The most difficult times can produce the greatest spiritual blessings. God truly knows just what we need at every moment!

Monday, December 31, 2007



1. At the beginning of a New Year, I wish to send my fervent good wishes for peace, together with a heartfelt message of hope to men and women throughout the world. I do so by offering for our common reflection the theme which I have placed at the beginning of this message. It is one which I consider particularly important: the human family, a community of peace. The first form of communion between persons is that born of the love of a man and a woman who decide to enter a stable union in order to build together a new family. But the peoples of the earth, too, are called to build relationships of solidarity and cooperation among themselves, as befits members of the one human family: “All peoples”—as the Second Vatican Council declared—“are one community and have one origin, because God caused the whole human race to dwell on the face of the earth (cf. Acts 17:26); they also have one final end, God”(1).

The family, society and peace

2. The natural family, as an intimate communion of life and love, based on marriage between a man and a woman(2), constitutes “the primary place of ‘humanization' for the person and society”(3), and a “cradle of life and love”(4). The family is therefore rightly defined as the first natural society, “a divine institution that stands at the foundation of life of the human person as the prototype of every social order”(5).

3. Indeed, in a healthy family life we experience some of the fundamental elements of peace: justice and love between brothers and sisters, the role of authority expressed by parents, loving concern for the members who are weaker because of youth, sickness or old age, mutual help in the necessities of life, readiness to accept others and, if necessary, to forgive them. For this reason, the family is the first and indispensable teacher of peace. It is no wonder, therefore, that violence, if perpetrated in the family, is seen as particularly intolerable. Consequently, when it is said that the family is “the primary living cell of society”(6), something essential is being stated. The family is the foundation of society for this reason too: because it enables its members in decisive ways to experience peace. It follows that the human community cannot do without the service provided by the family. Where can young people gradually learn to savour the genuine “taste” of peace better than in the original “nest” which nature prepares for them? The language of the family is a language of peace; we must always draw from it, lest we lose the “vocabulary” of peace. In the inflation of its speech, society cannot cease to refer to that “grammar” which all children learn from the looks and the actions of their mothers and fathers, even before they learn from their words.

4. The family, since it has the duty of educating its members, is the subject of specific rights. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which represents a landmark of juridic civilization of truly universal value, states that “the family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society and is entitled to protection by society and the State”(7). For its part, the Holy See sought to acknowledge a special juridic dignity proper to the family by publishing the Charter of the Rights of the Family. In its Preamble we read: “the rights of the person, even if they are expressed as rights of the individual, have a fundamental social dimension which finds an innate and vital expression in the family”(8). The rights set forth in the Charter are an expression and explicitation of the natural law written on the heart of the human being and made known to him by reason. The denial or even the restriction of the rights of the family, by obscuring the truth about man, threatens the very foundations of peace.

5. Consequently, whoever, even unknowingly, circumvents the institution of the family undermines peace in the entire community, national and international, since he weakens what is in effect the primary agency of peace. This point merits special reflection: everything that serves to weaken the family based on the marriage of a man and a woman, everything that directly or indirectly stands in the way of its openness to the responsible acceptance of a new life, everything that obstructs its right to be primarily responsible for the education of its children, constitutes an objective obstacle on the road to peace. The family needs to have a home, employment and a just recognition of the domestic activity of parents, the possibility of schooling for children, and basic health care for all. When society and public policy are not committed to assisting the family in these areas, they deprive themselves of an essential resource in the service of peace. The social communications media, in particular, because of their educational potential, have a special responsibility for promoting respect for the family, making clear its expectations and rights, and presenting all its beauty.

Humanity is one great family

6. The social community, if it is to live in peace, is also called to draw inspiration from the values on which the family community is based. This is as true for local communities as it is for national communities; it is also true for the international community itself, for the human family which dwells in that common house which is the earth. Here, however, we cannot forget that the family comes into being from the responsible and definitive “yes” of a man and a women, and it continues to live from the conscious “yes” of the children who gradually join it. The family community, in order to prosper, needs the generous consent of all its members. This realization also needs to become a shared conviction on the part of all those called to form the common human family. We need to say our own “yes” to this vocation which God has inscribed in our very nature. We do not live alongside one another purely by chance; all of us are progressing along a common path as men and women, and thus as brothers and sisters. Consequently, it is essential that we should all be committed to living our lives in an attitude of responsibility before God, acknowledging him as the deepest source of our own existence and that of others. By going back to this supreme principle we are able to perceive the unconditional worth of each human being, and thus to lay the premises for building a humanity at peace. Without this transcendent foundation society is a mere aggregation of neighbours, not a community of brothers and sisters called to form one great family.

