Sunday, December 31, 2023


"Because you are God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with heartfelt mercy, with kindness, humility, meekness, and patience." Colossians 3:12

If you were chosen to live in Downton Abbey, no doubt there would be changes in the way you dress and the way things are done. The upstairs family changed clothing several times a day. There was a proper way of speaking which was why Tom Branson was always in trouble. The Crawleys were always well behaved and treated the servants kindly.

WE are chosen. WE are holy, which means set apart. And WE are loved by our Father. But the clothes we are supposed to wear are not fancy, and dripping with lace and gems. They are 'clothes' of the heart. I think our life on earth is a training ground for when we get to heaven. We endure hardships so we can wear patience. We encounter aggravating people so we can put on meekness and kindness. When we notice people in need, we can practice mercy. These are the clothes we need when we get to our Father's home. Hopefully they are not threadbare but resplendent with a loving and generous heart!

Saturday, December 30, 2023

They Were Waiting

“Anna, the prophetess, never left the temple, but worshiped night and day with fasting and prayer. And coming forward at that very time, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were awaiting the redemption of Jerusalem.” Luke 2:37-38

There was always a lot of activity in the Temple in Jerusalem, a lot of coming and going all around. On the day Mary and Joseph brought the 40 day old baby Jesus to present Him to the Lord, only an old man and an old woman witnessed it. Simeon was righteous and devout, and had been waiting to see the Christ. Then there is the 84 year old prophetess Anna, who never left the Temple, but worshiped there night and day. Out of all the people who visited the Temple that day, only these two were blessed. 

“My eyes have seen Your salvation!” Simeon cried out in joy. Anna gave thanks to God and thereafter spoke about the child to all who would listen. What was special about Simeon and Anna? They were waiting. They had eager hearts and minds, thirsting for God. They listened to the Spirit. 

Perhaps there were many in the Temple that day who were praying and seeking God just as there are many people who pray each day, and some even go to church every day. But if our prayers are always about asking God for this and that, we seldom have time to listen. The Holy Spirit will not have opportunity and space to speak to us. Our hearts will not have “fertile ground” to receive what God has to tell us. 

Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me.” Jesus does not barge in, demanding we listen to Him. We have to invite Him in. If we open the door, we will marvel like Simeon and Anna, at what God will do in our lives.

Friday, December 29, 2023

Mine Eyes Have Seen You!

"..mine eyes have seen your salvation.." 

Luke 2:30

What an amazing man Simeon is! He had been waiting a long time for the promised Messiah, the consolation of Israel, a land battered and torn by many upheavals and foreign domination. What did Simeon see when he went to the temple, inspired by the same Spirit who revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord's anointed? He saw a mere baby, 40 days old, carried by His mother. Simeon got excited nonetheless! "I can die now! I have seen Your promise with my eyes!" He was content. 

Simeon had been studying God's Word, and was a just and pious man. His faith did not waver in the many, long years he had to wait. Sometimes we too have to wait many, long years for God's answer. What is the longing in our hearts? Sometimes we get too impatient and do not wait for Him. It is said that God works slowly but surely. After all, a thousand years in our reckoning is just like a day passing to God (Psalm 90:4). In these days of fast foods and even quicker answers on Google, it will profit us much to take time, slow down, and see God's saving deed as Simeon did. 

Lord, may I quiet my heart and mind, and hear Your still, small voice. You cannot wait to speak to me. You always make time for me. Help me every day to make time for You. May I be as excited as Simeon to see You! 

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Innocent Ones

“Herod ordered the massacre of all the boys in Bethlehem and its vicinity two years old and under, in accordance with the time he had ascertained from the magi.” Matthew 2:16

It was St. John's feast day yesterday. He wrote in his gospel, “We are writing this so our joy may be complete." When JOY is shared, it is completed. When Joy is kept to ourselves, something is lacking! Take time to share JOY this Christmas season! And who better to share it with than children!

Today, December 28, is the Feast Day of the Holy Innocents. King Herod had hundreds of innocent children massacred ostensibly to save his throne.

Macrobius (ca. AD 400), one of the last pagan writers in Rome, in his book Saturnalia, wrote: ‘When it was heard that, as part of the slaughter of boys up to two years old, Herod, king of the Jews, had ordered his own son to be killed, the Emperor Augustus remarked, “It is better to be Herod's pig than his son."’

