Holy Family gave Jesus a home

Holy Family (Year A) Dec. 30 (Sirach 3:2-6, 12-14; Psalm 128; Colossians 3:12-21; Matthew 2:13-15, 19-23)

So many of the teachings in both the Old and New Testaments are intended to preserve and enhance the quality of human community. Care and honour of one’s parents is an important element of that, for it is a concrete way of expressing gratitude for the gift of life. It also forms a firm link between past generations and a nation’s future.

Jesus’ birth proof of God’s presence

Fourth Sunday of Advent (Year A), Dec. 23 (Isaiah 7:10-14; Psalm 24; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24)

Great written works have many lives and this is especially true with biblical texts. The original audience for Isaiah’s prophecy was Jerusalem in the eighth century BC, and the sign of encouragement was meant for Ahaz the king. Jerusalem was under siege, and Ahaz was close to despair. Should he make foreign military alliances in order to lift the siege? The word that came through Isaiah was a resounding negative. All that was needed was trust in God.

Patience is queen of all spiritual skills

Third Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 16 (Isaiah 35:1-6, 10; Psalm 146; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11)

People can bear almost any negative situation if they believe that it will come to an end. And if they are being oppressed, this hope for deliverance is tinged with fantasies of revenge and retribution, especially at the hands of a heroic liberator.

Child of God understands love, compassion, justice

Second Sunday of Advent (Year A) Dec. 9 (Isaiah 11:1-10; Psalm 72; Romans 1515:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12)

The people of the first millennium B.C. were no different than we are. They had seen — and experienced — their share of tragedy, violence, war and natural disaster. They were certain that there was a tragic and dreadful flaw in the world, and they longed for the arrival of someone who would fix everything.

Baby Jesus points us to our humanness

How do you prepare for Christmas? One year, when I was working in parish ministry, we decided to hold an Advent retreat. Many parishioners were eager for such a time of reflection. We arranged it well in advance, made posters, booked rooms and soon had abundant pre-registered participants.

Blessed are the peacemakers

First Sunday of Advent (Year A), Dec. 2 (Isaiah 2:1-5; Psalm 122; Romans 13:11-14; Matthew 24:37-44)

When we say “utopia” or “paradise” peace usually pops into our mind. Isaiah doesn’t disappoint us, for he uses some of the most beautiful and evocative language in the Old Testament to set human hearts afire with hope and determination: Swords into ploughshares, and spears into pruning hooks — an end to war and even thinking about war.

The one who rules humbly serves

Christ the King (Year C) Nov. 25 (2 Samuel 5:1-3; Psalm 122; Colossians 1:12-20; Luke 23:35-43)

Words can communicate with precision and unite people. But they are sometimes divisive, as when groups of people use the same word but have profoundly different understandings of its meaning. Throughout the Bible, “power” and “king” are two such terms.

We must endure in our faith

Thirty-third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Nov. 18 (Malachi 3:19-20; Psalm 98; 2 Thessalonians 3:7-12; Luke 21:5-19)

For the prophet Malachi the visitation of God is a dreaded and awesome event, with the destruction of the arrogant and wicked as its aim. But he hastens to assure the faithful and devout that they have nothing to fear, for God will grace them with righteousness and healing.

God always keeps His promises

Thirty-second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year C) Nov. 11 (2 Maccabees 7:1-2, 9-14; Psalm 17; 2 Thessalonians 2:16-3:5; Luke 20:27-38)

Sometimes suffering and negative experiences can lead us into a deeper understanding of ourselves and of God. Such was the case with the people of Israel during their persecution at the hands of the Greek king Antiochus IV Epiphanes in the second century BC.

Love the spirit in all

Thirty-first Sunday in Ordinary Time, Nov. 4 (Wisdom 11:22-12:2; Psalm 145; 2 Thessalonians 1:11-2:2; Luke 19:1-10)

An encounter with other cultures, ideas and philosophical systems should never leave us unchanged. Often it is an enriching experience, as it was for the Israelites. They did not leave Egypt or Babylon empty-handed. In Egypt they borrowed some of the customs they would later practise, and later they would adopt portions of Egypt’s wisdom tradition. In Babylon they refined their views of God by adapting and transforming Babylonian creation myths. It was during this sojourn that they developed a theology of angels and of the resurrection of the dead.

Part of Christian life is preparing for death

A rather superficial movie, a murder mystery, struck a deeper note with me. The movie was about a group of people on an island holiday. Every so often, one of them would disappear, never to be seen again. They didn’t know who would be taken next, or when, how, why or where the person went; but they knew they were all subject to the mysterious phenomenon. Not so different from real life, except that in the movie, the mystery got solved.