures them the salvation that
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8 Word and sacrament form an indivisible whole. The Liturgy of the Word, preceded by an act of repentance, opens the celebration. The words of Christ, the witness
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ce CCC

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public life begins with his baptism by John in the Jordan. John preaches “a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins”. A crowd of sinners – tax collectors
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Our Father – every sincere act of worship or devotion revives the spirit of conversion and repentance within us and contributes to the forgiveness of our sins
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in three actions of the penitent and the priest’s absolution. The penitent’s acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention
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envy be banished from the human heart. When the prophet Nathan wanted to spur King David to repentance, he told him the story about the poor man who had only one
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their own lives. By ways known to him alone, God can provide the opportunity for salutary repentance. The Church prays for persons who have taken their own lives
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and resurrection. The Christian must enter into this mystery of humble self-abasement and repentance, go down into the water with Jesus in order to rise with him,
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likeness,” prefiguring what he would achieve with and in Christ. John’s baptism was for repentance; baptism in water and the Spirit will be a new birth
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one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness, provided his repentance is honest. Christ who died for all men desires that in his Church
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his people and prays in their name. His submission to the will of God, his praise, and his repentance, will be a model for the prayer of the people. His prayer, the
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the word of God to illuminate the conscience and elicit contrition, and an exhortation to repentance; the confession, which acknowledges sins and makes them known
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privation of sanctifying grace, that is, of the state of grace. If it is not redeemed by repentance and God’s forgiveness, it causes exclusion from Christ’s kingdom
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and despised others”, Jesus affirmed: “I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.” He went further by proclaiming before the Pharisees that,
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of the baptismal life requires penance. A church, then, must lend itself to the expression of repentance and the reception of forgiveness, which requires an appropriate
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Spirit who brings sin to light is also the Consoler who gives the human heart grace for repentance and conversion
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the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want “any to perish, but all to come to repentance“: Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant
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of obtaining forgiveness of sins: effort at reconciliation with one’s neighbor, tears of repentance, concern for the salvation of one’s neighbor, the intercession
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Father, for, poured out for our salvation it has brought to the whole world the grace of repentance
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boasting is in Christ . in whom we make satisfaction by bringing forth “fruits that befit repentance.” These fruits have their efficacy from him, by him they are
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Moments
Wake up and shape up

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 00:57:00 11/28/2010

MANILA, Philippines—The story is told about a catechist who, wanting to impress the visiting parish priest, asked her Sunday schoolchildren: “Why do we have to be quiet at Mass when Father is preaching?” After a long silence, one little child stood up and said: “Because people are sleeping!”

* * *

Today is the first Sunday of Advent. In today’s Gospel (Mt. 24, 37-44), the Lord tells us to stay awake and to be prepared, for the Son of Man will come at an hour we do not expect. May we not be caught by surprise, may we not be caught off-guard. We do not know on which day the Lord will come.

* * *

“You better watch out, you better not cry, you better not pout, I’m telling you why? Santa Claus is coming to town!” This popular Christmas song reminds us that with the onset of the Advent season, Christmas is not far behind. However, our preparation should go beyond that of Santa Claus coming to town. We should be ready to welcome the Lord, at any moment of our lives and prepare for eternal life.

* * *

A couple told me recently that they are not in the mood and not at all excited about Christmas because times are hard. I understand their personal reasons, but I went on to tell them to anyway see Christmas as a time of joy, especially for their little children. Let us not deprive the children of hope just because times are hard. In fact, precisely because times are hard, we must help them see beyond what meets the eye.

* * *

Times may be hard, but please don’t forget that times are more hard for so many people around us. One very important preparation we should not miss is that of preparing something for the least and the last among us, especially this Christmas season. Please put it in your checklist to make Christmas happen this Christmas, not only for yourself or your family, but for others too.

* * *

An Irish confrere Fr. Mike Sommers, SVD, treated us with authentic Irish coffee yesterday afternoon which he himself prepared. The coffee was very good, but the preparation itself was an eye-opener. It had to be done with a lot of diligence and patience. It could not, and should not, be rushed. When it comes to quality, there can be no instants. Worthwhile things take time and patience. Same with our preparation for eternal life.

