Living Flame

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ARTICLE: 1st Sunday of Lent Year: B

1st Sunday of Lent Year: B

Gen 9.8-15; Ps 24(25); 1 Pet 3.18-22; Mk 1.12-15

 

Listen Carefully – Try Reaching Back

There is a true story told by Stephen Covey about a man who experiences a time in his life when everything seemed flat, boring, dull.

He went to this physician who found nothing wrong with him physically. The doctor then suggested that he take a day for some spiritual renewal. He was to go to a place that had been special to him as a child. He could take food, but nothing else. The doctor then handed him four prescriptions - one to be read at 9 AM, one to be read at noon, one at 3 PM, and the final one at 6 PM. The patient agreed and the next day, drove himself to the beach.

 

At nine AM he opened the first prescription, which read. “Listen carefully.” For three hours do nothing but listen??? Our friend was annoyed, but decided to obey. At first he heard the wind, the birds, the surf—predictable beach sounds. But then he found himself listening to his inner voice, reminding him of some of the lessons the beach had taught him as n child—patience, respect, the interdependence of the different parts of nature. Soon, our friend was feeling more peaceful than he had in a long time.

At noon he opened the second prescription, and it said, “Try reaching back.” His mind began to wander, and he discovered himself being overwhelmed by all the moments of joy and blessing and giftedness he had been given in the past.

 

Examine your Motives

 

At three he opened the third prescription. This one was harder. It read, “Examine your motives.” Defensively, this man listed all the motivating factors of his life - success, recognition, security - and found satisfactory explanations for them all. But finally it occurred to him, in a shattering moment, that those motives were not enough, that the lack of a deeper motive probably accounted for the staleness and boredom of his life.

“In a flash of certainty,” he wrote, “I saw that if one’s motives are wrong, nothing can be right. It makes no difference if you are a scientist, a housewife, a mail carrier, or an attorney. It is only when you are serving others, that you do the job well and feel good. This is a law as irrefutable as gravity.”

At six PM he read the final prescription. It said, “Write your worries on the sand.” He took a shell, scratched a few words, and then walked away, never turning back. He knew, with a great sense of relief, that the tide would come in, and his anxieties would be washed away.”

Wilderness is an Opportunity

My friends, The Wilderness - the aloneness - the solitude that the wilderness affords - the hardship - is an opportunity - a blessing - from the Spirit of God. It is a place where we can be tested - a place where we can grow into the maturity that we require so that we can indeed face the world, in both good times and in bad, and do there those things there that God would have us do.

Meaning of Lent

Lent is a short season of six weeks intended to prepare us for the great celebrations of Easter. The word Lent comes from the old Anglo-Saxon and Old German words for spring marked by days that lengthen. The idea of penitence and fasting during Lent may have begun in earlier, hungrier times as a means of spiritualizing real shortages of food at this time of year. This refers to early European famine and drought.

Desert

The Gospel of today narrates how Jesus triumphed over Satan. While in the wilderness for forty days (this being a symbolic number), Satan tempted Him. Jesus did not allow himself to be seduced by Satan. He came on earth to overthrow the worldly kingdom of Satan that had its beginning when Adam disobeyed God in the Garden of Eden. Jesus came on earth to reclaim God's Kingdom that was rightfully his, but stolen by Satan through sin.

Jesus concludes in this passage the announcing in Galilee, 'The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God has come near; repent, and believe in the good news.'

Repentance

As members of the Kingdom of God, during the Lenten Season, we are called to repent of our sins that offend God. We are called to frequently remember the triumph of Jesus. We are called to triumphantly live our faith in Christ as baptized children of God. We are called to go forward and shine by our obedience, our servitude, our charity towards others, through prayers, sacrifices, all in the love of God.

Doing so, we know that in the end, our triumph shall also be glorious through the salvation that we shall inherit as children of God.

The Word of God

Jesus - had the Word of God - and he had prayer as his tools for surviving in the wilderness. He had used these tools before - in fact he used them every day of his life - and he had them with him when he was driven out by the Spirit into the wilderness. So Jesus was able to keep his head about him - he had confidence - or what we call faith - and it was this in the end that allowed him to return from the wilderness safely and begin his work as the Christ - as the one who was able to announce - as we read in today’s scripture.

Prayer

With prayer Jesus kept in touch with God and with it he was able to recognize the angels that God sent to minister to him - to help him in the wilderness. With it Jesus was able to resist giving in to the Devil.

When we are in the wilderness of the Spirit is very important to know how to pray - just as it is important when we are in the forest to know how to fish and recognize what berries are good to eat and which are poisonous.

 

Jesus’ Prayer Life

Jesus practiced prayer all of his life - so when he was driven out into the wilderness - he was ready for all the tests that came his way - he was ready to prove himself. He knew how to talk to God and so he was able to find all the things that God wanted him to find.

 

Practical Conclusion

Wilderness experience is a way of purifying ourselves from the toxins of the modern environment. This type of experience tames us from our pride and egoism. We begin to rely on God and not on ourselves. Wilderness experience is good physically, morally, spiritually and psychologically to uphold the values we stand for.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

6th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Lev 13.1-2, 45-46; 1 Cor 10.23-11.1; Mk 1.40-45

I am Crying for Myself

Once when Emperor Yu, the founding Emperor of the Xia Dynasty, went out to inspect his kingdom, he saw a criminal being escorted to be punished. He ordered his carriage to stop and asked, "What crime did he commit?"

The guards said, "He was caught stealing wheat and rice. We are taking him to the site for punishment."

Yu stepped out of his carriage. He came to the criminal and asked, "Why did you steal?"

The criminal faced a very important official and was so scared that he lowered his head and said nothing. Yu did not get angry but continued to advise him while shedding tears. The officials around Emperor Yu could not understand and one of them asked, "This person stole from others and should be punished. Why is Your Majesty suffering so much as to be shedding tears?"

Yu said, "I am not crying for him but for myself. When Yao and Shun were Emperors, all the citizens followed their hearts and moral standards. Now I am the Emperor, but my people are not following my moral standards, committing crimes such as this and hurting others. Seeing such a state of affairs in my own kingdom greatly upsets me!"

Emperor Yu asked someone to bring a plate and wrote "When citizens commit a crime, it is my fault." He then ordered the guards to release the criminal.

Sharing the Blame

It is written in the Old Testament that "the person who has the leprous disease shall wear torn clothes and let the hair of his head be disheveled; and he shall cover his upper lip and cry out, 'Unclean, unclean'. He shall remain unclean as long as he has the disease; he is unclean. He shall live alone; his dwelling shall be outside the camp." (Leviticus 13.45-46). This was to share their shame and sin without in any way interfering in the so called sinless society. Indifference towards those lepers was normal and accepted behaviour.