It was better to be a pig than Herod's son because Herod was a Jew and killing a pig was not kosher! Ironically today, countless, innocent unborn children are being slaughtered legally. It is better to be an endangered animal than a fetus in the womb.  Endangered animals are more protected, aren't they? Let us take time to pray for these innocent ones today. 

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Insider Information

“…what we have seen and heard we proclaim now to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us…” 1 John:3

Everybody gets excited about insider information, be it about stocks, or someone getting engaged, or having a baby! That's why there are TV shows, magazines, websites devoted to inside information. Only a few people knew about the empty tomb in today’s Gospel story but it is written about in great detail in the accounts of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, so we get to know about this amazing occurrence as well. 

Can you imagine what Mary Magdalene and the disciples must have been experiencing when confronted by the fact that Jesus’ body had disappeared into thin air? They were fearful, confused, but perhaps a bit of hope was stirring like a flame in their hearts. Then an angel in bright clothes explained to them, “Why do you look for the living among the dead? He is not here; he has risen! Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: ‘The Son of Man must be delivered over to the hands of sinners, be crucified and on the third day be raised again.’ (Luke 1:5-7) Can God be any clearer than that? 

The insider information the disciples received which we can now share with others is what Jesus foretold was true, and we can stand on God’s promises in the Old and New Testaments. He is alive and present in our daily lives. Come let us adore Him! 

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Found Guilty

"Stephen, a man full of God's grace and power..." Acts 6:8

Yesterday we celebrated the Immanuel, God with us, the baby born in a manger to a virgin, among animals, because there was no room for Him anywhere. Today in the Catholic Church's readings, the beautiful Christmas story is followed by St. Luke's account of Saint Stephen who was savagely dragged and stoned to death. It is his feast day today and he is venerated not only in the Roman Catholic but also the Anglican,  Lutheran, Eastern and Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Why the contrast? Why veer the focus from the sweet Christ Child’s birth to the brutal stoning of the church’ first martyr? Perhaps because most of the world embraces the palatable, pleasant, engaging Christmas story of a mother and child. After all who doesn't love a story with myriads of angels singing, a sign in the night sky, shepherds, cute sheep, and magnificent kings bearing wondrous gifts? Everyone has adopted the holiday, giving gifts, wishing everyone goodwill, baking cookies, drinking, and eating. It is so sad however that usually the Christ Child is forgotten and forlorn amidst the tinsel! 

How much more has the world forgotten that part and parcel of the beautiful Christmas story is the horrifying crucifixion? That the same baby born to an innocent virgin would be, after 33 years, beaten and bruised, his face unrecognizably swollen and bloodied,  his back lacerated by whips with bone fragments? Jesus told his disciples that they too would be brought to trial, and flogged. They too would be called to witness on His account (Matthew 10). We may never be flogged, beaten, or stoned to death, but we should at least witness on His account! If we are brought to trial for being a Christian, will our words and actions find us guilty just as Saint Stephen was found guilty? 

Monday, December 25, 2023

Where is the New Born King of the Jews?

Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the east, and are come to worship Him.” Matthew 2:1-2

Billions of people around the world are celebrating the birthday of Jesus today, a Jew born 2000 years ago in Bethlehem. Both Bethlehem, and Nazareth where Jesus grew up, are towns with Hebrew names. It really boggles my mind how many people who celebrate Christmas today don’t believe Jews lived there before 1948.

In 1896, a British archaeologist named Sir Flinders Petrie discovered evidence that Israel existed as far back as 1200 B.C. In the beautifully carved pillar, part of the ruins of an Egyptian temple, technically termed a stele, the pharaoh Merneptah mentions the nation of Israel. Merneptah reigned around 1212-1202 B.C., the time of the Judges of Israel, when the land was continually being invaded by nearby peoples. 

Today, amidst the conflict in the Middle East, we see the echoes of the darkness of our heart, when we refuse the overtures of God calling to us. We see clearly in the words of the Old Testament, how God had a plan to send a Messiah to save us, to rescue us from sin and death. He even told us where this Messiah would be born, and that He would be born of a virgin. Logically no one man could have fulfilled all the prophecies concerning the coming of the Messiah! And if we want to know what will happen in the future, we can also spend time to search for that in the scriptures. For the Lord has promised that He has told us EVERYTHING ahead of time. 

