3rd January 2021

HEARTS HUNGERING FOR ‘MORE’


SUNDAY, SOLEMNITY OF THE EPIPHANY OF OUR LORD

Reading 1: Is 60:1-6 The prophet Isaiah foresees the glorious return of exiles to Jerusalem, but the vision really envisions the coming together of Jesus and the Gentiles in the person of the three astrologers.

Reading 2: Eph 3:2-3, 5-6 Paul reveals the secret of his apostolate: he is sent by God to proclaim the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, whom God had chosen to be co-heirs of the kingdom with the Jews.

Gospel: Mt 2:1-12 We are present at the arrival in Bethlehem of the three astrologers who come with gifts to adore their Lord.


Many scholars agree that in ancient times, in what is known to us as the Middle East, the magi – from which come the words “magician” and “magic” – were astrologers. These were men who studied the skies and found meaning in the movement of the stars and the planets. They were known as wise men, were influential in determining courses of action, and were often well respected and very wealthy. Hence, the new star that appeared in the night sky, must have garnered a lot of interest amongst these astrologers; definitely more than just the three. Why then, did only three choose to see it as a sign and a call to set out on a journey?

One can imagine the other astrologers saying to these three, “Why are you setting out on this foolish endeavour? Why would you possibly leave everything, when here you are comfortable, well known, have status and success, and all that is part of the good life?” And perhaps the three could only offer this sense that there was within their hearts a hunger, a need, a drive for the “more”. This star represented a heavenly call, a stirring within them that gave them the incentive and the courage to leave behind what had given their lives meaning; that gave them the strength to set out on a road that risked everything. Even with the conveniences their wealth offered, it would be a long and painful and even, possibly, perilous journey. What kept them going was the call – the star that travelled before them. It helped them endure the inconveniences and hardship of leaving behind all the good things they had known.

Thus, it is easy to imagine their joy when the heavenly sign came to a stop over Jerusalem. There, at last, they hoped to find what they were looking for. They went, as was expected, to the king and to the wise men of that royal city. They asked where the new beginning was happening; where the new king lay, that was to bring about a new world. Instead, what they found were lies, insincerity, and jealousy. Once outside the city walls, the star reappeared, leading them to small village in the country where the heavenly sign stopped again. And there, in a little house, they found a new-born child in the arms of his mother. The woman and her husband were poor folks. This child had been born, not in a palace, but a stable.

There must have been a moment when the magi asked themselves, “It is for this poor child that we have left everything and made the journey? After all that we have been through, this is what we find?” But suddenly something happened within them, as if the sign from heaven had entered into their hearts and minds, and they knew that they truly had found what they were looking for. In what seemed so little, so poor, so insignificant, they discovered ‘the more”. The heavenly call gave them new minds and hearts. And kneeling, they adored him. They gave him gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh. Whatever significance history has given these gifts, we know they gave the best they had. Having spent a few days as part of this simple scene, the Gospel says that the magi went back by a different road. And when they returned home, what they had seen and experienced – the “more” – changed them forever.

Epiphany means “discovery”. And that makes the story of the magi our story. Like them, attentive to our call and hunger for the “more”, and faithful to the struggles that are part of our life’s journey, we too come to find the wisdom and power of God in the poverty, vulnerability, and beauty of a little child. We, too, can never be the same again. This is the story of conversion, of our search, sometimes amid plenty; and the call to find our star, and to follow it on a different road towards a life changed forever.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-13 All nations on earth shall fall prostrate before you, O Lord.


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2nd January 2021

THE CLEANSING FIRE


SATURDAY, CHRISTMASTIDE

Memorial of Sts. Basil and Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church

Reading 1: 1Jn 2:22-28 The man who denies Jesus Christ is the Anti-Christ

Gospel: Jn 1:19-28 John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, gives witness to Jesus.


In today’s gospel we encounter the personal testimony of St John the Baptist. John says that Jesus will come and baptize “with the Holy Spirit and fire.” The image of being baptized “with fire” is a good one to reflect upon. It reveals to us the intense purification Jesus desires for our souls.

What does it mean to be purified? For one thing, the purification of the soul hurts. But it hurts in a sweet sort of way. Turning from sin and growing closer to God requires great sacrifice and surrender. It requires that we allow God to do powerful things within us. And the most powerful thing God wants to do is purify us.