Attain Small thing at a Time

Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world all at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach. Any small, calm thing that one soul can do to help another soul, to assist some portion of this poor suffering world, will help immensely. It is not given to us to know which acts or by whom, will cause the critical mass to tip toward an enduring good. What is needed for dramatic change is an accumulation of acts, adding, adding to, adding more, and continuing. We know that it does not take everyone on Earth to bring justice and peace, but only a small, determined group who will not give up during the first, second, or hundredth gale.

Light a Candle

One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks can send up flares, builds signal fires, causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these - to be fierce and to show mercy toward others; both are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.

Great Ships

There will always be times when you feel discouraged. I too have felt despair many times in my life, but I do not keep a chair for it. I will not entertain it. It is not allowed to eat from my plate.

In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for.

Jesus fearlessly engaged himself in liberating people. He acted and lived a life of service. That is what we have to learn from Jesus.

Whatever You Do

St. Paul tells us something very similar. Helping our neighbour, and glorifying God. Corinthians 10.31 says, “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God”. 

I have heard others and I have often just come to this verse and said, “See, everything we do has to glorify God.” While that is the final logical point of the verse, just making the statement actually misses Paul’s point in context. 

From I Corinthians 8 to this point, Paul has been discussing issues of conscience and liberty. He had been trying to wade through the issues of eating meats and especially meats offered to idols. Through those chapters we learned that knowledge puffs up and love edifies. We learned that we should take care not to offend the conscience of our brethren. Further, we even learned we should take care with our actions because of the conscience of unbelievers (cf. I Corinthians 10.28). 

Discernment in Life

Within this context, Paul is not just making the statement that everything we do should glorify God. Rather, he is saying that as we consider how to pursue our liberties and how to preserve our conscience and the conscience of others, the determining factor is which choice will glorify God. It will glorify God if I eat and give thanks to Him. However, it will not glorify God even if I give thanks, if it causes a brother or sister to stumble. It will not glorify God if it causes an outsider to believe I pay homage to an idol. I may have the liberty to eat whatever I want in the strictest sense, but I must not simply consider my hunger and my culinary tastes. I must consider whether God will be glorified by pursuing this liberty.

Do Not Scandalize the Weak

Finally, as Paul continued, he pointed out that glorifying God meant not giving offense to either the Jews or the Greeks. In other words, don’t pursue your Christian liberties in a way that causes Jews or Greeks to judge you as immoral or ungodly. Don’t invite a Jew into your home and set pork chops before him (especially if you are a Jewish Christian, they will view you as a traitor to God and will not listen to a thing you have to say about Jesus). Don’t eat something a Gentile gives you if he makes a point to let you know it was sacrificed to some idol. He may think you honor that idol and will not learn the idol is no god at all. Don’t give offense to the church of God. In other words, don’t cause your brothers and sisters who are not as knowledgeable to stumble. 

Then he concludes, that instead of seeking his own advantage, he is seeking the salvation of others. This actually gets us back to the theme. What glorifies God the most? the salvation of the lost people. 

Practical Conclusion

Thus, the point about glorifying God whether we eat or drink or whatever we do is that we must not seek our own advantage, but serve others so they can be saved and God glorified. Yes, once we recognize that point, we get to the usual statement that this means everything we do must glorify God, but it is important to actually notice the logic that gets us there. Because only then do we actually learn what Paul wants us to do to glorify God. He wants us to be all things to all people that by all means we might save some.

Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do everything for the glory of God.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

ARTICLE: 5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

5th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Job 7.1-4, 6-7; Ps 146 (147);1 Cor 9.16-19, 22-23; Mk 1.29-39

The Fish

Novelist Russell Banks once wrote a short story called "The Fish." In this fanciful tale we are told about a giant fish that lived in a good-sized lake not far from a small Chinese village. For reasons no one was ever clear about, the authorities, led by a Colonel Tung, decided that this giant fish was a menace that had to be removed from the lake. But every time the colonel tried to kill the fish, the creature somehow survived unscathed. They fired automatic weapons at the fish, but no bullet struck it. They placed mines throughout the waters of the lake, and although the fish detonated the mines, it swam on. They hid floatable grenades amidst chunks of bread that were scattered on the water's surface. And although the fish ate the grenades along with the bread, it lived on.

Needless to say, each time Colonel Tung failed to slay the beast, the reputation of the fish grew. People delighted in astonishment that such a creature existed. Tourists began to come to the lake's shores to catch a glimpse of the fish, and soon people in boats trolled the waters to see it, cameras at the ready. But then one day someone began to circulate the idea that it must be the waters of the lake itself that contained the magic. Surely such special water had healing properties, could be an elixir for long life.

They Carried away Water

Soon, everyone who came to see the fish brought a mason jar, a bucket, or some other vessel with which to cart home some of this magic water. This went on for months. The authorities tried to control it, but under the cover of darkness some were now siphoning water out of the lake into tanker trucks. Before anyone could do much about it, the lake level dropped precipitously. A dry stretch of weather over the next summer depleted the lake still more until finally the terrible day came when there was no longer enough water for the great fish to swim in. One morning, people found the fish lying on its side, flapping its fins on a muddy flat that had once been the lake. They began to bring water back to the lake, dousing the fish as quickly as they could. But by sunset that night, they buried the fish.

We Ruin Things around Us

I am by no means certain what all Mr. Banks meant to convey via this story. Probably it means lots of things, but among them is surely this idea: there is nothing so wonderful in this life that we humans cannot find a way to ruin as soon as we make our own selves our sole reference point. As soon as something becomes all about me, the moment I spy something that I think I can turn to my private advantage, my perspective becomes narrowed, my horizons contract, and suddenly I discover that by trying to horde something for my own private benefit, I have killed that very thing.

Jesus Cared for all

Indeed, we human beings will go to extraordinary efforts to free ourselves of chaos, yet however the harder we try to destroy chaos, the worse things become. In some ways we have some success. Throughout the past two thousand years, Christians have done much good for those who have suffered. It is said that Christians learned the Muslim invention of the hospital, later of course we brought healing across the globe. We also created schools so that the poor could rise out of their poverty. We created social programs, did you know that it was Christians who brought about Universal medical care in Canada. Jesus cared for the sick, so we should too.

