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December 30th – Octave – Christmas
Readings: I Jn 2:12-17; Lk 2:36-40.
1/ First Reading: RSV 1 John 2:12 I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake. 13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. 15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. 17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.
2/ Gospel: RSV Luke 2:36 And there was a prophetess, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; she was of a great age, having lived with her husband seven years from her virginity, 37 and as a widow till she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day. 38 And coming up at that very hour she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. 39 And when they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.
I. THEME: We are equipped to live according to God’s will.
One of human big mistakes is to chase after God’s creature instead of God, the Creator. If people take time to reflect, they can recognize the unreasonableness of this mistake. How can any creature be compared with the Creator who creates everything for people to use them? God’s purpose in creating them isn’t for people to worship them, but to use them only as a mean of living during their life on earth. Many people laughed when they see others kneeling down to worship a molten calf; but they themselves are worshiping a “golden calf” which they don’t recognize!
Today readings center on the theme that people must forfeit their worldly way of living and learn how to live according to God’s way. In the first reading, the author of the First Johannine Letter confirmed that God equipped for people all necessary means so that they might overcome all worldly temptation and live according to the divine way. The author listed out some means, such as: Christ’s victory over death, the forgiveness of sins and the Scripture. In the Gospel, St. Luke gave us some examples of those who lived according to God’s way, Anna, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher; and the members of the holy family who lived a quiet life for thirty years to prepare for Jesus’ public ministry.
1/ Reading I: God fully equipped for human beings to live according to the divine way.
1.1/ The graces which people received from Christ: The author listed out three things:
(1) The forgiveness of sins in Christ’s name: By Christ’s death, he took away the original sin and all sins which people sinned, are sinning and shall sin. Not only that, he established the sacrament of Reconciliation and gave the right to forgive sins for the apostles and their successors. What he requires from the faithful is to frequently examine their conscience and to use the sacrament of Reconciliation every time they committed a serious sin.
(2) The knowing of the divine revelation: By the revelation of Christ and the Scripture, the faithful know about the Trinity and all of God’s works, especially about God’s plan of salvation for people. A life of praying, studying of Scripture and uniting closely with God shall help people to know more about God and to love Him more.
(3) Christ’s victory over the devil and the world: By Christ’s death and resurrection, Christ conquered the devil and all worldly powers. People are also liberated from these powers.
1.2/ The worldly versus the divine way:
(1) The worldly way: First of all, we must understand the meanings of the “world.” The author didn’t insult the world as God’s creature because everything God created is good. Moreover, the author of the Fourth Gospel also said, “God so loves the world that He gave His Only Begotten Son” (Jn 3:16). What he meant here is all the world’s evil tendencies which are opposed with God’s will.
– The lust of the flesh isn’t only limited on sexual desires, but also all other desires such as: fame, power, richness and other desires that cause people have no time for God and prevent them on the way to the eternal life.
– The lust of the eyes: The eyes are the windows of the soul since through them; all images of things are abstracted and stored in the human memory. When opportunities come, these images shall re-appear in the soul and cause many damages for people. For examples, the ninth and the tenth of the Ten Commandments are related to human eyes because the seeing shall lead to the desiring. To avoid these sins, people need “to fast” their eyes—don’t look at things that cause sins for them later. With the advancement of the internet, the fasting of our eyes is necessary.
– The pride of life: isn’t translated well by the RSV version. The Greek word is “alazoneía” which means to boast what one doesn’t have. The following story illustrates the meaning of this word. There was a woman who had just grand-opening her store. When she saw a man who entered her store, she picked up the phone and boasted about how busy her store is. Her intention in doing this act is to let the man in her store know that though her store had just been opened, but there are many customers. After boasting for a while, she hung up the phone and asked the man what does he need? He said that he is the worker of the phone company and comes to connect her telephone line. At that time, her face was turning red because she knew the man knew her ridiculous boasting.
(2) The divine way is completely opposed with the worldly way: The author advised his faithful, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If any one loves the world, love for the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life (the unreasonable boasting), is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world passes away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.”
2/ Gospel: The examples of those who lived according to God’s way.
2.1/ The life of Anna, the prophetess: She was the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After married and lived with her husband seven years, she became a widow and remained this status until she was eighty-four years old at the time she met the holy family in the temple.
Many people shall question how could she live as a widow for such long period of time? Her life showed us that nothing is impossible to God. With God’s grace she completely dedicated her remaining life for God. Luke told us that “She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”
Since she longed to see the Savior and prepared to meet him, the Spirit helped her to see him, as also happened with Simeon. After meeting him, “she gave thanks to God, and spoke of him to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem.”
2.2/ The holy family’s life in Nazareth: St. Luke briefly reported their life as followed, “When they had performed everything according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city, Nazareth. And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom; and the favor of God was upon him.”
Joseph returned to his profession as a carpenter to earn a living for his family with his own hands; he didn’t ask God to perform miracles to support his family. Mary also used her hands to cook meals and to care for both Joseph and the child Jesus during his childhood in Nazareth. Jesus, though he is God, hid himself for thirty years with Joseph and Mary; he obeyed them and prepared for his public ministry later. All three members of the holy family quietly lived a normal life for thirty years according to the divine way.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– We need to always remember and to live the first commandment. Do not let the worldly temptations draw us out from God’s love.
– One way that helps us to know if we truly live according to the first commandment is to examine our conscience more often. If we are so busy to the point that we have no time to pray, to attend Mass and to participate in activities that extend God’s kingdom; we are chasing after gods which aren’t the true God.