The family, the human community and the environment

7. The family needs a home, a fit environment in which to develop its proper relationships. For the human family, this home is the earth, the environment that God the Creator has given us to inhabit with creativity and responsibility. We need to care for the environment: it has been entrusted to men and women to be protected and cultivated with responsible freedom, with the good of all as a constant guiding criterion. Human beings, obviously, are of supreme worth vis-à-vis creation as a whole. Respecting the environment does not mean considering material or animal nature more important than man. Rather, it means not selfishly considering nature to be at the complete disposal of our own interests, for future generations also have the right to reap its benefits and to exhibit towards nature the same responsible freedom that we claim for ourselves. Nor must we overlook the poor, who are excluded in many cases from the goods of creation destined for all. Humanity today is rightly concerned about the ecological balance of tomorrow. It is important for assessments in this regard to be carried out prudently, in dialogue with experts and people of wisdom, uninhibited by ideological pressure to draw hasty conclusions, and above all with the aim of reaching agreement on a model of sustainable development capable of ensuring the well-being of all while respecting environmental balances. If the protection of the environment involves costs, they should be justly distributed, taking due account of the different levels of development of various countries and the need for solidarity with future generations. Prudence does not mean failing to accept responsibilities and postponing decisions; it means being committed to making joint decisions after pondering responsibly the road to be taken, decisions aimed at strengthening that covenant between human beings and the environment, which should mirror the creative love of God, from whom we come and towards whom we are journeying.

8. In this regard, it is essential to “sense” that the earth is “our common home” and, in our stewardship and service to all, to choose the path of dialogue rather than the path of unilateral decisions. Further international agencies may need to be established in order to confront together the stewardship of this “home” of ours; more important, however, is the need for ever greater conviction about the need for responsible cooperation. The problems looming on the horizon are complex and time is short. In order to face this situation effectively, there is a need to act in harmony. One area where there is a particular need to intensify dialogue between nations is that of the stewardship of the earth's energy resources. The technologically advanced countries are facing two pressing needs in this regard: on the one hand, to reassess the high levels of consumption due to the present model of development, and on the other hand to invest sufficient resources in the search for alternative sources of energy and for greater energy efficiency. The emerging counties are hungry for energy, but at times this hunger is met in a way harmful to poor countries which, due to their insufficient infrastructures, including their technological infrastructures, are forced to undersell the energy resources they do possess. At times, their very political freedom is compromised by forms of protectorate or, in any case, by forms of conditioning which appear clearly humiliating.

Family, human community and economy

9. An essential condition for peace within individual families is that they should be built upon the solid foundation of shared spiritual and ethical values. Yet it must be added that the family experiences authentic peace when no one lacks what is needed, and when the family patrimony—the fruit of the labour of some, the savings of others, and the active cooperation of all—is well-managed in a spirit of solidarity, without extravagance and without waste. The peace of the family, then, requires an openness to a transcendent patrimony of values, and at the same time a concern for the prudent management of both material goods and inter-personal relationships. The failure of the latter results in the breakdown of reciprocal trust in the face of the uncertainty threatening the future of the nuclear family.

10. Something similar must be said for that other family which is humanity as a whole. The human family, which today is increasingly unified as a result of globalization, also needs, in addition to a foundation of shared values, an economy capable of responding effectively to the requirements of a common good which is now planetary in scope. Here too, a comparison with the natural family proves helpful. Honest and straightforward relationships need to be promoted between individual persons and between peoples, thus enabling everyone to cooperate on a just and equal footing. Efforts must also be made to ensure a prudent use of resources and an equitable distribution of wealth. In particular, the aid given to poor countries must be guided by sound economic principles, avoiding forms of waste associated principally with the maintenance of expensive bureaucracies. Due account must also be taken of the moral obligation to ensure that the economy is not governed solely by the ruthless laws of instant profit, which can prove inhumane.

The family, the human community and the moral law

11. A family lives in peace if all its members submit to a common standard: this is what prevents selfish individualism and brings individuals together, fostering their harmonious coexistence and giving direction to their work. This principle, obvious as it is, also holds true for wider communities: from local and national communities to the international community itself. For the sake of peace, a common law is needed, one which would foster true freedom rather than blind caprice, and protect the weak from oppression by the strong. The family of peoples experiences many cases of arbitrary conduct, both within individual States and in the relations of States among themselves. In many situations the weak must bow not to the demands of justice, but to the naked power of those stronger than themselves. It bears repeating: power must always be disciplined by law, and this applies also to relations between sovereign States.

12. The Church has often spoken on the subject of the nature and function of law: the juridic norm, which regulates relationships between individuals, disciplines external conduct and establishes penalties for offenders, has as its criterion the moral norm grounded in nature itself. Human reason is capable of discerning this moral norm, at least in its fundamental requirements, and thus ascending to the creative reason of God which is at the origin of all things. The moral norm must be the rule for decisions of conscience and the guide for all human behaviour. Do juridic norms exist for relationships between the nations which make up the human family? And if they exist, are they operative? The answer is: yes, such norms exist, but to ensure that they are truly operative it is necessary to go back to the natural moral norm as the basis of the juridic norm; otherwise the latter constantly remains at the mercy of a fragile and provisional consensus.

13. Knowledge of the natural moral norm is not inaccessible to those who, in reflecting on themselves and their destiny, strive to understand the inner logic of the deepest inclinations present in their being. Albeit not without hesitation and doubt, they are capable of discovering, at least in its essential lines, this common moral law which, over and above cultural differences, enables human beings to come to a common understanding regarding the most important aspects of good and evil, justice and injustice. It is essential to go back to this fundamental law, committing our finest intellectual energies to this quest, and not letting ourselves be discouraged by mistakes and misunderstandings. Values grounded in the natural law are indeed present, albeit in a fragmentary and not always consistent way, in international accords, in universally recognized forms of authority, in the principles of humanitarian law incorporated in the legislation of individual States or the statutes of international bodies. Mankind is not “lawless”. All the same, there is an urgent need to persevere in dialogue about these issues and to encourage the legislation of individual States to converge towards a recognition of fundamental human rights. The growth of a global juridic culture depends, for that matter, on a constant commitment to strengthen the profound human content of international norms, lest they be reduced to mere procedures, easily subject to manipulation for selfish or ideological reasons.