* * *

Father Mike told us this Irish joke: It takes three minutes to fill up a good pint of Guinness Irish black beer, so what do some Irishmen do? They order a shot of whisky while waiting for their pint. I suppose we all also have our own “shot” while waiting for our pint. In life too, we all have our instant pleasures on the side, which often could divert us from that which we have set out to have. Let us stay focused on things that really matter in this life.

* * *

As of this writing nobody has won yet the P650 million prize for the 6/55 Lotto. It is there, but nobody owns it, yet. Maybe that is what eternal life is: It is there, but it is not for us, the living, yet.

But it is there. It gives us hope, but, it is not as if this would excuse us from hard work in our present situation. Remember what was once said: “Pray as if everything depended upon God, and work as if everything depended upon you.”

* * *

Today is the day for the handicapped. Let us be aware that there are people around us who have to exert so much effort to do what we often take so for granted. Perhaps it would be good for us to reflect on what 17-year-old blind girl Fatima Soriano tells us: “I don’t need pity, just be kind. Just give me courage, I’ll be fine. I know this world has its own mind, so thanks for stopping, dropping by, for us the slow, the timid, and the blind…”

* * *

I visited a confrere who suffered a stroke recently. He who once was mighty and busy had slowed down, and have become so prayerful. He said he is lucky that he is still alive, and has been given the chance to prepare for eternal life. Whether we take the slow or the fast train to eternity, may we all be given the opportunity to prepare well for our meeting with God.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me wake up from my worldliness and shape up for eternal life ahead. Amen.

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Moments
‘Sorry?’

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Inquirer
Last updated 02:04:00 12/09/2007

MANILA, Philippines — The story is told about a wife who told her parish priest that her husband converted her to religion. When the priest asked her how, she replied: “I didn’t believe in Hell until I married him.”

* * *

In Sunday’s Gospel (Mt. 3, 1-12) John the Baptist preaches: “Repent, for the kingdom is at hand!” We are all reminded on this Second Sunday of Advent to take the road of conversion and repentance. Is your heart open for the Lord’s coming? Have you, in humility acknowledged your sins?

* * *

Repentance is not enough. We can say “sorry” and be forgiven again and again, but “sorry” without sincerity and without humility is empty. Likewise, “sorry” without resolve, without reparation, and without true contrition is mere lip service. If truly sorry, then, the Gospel on Sunday says: “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.”

* * *

I looked up the meaning of “impunity,” and Webster defines it as “exemption from punishment.” A culture of impunity seems to be prevalent in our country today where the evildoers go unpunished. It is really very frustrating to see big evildoers go free, and small-time offenders get the full weight of the law. The bottom line? Money. Sad, very sad, that money has become a big factor — in fact, the biggest factor in the making or unmaking of our society. Values? Where have all our values gone? We need modern-day John the Baptists again, crying out in the desert, preaching conversion and repentance.

* * *

Let us not lose heart. God does not sleep. God knows everything. Advent reminds us that God’s Kingdom, and the values of God’s Kingdom will prevail, in the end. “His winnowing fan is in His hand.” Let us continue to hold on to the Advent promise that the Lord’s justice, goodness and mercy will come soon. Yes, let us hold on to God and trust Him even when everyone around us is just holding on to, and trusting in, their money.

* * *

An early “Christmas Moment” occurred to me last Dec. 6 at an evening Mass at North Susana, Quezon City. Right after the Gospel, the lights went out in the church. Instead of panicking, instead of “fixing” the situation, I told the congregation to just relax and reflect in the darkness, and with the candle glow. Perhaps, I said, the Lord wanted us all to experience what Advent, what Christmas was all about as we accepted our helplessness in the darkness, yet filled with joyful hope and expectation, that the lights would be back soon. For about three minutes, we just sat in silence, and experienced God’s peace and embrace. That night, I didn’t have to say anything. The Lord spoke. There was nothing more to say. Yes, some of the best learnings happen when we say little, or say nothing at all.