Catholic theology teaches us about the reality of Purgatory after we die. Purgatory is said to be a place of much spiritual pain, but again, in a sweet sort of way. It is painful in the sense that we are stripped of all that we hold on to, that God wants us to let go of. It is painful in the sense that we endure a complete transformation of who we are and what we love. We learn to love God and God alone. And in the embrace of our love of God, we come to love all people. It is also sweet, because, as we are purified, we grow infinitely closer to God and advance in holiness. This gradually lightens the burden of sin and frees us to love as we ought.

But our purification ought not start only in Purgatory. We are called to enter into that process of purification here and now. We are called to heed the words of John the Baptist today and repent of all that keeps us from living a holy life. Reflect today, upon the purification to which God may be calling you. What is it that you hold on to that he wants you free of? Commit yourself to the purifying fire of God’s love, that it may cleanse you.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 98: 1-4 All the ends of the earth have seen the salvation of our God.


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1st January 2021

BLESSINGS IN ABUNDANCE


FRIDAY, SOLEMNITY OF THE HOLY MARY, MOTHER OF GOD

Reading 1: Num 6: 22-27 The Lord himself tells Moses and Aaron how he wants his people to be blessed.

Reading 2: Gal 4:4-7 St. Paul informs us of our great dignity as members of Christ: we are adopted children of God, not slaves.

Gospel: Lk 2: 16-21 Shepherds’ visit Jesus in the manger. The Shepherds after seeing Jesus, return glorifying and praising God. And Mary treasured these in her heart.


Today we are beginning the new year. And on this day, the Church celebrates the solemnity of Holy Mary, Mother of God. It is as if the Church hands over itself, and the whole of humanity, into the hands of our heavenly mother to be nourished, nurtured and protected by her throughout the year. This title ‘Mother of God’ was associated with Mother Mary in popular devotion right from the early years of Christianity, and in the year 431, in the Counsel of Ephesus, the Church officially conferred it on her. Since Mary is the mother of Jesus – the second person of the Trinity, she is rightly addressed as Mother of God.

The liturgy of today focuses on God’s blessings upon his people. In the first reading from the book of numbers, God instructs Moses regarding how Aaron and the priests thereafter should bless the people in his name. Aaron and his sons were the first priests anointed by God to represent him to the people, and to bring the prayers and sacrifices of the people to him. And therefore, appointing them to this exalted position, he commissions them to bless the people in his name. Coming into the new year after a year of unprecedented change because of the pandemic and its fallout, this blessing gains special significance. It is, at the same time, a test of our faith and a boost for our hope. It is a test of our faith in God’s blessing upon us despite the sufferings around, and a hope that he is ever-willing to bring peace to those who seek it, no matter what may be the prevailing situation. Furthermore, it is and will always be, a blessing of the Lord even though it comes through the hands of men. Therefore, even in the absence of the physical presence of the one anointed for the purpose, the blessing is always bestowed upon all who desire it. For he says, “I will bless them.”

In the second reading St Paul reminds us of the God’s double blessing of sending his only Son to the world, and making us his children through him. The proof that this blessing is ours is the gift of faith that we possess. For, each time we call God “Our Father”, or confess our faith in his son in the depths of our heart, or reach out to him in earnest surrender in times of helplessness, we profess to be his children, and brothers and sisters of his son. Can any earthly suffering, difficulty, or struggle drown the exalted dignity and glory of this blessing?

In the Gospel, we see Mother Mary treasuring this ‘blessing’. In the simplicity of the nativity scene, we witness humankind’s first encounter with God-made-man and his mother, in the shepherds who hurried to Bethlehem on the instructions of the angel and found he whom they had been told about. God preserved Mary from every stain of sin and made her a worthy mother for his son. Mary received this blessing of the Father, and treasured it in her heart. God not only blessed Mary; he made her a blessing to the nations as well. While hanging on the cross, Jesus gave her to the world as the mother of all believers, entrusting her with the responsibility of taking care of all her children. We, as the followers of Christ, have the responsibility to take Mary into our homes through family devotion, in our hearts through personal prayer, and in our lives through a life lived in imitation of hers. In this new year, may we resemble a little more the Mother of God and our mother, Mary.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 67:2-3,5-6,8 O God, be gracious and bless us.


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31st December 2020

LOGOS: THE ULTIMATE REALITY IS A PERSON


THURSDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE

Reading 1: 1Jn 2: 18-21 John warns strongly against the “antichrists” who refuse to understand Christ and who lead the people away from the true faith.

Gospel: Jn 1: 1-18 Again we hear the familiar Prologue of John’s Gospel telling us that Jesus is the Word of God made flesh, “and we have seen his glory.”