Overcoming conflicts and disarmament

14. Humanity today is unfortunately experiencing great division and sharp conflicts which cast dark shadows on its future. Vast areas of the world are caught up in situations of increasing tension, while the danger of an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons causes well-founded apprehension in every responsible person. Many civil wars are still being fought in Africa, even though a number of countries there have made progress on the road to freedom and democracy. The Middle East is still a theatre of conflict and violence, which also affects neighbouring nations and regions and risks drawing them into the spiral of violence. On a broader scale, one must acknowledge with regret the growing number of States engaged in the arms race: even some developing nations allot a significant portion of their scant domestic product to the purchase of weapons. The responsibility for this baneful commerce is not limited: the countries of the industrially developed world profit immensely from the sale of arms, while the ruling oligarchies in many poor countries wish to reinforce their stronghold by acquiring ever more sophisticated weaponry. In difficult times such as these, it is truly necessary for all persons of good will to come together to reach concrete agreements aimed at an effective demilitarization, especially in the area of nuclear arms. At a time when the process of nuclear non-proliferation is at a stand-still, I feel bound to entreat those in authority to resume with greater determination negotiations for a progressive and mutually agreed dismantling of existing nuclear weapons. In renewing this appeal, I know that I am echoing the desire of all those concerned for the future of humanity.

15. Sixty years ago the United Nations Organization solemnly issued the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948-2008). With that document the human family reacted against the horrors of the Second World War by acknowledging its own unity, based on the equal dignity of all men and women, and by putting respect for the fundamental rights of individuals and peoples at the centre of human coexistence. This was a decisive step forward along the difficult and demanding path towards harmony and peace. This year also marks the 25th anniversary of the Holy See's adoption of the Charter of the Rights of the Family (1983-2008) and the 40th anniversary of the celebration of the first World Day of Peace (1968-2008). Born of a providential intuition of Pope Paul VI and carried forward with great conviction by my beloved and venerable predecessor Pope John Paul II, the celebration of this Day of Peace has made it possible for the Church, over the course of the years, to present in these Messages an instructive body of teaching regarding this fundamental human good. In the light of these significant anniversaries, I invite every man and woman to have a more lively sense of belonging to the one human family, and to strive to make human coexistence increasingly reflect this conviction, which is essential for the establishment of true and lasting peace. I likewise invite believers to implore tirelessly from God the great gift of peace. Christians, for their part, know that they can trust in the intercession of Mary, who, as the Mother of the Son of God made flesh for the salvation of all humanity, is our common Mother.

To all my best wishes for a joyful New Year!
From the Vatican, 8 December 2007

(1) Declaration Nostra Aetate, 1.
(2) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et Spes, 48.
(3) John Paul II, Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, 40: AAS 81 (1989), 469.
(4) Ibid.
(5) Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church, No. 211.
(6) Second Vatican Council, Decree Apostolicam Actuositatem, 11.
(7) Art. 16/3.
(8) Holy See, Charter of the Rights of the Family, 24 November 1983, Preamble, A.

© Copyright 2007 - Libreria Editrice Vaticana

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Holy Family Sunday - A 2007

FIRST READING - Sirach 3:2-7, 12-14
God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old; grieve him not as long as he lives. Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him; revile him not all the days of his life; kindness to a father will not be forgotten, firmly planted against the debt of your sins—a house raised in justice to you.

SECOND READING - Colossians 3:12-21
Brothers and sisters: Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as in all wisdom you teach and admonish one another, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs with gratitude in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. Wives, be subordinate to your husbands, as is proper in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives, and avoid any bitterness toward them. Children, obey your parents in everything, for this is pleasing to the Lord. Fathers, do not provoke your children, so they may not become discouraged.

GOSPEL Cycle A - Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23
When the magi had departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you. Herod is going to search for the child to destroy him.” Joseph rose and took the child and his mother by night and departed for Egypt. He stayed there until the death of Herod, that what the Lord had said through the prophet might be fulfilled, Out of Egypt I called my son. When Herod had died, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt and said, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” He rose, took the child and his mother, and went to the land of Israel. But when he heard that Archelaus was ruling over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go back there. And because he had been warned in a dream, he departed for the region of Galilee. He went and dwelt in a town called Nazareth, so that what had been spoken through the prophets might be fulfilled, He shall be called a Nazorean.


Years ago Alvin Toffler wrote a runaway best-seller called Future Shock. It dealt with the effect that rapid change was having on institutions like the family. He writes:

The family has been called the “giant shock absorber” of society. It is the place to which the bruised and battered individual returns after doing battle with the world. It is the one stable point in an increasingly flux-filled environment. As the superindustrial revolution unfolds, however, this “shock absorber” will come in for some shocks of its own.