“At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it.For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time.” Mark 13:21-23

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Wonderfully Made

“What, then, will this child be? For surely the hand of the Lord was with him.” 

Luke 1:66

John the Baptist was the last of the great prophets. His coming was prophesied in the 3rd chapter of the book of Malachi. “Thus says the Lord God: Lo, I am sending my messenger to prepare the way before me.” His birth was preceded by some unprecedented events. An angel came to his father Zechariah in the temple and Zechariah was struck dumb. His barren mother Elizabeth became pregnant in her old age as foretold by the angel in the temple. Mary, the mother of Jesus visited Elizabeth, and when she greeted Elizabeth, the baby in Elizabeth’s womb leapt for joy. Then Zechariah, when asked what the baby boy would be called, wrote down the name John to the surprise of many, he suddenly could speak after many months of silence! So yes indeed, many were marveling about this child and wondering, “What then will this child be? What will he become? What will be his destiny?” 

I delight in my 3 year old grandchild, the son of my niece. He is interested in so many things, and yesterday I introduced him to the concept of dust bunnies because he was crawling under our furniture. I showed him pictures from the web, and read to him what dust bunnies were. He asked me to read the description twice, and then he talked to my helper about it! He is a precious, wonderful little boy, and a bright spot during these dark, uncertain times. I wonder what will be his destiny, what his future will bring. 

All of us are precious and unique in the eyes of God even if our birth was not announced by an angel. We are all fearfully and wonderfully made as proclaimed in Psalm 139:14. Sadly others don’t believe that and seek to kill their own babies in their wombs, or enact legislations to make it legal to get rid of a baby even when he or she is fully formed in the image of likeness of God! Imagine how many precious lives have been lost and continue to be lost when the world refuses to see human beings through the eyes of God? 

Friday, December 22, 2023

Do What It Takes

“I am giving him to the Lord..." 1 Samuel 1:28

The story of Hannah is surely a very heart wrenching story and finds echoes in many women who dearly want a child and have been waiting for years to have one. Today there are all sorts of medical procedures and fertility treatments not available in Hannah's day. She instead went to the giver of life and prayed, "If you look down upon my sorrow and answer my prayer and give me a son, I will give him back to you. He will be yours for his entire lifetime..."  

How many of us parents are willing to pray this prayer? But the truth of the matter is our children are not our own. Children are precious gifts from God, and He puts them in our care. I have only one son, Josh, and he is 28 years old now. When I was younger, I used to have many theories and ideas about raising kids, because I read a lot, and listened to parents and asked questions. But when your child is grown up, you realize how many mistakes you made, and you just have to trust God that He will continue to be faithful to your children the same way He has been faithful to you!!! I know of a mother who prays, "Lord, do what it takes to bring my son and daughter to become the man and woman after your own heart." Yes Lord, my son is yours, do what it takes!

Thursday, December 21, 2023

A Promise is a Promise

“Blessed the nation whose God is the LORD, the people He has chosen for His own inheritance. From heaven the LORD looks down; He sees all mankind.” Psalm 33:12-13

What kind of God is this who has chosen us to be his inheritance! If we could choose our own inheritance, it would certainly not be a disobedient, complaining, recalcitrant people! But God thinks very differently from you and me. Perhaps St. Lawrence thinks in the same way as our Father in heaven. When asked by Emperor Valerian for the treasures of the Church, instead of the gold vessels the Emperor expected, Lawrence had brought crowds of poor, lame, crippled and blind to the door of the palace. For that, the Emperor ordered that Lawrence be grilled, barbecued alive. 

Father Michael Scanlan told this story which happened during the disastrous earthquake in Armenia in December 7, 1988. Many buildings, houses, bridges and tunnels collapsed burying people alive. In one small town, when a father rushed to his son’s school, he found it was all rubble, with no sign of life. Other parents looked like zombies, standing around in shock, but this father started digging with bare hands. When told there was no hope, he responded, “I made my son a promise that I'd be there for him anytime he needed me. I must continue to dig."