Getting Rid of Evil

However, we need to tell the truth about our Christian history too. There have been times when clearly we have tried to destroy what we thought was evil and in doing so unleashed hell on countless numbers of people. During the crusades, we killed hundreds of thousands of innocent Muslims who would not convert. And of course we engaged in many wars in order to "rid the world of evil". And yet, the vain promise of "a war to end all wars" has brought instead a century of the worst violence in human history. Wounds are still alive, and hearts are restless.

Prayer was his Strength

More than ever we need to listen and follow Jesus. Did you notice what he did in the text after healing people and casting out the demons? After Jesus, in his compassion, heals those with disease and demons for a full day, he gets up in the early morning to pray. While it was still dark and goes to a place alone and prayed.

He Listened to His Father

The text doesn't say what he prayed; I wonder if he says nothing but just listens. An older Christian once said that praying was more about listening than asking from God. He said, "Most times just sit in silence and listen for what God wants you to know and do."

Everyone is Searching for You

And so his companions find him praying and begin to tell him what he must do. "Everyone is searching for you." OK, Jesus, they are saying, it is time for you to really show them your power and to expand your popularity. That is what we want you to do, be successful.

And yet, Jesus will not let the disciples set the agenda. Did you notice that? He says, "Let's go on to neighboring towns so that I may proclaim the message there also; for that is what I came to do." And he went through Galilee proclaiming the message in the places of worship and casting out demons.

The Time is Fulfilled

It is interesting that Jesus message itself casts out the demons. You remember what Jesus was preaching? "The time is fulfilled, and the Kingdom of God has come near; repent and believe the good news." It is a simple message however as we shall see; all the forces of Hell will set themselves against this one from Nazareth. And still he will not respond to their chaotic fury with a punch, or kick or slash of the sword or dropping of a bomb, but rather he will speak the truth to them and to us even to the point of death on a cross. Where we expect him to crush evil and chaos with a divine army, instead he speaks the truth, even to the point of a death on the cross.

What an Absurdity!

And to many, responding to evil in his way is folly; to respond to power with truth is insanity; and of course to die for one's enemies rather than fighting them to the last breath seems nothing less than absurd.

And yet, still we gather under the sign of the cross; the throne of God's power. We who have been called to proclaim the message of Christ's reign are entrusted to proclaim to those around us that there is a way which can cast out the demons that deceive us and create chaos in the lives of humanity.

Jesus Brings the Kingdom

Proclaiming the Gospel starts in a simple way. Do you know that you are beloved? That God has welcomed you, just as you are, into a new way of life. Do you know that Jesus, the Holy One has called us friends, broken people like us, troubled people like us, sinners like us; friends we who could not make it to God by being rich enough, or smart enough, or popular enough or good enough. The kingdom of God has come near, come to us in Jesus Christ. If anyone, even yourself tells you that you are unworthy of life, tell them, "Shut up!” If someone says to another that they are unlovable tell them, "Shut up!" And of course, there is more to the story, and more to the Gospel, but at the core is God's love for a chaotic and broken world.

His kind of power may not be what the world expected but it is enough to claim us and make us sons and daughters of the Most High God to call us to share in God's mission as the very body of Christ. For when all is said, we are called to proclaim with our lives that the power and truth of God is at work setting us free and the whole world free of death and destruction.

The Mission of Love

To follow this Holy One who does not destroy enemies, but rather gives his life for them, is the most important mission of all. While the world may not realize it and we may not yet realize it, but the church is the most important thing that is happening in the world. I sincerely believe that we have been called to follow Jesus and witness to God's loving power at work in the world. To be asked to share in the divine power and mission of Jesus is the greatest news of all and that is what we understand as LOVE mission.!

In the morning, while it was still very dark, Jesus got up and went out to a deserted place, and there he prayed. And Simon and his companions hunted for him. When they found him, they said to him, 'Everyone is searching for you’

Practical Conclusion

When we do good works people come in search of us because we become another Christ in our deeds and intentions. When we do bad things, people run away from us. We are called to be like Christ who always went around doing good works and helping people in need. He liberated them from their sufferings and pain.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

Article: 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

4th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Deut 18.15-20; Ps 94(95); 1 Cor 7.17, 32-35

Mk 1.21-28

In a worldly sense, Jesus did not have any power at all. He was not a worldly king with political or military power. He was not of the priests, who had the power in Roman Judea. He was not even a scribe with the authority of Jewish tradition. The only authority he had was the supreme confidence that what he did and said was God's will and God's truth. His authority lay in the sheer power of his words and in the example of his deeds. His authority lay in his living as God's servant. Jesus used his authority not to obtain power for himself but to serve humanity (Mark 10:41-45). This is the same kind of exousia, sovereign freedom, of which Paul speaks in today's second lesson [1 Corinthians 8:9]--sovereign freedom exercised for the good of others.

Here was a man who spoke with his own authority, not in the name of another. That alone was amazing. But if that were not amazing enough, Jesus demonstrated his authority when he told an evil spirit what to do, and the evil spirit obeyed.

In Jesus’ day, evil spirits were considered, even by many Jewish teachers, to be numerous and powerful, hanging around everywhere and doing whatever they could to inflict trouble and suffering. When someone seemed to be possessed of a demon, the exorcists, whether Jewish or pagan, used complicated magical rites and spells to compel the demon to leave. The power was in the magic, it was believed, so whoever knew the right incantations and ingredients and methods could use them to bring about the unseen conditions that would manipulate the spirit world.

But Jesus was astonishingly different. When the demon-possessed man disrupted the meeting, Jesus simply ordered the demon to leave, and it left. The people in the synagogue had never seen anything like it. Who could have such authority that even the evil spirits have to obey his straightforward word?

Not authoritarian

 

Jesus, the Son of God, had all the authority in the world—in the universe. God created all things through him and put all things under him. So even these spirits that turned evil, though he allowed them to exist, were completely subject to him (see Colossians 1:16; Ephesians 1:20-21).

 

Yet Jesus did not use his incomparable authority the way we humans tend to use our little sprigs of authority. Man, proud man, drest in a little brief authority, wrote Shakespeare. For many humans, authority becomes merely a means of enriching oneself, of getting one’s own way, of suppressing the truth, and of getting and holding the power to keep doing those things. Witness the parade of totalitarian regimes, corporate executive, government and ecclesiastical scandals, tyrannical parents, bosses, teachers, government officials and the like.