Already in his day, analysts were voicing concern about the family. One said bluntly;

“Except for the first year or two of child-raising, the family is dead.”

Another warned that the family was on the highway to “complete extinction.”

According to the official statistics in North America 50% (means every second marriage) finishes in divorce within 2 years after wedding. Actually in some areas of the USA and Canada there more divorced and remarried marriages (even for the second and third time) than the normal, only once married couples.

These are the alarming and shocking facts of the postindustrial society. Why???? And it seems that the process of the destruction and demolition of the family and family’s life continue. It seems that the family is in jeopardy, it seems that the whole society is in danger because somebody decided to redefine the very sense of the family and all moral and ethical values. Obviously, behind there are the tons of human’s pain and the mountains of suffering, torment, anguish and misery. There are a lot of grief and sorrows, and the huge trauma especially on the side of the children. But there are also a lot of egoism, selfishness and insensitivity, a huge and frightening mentality of the individualism, egotism and the lack of consideration for others. WHY???

What we can learn from Nazareth? What we can learn from the Holy Family?

One Sunday, on the Feast of the Holy Family, a priest gave his homily presenting Jesus, Mary and Joseph as the ideal family. As he was talking he noticed a man muttering to himself. Like all priests, he tried to ignore the man, but the man’s upset grew as the homily went on. Finally, the exasperated priest asked,

“What seems to be the problem, Sir?”

“This is all a waste of time,” the man said. “You talk about Jesus, Mary and Joseph as being the ideal family, but Mary was the sinless one, Joseph the faithful one and Jesus the Son of God. How can any family consider realistically model themselves on the Holy Family?”

That’s a good question, and perhaps one that we all have to ask personally and together in our homes and families.

Let us go back to the today’s readings:

The first reading deals with our relationship to elderly parents. It impresses upon us our responsibility to revere and care for them, especially in their failing years.

“God sets a father in honor over his children; a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons. Whoever honors his father atones for sins, and preserves himself from them. When he prays, he is heard; he stores up riches who reveres his mother. Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children, and, when he prays, is heard. Whoever reveres his father will live a long life; he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother. My son, take care of your father when he is old;”

The second reading deals with both the relationship between spouses and the relationship between parents and children. It stresses the responsibility of all family members to contribute to family life.

“Put on, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do. And over all these put on love, that is, the bond of perfection. And let the peace of Christ control your hearts, the peace into which you were also called in one body.”

Finally, the Gospel reminds us that even the Holy Family itself was not immune to stress and misunderstandings.

Let me finish be a prayer I found in an ancient prayer book:

Lord, bless all families
on this feast of the Holy Family.
Help family members open their hearts
to the grace you hold out to them
when they truly need the patience of Job.
Help them open their arms to those
who seek and need their forgiveness
after having injured them.
Help them discover the joy of doing
for others what you have done for us
on so many occasions in our lives. Amen.
25 Christmas – Midnight (19:00 and 24:00)

Well known history of The Christmas Truce of the I World World

The Christmas truce of 1914 is one of the most remarkable incidents of World War I and perhaps of military history. It lasted as long as a week, and took place despite orders that those who fraternized with the enemy would be shot.

It is the Christmas Eve 1914. not far for Ypres in Belgium in the trenches the soldiers of two armies German and English are preparing their first Christmas celebration out of their countries. English soldiers get from the 17 years old princess Mary nice boxes with candies and cigarettes, German soldiers get also the gifts of chocolates and cigars from their Kaiser Wilhelm.

British Daily Telegraph correspondent wrote that on one part of the line the Germans had managed to slip a chocolate cake into British trenches.

Even more amazingly, it was accompanied with a message asking for a ceasefire later that evening so they could celebrate the Christmas and their Captain's birthday. They proposed a concert at 7.30pm when candles, the British were told, would be placed on the parapets of their trenches.

The British accepted the invitation and offered some tobacco as a return present. That evening, at the stated time, German heads suddenly popped up and started to sing “Stille Naht”, “O Tannenbaum” and other German carols. Each number ended with a round of applause from both sides.

The soldiers started to go out of the trenches and to meet one another in no-man's land. Men exchanged gifts and buttons. In one or two places soldiers who had been barbers in civilian times gave free haircuts. One German, a juggler and a showman, gave a performance of his routine in the centre of no-man's land.

Captain Sir Edward Hulse of the Scots Guards, in his famous account, remembered the approach of four unarmed Germans at 08.30. He went out to meet them with one of his soldiers. 'Their spokesmen,' Hulse wrote, 'started off by saying that he thought it only right to come over and wish us a happy Christmas,

Scots and Huns were fraternizing in the most genuine possible manner. Every sort of souvenir was exchanged addresses given and received, photos of families shown, etc.

Finally they sing Latin carol „Adeste fideles”. For few hours peace won in the middle of the most atrocious War.

One, older German soldier asked:

“Why we can not simply cease this stupid and hopeless war and go home, to seat with our families and enjoy the nativity of Christ, Who is the King of peace?” Sergeant Tom from the Scots Guards answered: “You have to ask this question to your Keiser Wilhelm”.
And the German soldier reaction was: “No we have to ask first at all our hearts”.

