28 November, 2013

First Sunday of Advent

FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT (A)

1 December 2013

Matthew 24, 37 to 44

As it was in the days of Noah,  so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark;  and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man.  Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.  “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.

But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into.  So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.


ANGER AND HOPE

An unconquerable conviction sustains the followers of Jesus from the beginning: guided by God, human history is heading toward its final liberation.  The unbearable contradictions within the human condition, the horrors perpetrated in every age, are not going to destroy our hope.

   This world that sustains us is not the final one. One day the entire creation will give “signs” that its end has come to make way for a new, liberated life that none of us can either imagine or understand.

   The Gospels have preserved the memory of a reflection of Jesus on this end of the times. Paradoxically, his attention is not fixed on the “cosmic events” that may occur at that time. His main aim is to propose to his followers a way of living with awareness of that eventuality.

   The end of history is not chaos, the destruction of life, total death. Slowly, in the midst of light and darkness, following our deepest instincts, or ignoring the best there is in us, we make our way to the ultimate mystery of the reality we believers call “God”.

   We  must not allow fear or anxiety to cripple us. The “last day” is not a day of fury and vengeance, but of liberation. Luke summarizes the thinking of Jesus with these fine words: “Arise, lift up your heads, your liberation is at hand.” Only then will we realize how much God loves the world.

   We need to .revive our confidence, boost our morale, awaken our hope. One day the financial powers will collapse. The folly of the powerful leadership will end. The victims of so many wars, crimes, and genocides will know life. Our efforts to bring about a more humane world  will not be lost forever.

   Jesus is striving to stir up the consciences of his followers. “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation.” Don’t be stupid. Don’t get dragged down by frivolity and excesses. Keep your indignation at injustice alive. “Be always on the watch.” Do not let your guard down. Live with awareness and responsibility. Do not grow weary. Keep yourselves in readiness.

   How are we facing these times difficult for almost everyone, distressing for many, and cruel for those unable to help themselves? Are we awake? Are we asleep? It is up to Christian communities to promote the struggle against injustice and foster hope. And there is only one way: to be with those who are being left with nothing, sunk in despair, anger and humiliation.

Pope Francis - Renewal in the Church

Valentine de Souza
Nov 27 (1 day ago)
to bcc: me
(Reuters) - Pope Francis called for renewal of the Roman Catholic Church and attacked unfettered capitalism as "a new tyranny", urging global leaders to fight poverty and growing inequality in the first major work he has authored alone as pontiff.
The 84-page document, known as an apostolic exhortation, amounted to an official platform for his papacy, building on views he has aired in sermons and remarks since he became the first non-European pontiff in 1,300 years in March.
In it, Francis went further than previous comments criticizing the global economic system, attacking the "idolatry of money" and beseeching politicians to guarantee all citizens "dignified work, education and healthcare".
He also called on rich people to share their wealth. "Just as the commandment 'Thou shalt not kill' sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say 'thou shalt not' to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills," Francis wrote in the document issued on Tuesday.
"How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?"
The pope said renewal of the Church could not be put off and said the Vatican and its entrenched hierarchy "also need to hear the call to pastoral conversion".
"I prefer a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security," he wrote.
In July, Francis finished an encyclical begun by Pope Benedict but he made clear that it was largely the work of his predecessor, who resigned in February.
Called "Evangelii Gaudium" (The Joy of the Gospel), the exhortation is presented in Francis' simple and warm preaching style, distinct from the more academic writings of former popes, and stresses the Church's central mission of preaching "the beauty of the saving love of God made manifest in Jesus Christ".
In it, he reiterated earlier statements that the Church cannot ordain women or accept abortion. The male-only priesthood, he said, "is not a question open to discussion" but women must have more influence in Church leadership.
POVERTY
A meditation on how to revitalize a Church suffering from encroaching secularization in Western countries, the exhortation echoed the missionary zeal more often heard from the evangelical Protestants who have won over many disaffected Catholics in the pope's native Latin America.
In it, economic inequality features as one of the issues Francis is most concerned about, and the 76-year-old pontiff calls for an overhaul of the financial system and warns that unequal distribution of wealth inevitably leads to violence.
"As long as the problems of the poor are not radically resolved by rejecting the absolute autonomy of markets and financial speculation and by attacking the structural causes of inequality, no solution will be found for the world's problems or, for that matter, to any problems," he wrote.
Denying this was simple populism, he called for action "beyond a simple welfare mentality" and added: "I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor."
Since his election, Francis has set an example for austerity in the Church, living in a Vatican guest house rather than the ornate Apostolic Palace, travelling in a Ford Focus, and last month suspending a bishop who spent millions of euros on his luxurious residence.
He chose to be called "Francis" after the medieval Italian saint of the same name famed for choosing a life of poverty.
Stressing cooperation among religions, Francis quoted the late Pope John Paul II's idea that the papacy might be reshaped to promote closer ties with other Christian churches and noted lessons Rome could learn from the Orthodox such as "synodality" or decentralized leadership.
He praised cooperation with Jews and Muslims and urged Islamic countries to guarantee their Christian minorities the same religious freedom as Muslims enjoy in the West.
(Editing by Tom Heneghan and Alison Williams)