Not so with Jesus. He has all the authority there is, yet he uses it entirely differently from the way many people would. Let’s look at a few examples:

  1. He took action when necessary. Jesus did not stifle normal living by trying to prevent all possibility of something going wrong. He didn’t post sentries at the doors to keep all potential demon-possessed-looking people from coming in. He simply dealt with the problem decisively when it arose.
  2. He didn’t overreact. Jesus didn’t make a Broadway production out of making the demon leave. He didn’t knock the demon around for a while, tell it off for 10 minutes, scream at it, kill it or declare war on all demons. He just made it go.
  3. Jesus didn’t use the incident to further his image. He didn’t print up flyers and bill himself as the one who tossed out the demon.

Servant authority

 

Jesus uses authority to serve, not to be served. And that is how he wants us to use whatever authority we might have. Whether our authority is at home, at work, or somewhere else, he wants us to use it to help others, not to make ourselves into big shots.

Later in Mark’s Gospel, Jesus explained it to his disciples like this, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:42-45).

 

What a difference it makes when the authority we’re subject to is a blessing instead of a curse. “When the wicked rule, the people groan,” says Proverbs 29:2. It is when authority is used to help, not to overpower, that those under it can rejoice.

Jesus doesn’t overpower us to make us knuckle under. He serves us with patience and mercy, helping us grow to see how much we need him. Sin is a cruel, harsh, manipulative, unforgiving taskmaster. Jesus is compassionate, gracious, patient, loving and merciful. The authority of sin is fraudulent, but the authority of Jesus is absolute.

Walk with Jesus

 

When it comes to Jesus’ authority in our lives, how do you think he uses it? To help us, or to lord it over us? Many of us live as though we think Jesus uses his authority to lord it over us. We assume his love for us is conditioned on how well we behave. We feel discouraged and fearful that God no longer loves us when we fail to measure up in our obedience.

But Jesus uses his authority to help us, not to destroy us. He drives out the demons, not us. And literal evil spirits are not the only kind of demons Jesus has authority over and drives out for us. Sin itself is an enemy that does us damage and lords it over us. So are our fears and our doubts.

When our sins and fears start a commotion, it’s time for us to take them to the one who knows how to handle them. We can take them to Jesus in prayer and trust him to know what to do.

Why not take your needs to Jesus? Give your problems to him and trust him to see you through them. He’s there for you, now and always

Let us ask ourselves

  • Why were those at the synagogue amazed at Jesus’ teaching?
  • Why did the evil spirits have to obey Jesus?
  • How did Jesus use authority?
  • How can Jesus help you?

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ARTICLE: 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


Jn 3.1-5, 10; Ps 24(25);1 Cor 7.29-31; Mk 1.14-20

 

Shirt of a happy Man

A story is told of a king who was suffering from a malady and was advised by his astrologer that he would be cured if the shirt of a contented man were brought to him to wear. People went out to all parts of the kingdom after such a person, and after a long search they found a man who was really happy...but he did not possess a shirt. (Pastor's Professional Research Service, "Happiness"). That is why Oscar Wilde wrote, "In this world there are only two tragedies. One is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it." He was trying to warn us no matter how hard we work at being successful, success will not satisfy us. By the time we get there, having sacrificed so much on the altar of being successful, we will realize that success was not what we wanted.

Disturbing statistics on stress

A few years ago, The Comprehensive Care Corporation of Tampa, Florida published a booklet about stress in our modern world. The facts are disturbing. (1) One out of four (that’s 25% of the American People) suffers from mild to moderate depression, anxiety, loneliness and other painful symptoms which are attributed mainly to stress. (2) Four out of five adult family members see a need for less stress in their daily lives. (3) Approximately half of all diseases can be linked to stress-related origins, including ulcers, colitis, bronchial asthma, high blood pressure and some forms of cancer. (4) Unmanaged stress is a leading factor in homicides, suicides, child abuse, spouse abuse and other aggravated assaults. (5) The problem of stress is taking a tremendous toll economically, also. In our nation alone, we Americans are now spending 64.9 billion dollars a year trying to deal with the issue of stress. That is why Jesus shared the “good news” with us a long time ago when He said: “Come to me all of you who labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11.28). Jesus’ call to be disciple is to care for the overburdened. The disciple is to carry his own cross and then help those who carry heavier burdens.

Discipleship

Discipleship is costly. Jesus’ call to follow him in turbulent times has been eloquently expressed by Dietrich Bonhoeffer in his book Discipleship (Dietrich Bonhoeffer Works, Vol. 4). Karl Barth says of this book that it is “easily the best that has been written on this subject,” and that, “I cannot hope to say anything better on the subject than what is said here by a man who, having written on discipleship, was ready to achieve it in his own life, and did in his own way achieve it even to the point of death."

Pastor and Theologian

Dietrich Bonhoeffer was a Lutheran pastor and theologian during the turbulent years 1930-45. His book on discipleship was written during the years 1935-37 when he was leading the illegal Confessing Church’s seminary at Finkenwalde. Until the Gestapo closed it down in late 1937, Bonhoeffer trained young men to shepherd the church, to preach, to do good theological thinking. His life would end in the concentration camp of Flossenberg where he was executed in April, 1945.

Passing through Fire

For Bonhoeffer, there is a very concrete spirituality manifested in the life of discipleship. It is spirituality gained by passing through the fire. “When Christ calls a person, He bids them come and die.” “And if we answer the call to discipleship, where will it lead us? What decisions and partings will it demand? To answer this question we shall have to go to him, for only he knows the answer. Only Jesus Christ, who bids us to follow him, knows the journey’s end. But we do know that it will be a road of boundless mercy. Discipleship means joy.”

Murder Plot against Hitler

During this period of his life, it is important to note that Bonhoeffer eschewed violence. He could be considered a ‘pacifist.’ Of course his later turn about to participation in the murder plot on Hitler does signal a very real change in him. Walter Wink raises this question: “If counter-violence appears to be the only responsible choice, this still does not make violence right. Bonhoeffer is a much-misunderstood case in point. He joined the plot to assassinate Hitler. But he insisted his act was a sin, and threw himself on the mercy of God. Two generations of Christians have held back from full commitment to non-violence, citing Bonhoeffer’s example. Had he known, both that his attempt would fail, and that it would have the effect of justifying redemptive violence in the eyes of so many Christians, I wonder if he would have done it.”

It was not easy for Bonhoeffer to go back on his commitment to non-violence seen in his book on Discipleship. His later writings indicate that he had spent some considerable time reflecting on the implications of this change. Bonhoeffer’s life and his book on Discipleship are important resources when considering the possibilities of the redemption.