I think that it is a good time for us to ask the same question in our hearts.

Why we can not simply cease this stupid and hopeless unending war in our lives, seat with our families and enjoy the nativity of Christ, Who is the King of peace?”

In our age of uncertainty, it is comforting to believe, regardless of the real reasoning and motives, that soldiers and officers told to hate, loathe and kill, could still lower their guns and extend the hand of goodwill, peace, love and Christmas cheer.

Are we able to do the same?

Readings: Isaiah 52:7-10 Hebrews 1:1-6 John 1:1-18

Gospel Jn 1:1-18 or 1:1-5, 9-14

In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things came to be through him,
and without him nothing came to be.
What came to be through him was life,
and this life was the light of the human race;
the light shines in the darkness,
and the darkness has not overcome it.
A man named John was sent from God.
He came for testimony, to testify to the light,
so that all might believe through him.
He was not the light,
but came to testify to the light.
The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.
He was in the world,
and the world came to be through him,
but the world did not know him.
He came to what was his own,
but his own people did not accept him.

But to those who did accept him
he gave power to become children of God,
to those who believe in his name,
who were born not by natural generation
nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision
but of God.
And the Word became flesh
and made his dwelling among us,
and we saw his glory,
the glory as of the Father’s only Son,
full of grace and truth.
John testified to him and cried out, saying,
“This was he of whom I said,
‘The one who is coming after me ranks ahead of me
because he existed before me.’”
From his fullness we have all received,

grace in place of grace,
because while the law was given through Moses,
grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.
No one has ever seen God.
The only Son, God, who is at the Father’s side,
has revealed him.

The Word

We use words as a way of communicating self. And there are many different kinds of words: superficial, deep, constructive, destructive, factual, emotional, funny, sad, encouraging, discouraging, loving, abusive...

God's Word is special. It is creative (as ours too can be). God's Word does not just communicate an idea. It is active; it brings things into existence. Everything that exists flows from the creative Word of God. In a special way it brings into being; it gives life.

When our hands are full of mercy and goodness,
when our lips are full with compassionate smiles,
when our hearts are pure, uncomplicated
and receptive like the crib in Bethlehem,
when our lives are honest
and our bread shared with the poor

Then into our homes will enter
the Blessing of the Newborn Child
and we will meet Him in all our brothers

and we will feel God's presence among us
and see His glory in our lives.

One Solitary Life
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book, He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place He was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He has no credentials but Himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property He had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Twenty centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the Human race.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.

Original essay by Dr James Allan Francis in “The Real Jesus and Other Sermons” © 1926 by the Judson Press of Philadelphia (pp 123-124 titled “Arise Sir Knight!”).
22/23. 12. 2007 - 4th Sunday of Advent – Reflection

The Christmas stories in the Gospels of St. Matthew and St. Luke are not meant to be literal history, like, let us say, detailed descriptions of the Battle of Gettysburg. Rather they are theological stories designed to tell us that with the birth of Jesus a new phase of the history of humankind had begun. The stories may not be true in all their details but they are True in the sense that they disclose to us a sudden, dramatic, and total transformation in the human condition. As John Shea says in his book “Starlight”, we discover at Christmas, not only the light that is God and the light that Jesus came to bring to the world, but the light that is and has always been in us because we are creatures who share in the light of God, beings in whom the spark of God's light and love has always shone. Christmas reveals to us that like Mary and Joseph we too can be the light of the world and that indeed our own frail and often dim lights are not completely discontinuous from the light of Jesus, from the starlight that shone at Bethlehem.

And there is something more in this fourth Sunday of Advent to think about.

Mary is the perfect disciple. And She is Mother. As the ever-virgin Mother, she gave birth to the Incarnate Word, but as the perfect disciple, she gave birth to all of the sons and daughters of Jesus Christ. She is always with us as our Mother. I would like to conclude this Sunday Reflection with one of my favorite prayers which has given me much consolation throughout all the years of my priesthood.

Remember, O most gracious Virgin Mary, that never was it known that anyone who fled to thy protection, implored thy help, or sought thy intercession, was left unaided. Inspired by this confidence I fly unto thee, O Virgin of virgins, my Mother. To thee do I come, before thee I stand, sinful and sorrowful. O Mother of the Word Incarnate, despise not my petitions, but in thy mercy hear and answer me. Amen.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

III Sunday of Advent – 15/16. 12. 2007

The greatest Advent hero, John the Baptist is praised today by the Lord, because of his steadfastness and determination, because of his absolute commitment to the TRUTH. He is not the reed shaken by the wind; he is not looking searching for a comfortable life. His mission is to give the testimony to the truth. And myself, in my life ??? What is my position in front of the truth?

Penitential rite:
Let us recognize that very often we compromise; we betray and deny the truth because of our small personal reasons.

- Lord Jesus, you came as the final Truth, the straight Way and the eternal Life; give us the strength to change our life according to your truth, Lord have mercy,
- Christ Jesus, you were the ultimate witness to the truth and you died for the truth; help us to recognize in you the final goal of our life, Christ have mercy,
- Lord Jesus, you invite us to gain the freedom by knowing the truth, protect us against the freedom which compromise the truth, Lord have mercy,

May Almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life. Amen.