Pope Francis called for "a new phase of evangelization

Pope Francis called for "a new phase of evangelization - NYT
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Valentine de Souza
Nov 27 (1 day ago)
to AsiaIrudayarajSubhashStanislausagneloagyalf_matildaAlpeshamalrajsjAmalrajAnacletandreaAndrewannproAnthonyAnthonyAntoinettearul2sjAshokaub_rey77Augustinebagaretreathou.barbara_timpanoBBNBHUMELbishopgodfrey
VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis presented the vision for his papacy on Tuesday, calling on Catholics to battle what he called the “globalization of indifference” to create a more compassionate church that champions the poor as it works to achieve social justice in an increasingly secular and money-oriented society.


Pope Francis called for "a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality."

Called “Evangelii Gaudium,” (the Joy of the Gospel), the document offers the Roman Catholic Church a road map of sorts for navigating the complexities of the modern world, with the Gospel as a compass for what the pope called “a new phase of evangelization, one marked by enthusiasm and vitality.”
The document, a papal pronouncement known as an apostolic exhortation, was the first major written work Francis has created since he was chosen eight months ago to lead the 2,000-year-old church.
It challenges the church to “abandon the complacent attitude that says: ‘We have always done it this way,'” to find novel, “bold and creative” ways to speak to the faithful and to make the church more meaningful.
The 84-page document is essentially a compendium of what Pope Francis has said in dozens of speeches and sermons since he became pope in March. “It is the fruit of personal reflection,” the Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said at a news conference. “There is coherence between the words of the documents and the actions of the pope.”
An apostolic exhortation does not define Church doctrine, and the document makes clear that some issues – like abortion, or the ordination of women – are not up for discussion.
But there is an acknowledgment too, that the world has changed, and that the church must change with it. It is time, Pope Francis said, for “still broader opportunities for a more incisive female presence in the Church,” in particular “in the various other settings where important decisions are made.”
The local church must have greater say in decision-making, and the renewal of the church can only gain strength if it begins from the bottom up, the pope said.
Bishops and priests on the ground have a better sense of the needs of the faithful, as well as their frustrations, and parishes should become a critical part of the church’s evangelization and outreach. A parish should be a point of “contact with the homes and the lives of its people,” and not a “useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed cluster made up of a chosen few,” he wrote.

25 November, 2013

SCCs can transform society: Cardinal Gracias

Goa 
Cardinal Oswald Gracias has said that living a life of love is an authentic living of Christian faith and small Christian communities leading a genuine life can bring about society's transformation.

"The SCCs have the power to transform the Church from an inward looking community to an outreaching church through a life of love," Cardinal Gracias said while delivering the homily during the Eucharistic celebration on Nov. 21 outside the Basilica of Bom Jesus.

The celebration also marked the conclusion of the first national convention of small Christian communities (SCCs).

The third-day program shifted back to Old Goa after 2,000 outstation delegates, including bishops, priests and the laity held a day-long interaction with local parishioners at the deanery and parish level in Goa.

The cardinal, who is also president of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI), said SCCs are the primary locus and means of national integration, ushering in truth, honesty, justice, human rights and dignity, good governance, eco-care and eco-justice in society.

The event that brought to a close the Year of Faith for the Church in India saw the faithful from different parishes come in a rally and join the delegates during the closing function.

While acknowledging the Church's contribution in the fields of education, healthcare and social service, Bishop Thomas Dabre, president of the National Service Team for SCC, challenged the faithful and the leadership to offer resources to the Church for the service of society.