Jesus is the Model

Today I would also want to emphasize that it is Jesus as the human model that is essential. That is, it is an aspect of Jesus’ priestly function: to model our spirituality for us, our relationship to God. Why? Because we are included in Him, Jesus is our corporate head, the Second Adam, the One who got it right.

I believe that Bonhoeffer was desperate, in the sense that, he was watching from the inside, the destruction of everything he held dear as a German, a Lutheran, a theologian, a Berliner. It must have been awful.

Luke 14.27: And whoever does not bear his cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.

Cost of Discipleship in our Daily Life

Denying ourselves means being willing to renounce any so-called right to plan or choose, and to recognize His Lordship in every area of life. To take up the cross means to deliberately choose the kind of life He lived. This involves:

  • Coping with opposition of loved ones
  • Coping with reproach from the world
  • Forsaking all else for Him if need be, and the comforts of this life.
  • Complete dependence on God.
  • Obedience to the leading of the Holy Spirit.
  • Proclaiming an unpopular message.
  • Being alone
  • Suffering for the sake of righteousness.
  • Enduring slander and shame.
  • Pouring out one’s life for others.
  • Death to self and to the world, denial of self.

A Brand New Life

It also involves beginning a brand new life, real life in Jesus! It means finding out the real reason for our existence. And it means eternal reward. We so often run away from a life of cross-bearing. Our minds are reluctant to believe that this could be God’s will for us. Yet the words of Christ “If anyone desires to come after Me” mean that this is the cost of discipleship for each of us, but consider the blessings to follow, and the joy that comes from living close to the Lord.

When we meet the Lord on that day to we want Him to say "Well done my good and faithful servant.” So it is all or nothing. What a change is wrought in our lives when we surrender our all to the Lord.

Practical Conclusion

Becoming a disciple of Jesus often involves sacrifice...

  • For Simon and Andrew, it meant leaving their business behind
  • For James and John, it also meant leaving their family behind
  • For all four, it meant lives of service that included hardship, ending in martyrdom or exile

Becoming a disciple of Jesus means to seek the lost...

  • Jesus wants His disciples to become "fishers of men" - Mk 1.17
  • Just as He come to "seek and save the lost" - Lk 19.10

As Disciples of Christ today...

  • Are we willing to sacrifice for the Lord?
  • Are we willing to seek the lost?
  • If not, can we really claim to be disciples of Jesus Christ?

Jesus would have everyone become His disciple today (cf. Mt 28.19-20). May "The Call of Four Fishermen", and the service they rendered to the Lord, inspire us to greater dedication as disciples...

 

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

www.LivingFlame.ca

Thursday - 2nd Week - Year B - Mark 3:7-12

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Thursday - 2nd Week - Year B - Mark 3:7-12

ARTICLE: 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time Year: B


1 Sam 3.3-10, 19; Ps 39(40); 1Cor 6.13-15, 17-20; Jn 1.35-42

I was travelling back from Bishop Bosco Penha’s office (2009). I got down from a taxi at Check Naka (Dahisar). I boarded another taxi to Mira Road. I travelled less than 100 yards, I could see a hand wave from the window of a car. I thought taxi driver must have done a mistake. Well, within minutes the car stopped right in front of our taxi. I was afraid. A gentleman came down from the car and wished me “good evening father”. I was surprised. He said, ‘father, come with me, I will take you to Mira Road’. He paid the taxi driver. When I was in the car the gentle man introduced himself to me and said, ‘father now I have kidnapped you’; I said ‘what do you want from me?’; ‘nothing father’, ‘I want my house to be blessed’. Okay I said. He drew the car towards his house, I went in. I found a big house, clean, beautiful. He went into the kitchen and prepared a tea for me and a few snacks. After a while he told me, ‘father I am sorry I took your precious time. Please bless my house’. I blessed the house and I told him that the tea was good. He told me that he is able to cook good food. I enquired about his family, he said that his wife is a manager in a bank, and he himself is the head of a company and his two children in Panchagini in a private school and they would go to meet them every weekend. He told me that he cooks, sometimes his wife cooks, he does all kinds of house work and there is plenty of good will and love in the family. I looked into his eyes full of love and understanding. I was surprised to know that a man with such status, prestige and wealth, lives a love-filled life. I was happy for the man and his family.

He was Amazed

Ravi had been blind all his life. He had never seen the sun, or the moon, or the stars. He did not know that the sky was blue, as that the grass was green. He did not know what a tree looked like, and could not even begin to imagine what shape and colours a bird might be.

His family and friends would say to him “The sun is shining brightly today,” or “There are thousands of stars in the sky tonight.” Ravi could not see them. He would become angry, he often said “There is no sun. There are no stars.” People felt sad because Ravi was so angry. They told him that even though he could not see them, the sun and stars were still there.

Sometimes people would talk to Ravi about the beautiful colours of nature, but he did not listen. One day his sisters were talking. They were trying to decide what colour saris they should wear for a wedding. One said she would wear red, the other preferred yellow.

“What does it matter,” shouted Ravi angrily, “There is no such thing as colour.” Everything is dark. The colours are only in your mind.”

Slowly people stopped talking to Ravi about the things they could see. They knew it would only make him cross. Then one day, when Ravi was twenty, his family and friends heard of a man who might be able to help Ravi. He was called The Buddha, and people who had met him said he could make people walked who had never walked before. And he could make blind people see.

His family and friends took Ravi to the Buddha. Ravi was not quite sure what was going to happen, but he was not afraid. The Buddha gently soothed Ravi’s eyes with four different lotions and suddenly, he was able to see. He knew that the sun and the stars shone in the sky. He saw how beautiful the colours of nature were. He marvelled at the trees and birds around him and he saw his sisters in their richly coloured saris. He was amazed.

Come and See

Jesus said to his followers, ‘come and see’ meaning, you need to open your eyes and see what you really want when you are with Jesus. Today we need to look closely Jesus who is calling us for an experience.

The Lamb of God

Who is Jesus for you? John calls Jesus the Lamb of God and thus signifies Jesus' mission as the One who redeems us from our sins. The blood of the Passover Lamb (Exodus 12) delivered the Israelites in Egypt from death. The blood of Jesus, the true Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5.7), delivers us from everlasting death and destruction. It is significant that John was the son of a priest, Zachariah, who participated in the daily sacrifice of a lamb in the temple for the sins of the people (Exodus 29). In Jesus he saw the true and only sacrifice which can deliver us from sin. How did John know the true identity of Jesus, as the Messiah? The Holy Spirit revealed to John Jesus' true nature, such that John bore witness that this is the Son of God. How can we be certain that Jesus is truly the Christ, the Son of the God? The Holy Spirit makes Christ known to us through the gift of faith. God gives us freely of his Spirit that we may comprehend the great mystery and plan of God to unite all things in his Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.