He continued digging, removing stones, debris and rubble, two hours, three, eight, twenty-four, then in the thirty-eighth hour, he heard voices. “Armand!” he shouted for  the nth time and a child answered: “Dad! It's me...Armand!" Then, "I told the other kids not to worry. I told them that if you were alive, you'd save me, and when you saved me, they'd be saved. You promised you would always be there for me! You did it, Dad!"

Thirteen other frightened and hungry children were saved that day because of the persistence of a father who did not lose hope. When grateful parents and townspeople thanked Armand’s father, he just said simply, “I promised my son, 'No matter what, I'll be there for you!'"

Our Father has chosen us for His own. He will never abandon us nor forsake us. Things may look hard for us now, but ALL THINGS will work together for good. That is His promise to us.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

One With Us

The Lord Himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall be with child and bear a son..." Isaiah 7:14

What folly is this? Immanuel? God with us, born amongst us? Born as a mere mortal, helpless in his mother's arms? Dependent upon an immature young virgin who had no recourse but to depend on God for everything, even her reputation? 

Pope Francis in his spiritual reflection writes, "Think well on this: God is with us and God still trusts us. God the Father is generous. He comes to abide with mankind; He chooses earth as His dwelling place, to remain with people and to be found where man passes his days in joy or in sorrow. Therefore, earth is no longer only a 'valley of tears'; rather, it is the place where God has pitched His tent, it is the meeting place of God with man, of God's solidarity with men....

He chose to live in our history as it is, with all the weight of its limitations and tragedies. In doing so, He demonstrated in an unequalled manner His merciful and truly loving disposition toward the human creature."

In meditating on this mystery of God with us, let us put ourselves in His place, and strive to see the world we live in as He does. As Jesus said in Matthew 25, "Whatever you did for one of the least of my brothers and sisters, you did for me." He is beside us, He walks with us, as the Aetas congregating on the streets at Christmas, the prisoners who do not have space enough to sleep, even the old man sleeping beside us at the 4 am Novena mass. 

Lord, may we see the signs of Your presence among us. May we never take for granted that You chose to be One with us! 

Monday, December 18, 2023

Behold the Virgin

All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall be with child and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

“Can it indeed be that God dwells among men on earth?" This was King Solomon’s question in the book of 1 Kings 8:27. “If the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain you, how much less this temple which I have built!" he continued in awe.  

Are we in awe when we pray to God? Are we amazed that God came down to our level to be with us, the Emmanuel? Do we marvel that the creator of Super novas, the majestic mountains, terrible typhoons, allows us to visit Him in churches built by human hands? And not only that, He wants, desires, longs, that we invite Him into the temple of our own feeble hearts.  He actually prefers to dwell in our hearts rather than the grand Cologne Cathedral, the historic Notre Dame in Paris, the awesome Sagrada Familia, no matter how beautiful they are. Do we welcome this season of Advent as a pilgrimage to walk more closely with the God who loves us so inconceivably?

One of my favorite songs is "More than Wonderful", best sang by Sandi Patty and Larnelle Harris. It goes, "I stand amazed when I think the King of Glory would come to live within me; I marvel just to know He really loves me, when I think of who He is and who I am. For He's more wonderful 

than my mind can conceive, 

He's more wonderful than 

my heart can believe; 

He goes beyond my highest hopes and fondest dreams; 

He's everything that my soul ever longed for, 

Everything He promised and so much more; 

More than amazing, More than marvelous, 

More than miraculous could ever be; 

He's more than wonderful; 

That's what Jesus is to me!"

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Rejoice Always!

“Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks...” 

1 Thessalonians 5:16

This is St. Paul’s good advice for us in the second reading for today. Today is Gaudete Sunday, the third Sunday of Advent, when we light 3 candles in the Advent wreath, including the pink one. In Latin, the first word of the entrance antiphon for the Mass is “gaudete”, rejoice, as in, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice. Indeed, the Lord is near” from Philippians 4:4-5.

The pink candle of rejoicing is surrounded by three violet candles, the color of repentance, sorrow, penance, sacrifice. In this life no one escapes pain or hardship, no one. This is why we should take Saint Paul’s advice to heart. Rejoice always, even if we are in the midst of trial. Pray without ceasing, for those who trust in God will never be disappointed. In all circumstances, give thanks! Do we find it difficult to do all three? Perhaps our human proclivity would be to stress, complain, worry, be miserable even. It may be easier to go this natural route, the same way a river runs the same course day in and day out. But we are not a river, we do not have to follow the contour of the earth.

