THE NATIVITY OF THE LORD: 25 December 2022


Mass During the Night
Isaiah 9:1-6; Titus 2:11-14; Luke 2:1-14
Mass During the Day
Isaiah 52:7-10; Hebrews 1:1-6; John 1:1-18

A family was making its Christmas crib; everybody was contributing, putting in the statues and the hay. Five-year-old Scott suddenly ran into his room, brought a Tyrannosaurus Rex, and placed it overlooking Mary and Joseph. It looked so menacing in that manger.
The dad was tempted to tell Scott: “Look, that dinosaur lived millions of years before Jesus was born. He wasn’t around during Christ’s time. And it didn’t look good in the manger.” He added: “I caught myself because I realized that, in essence, he had caught a truth of Christmas. For Christmas came to help us face the dinosaurs in life… those menacing terrors that seem to be so strong, so powerful. Christmas came to defeat them.”
We have so many fears in life! We fear life, we fear death, and everything in between. We fear rejection. We fear an uncertain future. There is fear caused by epidemics and disasters; by a changing economics and a warming planet. We have and face so many dinosaurs!

The antidote to our fears is found in the coming of Christ into the world. Recall that the first words of Adam are “I was afraid.” But the first words that herald the birth of Jesus (the second Adam) are “Do not be afraid.”
There are four times when Gabriel says “Do not be afraid” in the Christmas Story: to Zechariah because his prayer for a son was answered; to Mary because she was the favoured one who would bear God’s Son; to Joseph to take Mary as his wife because what was conceived in her was from the Spirit and would save his people; to the shepherds because he brought good news of great joy. In each case, Gabriel had to tell the recipients of his message not to be afraid.

We still have our fears. And to us, too, the message is: Do not be afraid because our God has provided the remedy for our fears: he has come; he has pitched his tent among us and has given us power to become children of God. He is the light that shines in the darkness to overcome it.
And so: Do not be afraid! Happy Christmas!

By: Fr Dr Mascarenhas Vinod SDB

ADVENT SUNDAY IV: 18 December 2022

Isaiah 7:10-14; Romans 1:1-7; Matthew 1:18-24

Elisabeth Elliot (who worked for several years with the Huorani in Ecuador) tells of two adventurers who came to see her, loaded with equipment for their adventure in the Andes. They sought no advice, just a few phrases to converse with the Indians!
She writes: “Sometimes we come to God as the two adventurers came to me—confident and, we think, well-informed and well-equipped. We know what we need… a yes or no answer to a simple question. Or perhaps a road sign. Something quick and easy to point the way. But has it occurred to us that with all our stuff, something is missing? What we ought to have is the guide himself.”

I guess we can identify with Elliot’s experience. In moments of difficulty, we come to God but seldom to seek his guidance; we come to ask him to approve our plans!

I guess Joseph would identify with Elliot’s experience!
When Joseph discovered that Mary was pregnant, he knew that law and custom required him to denounce Mary. But “since he was a righteous man, and unwilling to expose her to shame, he decided to divorce her quietly.” Joseph decided to go beyond law and custom; he let compassion guide his decision.
But God intervened and made clear to him that he would have to recognize the child in Mary’s womb as his own. Joseph “did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him”. He goes even beyond love; he allowed God to guide him and took a leap of faith into an unknown and difficult situation.
This listening-obeying-cooperating with God’s action results in the birth of Jesus.
Mary did the same. She, too, listened to God, and despite questions, obeyed his will, and cooperated with him. The result: the incarnation.
Paul, in the second reading, is another example of this divine-human dynamic: he, too, listened to God, obeyed him, and facilitated the birth of Jesus in the new churches.

God’s coming in our world still depends on “Josephs” and “Marys”: men and women of humility and docility.
In moments of dilemma, do I seek merely God’s approval and rely on my own strength to arrive at decisions? Or do I listen to his voice, obey his will, and cooperate with his plan for me?

May you and I listen-obey-cooperate and make Christmas still happen!