Isaiah 35, 1-6.10; Psalm 146; Jas 5, 7-10; Matthew 11, 2-11

He was quite a sight, this John the Baptist. He wore clothes of camel hair, and had a leather belt around his waste. His food was locusts and wild honey. He told people things that they may not have wanted to hear. He told everyone that they needed to repent. He called people sinners. And yet they crowded around him. They went out into the desert to hear him. They were mystified by John’s words because they were straight forward and true. John didn’t care about anything other than the truth.
Truth is the ultimate value which cannot be compromised. What is the value of the truth nowadays? Everything and everybody has its price the truth also!

People were sick of a world where every fact could be bent a dozen ways to serve the interest of the speaker. They were sick of the Romans and the Greeks using their adroitness with language to twist the law or to twist logic to justify horrible, abominable actions. They were sick of the Temple priests, and the Jewish religious parties, the Sadducees and Pharisees, using religion for their own gain. They just wanted they truth. It attracted them. John fascinated them because he was not afraid of the truth.

The facts, the reality is not much different now than it was back in Jesus’ day. The way that people form their own concepts of reality was no different in Jesus’ day than it is now. Every fact could be bent a dozen ways to serve the interest of the speaker. Politicians are using their adroitness with language to twist the law or to twist logic to justify horrible, abominable actions. People are still molding facts to suit their desires and needs. People are still using religion for their own personal gain. The truth is still very hard to find in our world. Even in the church and among the Catholics.

We are sick with the twisters and the jongleurs of words. We are sick with the politicians searching only the voters, we are sick with greedy international companies looking only for their business, we are sick with all those who bend and wave the truth for their private and egoistic purposes.

We have to listen to John the Baptist, who is the voice crying out in the wilderness and we have to listen to Jesus Christ, who is the Truth, the Way and the Life. Otherwise we will be misguided by the malicious cleverness of the jongleurs of words.

We have all witnessed family, friends and neighbors twisting truths to justify every abominable action imaginable. Books are available that justify every sort of outrage. Many people have discarded the belief that we will be judged by God according to our actions. They would rather see God as some sort of a Barney that will sing "I love you, you love me" to us for all eternity even if we spent significant portions of our lives singing to God, "I hate you and all you demand of me." The concept of universal laws has been rejected. The concept of ultimate Truth (which is Jesus Christ) has been exchanged for the treacherous concept of tolerance.

It was brushed aside by a misuse of the word "values" so that the ten commandments have really been turned into the ten suggestions. Many college professors report that nearly all of the students who enter the classroom believe that the truth is relative.

Why then should be so surprised that the truth is whatever people want it to be?

What do we want to hear when we come to Church? Do we come to hear a priest saying that sin doesn’t exist, or that maybe for us this or that sin doesn’t really matter? Or are we attracted to the Church because we are good people and we want to hear the truth no matter how popular or unpopular it may be?

I am convinced that we go to Church because we are good people, who want to be better people. I am convinced that we go to Church because like the people who went out into the desert to see John the Baptizer, we are attracted by the truth. I am convinced that we go to Church because like the people of Jesus’ day, we are disgusted with those elements of society that pervert truth to serve their own needs. More than this, I am convinced that all of us want to be freed of the darkness within ourselves that threatens to enslave us in our own selfishness. The truth alone can set us free.

This truth that sets us free is more than a concept. It is the Spirit of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit.

"I am the way, the truth and the life."

Rejoice! It is Gaudete Sunday. Rejoice Sunday. Our joy is far more profound than the superficial happiness of contrived Christmas emotions. We rejoice because the light of truth has destroyed the darkness of sin. We rejoice because we have been drawn by the truth. We rejoice because Jesus Christ is the truth. He embodies the truth. He is the truth. And He and the truth are, as the Letter to the Hebrews states, "The same, yesterday, today and forever."

Prayer of faithful: We rejoice, but we are also aware of the necessity of repenting and changing of our lives. Jesus Christ is the joy and happiness of all who look forward for His coming. So let us ask our Savior and Redeemer for necessary graces for the church, for our parish and for all our families.

O God our Creator and Redeemer, Jesus Christ is the Truth and the light which shines in the darkness of our lives; we rejoice in the gifts of Your love and Truth given to us through His Life, Passion and Resurrection. Because He is Your Son, the King of Truth and the Prince of Peace, and with You and the Holy Spirit He lives and reigns for ever and ever.

Monday, December 10, 2007

08-09.12.2007 - Second Sunday in Advent - A

Isaiah 11, 1-10; Psalm 72; Rom 15, 4-9; Matthew 3, 1-12

“John the Baptist appeared, preaching in the desert of Judea and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” I am the voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight your paths.
The one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn, but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.” (Mt 3:1-3,11-12)

A millionaire announced to Mark Twain, "Before I die, I will go to the Holy Land. I will climb Mount Sinai and read aloud the Ten Commandments. God will certainly see my gesture and will help me to enter heaven".

Mark Twain observed, "I have a better idea. You could stay home and keep them."