* * *

I was recently listening to a housewife, and she was telling me of her jitters about her holiday preparations and the rush she has to go through in connection with her Christmas decorations, gifts, parties, the menu on their “noche buena”, etc. And I was saying to myself, “Wow! Is this Christmas? All the trimmings, and feeling cozy and nice, with no thought about preparations inside, and no awareness of the abject poverty around us?” Christmas happens in the heart, and has to be radiated to the people around us with concrete love, especially to the “little ones.”

* * *

We feel deeply our “hellos” and “goodbyes,” especially during Christmas. We say goodbye, as a family, to Tiong Paling Oblanca who has gone back to our Creator, and we joyfully welcome Mateo to this world. God is the God of our hellos and goodbyes. Perhaps that is what Christmas is all about: meaning and hope, in whatever we go through in life. The Incarnation has made life, and everything in it, a real celebration, a purposeful mission and vocation. Thank you Lord for giving purpose and meaning to our lives. Amen!

* * *

Inviting you to a Healing Mass at the Sta. Lucia Mall, Cainta, Rizal on Dec. 14, 6 p.m. organized by Becca and Enteng Santos and family. A 14-year-old blind girl and healer will join us in the Mass. Yes, let us all pray not only for physical healing but also for spiritual healing — of our character, our relationships, of our country and the world, especially this Christmas.

* * *

Inviting you to the half-day gathering of the “Flames of Fire for Jesus” on Dec. 16 at the Araneta Coliseum, organized by Cielo Macapagal-Salgado. Mass is at 8 a.m. Let us gather in gratitude, as we welcome the Lord in our hearts and in our nation this Christmas season.

* * *

Do you have extra money, shoes, clothes and whatever stuff? Someone said that if you don’t use something within a year, it does not belong to you. Share, and care enough to give your very best, especially this Christmas.

* * *

Bantay Matanda invites you to a lay forum on Stress Management and Art Therapy on Dec. 15 at Janssen Hall, Christ the King Seminary from 8 a.m. to 12 noon. For inquiries please call 3732262.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to say “sorry” not just to get away, but to give you glory. Amen.

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Repentance, more than being sorry

Bel R. San Luis, SVD

A house painter was widely suspected of cheating his customers by diluting his paint.

In spite of his reputation, he managed to get a job painting a church tower. True to form, he began painting the tower with watered-down paint.

* * *

But, as he was just about finished with the job, a sudden heavy rainstorm washed away his work. And he heard a voice from above saying, “Repaint and think no more!”

We’re now in the Second Sunday of Advent with John the Baptist’s exhortation in the gospel: “Repent and sin no more. The reign of God is at hand.” (Mt 3:2).

* * *

The call for repentance is a word that has become trite and worn-out. For some, it does not have any meaning at all. For them there’s no need for repentance. Or so they think.

For others, repentance is saying “I’m sorry!” when one gets caught doing something wrong.

* * *

Still for others, repentance includes a change of attitude or mind or turning away from wrongdoing and turning towards God who is our Judge.

There are elements of truth in all such notions. However, the full Gospel truth is that repentance means much MORE than being sorry for our sins or changing our mind or attitude.

* * *

In this Sunday’s gospel, John the Baptist in his combative way, cries out: “Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance…Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire (Mt 3:10).

Fruit-bearing is the sign of true repentance. What does that mean?

* * *

In Luke’s gospel the multitudes asked John the Baptist how they should respond to his call for repentance. “What must we do then?” they asked. His answer is very concrete, “If anyone has two tunics he must share with the man who has none, and the one with something to eat must do the same” (Lk. 3:8, 10-11).

* * *

Repentance, therefore, is not only a positive notion but something that is very concrete.

To illustrate: Some years ago, when I was assigned in Divine Word College of Legazpi, I remember what an accountant-friend confided to me, “Father, in my profession I can’t help cutting corners for my clients like reducing the tax account of some companies. I feel remorse of conscience.

* * *

“So, like in accounting, I balance my sins by making up through almsgiving, extra prayers and sacrifices. Something like ‘debit-credit…” “Equals kupit?” I cut in jokingly. “No,” he replied, “debitcredit equals zero-zero balance.”

He meant that we need to make a “0-0 balance” of our wrongdoings through penance and good works.