20 November, 2013

Advent prayers

The following ceremonies are meant for every day during the weeks of Advent, beginning with the first Sunday. Dinner and bedtime are made even more special with this ritual. The family says the prayer as the candles on the Advent wreath are lighted.
The First Week of Advent
The family prays:
Father in heaven,
our hearts desire the warmth of your love, and our minds are searching for the light of your Word. Increase our longing for Christ our Savior and give us the strength to grow in love, that the dawn of his coming may find us rejoicing in his presence and welcoming the light of his truth. We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
Amen.
The Second Week of Advent
The family prays:
Father in heaven,
the day draws near when the glory of your Son will make radiant the night of the waiting world.
May the lure of greed not impede us from the joy which moves the hearts of those who seek him.
May the darkness not blind us to the vision of wisdom which fills the minds of those who find him.
We ask this in the name of Jesus the Lord.
Amen.
The Third Week of Advent
The family prays:
Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever faithful to your promises and ever close to your Church: the earth rejoices in hope of the Savior’s coming and looks forward with longing to his return at the end of time. Prepare our hearts and remove the sadness that hinders us from feeling the joy and hope which his presence will bestow, for he is Lord for ever and ever.
Amen.
The Fourth Week of Advent
The family prays:
Father, all-powerful God,
your eternal Word took flesh on our earth when the Virgin Mary placed her life at the service of your plan. Lift our minds in watchful hope to hear the voice which announces his glory, and open our minds to receive the Spirit who prepares us for his coming.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
Amen.

Christ the King

Last Sunday of the Year © -  Christ the King

24 November 2013

 Matthew 25, 31 to 46

 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.  

He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.  “Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.

For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in,  I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

 “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink?  When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you?  When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

 “The King will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.’

 “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.  For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

 “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’  “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”



With eyes wide open

José Antonio Pagola

The first Christian  communities lived through very difficult years. Lost in the vast Roman empire, in the midst of conflicts and persecutions, these Christians looked for strength and inspiration hoping for the early return of Jesus and remembered his words: “Keep watch, be on your guard. Keep your eyes wide open. Be alert.”

   Do the warnings of Jesus to be on our guard still  mean anything to us? What does it mean to us Christians to put our hope in God keeping our eyes wide open?  Will we allow hope in the ultimate justice of God  to be definitively exhausted in our secular world for the majority of innocent victims who suffer through no fault of their own?

   Precisely, the easiest way to discredit Christian hope is to expect our eternal salvation from God while we turn our backs on the suffering there is already now in the world. One day we will have to admit our blindness before the judgment seat of Christ: When did we see you hungry or thirsty, a stranger or naked, sick or in prison, and did not help you? This will be our final exchange with him if we live with our eyes closed.

   We have to wake up and to open wide our eyes, to be vigilant to see much beyond our petty interests and worries. The hope of a Christian is not a blind attitude for it never forgets those who suffer. Christian spirituality does not consist only in looking within, for one’s heart is attentive to all those left to their fate.

   In Christian communities we have to take ever greater care that the way we live our hope does not lead us to indifference to or neglect of the poor. We cannot remain isolated in our religion so we do not hear the cries of those who daily die of hunger. We may not feed our illusion of innocence in order to excuse our tranquility.
   Cannot this hope in God which forgets those who live on this  earth without any hope, be considered a religious version of a certain kind of rash optimism, lived without clarity or responsibility?  Cannot a seeking of one’s own eternal  salvation with one’s back turned on those who suffer not be accused of being a subtle egoism extended towards what lies beyond ?

   Probably, the little sensitivity towards the immense suffering there is in the world is one of the most serious symptoms of the ageing of present day Christianity. When Pope Francis calls for “a more poor church and a church of the poor”, he is proclaiming loudly his most important message to Christians of prosperous countries.

Translated from Spanish by Vally D'souza sj


Advent is near

James P. Campbell, D. Min.
  