The Gospel according to Mark is considered by scholars to be one of the first written, and begins with the public ministry of Jesus, with no mention of his infancy. Matthew’s version written second, traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Abraham, and appears to have been written particularly for the Jews. It has many references to the Old Testament, and shows how the prophecies and promises were fulfilled in Jesus. Luke also traces the genealogy of Jesus, further than to Abraham, right back to Adam. The fourth version of the Good News attributed to the Apostle John, traces the genealogy of Jesus, not merely to Abraham, or to Adam, but right to the bosom of the Most Holy Trinity.

Today’s Gospel reading contains the beginning of the Gospel according to John, a beginning full of mysterious power. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…” The WORD was with God. “Word” is the translation of the Greek word “logos”. “Logos” was used in ancient Greek philosophy, especially by Heraclitus, to describe a principle that governs the changes in nature from one opposite to another: East to West, hot to cold, etc. That governing principle maintains the balance of the opposites.

John uses the word logos to refer to the THOUGHT of God, who is the Son of God. A man or woman cannot conceive himself or herself physically, but can conceive themselves mentally. Their mental self-conception never becomes another person. It just clings to their brains and keeps fluctuating as their self-concept. But God’s self-concept is the living mirror of the Father, identical in nature with the Father, but another Person. John begins here to reveal the mystery of the Trinity. He also boldly reveals that the Word became Man and dwelt among us. The Gospel reading manifests a very great mystery. May we be graced to believe and adore this living ‘Word’ in our life


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 96: 1-2, 11-13  Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad


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30th December 2020

ENTHUSIASM IN PROCLAIMING JESUS


WEDNESDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE

Reading 1: 1 Jn 2:12-17 John continues to preach to us about our obligations as Christians, in particular the obligation to be on our guard against worldliness.

Gospel: Lk 2: 36-40 Anna, a prophetess, prayed as hard as Simeon for the Saviour. When she finally sees him, she gives thanks to God and goes out and tells everybody about it.


Christmas is an opportunity to revitalize our enthusiasm in proclaiming to the world that we belong to Christ, to rekindle our missionary spirit, the spirit “to tell about the Child”. Giving witness to Jesus Christ, the son of God is one of the major themes of our Christmas celebrations.

  • Why do we light the Christmas star? To tell the world about the presence of the Saviour, who is the true light of the world.
  • Why do we make the crib? To tell the world that God is with us in our fragile human form.
  • Why do we prepare the Christmas tree? To tell the world that he is our life.
  • Why do we send Christmas greetings? To repeat the action of the angels who awaken the sleeping shepherds with the glorious news that their saviour is born.

The role of the angels in the Christmas story was to spread the news about Jesus. After adoring Jesus in the manger, the shepherds went to the city to tell everyone about what they had heard and seen.

In today’s gospel we see an 84 year old woman, taking up the same ministry of spreading the news about Jesus. Take a moment to reflect upon Anna’s enthusiasm to tell others about the son of God. She became the mouthpiece of God to give testimony to his son. God makes use of an 84-year-old widow, who lived alone to give testimony about Jesus. She had no human support; and could have given plenty of excuses to not go forth to the Temple to talk of the divine child. But she becomes another Biblical example of a zealous missionary of the gospel. She became a missionary even before the events of the passion, death, resurrection, ascension and Pentecost.

How enthusiastic are we in telling the world about the Child Jesus? How valuable are our Christmas celebrations from an evangelization perspective?


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 96: 7-10 Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad


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29th December 2020

WILL YOU TEST POSITIVE FOR LOVE?


TUESDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE

Reading 1: 1 Jn 2: 3-11 John tells us that we cannot know Jesus unless we are willing to keep his commandments: to love God and to love our neighbour.

Gospel: Lk 2: 22-35 Luke tells about the presentation of Jesus in the Temple forty days after his birth, and Simeon predicts that a sword will pierce Mary’s heart.


Today’s first reading can be divided into two halves. The first part tells us about the test of our faith. In the second part, we see how our love can be tested. Using the image of light and darkness, we are told, if we are truly born again in Christ. Love is the living evidence of new birth and eternal life.

The sin of disobedience prevented man from walking in the light. God, out of his abundant love, wanted to bring man back to the light through the incarnation of Christ. Light was born to drive away the darkness so that men may come to the light and live in the light. “Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life.” (Jn 8:12). Christmas invites us to live in the light of faith, hope and love. Faith is looking back at what God has done for us as revealed through his Word; hope looks forward to what God will do for us as we walk in obedience to him; and now our love is a response to his love as we serve him by serving his people.

