Theme: Be at peace
Violence and peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society. The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences. The Holy Father sums up this situation in the expression: ‘A third world war in pieces’. Peace, by contrast, promotes social good consequences and allows progress. We should act within what is possible and negotiate ways of peace even where they seem tortuous and impractical
First reading: Numbers 6:22-27
The book of Numbers represents a complex mixture of various traditions, religious history, liturgical rites and legal codes which grew out of the developing faith and culture of the Hebrews. These traditions infiltrated through life and customs of the people for about ten centuries before they were concentrated in a less orderly book named Numbers. While much of the material in this book comes from a later period, the blessing which comprises today’s text is quite ancient. This formula was used by priests in blessing the people at the end of prayer and it is very familiar to us because it is still used in both Jewish and Christian liturgies. It is a perfect example of the prayer of petition expressed in three different ways. The phrases “the Lord bless you, the Lord let his face shine, the Lord look upon you kindly” Numbers 6:24-26 are but three alternatives for understanding the Lord’s favor. The word for the Lord’s face ‘panim’ is always a collective noun signifying all the qualities behind a face; namely attitudes, sentiments, personality. In a word, God’s very presence is invoked. The threefold prayer for prosperity, presence and peace is an excellent expression of our hope in God who alone can make ours a happy new year. No matter what ‘wilderness’ may be ahead of us, God is there to bless us.
Second reading: Galatians 4:4-7
Writing in Ephesus in the mid-50s AD on his third missionary journey, St. Paul used the letter to answer one major pastoral obstacle, the Judaizers who were a group of early Christians believing that the way to Jesus Christ was only to pass through Moses. They denied Paul’s apostleship and blamed him of diluting the power of the gospel for the sake of gentile converts. The Judaizers bothered gentile converts insisting on circumcision and observance of Jewish feasts and eating habits.
Paul clarified that all these were not necessary because baptism wins every baptized the freedom in Christ thus rejecting the old law and circumcision. Quoting Abraham Paul asserted that the promise made to him had to be enjoyed by all Christians because it is Christ Jesus and not the law which makes us heirs. Indeed, because of Jesus Christ and his Spirit, we are children of God, intimate enough to call him ‘Abba’ ‘Daddy’. To qualify this, Paul taught that “God sent forth his son so that we might receive adoption as sons” Galatians 4:7. For all who believe in Jesus, every day is a designated time that has come so that all who have been born may proclaim Christ’s incarnation and witness that Christ is Lord. This truth is central to the whole gospel. Through Jesus we can address God as ‘Abba Father’. Those who accept Jesus and his gospel, God become their Father. Since we are children of God, then we have received the Holy Spirit who turns us into brothers and sisters.
Gospel: Luke 2:16-21
The gospel today shows us the importance of listening to the message of the gospel. How do I want to welcome Jesus? like shepherds? Herod? or citizens of Bethlehem? The shepherds do not find anything extraordinary but inside that innocent baby, God is present. At times we want to see extraordinary things so as to believe; instead a true disciple hears the message and goes after it. It is the normal trend that is biblically associated with God’s project. Elizabeth, Zachariah, Mary, Joseph are all ordinary people with an extraordinary sense of the divine. This is the model we have to imitate. On the other hand, we all need to be aware that to be able to work with God we have to get used to small disappointments which make up our day to day living. The shepherds’ visit to the newly formed holy family parallels the magi story in Matthew’s gospel. Both groups the shepherds and magi come to Jesus due to an extraordinary revelation, in one case an angel, in the other a star. Both groups represent believers in the early Church who accepted Jesus as the Christ as opposed to other groups who rejected and even persecuted him namely Herod, scribes and the chief priests. Both groups, shepherds and magi, come to adore Jesus as savior and went away from the event believing, though the terms and conditions where tough. In the first case the magi were foreigners and astronomers while the shepherds were considered lawless since their livelihood at times pushed them to survive at any coast and even graze their flocks on the lands of others by force.
