13 Dec. II Sunday in Advent
Context and Theme
This gospel passage constitutes the second part of John the Baptist’s discourse. There are two main themes here. 1. What should be the signs of repentance? 2. What are the similarities and differences between Jesus and the Baptist?
1. The Baptist exhorts people to produce fruits of repentance (3:7). If they do not produce such fruits they will perish (3:10). What are the fruits of repentance? John says it is to share one’s food and clothes with the poor (3:11). Sharing is the core of the Gospel. When you share, you are producing the fruits that are pleasing to God. Through it you respond to God’s invitation. Consider each opportunity for sharing as an invitation from God.
2. John says that the baptism he confers is only a pointer to the baptism of Jesus (3:15-16). Your actions must be sign boards that lead others to Jesus. Those who see your actions must be reminded of Jesus. Then you become a real disciple fulfilling His command to be a witness.
20 Dec. III Sunday in Advent
Context and Theme
Mary visits Elizabeth. On seeing Mary, Elizabeth is filled with joy and breaks into a song of praise. This is the beginning of the veneration that Mary is to receive from mankind. The root of Mary’s greatness is the greatness of her son (1:49).
1. When Mary meets Elizabeth they spontaneously and instantly greet each other. This is a very beautiful gesture that can be used when two people meet each other – greet each other, express warmth. In that way one expresses the joy and gratitude of meeting the other. Use all the opportunities at hand, to meet your friends and relatives. Express the joy you experience on such occasions of encounter with the other. That is how human relationships acquire divine quality.
2. At the greeting of Mary, Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit. The same Holy Spirit who impregnated Mary now takes possession of Elizabeth as well (1:35). This is what happens in every greeting and mutual encounter. The grace and goodness in you gets communicated to the other. This is a great blessing you can impart to others. So strive to be replenished with God’s Spirit and His presence so that those who meet you can also experience the same fullness.
3. Mary says God has regarded the lowliness of His handmaid (1:48). God is concerned enough to look at the weaknesses, shortcomings, and wants of His children. Therefore you need not be anxious about your lowliness, or littleness. This exactly is an area for God to act in your life. When God descends to act in your weaknesses great miracles happen. So be humble enough to recognise your smallness. Invite God into that situation of your life.
25 Dec. Christmas
Context and Theme
The Jewish history, believed to be guided and controlled by God, shows that Jesus of Nazareth is born as the Christ (1: 1-17). In the case of all persons (except Jesus) – from Isaac (1:2) to Joseph (1:2-16)- it is their fathers who generate (verb in active voice) them. In the case of Jesus, Joseph does not generate him, but Jesus is described as generated (passive voice) from Mary (1:18). Naturally the reader might be curious to know how did it happen. Using passive voice is a Jewish way of describing divine action. That means Jesus is generated by divine action. Mt 1:18-25 describes this divine action. In short, Matthew describes, how Jesus at the same time is both Son of David and Son of God.
1. Joseph, being a just man, does not want to humiliate Mary, his betrothed (1:19). One has to remember that he does this even when faced with the most blatant deceit with ample physical proof. You become a just person when you refrain from calumniating your dear ones who have cheated you and even ignored you. By doing so, you also allow God, the space for His plan to unfold. This is a sphere of faith – the faith that sees God’s plan at work, even behind the apparent evil in others.
2. Joseph is directed to name the child (1:21). By doing so, he cooperates with God’s Spirit. When you cooperate with God’s plan and join in its execution, salvation is made possible (1:21). Your salvation, and also those of others, thus becomes actualized.
3. The name of Jesus – Emmanuel, signifies ‘God with us’ (1:22). That is, Jesus Christ is the one who has God with him. When you live in this consciousness of Having God with you, you become a child of God and a true disciple of Christ.
27 Dec. Feast of Holy Family
Context and Theme
Luke begins his gospel with the childhood narratives of Jesus (1:1-2:52). Today we read Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem with His parents for the feast of the Passover. His parents miss Him amidst the crowd in the temple but later discover Him among the teachers of the law.
1. Listen to what Jesus says: “I must be busy with the affairs of my Father” (2:49). Here we have to correlate the fact that Jesus is the Son of God (1:32). The true son is one who is taken up with his father’s concerns. This exactly is the path for you too to become a child of god. Seek God’s will and His ways day after day in your life. Then you will become His beloved child.
2. Joseph and Mary did not understand what the boy Jesus told them (2:50). What Mary does then is to keep it in her heart and ponder over it. It can happen that you do not succeed to comprehend all the events that unfold in your life. Do not reject or rebel at the things that are incomprehensible to you. Instead, keep them in your heart and in due time God will give you proper perspectives.
3. The parents of Jesus are greatly pained at the loss of their son. With that sorrow Mary asks Him “Why did you do this to us?” But Jesus reminds them that He is the Son of God (2:49). You too will have to experience losses and pains in your life. Do not give in to despair or anxiety. They may be moments of divine revelation. What is important is to be attuned to such revelations form God.
03 JAN. Epiphany of the Lord
Context and Theme
At the birth of Jesus, the wise men from the East visit the babe (2:12). When Herod plots to kill Jesus, Joseph escapes to Egypt, with the child and the mother (2:13-18). When Herod dies they return to Israel and lives in Nazareth.
1. The object of search both for the wise men and Herod is the same – the new born Christ, who is king of the Jews (2:1, 4). But their intentions are totally different. The wise men seek Him so that they can pay homage to Him. But Herod has a vile intention, that of doing away with Him. What you seek is not as important as why you seek. Is your seeking geared to the growth and happiness of others or do you intend to destroy them? In all your seeking you must aim at the growth and well being of fellow humans.
2. Herod seeks to kill Jesus because he perceives Him as a threat to his power and position (2:2, 16). Don’t presume and insist that all good has to be yours and within your confines. It is certain that good can exist also outside you and even in the opposite camp. Train yourself to see it and appreciate it. When you can do that, your life will achieve greater peace and serenity. The goodness and resources in others need not be a threat to you; instead, it can complement the goodness in you. If you do not develop such a perspective life will turn cumbersome to you.
3. Herod gathers together the lawyers and the priests of Israel in order to seek information about the birth of the Messiah (2:4). Through this investigation, he is offered right knowledge (2:5-6). But true knowledge does not lead him to salvation or peace. That tells you that even if you possess right knowledge and truth they may not lead you to salvation. You also need to acquire right attitudes coupled with upright actions. Only so, your knowledge can become useful to you, leading you to Christ.
Dr. Jacob Naluparayil