But “the greatest of these is love.” (1 Cor 13:13). How are we to live in the light of love? Jesus gives us the answer in the Gospel, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” (Jn 14:15). This implies that if I profess to have love but do not do the acts of love, my love is superficial. The essence of Christ’s teaching and life is summed up in the commandment of love, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Lk 10:27).

As Mary carried Jesus in her womb so too must we carry him within our hearts. One becomes a true lover of God and neighbour just by keeping the words of Christ tirelessly. This is how we re-live Christmas today. The reward for this life of love is union with God; “Those who love me will keep my word, and my Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” (Jn 14:23).


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 95: 1-3,5-6 Let the heavens rejoice and earth be glad.


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28th December 2020

ARE WE BLINDED BY PRIDE AND AMBITION?


MONDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE, Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs

Reading 1: 1 Jn 1:5 – 2:2 John tells us that we are all sinners and need Christ. His main concern is to keep us from further sin.

Gospel: Mt 2: 13-18 Matthew relates the flight of the Holy Family to Egypt and the massacre of the Holy Innocents—all male children under age two. These innocent children were slain for Christ. They follow the spotless Lamb, and proclaim forever: Glory to you, Lord.


Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Innocents, the earliest martyrs who lost their lives for the sake of Christ. They were the victims of man’s greed, envy and pride. We have been reflecting these days on the joy and blessing that the birth of Jesus brought to so many, like the shepherds and the magi, but there were also people like Herod who were greatly disturbed and threatened by the same. Even at birth, the Messiah faced rejection by his very own people who were more interested in their power and their position. This feast therefore, also marks the very first rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.

Why did God allow the sacrifice of these innocents? This question may come to our mind today. However, God did not cause these innocent children to be killed; it was the outcome of man’s inclination towards sin and rejection of God’s will. Our ambitions should not overshadow the plan of God, our will should not go before the will of God; otherwise, we will turn out like Herod who was blinded by his own pride and ego. When someone does good or achieves something, we must not be threatened like Herod; rather, like the shepherds, let us rejoice. We feel threatened only when we put ourselves before God, his people and his plans.

Even in today’s world, we find such events happening; there are people like Herod who are driven by inordinate love of self rather than the love of God and of neighbour. And in consequence, there are innocent people who become victims just like the Holy Innocents. With the increasing wars, conflicts and acts of terrorism happening to fulfill the vested interests of some for the sake of power and position; there are many, like refugees, migrants, the poor and the marginalized, who have become the Holy Innocents of our times. Therefore, on this feast, let us also pray for these innocent sufferers that they may receive God’s mercy and help.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 123:2-5,7-8 Our life, like a bird, has escaped from the snare of the fowler


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27th December 2020

A MODEL FOR THE CHRISTIAN FAMILY


SUNDAY, CHRISTMAS OCTAVE, FEAST OF THE HOLY FAMILY OF JESUS, MARY AND JOSEPH

Reading 1: Sir3:2-6, 12-14 Sirach sets forth the Old Testament ideal of family life, an ideal that emphasizes mutual obligations and the rewards in store for those who fulfil their obligations. It is a brief commentary on the commandment to honour one’s father and mother. This entails not only obeying them when we are young, but caring for them then they get old.

Reading 2: Col 3:12-21 Paul’s ideal for family living is based on mutual love and respect for and between each member of the family. He stresses that the atmosphere of love should reign in a Christian family, with a special emphasis on mutual forgiveness.

Gospel: Mt 2: 13-15, 19-23 This relates the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt and the return to Nazareth.


Christmas, over the centuries, has been regarded as a feast celebrated with the family. And therefore, the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph is celebrated every year on the Sunday that comes within its octave to present before us a model of Christian family life. When there is no Sunday, the feast is generally celebrated on December 30.

The Gospel today depicts what happened in the Temple at the time of the presentation of Jesus. Forty days after the birth of Jesus, Mary and Joseph leave Bethlehem. They faithfully stop at the Temple in Jerusalem to present Jesus to the Lord, keeping the requirement of the law in mind. In Luke’s Gospel, this is the first journey they undertake since the birth of Jesus.

The Psalmist invites us to ‘fear the Lord and walk in his ways’. Our life on this earth is a pilgrim journey, a journey to be made in the ways of the Lord. And on this journey, just like Mary and Joseph were sensitive and alert to the needs of their baby Jesus as they made their journey to the Temple, so also, in our lives, we need to be sensitive to his presence and his will on our journey. Are we alert and open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit?