* * *

All of us stand in need of turning more and more away from failings and weaknesses our selfishness and laziness, from our pride and corrupt practices or from our greed or lack of consideration for others.

* * *

Then think, too, of the sins of omission, like neglecting an act of charity or failing to return something borrowed or to say thanks for a favor or avoiding a responsibility.

The gospel of this Advent Sunday challenges to say “I’m sorry” for our wrongdoings and more importantly, produce good works as an evidence of true sorrow.

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MAGBAGO KA! NGAYON NA! : Reflection for the 2nd Sunday of Advent Year A – December 9, 2007

Mayroong isang lumang kwento na minsan daw ay nagkaroon ng
pagpupulong ang kalipunan ng mga demonyo, isang Devils’ Assembly na
ipinatawag ni Lucifer.  Ang layunin ng pagpupulong ay upang humanap ng
pinakamagandang paraan upang makahikayat pa sila ng maraming
tagasunod.  Nagtaas ng kamay ang isa at ang sabi: “Boss Luci, bakit
hindi tayo bumaba na lang sa lupa at sabihin sa mga tao na wag na
silang magpakabuti sapagkat wala namang langit?”  Sinigawan siya ni
Lucifer na ang sabi: “Talagang demonyo ka! Di ka nag-iisip!  Sinong
maniniwala sa ‘yong walang langit?  Di mo ba nakikita ang napakaraming
taong nagsisimba pag Linggo? Tanga!”  Sabad naman ng isa: “E bakit di
na lang natin sabihin sa kanila na wala namang impiyerno kaya wag
silang matakot na gumawa ng masama?”  “Isa ka pa!” Sagot ni Luci,
“Sinong maniniwala sa yong walan impiyerno?  E saan tayo titira? Sa
langit? Tanga!”  Walang makapabigay ng magandang panukala hanggang
isang bagitong demonyo ang nagsalita: “Bossing, sabihin natin sa mga
tao na ganito: totoong may langit at may impiyerno, pero… wag n’yo
munang intindihin yun!  Mahaba pa ang buhay n’yo sa mundo.
Magpakasarap muna kayo habang buhay pa!”  At umani siya ng masigabong
palakpakan!
Ang ikalawang Linggo ng Adbiyento ay nagpapaalala sa atin ng agarang pagtugon sa tawag ng Diyos na magbalik-loob at magbagong buhay! Ito ang isinisigaw ni Juan Baustista sa ilang: “Magpanibagong-buhay
kayo.  Malapit ng dumating ang kaharian ng Diyos… Ngayon pa’y
nakaamba na ang palakol sa ugat ng punongkahoy.”
Wag sana
tayong padala sa malaking kasinungalingang ikinakalat ng demonyo na
mahaba pa ang ating buhay… marami pa tayong oras!  Mas mabuti na na
lagi tayong handa.  Baka bukas hindi na tayo magising.  Baka yung
kinain natin ay huling hapunan na.  Walang makapagsasabi.  Ngunit wag
sanang takot ang mgtulak sa atin sa pagbabalik- loob.  Tandaan natin, ayaw
ng Diyos na katakutan natin Siya… ang nais Niya ay atin Siyang
mahalin! Tatalikuran ko ang aking masamang pag-uugali dahil mahal ko
ang Diyos. Mabubuhay ako ng mabuti dahil mahal ko Siya!  Ito ang
pagbabagong-loob na kinalulugdan N’ya.
Handa ka na ba kung tatawagin ka ng Diyos ngayon?

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One More Chance: Supplementary Reflection for 2nd Sunday of Advent Year A – Dec. 9, 2007