We have been given inner resources and strength to be joyful, even in the midst of difficulty. Perhaps we are more depressed during this season seeing all the Facebook posts about others having fun, or receiving gifts, or eating gourmet food. I believe joy takes practice, like all other gifts. If we practice gratitude, counting our blessings in a more conscious, determined way, it will become a habit. We can wake up every single morning thanking God for all His wonderful blessings! 

In 2019, during Advent I was in the hospital. On December 13, I was in the ICU having just undergone an open heart surgery, a coronary bypass followed by a pulmonary artery embolectomy under deep hypothermic circulatory arrest. Ordinarily  I would have been fearsome just thinking about it, but the night before my procedure I was at peace. I was able to sleep well even after having refused the sleeping pills my nurse offered. I knew that God was in control, all was well with my world. I have seen how God can give me peace beyond understanding, strength and joy for this journey even under the most trying circumstance. It is because of God’s amazing grace that surrounded me all throughout, but I also believe He gave me that grace because I have been practicing gratitude, and praying without ceasing since I was young. It is a discipline. I try to practice it more than ever today, during these times of uncertainty, at a time I need more faith for our business, for my brother’s health, my health and the health of so many people I love. God is good in all circumstances! Can I hear an amen? 

Saturday, December 16, 2023

You are My Friend

“Blessed is he who shall have seen you and who falls asleep in your friendship.” 

Sirach 48:11

Although these words were written of the prophet Elijah, we can say the same for all the formidable prophets and great patriarchs in the Bible, like Moses. We have to realize that all of them had to do the normal chores and work you and I do. While Moses was doing something ordinary, tending the flock of his father-in-law, a task he did every day, something extraordinary caught his attention. There was a bush engulfed in flames but it was not consumed. When he went closer, God spoke to him. "I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, of Isaac, of Jacob." 

God introduced Himself to Moses. He wants to do the same for each of us, for all of us. In the midst of our ordinary, every day chores, God is there. He may not show Himself in a burning bush, but He is there in the kindness of strangers, the bonds of love we have with our family, the Eucharist, the camaraderie and fellowship with friends, the times we use the gifts and talents He gave us, in every ordinary day. 

Lord, just as You called Moses and had a purpose for Him, so You call us. May we know what You want us to do with the gifts and talents, all the resources You blessed us with. One day, may we hear You say as You said to Moses, "You have found favor with Me, and you are My friend." (Exodus 33:17)

Friday, December 15, 2023

Like a Tree Planted by Running Water

“Blessed is the man who delights in the law of the Lord and meditates on it day and night; He is like a tree planted by streams of running water, whose leaves never fade, who bears fruit in due season. Whatever he does prospers.” Psalm 1:2-3

I attended a workshop a couple of years ago about how to do business by following instructions from the Bible. We read about Joseph in Genesis, about how from being kidnapped and imprisoned, he became the second most powerful man in Egypt. From when very young, Joseph sought to do good. Wherever he was, when he was a slave, when he was imprisoned, God would take care of him. In Gen. 39, it said that even Joseph's master, Potiphar, recognized that the Lord was with Joseph and blessed him greatly. When Joseph was thrown in jail, he eventually was put in charge of the jail, and everything ran smoothly.

After some time Joseph was called out of jail because Pharaoh wanted him to interpret his dreams. Pharaoh found out that Joseph was the only one who could tell him that after 7 years of prosperity in his country, there would be 7 years of famine. He put Joseph in charge of taking care that Egypt would survive the famine. Joseph had to find a way to increase production of food, and store it so that at the end of the 7 years of plenty, there would be food for the next 7 years. Fact or fiction?

There are many who believe that Imhotep, the vizier of the 3rd dynasty Pharaoh Djoser, is in fact Joseph. Imhotep designed the first pyramid in Saqqara. What if he designed this step pyramid to store food? More research and debates are going on about this. But I think it is fascinating that a relatively unknown boy rose to power in Egypt and was able to help a whole nation, the Israelites, survive. 

Lord, may I continue to read Your word, and obey You, in my life, in my relationships, in business, in whatever I do. I want to be like a tree planted near running water, always getting my food from You, always fruitful until my old age!