What are You Looking For

John in his characteristic humility was eager to point beyond himself to the Christ. He did not hesitate to direct his disciples to the Lord Jesus. When two of John’s disciples began to seek Jesus out, Jesus took the initiative to invite them into his company. He did not wait for them to get his attention. Instead he met them halfway. He asked them one of the most fundamental questions of life: “What are you looking for?” What were they looking for in Jesus and what were they aiming to get out of life? Jesus asks each of us the same question: “What’s the goal of your life? What are you aiming for and trying to get out of life?”

Invitation for Fellowship

Jesus invites each of us to "come and see" for ourselves that his word is true and everlasting. "Come and see" is God's invitation for fellowship and communion with the One who made us in love for love. Augustine of Hippo tells us something very important about God and how he relates to us: “If you hadn’t been called by God, what could you have done to turn back? Didn’t the very One who called you when you were opposed to Him make it possible for you to turn back?” It is God who initiates and who draws us to himself. Without his grace, mercy, and help we could not find him.

Discover and Share

When we discover something very important and valuable it's natural to want to share it with those closest to us. Andrew immediately went to his brother Simon and told him the good news of his discovery of Jesus. And it didn't take much to get Simon to "come and see" who this Jesus was. Jesus reached out to Simon in the same way he did to Andrew earlier. He not only addressed Simon by his personal name, but he gave him a new name which signified the call God had for him. "Cephas" or "Peter" literally means "rock". To call someone a "rock" was one of the greatest compliments. The ancient rabbis had a saying that when God saw Abraham, he exclaimed: "I have discovered a rock to found the world upon". Through Abraham God established a nation for himself. Through faith Peter grasped who Jesus truly was – the Anointed One (Messiah and Christ) and the only begotten Son of God. The New Testament describes the church as a spiritual house or temple with each member joined together as living stones (see 1 Peter 2:5). Faith in Jesus Christ makes us into rocks or spiritual stones. The Holy Spirit gives us the gift of faith to know Jesus personally, power to live the gospel faithfully, and courage to witness to others the joy and truth of the gospel. The Lord Jesus is ever ready to draw us near to himself. Do you seek to grow in the knowledge and love of Jesus Christ?

Practical Conclusion

The grace of being with Jesus opens our eyes. We will see what we have never seen. We will be open to a new world of Jesus. There will be plenty of good will, forgiveness, love, presence, kindness and everyone will be happier. That is what happens when we meet Jesus. We need to heed his call. Change will happen.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Vancouver - Canada

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Year: B

Baptism of the Lord Jesus Year: B

Is 55.1-11; Ps 12; I Jn 5.1-9; Mk 1.7-11

(Find another homily on this theme in the section of the Ordinary time)

We want to be Christians

 

Once I was in the parish office, there came a Hindu family wanting to become Christians. I told them, that it is a process by which they have to be introduced to Christianity. I asked them a simple question: “why do you want to become Christians?” They answered, “Father, we have wonderful Christian neighbours, their life is so great, they are charitable, helpful that we were deeply inspired by them. They helped us when one of our family members was seriously ill, and they even stayed with the member for a long time in the hospital. Now that we have this great experience we want to be like them. We also read Bible with them, and they instruct us. That is why we want to become Christians.” Then I said to them that they have to undergo one year of intense course. But they said, they were even ready for 2 years intense course to become Christians.

Baptism: The Door to the Church

The Sacrament of Baptism is often called "The door of the Church," because it is the first of the seven sacraments not only in time (since most Catholics receive it as infants) but in priority, since the reception of the other sacraments depends on it. It is the first of the three Sacraments of Initiation, the other two being the Sacrament of Confirmation and the Sacrament of Holy Communion. Once baptized, a person becomes a member of the Church. Traditionally, the rite (or ceremony) of baptism was held outside the doors of the main part of the church, to signify this fact.

The Necessity of Baptism

Christ Himself ordered His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and to baptize those who accept the message of the Gospel. In His encounter with Nicodemus (John 3.1-21), Christ made it clear that baptism was necessary for salvation: "Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." For Catholics, the sacrament is not a mere formality; it is the very mark of a Christian, because it brings us into new life in Christ.

Types of Baptism

That doesn't mean that only those who have been formally baptized can be saved. From very early on, the Church recognized that there are two other types of baptism besides the baptism of water.

Baptism of Desire

The baptism of desire applies both to those who, while wishing to be baptized, die before receiving the sacrament and "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do His will as they know it through the dictates of conscience" (Constitution on the Church, Second Vatican Council).

Baptism of Blood

The baptism of blood is similar to the baptism of desire. It refers to the martyrdom of those believers who were killed for the faith before they had a chance to be baptized. This was a common occurrence in the early centuries of the Church, but also in later times in missionary lands. The baptism of blood has the same effects as the baptism of water.

The Form of the Sacrament of Baptism

While the Church has an extended rite of Baptism which is normally celebrated, which includes roles for both parents and godparents, the essentials of that rite are two: the pouring of water over the head of the person to be baptized (or the immersion of the person in water); and the words "I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit."

The Minister of the Sacrament of Baptism

Since the form of baptism requires just the water and the words, the sacrament, like the Sacrament of Marriage, does not require a priest; any baptized person can baptize another. In fact, when the life of a person is in danger, even a non-baptized person—including someone who does not himself believe in Christ—can baptize, provided that the person performing the baptism follows the form of baptism and intends, by the baptism, to do what the Church does—in other words, to bring the person being baptized into the fullness of the Church. In both cases, a priest may later perform a conditional baptism.

Infant Baptism

In the Catholic Church today, baptism is most commonly administered to infants. While some other Christians strenuously object to infant baptism, believing that baptism requires assent on the part of the person being baptized, the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, Lutherans, and other mainline Protestants also practice infant baptism, and there is evidence that it was practiced from the earliest days of the Church.

Since baptism removes both the guilt and the punishment due to Original Sin, delaying baptism until a child can understand the sacrament may put the child's salvation in danger, should he die unbaptized.

Adult Baptism

Adult converts to Catholicism also receive the sacrament, unless they have already received a Christian baptism. (If there is any doubt about whether an adult has already been baptized, the priest will perform a conditional baptism.) A person can only be baptized once as a Christian—if, say, he was baptized as a Lutheran, he cannot be rebaptized when he converts to Catholicism.