The Jesse Tree depicts the genealogy of Jesus.
When we think of New Year's celebrations, we usually think of party time. It's time to let the old year go. We anticipate the new year by making resolutions, promising changes in behavior.
As Christians, we celebrate the arrival of a new liturgical year differently. The new year that begins on the first Sunday of Advent is a quiet one. In the readings for the four Sundays of Advent, we remember the time when people waited in anticipation for the coming of the Messiah. And while we know that the Messiah has come in Jesus Christ, and we have remembered his life, death, resurrection and Ascension many times, we can still reflect on and celebrate the newness of his coming once again.
What is great about celebrating the coming of Jesus with children is that they help us approach the season with fresh eyes and insight. They present us with a challenge and an opportunity. The challenge they present is the way they soak up the values of the culture that has had them anticipating Christmas since the beginning of November. The opportunity they present is that we can introduce them to the timeless rituals celebrating the coming of the Messiah that will add depth to their spiritual lives.
There are a number of ways families can celebrate the season of Advent:
Make an Advent wreath and place it in the middle of the dining room table. An Advent wreath consists of a frame holding four candles placed inside a circle of evergreens. The greenery in the wreath symbolizes the promised new life in Jesus. The four candles denote the four Sundays of Advent. There are three purple candles and one rose candle. Purple is a sign of penance, and rose is the color denoting the anticipation of joy. Light a candle on each Sunday evening of Advent, saying a short prayer or singing a verse of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.” The light of the candles represents the light coming into the world as we prepare to celebrate Jesus' birth.
Advent calendars are available at many gift stores. The calendar consists of two pieces of cardboard on top of each other. Twenty-four doors are cut out of the top layer. One door is opened each day from December 1 through December 24, revealing a picture. 
There is a long tradition in Christian art of depicting the Jesse Tree, a symbolic tree or vine with spreading branches on which there are images depicting the genealogy of Jesus. There are several variations of the Jesse Tree. In one variation, each ornament has a picture on one side and a Scripture passage on the other. An ornament is hung on the tree every day during Advent.
With the celebration of Advent each year, everything old can be new again. Each year gives ourselves and our family an opportunity to remember and anticipate the celebration of the birth of Jesus on Christmas morning.

17 November, 2013

Basic Ecclesial Communities: Adelaide's 'new model of Chur OF THE CHURCH

BASIC ECCLESIAL Communities: Adelaide's 'new model of 


OF THE CHURCH




"It is not a matter of getting people to church, but how to be authentically church to them. To be church is not to do the religious thing but to listen, to struggle with people"
Experts on Latin American Basic Ecclesial Communities - Fr José Marins and his Team from Brazil - are currently touring several Australian dioceses, training participants in a series of workshops.
Some Australian Catholics might wonder what relevance BECs could possibly have for the Church in this country.
While they may have a place in Latin America, with its distinctive cultural and socio-economic conditions, it seems debatable whether they are relevant to Australia. Their origin in neo-Marxist liberation theology - criticised by the Vatican - also raises misgivings.
No doubt, under the direction of a strong, orthodox bishop, with equally orthodox advisers, parish priests and lay leaders, BECs might achieve positive results, their impact depending on who exercises overall control and what theology predominates.
But, to date, the more orthodox dioceses making serious efforts to recruit priests - and experiencing some success in this regard - have indicated no interest in BECs.

BEC structure

BECs themselves involve the division of parishes into small clusters of parishioners, each under the direction of lay or religious leaders responsible to the parish priest. Their structure is based on re-creating isolated, self-reliant, missionary-oriented communities that characterised the early Church, with minimum authority. That is the theory, at least.
This approach might appear acceptable, since many Australian suburban or rural parishes, with the shortfall in clergy numbers, have grown larger and more impersonal. Breaking up parishes into smaller units ought to allow more direct contact with Church representatives, more sense of belonging and more possibilities for contacting the large percentage of non-practising Catholics.
The general picture, however, suggests that to date the prime movers - notably in Adelaide - are committed liberals using BECs to further their own agenda for the Church. Their emphasis is not so much on evangelisation or bringing back lapsed Catholics to the practice of the Faith, but on building "a new model of church" involving a more autonomous, congregational style of Catholicism with less hierarchical input.
Here, the fall in clergy numbers appears to have become a window of opportunity. Rather than take strenuous, creative measures to increase clergy numbers - including following the lead of successful dioceses in Australia and overseas - the emphasis has been one-sidedly on restructurings and "empowering" more lay people, including the introduction of BECs.
Adelaide has been introducing BECs into its parish structures for almost ten years, even as its seminary has shut down for lack of numbers - a predictable result of years of talk about empowering lay people to take over the running of parishes.
A report in SA Catholic (June 1995) had enthused over the number of pastoral associates studying theology at the St Francis Xavier Seminary "under an archdiocesan initiative called Formation for Pastoral Ministry." It concluded: "And with the move towards Basic Ecclesial Communities, the presence of such informed people who can draw on the richness of Church traditions can only lead to a very 'alive' Church."
The Adelaide Advertiser later reported (8 April 1996): "Adelaide is the first diocese in the modern world to adopt the BEC model, which arose out of Latin American liberation theology, as the basis for church structure."
The apparent revolutionary intent of some of those promoting BECs in Adelaide comes across in various archdiocesan publications.
Materials for applicants for a BEC Project Officer position noted, for example, that "encouraging parishes to begin the development of BECs is a challenge because it is a new model of church." A Project Officer would have to develop programs for Neighbourhood Pastoral Teams and Coordinating Committees that, among other things, "deepen their understanding of the principles and theology of BECs." Since BECs "are inherently about change," the Officer "requires the ability to deal with conflict and negotiation."
Would-be Project Officers are informed a special project is being developed in Adelaide "which will offer an intense communal experience based upon the Marins style and match it with extensive experience of church through visiting and forming local community." The "next big challenge facing the BEC work", it explained, was the "development of a new level of church."