John the Baptist with his preaching is not at all an easy going prophet. He tells openly: “you have to make straight the paths of your life, otherwise don't count on the spectacular gestures in your life. They will not help you at all, and God will certainly “burn the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

In fact, his message was: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is close at hand." In fact, this is exactly the same message that Jesus will proclaim at the beginning of his public life (Mark 1:15). The word for 'repent' here means much more than just being sorry for past misdeeds. The Greek verb metanoeite means having a radical change in one's thinking and style of life. It means seeing the world in a completely different way and taking on board a whole new set of values.

I introduce this homily on sin with an illustration from a layman precisely because many people do not like priests speaking on sin. Many Catholics no longer buy into the concept of personal sin.

We live our lives in an era which has dry cleaned sin away. How else can one explain that so few of us go to Confession?

Eg, a university professor was arrested for collecting his mother's social security for six years after her death. He didn't understand what was wrong.

Nowadays you must feel guilty and ashamed about feeling guilty. If you send people on a guilt trip, God help you! No one else will. You will be called a killjoy.

There is one serious problem in this scenario. Jesus and His main man, John the Baptist, speak more often of sin than of love. There are more references to sin in the New Testament than to love.

A novelist says love means you never have to say you're sorry. John the Baptist replies "Rubbish." Why else would John the Disturber have come in from the desert "proclaiming a baptism of repentance that led to forgiveness of sin?" The Gospels tell us people bought his message hook, line, and sinker, repented of their sins, and were baptized.

Today John the Baptist might well be out of a job. He might be locked up for upsetting people's peace of mind and forced to take antidepressant pills.

Young people are being deprived of education in morals by those who should know better - namely, myself, their parents, and teachers.

What message are we sending boys and girls when we allow public school teachers to demonstrate putting condoms on cucumbers and then present studies of the homosexual lifestyle? They advise students with an ear-to-ear grin to practice safe sex whatever that is.

A Catholic professor in a private college told freshmen that in ethics there is no right or wrong, only points of view. Can you imagine what John the Baptist would have to say to him? Infinitely worse, what he would say to us who tolerate this nonsense?

To airbrush sin away is to turn religion into cherry vanilla ice cream. To bury sin with socio-economic buzz words is to sell Christ out. It makes John the Baptist retch.

Good manners demand that for slight offenses we must say to God, "Excuse me." For serious offenses we must say, "Pardon me." The place to find that pardon is on our knees in the confessional. It is only when we say, "I have sinned!" that God can say, "I forgive you." (Joseph Felix)

When Peter denied Christ, he did not say he blew his cool.

He did not blame his defection on bad toilet training. Matthew's Gospel tells us "he went out and began to weep bitterly." Today, if he was caught weeping, he would be forced to take a holiday.

Judas took responsibility for his betrayal of Christ. He did not say, "Hey, give me a break. It's only my first betrayal."

The prodigal son confessed his sins saying, "Father, I have sinned against God and against you." Check it out in Luke 15:21.

The Gospel of Matthew advises us the first command Jesus spoke to a live audience was a stark one word order, "Repent!"

Christ must have taken his repentance cue from John because today's Gospel tells us the first thing the Baptizer said after walking out of the desert was not "Have a nice day!" but "Repent!" God wants us to be like John the Baptizer. He wants us to be a voice and not a whisper, a burning light and not a dying bulb.

Most of us resemble medieval oil paintings. We are covered with years of dust and grime. Confession is the only way out for us.

Some say that when God made John the Baptist, He threw the mold away. This Advent we should pick up our flashlights, find that mold, and squeeze ourselves into it.

To become a contemporary John the Baptizer would be a wonderful gift to present the Infant that we shall shortly salute. Good people are in short supply in our culture.

In this season, we celebrate not what we are nor what we were but what we could be and want to be. (AU)

Do you get the feeling that Confession should be way up there on your must-do list this Advent?

John the Baptist says to us today, "If you're not living on the edge, you're taking up space."
1-2. 12. 2007 -I Sunday of Advent

“If I'd only known who it was I turned away!” - Christmas story

Queen Victoria was England's most famous queen. She reigned 64 years from 1837 to 1901. Her favorite place during her reign was her summer home in Balmoral, Scotland. She loved to take long walks alone in the Scottish highlands.

One day Victoria got caught in a rainstorm. Seeing a rundown cottage, she ran to it. It was occupied by an old peasant woman, who opened the door. Standing in the rain, Victoria asked her if she could borrow an umbrella, promising to return it the next day. The woman said, “I have two umbrellas. One is new. The other is fairly old, but you may use it if you wish. Just a minute, I'll get it.” As it turned out, the umbrella was filled with holes and was practically useless.

The next day the woman was shocked when a royal official rode up, stopped, and knocked at the door of her cottage. He returned the old umbrella, saying, “Her Majesty the Queen borrowed this from you yesterday. She was very grateful for the use of it.”

When the royal official left the cottage, and rode away, the woman was filled with regret. She began crying out in anguish, “If I'd only known who it was I turned away! If I'd only known who it was I turned away!”

That story bears a striking resemblance to the Christmas story that unfolded in the town of Bethlehem 2,000 years ago. It began with an innkeeper who turned away not the queen of England but the Queen of Queens, who was carrying in her womb the King of Kings.

The innkeeper may even have lived long enough to discover who it was he turned away that first Christmas night. And if he did, he surely cried out in anguish: “If I'd only known who it was I turned away! If I'd only known who it was I turned away!”