While an adult can be baptized after proper instruction in the Faith, adult baptism normally occurs today as part of the Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults (RCIA) and is immediately followed by Confirmation and Communion.

Practical Conclusion

Baptism has six primary effects, which are all supernatural graces:

  • The removal of the guilt of both Original Sin (the sin imparted to all mankind by the Fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden) and personal sin (the sins that we have committed ourselves).
  • The remission of all punishment that we owe because of sin, both temporal (in this world and in Purgatory) and eternal (the punishment that we would suffer in hell).
  • The infusion of grace in the form of sanctifying grace (the life of God within us); the seven gifts of the Holy Spirit; and the three theological virtues.
  • Becoming a part of Christ.
  • Becoming a part of the Church, which is the Mystical Body of Christ on earth.
  • Enabling participation in the sacraments, the priesthood of all believers, and the growth in grace.

 

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Canada

Epiphany of the Lord Year: B

Epiphany of the Lord Year: B

Is 60.1-6; Ps 71(72); Eph 3.2-3a, 5-6; Mt 2.1-12

The Three Wise “Skulls”

If you ever visit Cologne (Köln) Cathedral in Germany you can walk around the sanctuary and behind the main altar there is a large reliquary said to contain the bones or at least the skulls of the three wise men. “How did they get to Cologne?” you might ask. If the relics of great saints have been travelling across the globe then that makes it easier for us to understand the explanation. The wise men’s bones are said to have been located in Persia and then brought to Constantinople by St. Helena. St. Helena was the mother of the emperor Constantine who was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianity. The bones were transferred from Constantinople to Milan in the fifth century and to Cologne in 1163. So not only did the wise men journey during the lives but even after deaths their relics went on a journey. Although Matthew does not tell us the names of the wise men, in the West they have traditionally been given the names Gaspar, Melchior and Balthasar. Matthew does not tell us the number of wise men, he simply states that they offered three gifts.

Journey to Heart

The journey the wise made to Bethlehem was not the only journey they made. They also made a journey in their hearts from paganism to worshipping Jesus. They were not Jews; scholars tell us they were priests of an Eastern religion who consulted the stars (Zoroastrian priests). One of them may have been a king (there is speculation that one of them was Azes II of Bactria who reigned from 35 BC to 10 AD). Therefore we could say they were followers of some kind of pagan religion. Before they set out on their journey to Bethlehem to worship Jesus they were star-readers but they went on an interior journey from reading stars to worshipping Jesus as Savior. Their old way of life as astrologers when they consulted the stars before they came to belief in Jesus reminds us of those who look to horoscopes for guidance.

The Wrong Way

Those who follow horoscopes are called to journey like the wise men from reading stars to worshiping Jesus. Horoscope readers need to ask themselves who is in charge of their life, the stars or God? Believing that the stars control our lives contradicts believing that God is in charge of our lives. Remember that the first commandment asks us not to have any strange gods. Indeed the fact that God has sometimes revealed the future to prophets or saints (Catechism of the Catholic Church §2115) shows that it is God and not the stars that control our destiny. The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “Consulting horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, interpretation of omens and lots, the phenomena of clairvoyance, and recourse to mediums all conceal a desire for power over time, history, and in the last analysis, other human beings, as well as a wish to conciliate power. They contradict the honor, respect, and loving fear that we owe to God alone.” (§2116)

The wise men journeyed from that kind of life to worshiping Jesus as the Savior. This is the true story of someone who converted from that life to faith in Jesus.

From Paganism to Faith

The wise men’s journey of a thousand miles or more westwards from Persia which could have taken three months is really a symbol of the inward journey they made in their hearts, a journey from paganism to belief in Jesus as the Savior of the world. Indeed not just the wise men but all of us are on a journey to get closer to Jesus our Savior. Our journey may not be from reading stars and consulting horoscopes but we each are called to allow Jesus be Lord of each part of our lives, not just when it suits us. We each have a journey to make to Jesus because none of us is yet fully converted and each of us has corners in our hearts and lives in need of Jesus’ healing and redemption. Like the wise men we too are relying on the grace of God to lead us to the light of Jesus our Savior.

Evangelization and Renewal

The wise men through the grace of God came to faith in Jesus. What about those who do not yet know that Jesus is the Savior? What about those who have not yet made that journey to Jesus? Can those who are not Christian get to heaven? Yes, they can. I think we can see part of the answer in the account of the wise men. By the grace of God the wise men were led to Jesus. Even though they did not know Jesus they had a desire to meet Jesus. In their own way, with their beliefs, they lived as best they could and this eventually led them to Jesus. Vatican II says, “Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience – those too may achieve eternal salvation.” (Lumen Gentium no. 16)

The Journey of the Church

Of course this does not mean that the Church does not have to spread the Gospel and can sit back and be lazy. The Church’s mission and vocation is to help people make the journey to Jesus, to come to know that Jesus is the one Savior of the world worth journeying towards. Jesus’ last command before his ascension was to baptize all nations, so we have the duty to preach the Gospel to those who have not yet heard of Jesus. Again we remember that the wise men were not members of the Chosen People, the Jews. Yet God revealed to them that Jesus was born. This is to show us that Jesus came not just for the Chosen People, the Jews, but Jesus came to save all people, Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Anecdote: The Fourth Wise man:

 Henry Van Dyke has a story about a fourth wise man. His name was Artaban. He had planned to travel along with his fellow kings. However, he got delayed because he had to assist a woman who was dying. So, he missed the march west. As gifts, he carried a precious sapphire, a rare ruby, and an exquisite pearl. He had to give up his sapphire to help a starving family. When finally he found the stable, it was deserted. Mary and Joseph had scooped up the Child and escaped into Egypt. Artaban gave the ruby to secure the life of a babe destined to be destroyed by the mad King Herod. His search for the King of kings continued for thirty-three long years. When he learned of the events on Calvary, he rushed there to ransom Jesus with the priceless pearl. But on the way he met a man about to be sold into slavery. To his master he gave his pearl as ransom. At that moment, the earthquake struck. He was critically wounded by falling debris. The man he had just rescued held his head in his lap. He whispered into his ear, "Because you did it for one of these, you did it for me." Artaban had found his King.

Practical Conclusion

The same spirit that prompted Artaban to help the dying woman, the family, the infant, and the slave should motivate us to move out of our underground bunkers and do something similar, transferring our Bibles from our dusty shelves into our hearts and spirits.