Mary and Joseph come to the Temple filled with joy to offer their new-born to the Lord in accord with the Law, which stated that the first-born son belonged to the Lord who had brought his people out of Egypt and saved them (cf. Ex 13:12-15). The gift of a child is one of the greatest gifts parents receive from the Lord. Mary and Joseph come to the Temple to thank God. In time, they would come to realize that this ‘gift’ given to them will become the greatest gift of God to the whole of humanity. Am I aware of all the gifts God is blessing me with – my life, my family, my children, the roof over my head, the food I enjoy, my neighbours, my job, etc?

By the power of the Holy Spirit, Simeon recognizes Jesus as the one who would bring salvation to all humanity. Simeon had been waiting his whole life for this very moment. “Prompted by the Spirit, he came down to the temple”. At our baptism, we are made members of God’s household. Are we aware of Christ’s presence in our daily lives? Like Simeon, are we guided by God’s Spirit so that we are able to recognise goodness and truth in others? Pope Francis tells us: “The light which comes from the Holy Family encourages us to offer human warmth to other families”.

All families can identify with the family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Life for them was difficult. The circumstances around them were harsh. They were forced to leave their home, and Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. They were victims of the political and social circumstances of those times. Mary’s pregnancy could not have been easy to handle. Yet, their faithfulness to God and to each other did not waver. Being a family is often challenging and calls for us to adapt and change. It is the love of the spouses and the children that helps each one to understand, adjust with and support the other, thus conquering and surviving the obstacles and challenges that come. Are we able to see Christ’s presence in each other or do we give in to the tensions that are caused by or lead to crises? Like Simeon, can we be patient no matter how long we have to wait? Like Anna, can we always speak a word of hope to those in need of our love and affection?

Let us pray that we may keep our focus on Jesus, be sensitive to the promptings of the Holy Spirit, and make love, joy, peace and unity the foundations of our family life after the example of the Holy Family of Nazareth.


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 128: 1-5 Blessed are all who fear the Lord, and walk in his ways.


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26th December 2020

LEARNING THE ART OF FORGIVENESS


CHRISTMAS OCTAVE, Feast of St. Stephen, the First Martyr

Reading 1: Acts 6:8-10, 7:54-59 The author of Acts relates how Stephen, “filled with grace and power, who worked great wonders and signs among the people,” antagonizes some hearers and is put to death.

Gospel: Mt 10:17-22 Gospel: Jesus predicts how his followers will be persecuted and tells them not to worry. “Whoever holds out till the end will escape death.”


St Stephen is considered the first Christian martyr. But isn’t this feast a little out of place immediately after the celebration of Christmas? Film and drama directors often use a technique of contrast to draw our attention. For example, a noisy scene is followed by a period of silence. That’s what the Church employs in the liturgy. Yesterday, we meditated on God’s tenderness in a child; today, we have the violent death of Stephen. In the midst of our celebrations we should not forget that Jesus came to suffer and die for us. Our life will not always be joyful. There will be moments of pain, suffering and persecution, but this should not discourage us. Many Christians in the world and even in our country cannot celebrate Christmas the way we do, due to fear of persecution, but they are living its spirit in a much better way than we!

There is a close connection between the birth of Jesus and the martyrdom of Stephen, as we read in the post-communion antiphon from the Ambrosian liturgy:

Yesterday the Lord was born on earth, for Stephen to be born in heaven. Yesterday our king deigned to visit the world, for Stephen to enter glory.

Luke, the author of the Acts of the Apostles, carefully underlines the resemblance between Jesus and Stephen. He reports how he died like Jesus, forgiving his assassins. I do not think that Stephen learnt the art of forgiving only in his final moments. It was because he practised it towards his persecutors all through his life, that he could do it also at the moment of his death. If we postpone acts of forgiveness for a more favourable time, we may never be able to forgive like Jesus and Stephen. Trust in God and forgiveness of our enemies, must be practiced day after day, and only then will become habits of the heart. This is what we pray for in today’s Collect (Opening Prayer of the Mass).


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 31: 3-4,6,8,16-17 Into your hands, O Lord, I commend my spirit. 


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25th December 2020

THE SHEPHERDS LEAD THE WAY


SUNDAY, SOLEMNITY OF THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD (CHRISTMAS)

Midnight Mass

Reading 1: Is 9:1-7 This reading looks forward to the coming of a Saviour-child who will rescue his people from darkness and oppression, and enable them to live in security and peace.