Priority

On the other hand, bringing "lost sheep" back to the practice of the Faith is not cited as a priority. Sr Ruth Egar, an expert on the subject in Adelaide, told an in-service conference: "It is not a matter of getting people to church, but how to be authentically church to them. To be church is not to do the religious thing but to listen, to struggle with people."
In fact, during the period BECs have been operational in Adelaide's parishes, Mass attendances have continued to fall in line with the rest of the country.
During an earlier visit to Adelaide, Fr Marins explained (SA Catholic, September 1994) that BECs were not just smaller models of the parish but a different model whereby there was a much deeper experience of community: "Instead of inviting people to go to the sacraments and the organisation of the parish, the Church is the sacrament in the world ... in order to reveal to the people of this age the deep experience of Jesus Christ that is full humanisation."
Fr Marins foresaw a time in the future when each small community would have its own minister, though the ordination process might differ. It would, he said, require a new style of being a priest and being a Christian.
These statements could mean almost anything and certainly raise questions as to what Fr Marins actually intends. Nor is it indicated whether the Holy See would have a say in such "grass roots" arrangements. Indeed, the problem with Fr Marins' accounts of BECs is their ambiguity, leaving the actual result to depend largely on the stances of those in control.
Other Australian dioceses apparently embarking on a similar path to Adelaide, with visits from the Fr Marins Team in recent weeks, have included Ballarat, Sandhurst, Bathurst and Canberra-Goulburn. The Hobart and Maitland dioceses have already been looking at similar restructuring approaches.
It remains to be seen at this stage whether the Adelaide approach to BECs of the past few years will be replicated in these dioceses.

Progressive terminology

In Ballarat, promotional material sent out to all Ballarat Diocesan Assembly participants prior to the Marins Workshops on 1 March 2001 by Fr John Fitzgerald, Director of the Pastoral Planning Office, contained similar progressive terminology to that used in Adelaide: "an experience of a dynamic Church, basically of equals", "insights into the Australian Church of the future", "a refreshing image of church in which you can hope", "a new model of church: a model where there is a fresh emphasis on community."
Granted the usual quota of lonely, sick, elderly, disabled, struggling people will always welcome a friendly visit from anyone - whether from Meals on Wheels, the Salvation Army, or even a BEC representative. But most people belong to assorted overlapping "communities" of their choice - work, hobbies, sport, church, school, etc. It is difficult to visualise the silent majority in an Australian Catholic parish taking kindly to being conscripted into designated "communities". And there are already well-established ways in the Australian context of reaching out to the "lost sheep" and "battlers" such as through the Legion of Mary and St Vincent de Paul Society.
It seems surprising that some Australian dioceses have gone to so much trouble and expense to learn from Brazil - with its radically different cultural and socio-economic environment - when success stories of evangelisation and seminary numbers are literally on their doorsteps.