Fr. Rudolf V. D’Souza OCD

Canada

ARTICLE: Jan 1st: Mary Mother of God Year: B

Mary Mother of God Year: B

Nm 6.22-27; Ps 66(65); Gal 4.4-7; Lk 2.16-21

God’s Wings

An article in National Geographic several years ago provided a penetrating picture of God's wings. After a forest fire in Yellowstone National Park, forest rangers began their trek up a mountain to assess the inferno's damage. One ranger found a bird literally petrified in ashes, perched statuesquely on the ground at the base of a tree. Somewhat sickened by the eerie sight, he knocked over the bird with a stick. When he struck it, three tiny chicks scurried from under their mother's wings. The loving mother, keenly aware of impending disaster, had carried her offspring to the base of the tree and gathered them under her wings, instinctively knowing that toxic smoke would rise. She could have flown to safety, but had refused to abandon her babies. When the blaze had arrived and the heat singed her small body, the mother remained steadfast. Because she had been willing to die, those under the cover of her wings continued to live. "He shall cover thee with His feathers and under His wings shall thou trust" (Ps 91.4). Learn to experience the warmth and protection of life beneath the wings of the Almighty."

First Day of the Year

On New Year's Day, the octave day of Christmas, the Church celebrates the Solemnity of the Holy Mother of God. The divine and virginal motherhood of the Blessed Virgin Mary is a singular salvific event: for Our Lady it was the foretaste and cause of her extraordinary glory; for us it is a source of grace and salvation because "through her we have received the Author of life".

The solemnity of the 1st January, an eminently Marian feast, presents an excellent opportunity for liturgical piety to encounter popular piety: the first celebrates this event in a manner proper to it; the second, when duly catechised, lends joy and happiness to the various expressions of praise offered to Our Lady on the birth of her divine Son, to deepen our understanding of many prayers, beginning with that which says: "Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us, sinners".

Civil Year

In the West, 1st January is an inaugural day marking the beginning of the civil year. The faithful are also involved in the celebrations for the beginning of the New Year and exchange "new year" greetings. However, they should try to lend a Christian understanding to this custom making of these greetings an expression of popular piety. The faithful, naturally, realize that the "new year" is placed under the patronage of the Lord, and in exchanging New Year greetings they implicitly and explicitly place the New Year under the Lord's dominion, since to him belongs all time.

Come Holy Spirit

A connection between this consciousness and the popular custom of singing the Veni Creator Spiritus can easily be made so that on 1st January the faithful can pray that the Spirit may direct their thoughts and actions, and those of the community during the course of the year.

New Year greetings also include an expression of hope for a peaceful New Year. This has profound biblical, Christological and Incarnational origins. The "quality of peace" has always been invoked throughout history by all men, and especially during violent and destructive times of war.

World Day of Peace

The Holy See shares the profound aspirations of man for peace. Since 1967, 1st January has been designated "World Day for Peace".

Popular piety has not been oblivious to this initiative of the Holy See. In the light of the new born Prince of Peace, it reserves this day for intense prayer for peace, education towards peace and those value inextricably linked with it, such as liberty, fraternal solidarity, the dignity of the human person, respect for nature, the right to work, the sacredness of human life, and the denunciation of injustices which trouble the conscience of man and threaten peace.

Supplier of Genetic Matter

A woman is a man’s mother either if she carried him in her womb or if she was the woman contributing half of his genetic matter or both. Mary was the mother of Jesus in both of these senses; because she not only carried Jesus in her womb but also supplied all of the genetic matter for his human body, since it was through her—not Joseph—that Jesus "was descended from David according to the flesh" (Rom 1.3).

Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, it must be concluded that she is also the Mother of God: If Mary is the mother of Jesus, and if Jesus is God, then Mary is the Mother of God. There is no way out of this logical syllogism, the valid form of which has been recognized by classical logicians since before the time of Christ.

Although Mary is the Mother of God, she is not his mother in the sense that she is older than God or the source of her Son’s divinity, for she is neither. Rather, we say that she is the Mother of God in the sense that she carried in her womb a divine person—Jesus Christ, God "in the flesh" (2 John 7, cf. John 1.14)—and in the sense that she contributed the genetic matter to the human form God took in Jesus Christ.

Nestorian Heresy

To avoid this conclusion, Fundamentalists often assert that Mary did not carry God in her womb, but only carried Christ’s human nature. This assertion reinvents a heresy from the fifth century known as Nestorianism, which runs aground on the fact that a mother does not merely carry the human nature of her child in her womb. Rather, she carries the person of her child. Women do not give birth to human natures; they give birth to persons. Mary thus carried and gave birth to the person of Jesus Christ, and the person she gave birth to was God.

The Nestorian claim that Mary did not give birth to the unified person of Jesus Christ attempts to separate Christ’s human nature from his divine nature, creating two separate and distinct persons—one divine and one human—united in a loose affiliation. It is therefore a Christological heresy, which even the Protestant Reformers recognized. Both Martin Luther and John Calvin insisted on Mary’s divine maternity. In fact, it even appears that Nestorius himself may not have believed the heresy named after him. Further, the "Nestorian" church has now signed a joint declaration on Christology with the Catholic Church and recognizes Mary’s divine maternity, just as other Christians do.

Since denying that Mary is God’s mother implies doubt about Jesus’ divinity, it is clear why Christians (until recent times) have been unanimous in proclaiming Mary as Mother of God.

Theotokos

The origins of a feast celebrating Mary's divine maternity are obscure, but there is some evidence of ancient feasts commemorating Mary's role as theotokos. Around 500 AD the Eastern Church celebrated a "Day of the Theotokos" either before or after Christmas. This celebration eventually evolved into a Marian feast on December 26th in the Byzantine calendar and January 16th in the Coptic calendar. In the West, Christmas has generally been celebrated with an octave, an eight day extension of the feast. The Gregorian and Roman calendars of the 7th century mark the Christmas octave day with a strong Marian emphasis. However, eventually in the West, the eighth day of the octave of Christmas was celebrated as the Feast of the Circumcision of Jesus. The push for an official feast day celebrating Mary's divine maternity started in Portugal, and in 1751 Pope Benedict XIV allowed Portugal's churches to celebrate Mary's divine maternity on the first Sunday in May. The feast was eventually extended to other countries, and by 1914 was being celebrated on October 11. The feast of Mary's divine maternity became a universal feast in 1931.

Let us celebrate the Solemnity of Mary, who can guide us on the path of salvation.

Practical Conclusions

Mary Mother of God can inspire us to have great love to our earthly mother. We can make efforts at honouring our mother and promote respect for life in our society.