Reading 2: Tit 2:11-14 St Paul reminds us of what is expected of us if we are to enjoy the salvation won for us by Christ.

Gospel: Lk 2:1-14 This tells about the birth of Christ our Saviour in a manger and how the glad news of his birth was brought by angels to simple shepherds.

Mass at Dawn

Reading 1: Is 62:11-12 With the birth of our Lord the Christian people can taste the joy of the exiles returning from Babylon.

Reading 2: Tit 3:4-7 We ourselves did nothing to merit the birth of Christ; rather, God sent his Son out of compassion for us.

Gospel: Lk 2:15-20 With Mary we are invited to ponder on the deep meaning of the birth of Christ so that, with the shepherds, we may be moved to glorify and praise God.

Mass during the Day

Reading 1: Is 52:7-10 This great hymn of exultation at the return of the exiles from Babylon is also a poem of joy for our redemption.

Reading 2: Heb 1:1-6 This whole history of God’s dealings with his people in the past was a preparation for the coming of his Son at a particular moment in history.

Gospel: Jn 1:1-18 This is a great hymn to the Word of God, the source of all life, whose coming among us makes us children of God.


“Hear the merry Christmas bells, sounding o’er the hills and dells; men rejoice, and angels sing ‘Tis the birthday of our King.’” Some of those who sang this carol last Christmas may not be alive this year, because of the pandemic. As we know, the sound of the bells serves to announce good tidings; at Christmas, they proclaim the arrival of the Saviour. But for the past year these very bells have fallen silent. May they ring out once again, for the Saviour is born, and the joy that he brings can never be extinguished by any suffering or worldly trial.

“Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened which the Lord has made known to us.” The shepherds wanted to go immediately and see for themselves what the angel had proclaimed to them. And that is what they did: they did not keep reasoning and questioning and discussing about the veracity or the possibility of this great phenomenon. They just believed and went to look for the ‘divine babe’. Isn’t it the Holy Spirit at work? Rustic and uneducated as they were, humble enough to heed this divine inspiration without question or hesitation. Only a humble disposition seeks, accepts, welcomes and believes. Then, the shepherds just repeated what they had heard and seen about the Christ. That’s all that witnessing is; out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.

Shepherds were despised people. They were suspected of not being very careful to distinguish ‘mine’ from ‘thine’; for this reason, too, they were debarred from giving evidence in court. They would be looked down upon by their own countrymen. Furthermore, they were also considered as irreligious, because of their rustic and sometimes, insincere ways. Yet, we find the angel proclaiming to them, “I bring you news of great joy” (Lk 2:10). It wouldn’t be news of great joy to them, if they didn’t already have a sincere desire in their hearts for the promised Messiah.

Their haste to the place of Christ’s birth stands as a testimony to their spiritual preparedness and eagerness for the coming of Messiah. They were able to accept him even though he was in swaddling clothes lying in a not-so-majestic “crib.” For, they had already accepted wholeheartedly the angel’s message: “you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling clothes and lying in a manger.” And so, the two most pathetic factors in the birth of our Lord, his “swaddling clothes” and his “cattle-feeding trough bed,” prove to be the very things which set this child apart from all others, and which identify him to the shepherds. These two symbols not only identify the King of Kings, but also the Messiah in this little Babe.

Mary and Joseph must have been greatly surprised by the shepherds’ arrival and by the report they shared of the angelic announcement and choir. While all who heard this report wondered, Mary “treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.” She treasured the testimony of the shepherds, the despised of society. Then again, if Jesus came to bring salvation and deliverance to the poor, the oppressed, and the despised of this world, why shouldn’t his coming itself be announced by means of the despised and rejected?

Shepherds, by their very occupation, were ever watchful of their fold, spending sleepless nights for the sake of the safety of their flock. They were ready to risk life and limb to find the sheep gone astray. Therefore, God chose them to be the first messengers to proclaim the birth of his son – the alert, watchful and life-giving ones of society. We too are called to be such messengers, not just by words but by life witness.

Finally, we learn from the Nativity story, that God’s purposes are often achieved through suffering, and that these purposes are not often immediately apparent. However, let us never forget, and be consoled, that all of our suffering, inconvenience, and discomfort, can be occasions of encounter with Jesus, the saviour of our lives. Let us hurry therefore in search of this little babe of Bethlehem, sounding the bells once again to testify to the joy within despite the darkness without!


Responsorial Psalm: Ps 97:1,6,11-12 A Light will shine on us this day; The Lord is born for us.


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