▪ The Christmas Night liturgy in St Peter’s Basilica was attended by many pilgrims from all over the world. While presiding at the Holy Eucharist, Pope Francis in his homily gave an encouraging message focused on the theme of God’s grace: bringing salvation to all and shining on our world. The Pope described this grace as divine love, the love that changes lives, renews history, liberates from evil, it fills hearts with peace and joy. Furthermore, “Christmas reminds us that God continues to love us all, even the worst of us because we are precious in His eyes. His love is unconditional and does not change; it does not depend on us. His love it is not fickle, it is faithful. It is patient. In the beauty of God’s love, we also discover our own beauty, for we are the beloved of God. In His eyes we are beautiful, not for what we do, but for what we are”.
“Awake, encounter Christ and be witness of Joy to the world”
The members of Mary, Mother of Divine Love Province in India had their General Visitation from 28th October to 15th December 2019 made by Sr. Josephina D’Souza, the Vice - General and Sr. Liberata Niyongira, the General Councilor.
On 28 December 2019, the day of the Holy Innocents, the two Pallottine Sisters´ Communities joyfully celebrated the Mystery of Christmas in the Generalate of the Roman Pallottine Sisters and shared the joy of the Nativity of Jesus. The singing of Christmas carols in different languages, prayers at the manger and games for this season marked this community gathering. We all felt the beautiful Christmas atmosphere and close presence of the Infant Jesus among us, the beauty of communion and unity. At the end, we shared and enjoyed our Agape. For both Pallottine Sisters` Congregations this gathering was another trail stone of bridge-building among us and of family relationship with one another. We experienced the word: “Rejoice in the Lord and again I say rejoice”!
The reading from the Gospel of Saint Mark reminds me of what often happens in our Church:
- As Jesus’ followers gathered around him, we are regularly coming together to listen to his word in our religious services, to having communion with him, and to be strengthened by the fellowship of believers.
- As Jesus’ followers focused on Christ, we too are attentive to his word.
- As Jesus’ followers did not see the paralytic men who wanted to be close to Jesus, we often also overlook the human suffering around us, which is in need of Christ’s healing touch.
Faith is a force of consolation in suffering
Christians know that suffering cannot be eliminated, yet it can have meaning and become an act of love and entrustment into the hands of God who does not abandon us; in this way it can serve as a moment of growth in faith and love... Nor does the light of faith make us forget the sufferings of this world. How many men and women of faith have found mediators of light in those who suffer! So it was with Saint Francis of Assisi and the leper, or with Mother Teresa of Calcutta and her poor. They understood the mystery at work in them. In drawing near to the suffering, they were certainly not able to eliminate all their pain or to explain every evil. Faith is not a light which scatters all our darkness, but a lamp which guides our steps in the night and suffices for the journey.
There are clearly two parts in today’s gospel narrative that present Jesus first as giver and then as receiver leading again to his giving.
Faced with human need, Jesus’ heart is moved to do what he can to alleviate their suffering. He frees those who are possessed by demons and heals those who are sick, including Peter’s mother-in-law (I facetiously find here the root of Peter’s denials: he never forgave Jesus for curing his mother-in-law). As Paul will much later tell his friends in Ephesus using an otherwise uncorroborated saying of Jesus, “There is more happiness in giving than in receiving” [Acts 20:35]. At least at the level of ministry, my own experience resonates with that quote. Yet in the course of years of ministry I have learned that I cannot keep on giving without at some point receiving. In my early years I found myself at times “drained”, empty, victim of one-sided spiritual activism.
Jesus speaks here at the beginning of His career with striking authority, not through a repetition, a simple commentary, or a refinement of the text but as a prophet, one speaking directly the words of God Himself. He knows the text that He is opening for His community perfectly well, since He is permeated with the words of the Old Testament and filled with the Holy Spirit, just like His mother: it will become apparent later in His life that He is not only a special vessel of God's word, He is God's Word. At this early point, though, His mastery of the written word and the oral delivery of it sets Him up for a special role in salvation history.
"This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel."
Today we begin the Season of Ordinary Time. In this sense, Ordinary does not mean "common." The root of the word comes from "ordinal," so that it literally means "counted time." This is the season of the church year that is counted or marked week by week for a period of time after Advent and before Lent and from the end of the Easter Season until the end of the Church year. It is the time of the year, through the three Sunday cycles and the two daily cycles of the readings we get our biggest nourishment of scripture over a three year period.
Is 42:1-4. 6-7; Acts 10:34-38; Mt 3:13-17
As we move from Christmas Season to Ordinary Time (between Christmas and Lent) we have this feast to help us with the transition. The Baptism of Jesus represents the beginning of his public ministry. He will baptize us with "fire and the Holy Spirit," but first, he himself is baptized.
1 Jn 5:5-13; Lk 5:12-16
The Real Presence of God
God, we are complicated creatures: reluctant, idealistic, complaining, generous. You know us well. Our secrets don’t surprise you. You seek out our hiding places. In crisis and celebrations, you are there. We try to protest: God, why do you allow such suffering? Then we remember: you are no stranger to abandonment or to joy. Even to doubt. You have walked through valleys and to mountain tops. You have faced lonely nights. No matter what engulfs us, you have been there first. Your presence brings comfort.