Kasalukuyan kong binabaybay ang kahabaan ng NLEX. Marahil mga alas 6:30
ng gabi noon. Galing ako ng Mabalacat, Pampanga sa isang kasal at pauwi
na ako sa Makati. Medyo may kahabaan ang biyahe at marahil dala na rin
ng pagod at puyat ay tinamaan ako ng antok. Napakabilis ng pangyayari.
Ilang segundong pagkakaidlip at nakita ko na ang aking sarili sa likod
ng isang dump truck. Sumabit ang nguso ng aking sinasakyang Isuzu IPV
sa bumper ng truck at nakita ko na lamang na hili-hila na ng truck ang
aking sasakyan. Mabuti na lamang at nagawa naming tumabi sa “shoulder”
ng express way at wala namang napinsala sa amin maliban sa aking
sasakyan na wasak ang nguso ngpassenger side. Naisip ko… mahal pa rin
ako ng Diyos! Binibigyan n’ya pa rin ako ng pagkakataong pag-isipan at
pahalagahan ang aking buhay. Habang binabasa ko ang Ebanghelyo ngayon
ay mas lalo kong naintindihan ang mga katagang “Prepare the way of the
Lord, make straight his paths!” Kakatapos ko lang ipagdiwang ang ika-11
anibersayo ng aking pagpapari noong Dec. 7. At parating bumabalik sa
aking isip ay kung nagawa ko na bang ipaghanda ang daraanan ng
Panginoon sa aking buhay sa labing isang taon ng paglilingkod ko sa
kanya? Kung tinawag na niya ako nung gabing iyon, masasabi ko bang
naihanda ko na ang daraanan Niya? Nakakahiya mang aminin ngunit
masasabi kong marami pa ako pagkukulang at marami pang pagbabayad-puri
na dapat gawin… Maraming salamat Panginoon sa pagbibigay mo sa aking
ng isa pang pagkakataon!

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Word Alive

Change your course

By FR. BEL R. SAN LUIS, SVD

December 3, 2010, 4:50pm

MANILA, Philippines – Five SVD deacons of Class “Xin Ya ” – Reverends Garry Bacol, Antonio Gilberto Marqueses, Manuel Mijares, Joey Ruega, Wang Peng Fei–will be ordained priests at the Divine Word Seminary Holy Spirit Chapel, Tagaytay City, today, December 4, at 9 a.m. Ordaining prelate is Gumaca, Quezon, Bishop Buenaventura Famadico, DD.

* * *

The ordination ceremonies and Mass will be covered by the SVD Mission Communications Foundation, Inc. (MCFI) and aired on “Family TV Mass,” IBC 13 at 9-10 a.m. on Sunday, December 5, 2010. Watch it.

* * *

The story is told about a commanding officer of a ship who saw, through a foggy night at sea, what appeared to be the lights of another ship heading directly toward him.

He instructed his signalman to contact the other ship by light with this message: “Change your course 10 degrees to the north. I am an admiral.”

* * *

“Message received,” came the reply, “but you must change your course to the south.” This infurated the admiral. He signalled back, “I am a battleship, so change your course to the north or else…” To which came the reply: “I am a lighthouse.

Change your course… or else!

* * *

In the gospel reading this 2nd Sunday of Advent, John the Baptist’s message to all fogbound creatures is: “Change your course. Reform your lives. The reign of God is at hand.” Unless we change our course to God’s course, we are headed for destruction.

* * *

Also, the gospel reading for this Sunday has a note of urgency. John the Baptist asserts, “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the tree. Every tree that is not fruitful will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

John the Baptist may be saying to us in more contemporary words, like: “If you’re thinking of making a Christmas confession, do it now. If you’re planning to be reconciled with someone, now’s the time. If you’re considering doing good to others, don’t dilly-dally. Do it now.”

* * *

There is an ancient story about three devils who were arguing over the best way to destroy the souls of people in the world.

The first demon says: “Let’s tell all the Christians that the Bible is all a fable.” “No, that will not do,” the second devil said: “Let me go and I will tell them that there is no heaven or hell. Take away the fear of punishment and the man will not believe.”

* * *

The third demon says, “There is one better way. Tell the Christians that there is a God, that the Bible is inspired, that the Bible is true, that there is heaven and hell. Yes, but I’ll tell them there is NO HURRY; there is always a tomorrow.”

And all the devils agreed and they sent him. That is the strategy of Satan. There is no hurry.

* * *

Why wait for some sickness to strike before we start getting rid of some bad habits like excessive smoking or drinking, cursing or gossiping, or watching TV too much?

There is a verse written by Omar Ibn Al Halif which says: “Four things come not back – the spoken word, the sped arrow, the time past, the neglected opportunity.”