The last verse of today’s gospel gives fleeting attention to Jesus’ circumcision before focusing on his naming. Contrary to custom, Joseph does not name the child. Rather, he is given the name which had been announced by the angel. In this way, Luke attests to the extraordinary circumstances of Jesus’ birth as well as the faith of Mary who had kept the angel’s words in her heart and acted on them. This revelation shows that God’s love is universal and that his saving gifts are intended for the benefit of all of humankind. Besides offering a universal scope of Jesus ministry, it provides the basis for the subsequent universal mission of the Church which deserves a serious attention and commands a sincere response in faith from all of us. We need to be convinced that through the gift of Jesus who is God among us, the Father has honored, dignified and redeemed us. Through Jesus, we can hear the Father say to each of us, ‘I care about you; you have special worth in my eyes’. In his capacity as GIFT, we celebrate him today, as leader and Lord, as dying and rising savior and especially as the Eucharistic living bread for all.
Peace my best choice during 2020
Time is forcing us to move into uncertainty provoking panic. As you can see, we are now in 2020 for the prepared and unprepared. There may be some excitement around us but it will end with little gain unless the death and birth of years is planned by us with the eyes of God.
The movement of time is not routine; its history being written in words, actions and deeds. I am sure that as you read this, you have also your age in front of you. Are you happy with the history you have so far made? Is society happy to have you around or are you are a problem to yourself and others? Some of us can as well think of being good; but the truth is that they are good for nothing. If you are a Christian; remember that quality time is a moment of grace because it brings about salvation. “When the fullness of time came, God sent his only Son to be born of a woman” Galatians 4:14. Time and ages are fulfilled by the very fact that God in incarnation came down into human history. Eternity has entered into time. Often we think of time as a formless container which brings no significance with it. It’s not so. Time can be measured with precision and calculated with clocks and calendars. It’s in this framework that history builds your plans and availability to God’s grace. 2020 is not any year thus allow Jesus to demarcate with you some steps forward towards salvation through a concrete life saving agenda.
The first step could be: LORD TEACH US TO LOVE YOU AND TO PRAY. Dedicate this year to Love God and to pray. Are you intending to keep yourself so busy that you have no moment to be a moment with God? Make a difference during 2020. Change the style and have time with the one who loves you most, your God. Do you know that you can donate a few hours of adoration in some Churches on your way home? Do you know that you can tune in Radio Maria for Rosary, Holy Mass and healing music? Just move in and you will like it.
The second step is: FORGIVE OUR SINS AS WE FORGIVE THOSE WHO SIN AGAINST US. Make 2020 a time of conversion and reconciliation. Time is now, do not wait for anything more. How long will you co-exist with sin? Stop defending and protecting bad habits and evil acts. They are your enemies. They will end up destroying you and all you have accumulated all these years. You can decide to live for peace. You have already tried friendship with trouble; why not accept a change for a new heart with a new spirit? You can be a trouble free zone in 2020 if you so wish.
Third step: HAVE AN AGENDA. You may have been nomadic in as far as planning of your time is concerned. Drop your pride and have an agenda for your activities. Set time limits and stick to it. If you do not have an agenda, the devil may easily plan one for you. Always have quality reasons for what you are doing whether alone or with others. Time planning is wisdom in practice, thus a gift of the Holy Spirit. Do not miss it in 2020.
Forth step. IDENTIFY A SCALE OF VALUES. Not everything that glitters is gold. You want to be qualitatively happy? Set priorities and allow God to bless them. These values are the same as virtues. You may say that: You do not want to wake up late in 2020, borrow money and incur debts, get drunk, reckless driving, shouting at individuals, being greedy on food or things, avoiding sacraments, being dishonest and participating in corruption. You can say you want to perform excellent at work, be loving and caring to all, make some savings for a quality asset, listening to God’s voice, taking care of your health, improving your spirituality and academics. It’s important to select and after choosing, you stick to what you have decided. Good resolutions lead to discipline and balanced life.
Make this year reflect the blessings of the faith you are enjoying. Collaborate with the Holy Spirit in being holy and you will see the good surprises from God. Identify with Christ by actions of faith. Start this year on the right note so that God’s blessings can be fully upon you. This year think peace, live in peace and be peaceful. Happy New Year