SMALL CHRISTIAN COMMUNITIES-JOSE MARINS (CEBS)

A Discussion on Global Small Christian Communities.wmv

Small Christian communities SCC- THE NEW WAY OF BEING CHURCH

15 November, 2013

33rd Sunday C

3-Nov-2013

Dear Friend

From time to time there arise prophets of doom who predict the day the world will end! These prophets are not popular or credible as no one wants to hear bad news. Prophecies that the world is about to end have never been part of mainstream Catholic thought. We live between the times, not in anticipation of the end of time. For believers, natural disasters or acts of terrorism should be a summons to faith and hope. The call of faith is: "Be not afraid! Your perseverance will save you!" Have a faith-reassuring weekend! Fr. Jude

Sunday Reflections: 33rd Sunday 'Be not worried about the end of the world! Your perseverance will save you!' 17-Nov-2013

2 Malachi 3:19-20 2 Thessalonians 3: 7 -12 Luke 21:5-19

The community during prophet Malachi's time found it difficult to distinguish right from wrong anymore, since the faithless seemed to prosper and the faithful made to suffer more. Their frustration led them to wonder whether serving God was worthwhile. Malachi insists that evildoers will be punished on the Day of the Lord and the just will be the special possession of the Lord. Their names will be written in the Book of remembrance. The righteous could look forward to vindication, healing, and the warmth of God's faithful love towards them. The just need to hold on and persevere in their faith, for God's justice will triumph and vindicate them.

Are you brave enough?
There is a moving incident in the life of St. Anthony, who, for the love of God, went and stayed in the desert. Far from the maddening crowds of men, he lived a life in communion with God. Yet he was not free from trials. One day he had to undergo intense suffering. When he emerged from his trials, he said to God, "Ah, Beloved God, where wert Thou when I was in great distress?" He heard the voice of God say, "My child, I was with you all the time, even as I am with you now! I wanted to see how brave you were!"
J.P. Vaswani in '101 Stories for You and Me'

In today's gospel Luke handles two themes: one is historical -the destruction of Jerusalem and the victory of the gospel. The other is the end of the age and the coming of the Son of man. Our reading is concerned with the prediction of the destruction of the temple and the situation of Christians in a time of trial. While the splendid temple is doomed, Jesus distinguishes this event from the end of the world: the fall of Jerusalem will not mark the End. The language consciously echoes traditional Old Testament images of disaster and could well be applied to the destruction of Jerusalem seen as a divine intervention and as a prefiguring of the persecution they must face. Jesus warns that his followers are going to be mistreated and persecuted. But this must be an opportunity to bear witness to the Lord's teaching. Luke looks at things from the point of view of victims of persecution. We are assured that the Lord will assist his witnesses at that moment to enable them to resist and contradict their adversaries. The Lord will give them the necessary eloquence and wisdom to confront their opponents' accusations. However, among those who oppose Jesus' followers there will be people who were very close to them, thus making the situation even more painful. The call is to be faithful and persevere in trusting the Lord, and those who hold on will be saved.

The Temple destroyed
Jesus made a prediction of the destruction of the Temple, which to the ordinary Jew must have seemed impossible and unthinkable. This was no ordinary building. The temple symbolized the entire Jewish system of worship. The Jerusalem temple had a long history of building, destruction and re-building. The first temple was built by King Solomon, and it was destroyed by the Babylonians. The Second temple was built by Cyrus the Great and it was desecrated by Antiochus Epiphanes. Then it was renovated by Herod the Great, but later it was destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D. during the siege of Jerusalem. A million people were killed or died by starvation during the siege. The temple was burned to the ground. Thus Jesus' prophesy came true to the letter. (After the Muslim conquest of Jerusalem in the 7th Century, an Islamic shrine was built on the site of the temple. This shrine, along with the entire Old City of Jerusalem, was recaptured by Jewish forces in 1967 during the Six-Day War. Israel officially annexed East Jerusalem, including the Temple Mount, in 1980 under the Jerusalem Law.)  - Human achievements can be fragile. It is not only a question of buildings, but also of empires and kingdoms. This temple building reduced to dust and rubble is a reminder that God does not dwell is structures of stone, wood and costly adornment. Our mortal bodies too will be reduced to dust and rubble, a reminder that God does not dwell in a cosmetically-enhanced human body. But Jesus says that the holiest of temples will last forever. What is it? It is the human heart, which is God's chosen earthly dwelling place. Therefore we must re-focus our attention on what is good for the soul. Let us focus on love, friendship and peace. Their fruits will endure forever.
John Pichappilly in 'The Table of the Lord'