* * *

Advent is an opportune time to welcome Christ into our lives by bearing fruits of good deeds. “Every tree that is not fruitful,” John the Baptist warns, “will be cut down and thrown into the fire.” Let’s do it now.

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Moments
Seasonal and nominal

By Fr. Jerry Orbos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:15:00 12/05/2010

THE STORY is told about an old man in the front pew who started snoring in the middle of the homily of a priest at a Sunday Mass. Feeling irritated and quite embarrassed, the priest told the old man’s grandson seated beside him: “Little boy, wake up your grandpa!” Whereupon the little boy said, “Oh no Father. You put him to sleep, you wake him up!”

* * *

In today’s Gospel (Mt. 3, 1-12) John the Baptist goes about all over Judea waking up people from their “sleep” as “a voice of one crying out in the desert,” with a simple and clear message: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.”

* * *

What made John the Baptist’s message powerful was his very person and his very self. He practiced what he preached. He walked his talk. People were drawn to him because of his utter simplicity and his straightforward messages. Here was a prophet who did not put people to sleep. Here was a man, so to say, who comforted the disturbed, and disturbed the comfortable.

* * *

John the Baptist said what had to be said, and not what people wanted to be said. When out of fear or favor, we begin to preach ourselves, or that which is popular and acceptable, then we have ceased to become prophets. We must preach God’s word, in season and out of season, otherwise we become simple entertainers, court jesters, or plain perpetrators of the status quo and blocks to real change.

* * *

Are you a “seasonal” Christian? Are you a “nominal” Christian? Seasonal Christians are those who flow with the seasons of the year and manifest themselves through some form of religiosity and outward conversion during the Lenten and Advent seasons. Otherwise, the rest of the year is all about I-Me-and-Myself. Nominal Christians are those who take pride and security in their Christian baptism which they received long ago, are reinforced with their devotions and traditions, but in reality, do not practice Christian values in their daily life. John the Baptist has a very clear and simple challenge to seasonal and nominal Christians: “Produce good fruits as evidence of your repentance.”

* * *

The key to our Advent celebration is repentance which bears good fruits, in preparation for Christ’s birth. But there can be no true repentance if there is no honesty (acceptance of one’s own sinfulness) and humility (acceptance of one’s unworthiness). An honest, humble and repentant heart should lead us to a grateful, love-filled and peaceful celebration of Christmas. No amount of malling, partying, shopping or gift-wrapping will give you the spirit of Christmas unless it starts from within.

* * *

The greatness of John the Baptist lay in his ability to point to someone greater than himself. He knew how to fade away. He had the honesty to know who he was, and he had the humility to accept that his was just a role to play in the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation. Let this be a reminder to all of us that we all have a role to play in this life. No matter how humble, it is our contribution to the realization of God’s Kingdom in the here and now.

* * *

Those who have big and prominent roles in government, please be reminded that you are not that big, and you need not be prominent. Just do your role. Be aware that your position is for a mission, it emanates from the people, and it is for the people. And it is all temporary. The same could be and should be said of people in the ministry. May St. John the Baptist wake us all up, and make us truly aware of what really matters, and even make us realize that no one is indispensable in this life.

* * *

Home is the missionary, finally. Fr. Wim Van Kuijk, SVD from Holland died at the age of 99 (three months short of his centenary!) on December 2, 2010. He spent 72 years of his priestly and missionary life in the Philippines! He was always a lively presence in the midst of people and confreres, and a prayerful presence in front of his Lord in the chapel where we saw him often. In his later years, he was hard of hearing (lots of penitents went to him for confessions!), and was also hardly understandable in his speech, but his whole life was one big, loud and clear message, and one powerful statement, that it is possible to live a beautiful life that would make the Lord above smile.

* * *

See you on December 7, 2010 at the Riverbanks, Marikina in preparation for the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. We start at 6 p.m. with a Rosary Concert, then a Healing Mass. Admission is free.

* * *

A moment with the Lord:

Lord, help me to be a real, not just seasonal or nominal, Christian. Amen.

See Today’s Readings: Cycle A

Back to:  Second Sunday of Advent (Year A)

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