By: Fr. Dr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB

ADVENT SUNDAY III: 11 December 2022

Isaiah 11:1-10; Romans 15:4-9; Matthew 3:1-12
Isaiah 35:1-6a, 10; James 5:7-10; Matthew 11:2-11

Dr Verghese Kurien, the Milkman of India and the Father of the White Revolution, helped establish Amul. His brainchild “Operation Flood” became the world’s largest dairy development program and transformed India from a milk-deficient nation in 1949 to the world’s largest milk producer forty years later. He helped farmers improve their financial and social well-being: his work lifted millions out of poverty (three-fourths of the price one pays for an Amul product goes to the producing dairy farmer) and contributed to the transformation of rural India.

What Dr Kurien did for dairy farmers in India, Jesus does for all peoples: he transforms us; he makes all things new!

The readings of today on this Third Sunday of Advent emphasize this renewal and wholeness.
In the first reading, Isaiah announces that the coming of God will cause abundant flowers to bloom in the desert, strengthens feeble hands, makes firm knees that are weak, and brings back the Babylonian exiles. There will be a radical renewal.
In James’ letter, the coming of the Lord is likened to “the precious fruit of the earth.”
This renewal is evident in the gospel, too. Jesus answers John’s question (“are you the one?”) in the language of Isaiah: “The blind regain their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have the good news proclaimed to them.” What Isaiah foretold becomes reality with the coming of Jesus.

The same Jesus comes again to renew all things – every day and at the end of time. What should we do while we await his coming?
In the words of St James, we ought to “be patient” and wait with “hearts firm” like “the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth”. A farmer waits patiently and productively! When we do this, the Lord will make all things new in his time and on his terms.

Will I wait patiently and productively for the coming of God? Do I believe that he can and does transform my reality or do I look for another because his action does not meet my expectations? How can I be his instrument of transformation?

May we be partners with God in the rainbow revolution and cooperate with him as he makes all things new.

By: Fr. Dr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB

ADVENT SUNDAY II: 04 December 2022

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

One of the most useful Windows shortcuts, and one that I use most often, is “Ctrl+Z”! By pressing this key combo, one can undo one’s last action. Did I key in a wrong word or letter? Did I delete an entire paragraph by mistake? No problem! I just press “Ctrl+Z” and return to where I was before my mistake.
All of us have done things in our lives that we regret and would like to undo: poor decisions, unkind words, wrong acts… it’s part of being human, and sometimes we wish we had Ctrl+Z in our lives.

Advent offers us a Ctrl+Z time and program, summarised in the call of John the Baptist: “Repent… make straight his paths”.

Repentance is undoing our errors. It is turning away from sin (whatever breaks my relationship with God, others, myself, and nature) and a turning to God. It is what happens when – like the prodigal son – we come to our senses and return to the Father. It is moving from selfishness to selflessness, from defending oneself to donating oneself.
Our ancestry, religious affiliation, social status do not matter. What matters is bearing good fruit: we ought to live justly, in harmony with one another, and in total dependence on God.

When we repent, we collaborate with God in the realization of the ideal realm (which Isaiah foretold in the first reading) and of his kingdom (which Jesus brings and where justice, peace, and harmony reign).
That’s what Paul exhorts the Romans: “Think in harmony with one another… Welcome one another.”

And yet today we are a divided people… nations are divided, communities are divided, families are divided.
In trying to build harmony, we focus on conflict resolution. However, there are issues which are difficult to resolve and some which can never be resolved. Psychology and spirituality tell us that the focus should be on conflict engagement. We acknowledge our differences and figure out a way to live in harmony. We acknowledge someone’s perspective without agreeing with that perspective. Not easy but possible!

In what areas of my life do I need Ctrl+Z? How can I foster peace – justice – harmony… and so collaborate in the realization of the kingdom?
May our celebration of the Eucharist and of Advent be Ctrl+Z time and help us return to our original state of being.

By: Fr. Dr. Vinod Mascarenhas SDB