Witnessing in a time of confusion and uncertainty
Anne frank was a teenage Jewish girl who lived in Amsterdam during the early years of World War II. When the Germans began rounding up all the Jews, she and her family went into hiding. For two long years, seven of them lived in the attic of their home, haunted by the constant fear of detection. So it was anything but a normal existence of the young teenage and her terrified family. During that time, Anne frank kept her famous diary, which her father found only after the war had ended. In it the young girl frankly expressed her thoughts and feelings with a maturity way beyond her years. So inspiring was that diary that it has been translated into many languages and continues to inspire people of all ages even today, almost sixty years after it was written. In one remarkably passage, Anne Frank says: "It's twice as hard for us young people to hold our ground, in a time when all ideals are being shattered and destroyed, when people are showing their worst side, and do not know whether to believe in truth and right and God. It's really a wonder that I haven't dropped all my ideals, because they seem so absurd and impossible to carry out. Yet I keep them, because in spite of everything I still believe that people are good at heart. I see the world being turned into a wilderness; I hear the ever-approaching thunder, which will destroy us too; I can feel the suffering of millions and yet, if I look up into the heavens, I think it will all come right, that this cruelty will end, and that peace and tranquility will return again." In spite of her hope and optimism, poor Anne did not live to see her dream fulfilled. In 1944, she and her family were found, arrested, and imprisoned in the horrific Berge-Belsen Concentration Camp, where the Jews were exterminated and where she eventually died. What sustained Anne Frank during her ordeal was her faith in God and in humanity. - Living an authentically Christian life today certainly poses a tough challenge; but of one thing we are absolutely assured, and that is our victory through our faith in and our commitment to Christ Jesus. In the words of the famous freedom-fighter Alexander Solzhenitsyn, "A person without fear is no hero; the person who overcomes fear is."
James Valladares in "Your words, O Lord, Are Spirit, and They Are Life"

"The hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service."
The 2000-member church was filled to overflowing capacity one Sunday morning. The preacher was ready to start the sermon when two men, dressed in long black coats and black hats, entered via the rear of the Church. One of the two men walked to the middle of the Church while the other stayed at the back of the church. They both then reached under their coats and withdrew automatic weapons. The one in the middle announced, "Everyone willing to take a bullet for Jesus stay in your seat!" Naturally, the pews emptied, followed by the choir loft. The deacons ran out of the door too. After a few moments, there were about 20 people left sitting in the church. The preacher was holding steady in the pulpit. The men put their weapons away and said, gently to the preacher, "All right, pastor, the hypocrites are gone now. You may begin the service." -We should not be so anxious about when the world will end but rather should concern ourselves with the preparation needed for the end of our own individual life. Can we be faithful no matter what??
Tomi Thomas in "Spice up your homilies"

The Decay of the best is the worst
Joseph Stalin was the most ruthless dictator of the former Soviet Union. He was the General Secretary of the Communist Party from 1922 to 1953. In 1928, he launched a series of five-year plans for the rapid industrialization and enforced collectivization of agriculture. As a result more than ten million farmers were killed. He ruthlessly murdered hundreds and hundreds of the intellectuals who opposed him. He, in fact, had murdered more men than that manic Hitler. But the surprising thing is that Stalin as a teenager had joined the seminary to become a priest. He was expelled from it because of his revolutionary ideas. A noble desire went awfully wrong.  A man who desired to save souls became a monster who ruthlessly murdered people in millions. The decay of the best is always the worst. -In today's gospel, Jesus foretells the utter ruin and destruction of Jerusalem. Upon the Lord's visitation, the inhabitants of Jerusalem and the temple authorities rejected Him, and consequently destruction visited them. Today, let us look at the great beauty of the temple, and also consider its ruin and the cause of it.
John Rose in 'John's Sunday Homilies'

May we hold on to our faith when we are put to the test! Our victory is in Him!

Fr. Jude Botelho

PS. The stories, incidents and anecdotes used in the reflections have been collected over the years from books as well as from sources over the net and from e-mails received. Every effort is made to acknowledge authors whenever possible. If you send in stories or illustrations I would be grateful if you could quote the source as well so that they can be acknowledged if used in these reflections.These reflections are also available on my Web site www.NetForLife.net Thank you.