Since then so many people turned Him away, so many people didn't recognize Him …

How many times in my life was Jesus passing by, and I turned Him away. Maybe this time, maybe this Christmas He will find a shelter in my heart.

Don't let Him go away.
25.11.2007 -The Solemnity of Jesus Christ, Universal King

Introduction: The solemnity of Jesus Christ the King of the Universe reminds us the fundamental truth, that we all belong to His Kingdom, and that we are His subjects. Is it really true that I am His subject? "Whom do I serve in my life?"

Penitential Rite: We come together to honor Christ our King. As we prepare for this Eucharist, let us recognize our weaknesses and need for his mercy and forgiveness.

Lord Jesus, you are the image of the invisible God, Lord have mercy,
Christ Jesus, in you we have redemption and forgiveness of our sins, Christ have mercy,
Lord Jesus, you make peace by the blood of your cross, Lord have mercy.

2 Samuel 5, 1-3; Psalm 121 (122), 1-2.3-4.4-5; Colossians 1, 12-20; St. Luke 23, 35-43

On this final Sunday of the liturgical year we are reminded that we belong to a kingdom that does not belong to this world. We serve Christ the King. But he is a king like no other. The readings for this Sunday will help us appreciate the difference.

So on this great feast of Christ the King, we recognize the great irony. There were those expecting a messiah, a powerful, mighty warrior king, and then this person Jesus showed up. We acknowledge that even today we can be searching for a particular kind of king, a particular kind of God. As God speaks to us in many ways through the life of His Son, and the words of scripture, we can begin to lay our preconceptions aside and let God show us what a king is. Let God show us who God is.
In the Gospel we discover Jesus, who does not live in luxury or comfort, but rather experiences the worst suffering, mockery and abuse this world can offer. We see Jesus, the very Son of God, who time and time again gave to others, gave of Himself without counting the cost, without concern for appearances, and recognizing that living in such a way would cost Him His life.

We are tempted to place all of our trust in human efforts, ourselves, our friends, popular opinion. Power and worldly success too often hold greater value for us than participating with the suffering Son of God on the cross. Jesus Christ the King shows us what Saint Paul told the Corinthians: Jesus came through "the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe." The other thief was one who believed. He began to see behind the dirt, grime and apparent foolishness, the saving power of Jesus Christ that is always present and among us. He was able to see in this beaten, dirty, bloody man… the power of love…someone who was just trying to help. In faith he makes his request to the king who can grant all: "Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."

In the Kingdom of God the poor are brought to the top of the table, those who mourn rejoice, those who give away their last possessions receive riches beyond compare and so on. If the Kingdom turns things upside down, then we must have an upside down King. And that is precisely what Christ is, an upside down King. He is a King who carries the wounds of suffering; a King who knows persecution, a King who had no home, a King ignored by the aristocracy and the powerful. We have for our Gospel reading today the story of the crucifixion itself.

There is a story of a very faithful servant slave serving the family of the Roman Emperor Mark Aurelius for more than 70 years. The man was very loyal and devoted in his service. He fulfilled all his tasks, duties and obligations with an exactitude and responsibility for many, many years. And eventually the time came that he was at his last days on the bed seriously ill and dying. The Emperor Mark Aurelius came to his bed and ask him: "What I can do for you, tell me please, if there is something I can do to help you I will certainly be happy to do it, because you were such a good and faithful slave absolutely committed in the service to my family and to myself.

So the slave says: "I have only one request. After all this years and years of my faithful service can you, divine Emperor, extend my life for at least one year more. I have some obligations towards my family and I hope that in one year time I will be able to arrange all and everything, to be ready to die." So, the Emperor Mark Aurelius laughed bitterly and said: "I can do many things but this one I am not able to do!"

So the dedicated slave said: "So maybe you can lengthen my life for half of a year. I will try to complete my obligation towards my relatives." And so, the Emperor said with a kind of astonishment and bitterness: "I cannot!" Not disappointed by the answers the old man asks again: "So, perhaps you will be able to make longer my life for one month?" The Emperor, divine Mark Aurelius answered -this time with a kind of impatience- "I cannot!"

So, finally frustrated man says: "So if even one month is to difficult for you, so maybe you can prolong my life for one week?!" Already angry Emperor says: "No, stubborn slave, I can not extend your life even for one day, and even not for one hour!!!"

Bitterly -this time- old slave says finally: "How stupid I was serving you so faithfully all of my life. You are the King of the biggest Empire of the world, the most powerful person in the whole earth, and you cannot extend my life even for one minute!

If I serve so faithfully and so devotedly the King of the Universe, Jesus Christ, who died for me, He will be able to extend my life for all eternity! And now I am dying because I have served you and you are so week! How stupid I was the whole of my life!"

Maybe one question more: "Whom do I serve in my life?" There are so many kings and princesses, there are so many lords pretending to be powerful, and promising me different advantages … and I am so naive to believe all of them …

General Intercession:

- God raised Jesus to life and made Him King of all creation. Let us pray that we might one day share in the glory of Paradise

- O God, you make us worthy members of your kingdom: hear these our prayers that one day we may be with you forever in your Kingdom. We ask this through Christ our Lord and King. Amen