Welcome

WELCOME TO MY BLOG CELEBRATE FAITH. SHARING MY FAITH AND PRACTICE

Friday, January 28, 2022

Let the Truth be Told

 The Fourth Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C): January 30, 2022

Readings: Jeremiah 1:4–5, 17–19Psalm 71:1–6, 15–171 Corinthians 12:31–13:13Luke 4:21–30

Jesus is driven out of the synagogue in Nazareth

To listen to my audio-video reflections please click here 

The liturgical calendar of this week has been very rich with the celebration of the life of many saints, namely, Sts Francis de Sales, Timothy and Titus, Angela Merici, Thomas Aquinas and the Conversion of St Paul. We need such holy men and women to inspire us when things go bad in us or when we get bored with the things which do not seem to have changed. Each saint that we remembered had something special to contribute towards the growth of our Church or humanity in general. St Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274) is one of the splendid personalities that the Church produced in the medieval ages. His contribution to the intellectual life of the Church in general and global human civilization, in particular, is immense. He is known to have combined both reason and faith in his thought process in order to assent to truth. We might not use his Summa Theologiae very much in our daily life but certainly, his beautiful hymns that he composed for Corpus Christi are still on our tongues like Tantum Ergo Sacramentum, Panis Angelicus, etc. This Sunday, the liturgical readings too have such a bent of Aquinas where they call us for something different and invite us to follow and live the truth.

1. Jesus purifies all that is false

The gospel reading (Luke 4:21–30) from St Luke is the continuation of last Sunday. Jesus is in his hometown synagogue. Probably, until now Jesus must have been an active listener. But today, after reading the scroll of Isaiah which is known as the Nazareth Manifesto, Jesus begins to speak from the pulpit and explains its relevance and significance. The great works of prophets Elijah and Elisha do not interest his townsfolk instead pricks their conscience very badly. Such behaviour of Jesus which must have been contrary to the existing rules was quickly called into question. Moreover, Jesus quickly picks up the murmuring of the people and begins to substantiate his arguments on his role in their society by narrating the episodes from the Old Testament. People become furious and hostile. Instead of peace and tranquillity in the Lord's house, anger and frustration grow among the attendees. The truth is not allowed to be heard. Jesus is simply kicked out of the temple. 

Perhaps the reality of our life is such that we would like to hear only what our ears like to hear. Truth hurts. When truth is spoken, we dislike it because it calls for some sacrifice or change, for which we might not be ready yet. Often our ideas and identity are built on false propagandas of the religion. An unpurified religion or a religion that is constructed on the whims and fancies of the secular and temporary power structures does not allow to hear the truth that religion speaks about. What runs the religion is the hierarchy of power. People who are below are just slaves to follow the diktats of the so-called seniors, elders and learned. Therefore, critical thinking is disliked, truth is banished, analyses are avoided, meaningless rituals, customs and hierarchy are encouraged and allowed to sit on the thrones. Where do we belong here? Have I noticed it in my own religion or in other religions?

2. God plans for each one of us

God speaks from the mouth of Prophet Isaiah: '“For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” says the Lord' (Isaiah 55:8). That is the way of God's going about in this world. Prophet Jeremiah receives the Word of God, in fact, His call to serve Him in unexpected ways. "The word of the LORD came to me, saying: Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I dedicated you, a prophet to the nations I appointed you" (Jeremiah 1:1-2). These words speak of a deep and intimate knowing of our being by God. The timid and nervous prophet Jeremia could not even believe in himself and his abilities to be a prophet and speak the truth. Often it is easy to speak the false and not the truth. It is cozy to be hidden in the falsehood than in the authenticity. 

Probably, often we run into conflicts because they are within ourselves. We do not know ourselves even after many years of studies, living, readings, reasoning, experiences, etc. We are happy with what others say about us. That is where we close ourselves, enter within our shell like a tortoise without giving us an opportunity to grow or see the truth in the Lord. Thus turning our lives into battlegrounds. In fact, the battles that are fought within ourselves.  Bible is full of stories, where God made individuals and people great. He gave them dignity, power and grace. Such individuals found the battleground outside where the tyranny of anger, resistance, jealousy, sloth, fear, frustration, false claims, distortions of real situations, self-serving propaganda, perjury, lying, subjugation, demonic possession, obsession, oppression, attack, manipulation, where devil dwells and wickedness reigns. Prophets picked up such evil intents in society and inside the household and called for purification and repentance. They said that each individual is precious and called for grace and for a grace-filled life.  Perhaps, we could ask ourselves where we are in this area of knowing ourselves and of God.

3. Authentic love wins all

St Paul invites the Corinthians to "strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts" in today's liturgical reading (1 Cor 12:31). He says that our words should match our actions. Therefore, he calls his community to be people of love, a love that is eternal and embraces all. For Paul, the word love has a wider meaning. It is patient, amiable, kind, appreciative, tender, simple, gentle, generous, outgiving, forgiving, calm, joyful, truthful, enduring, hopeful, considerate, pleasant and so forth. In Jesus, we find our perfection, in him, all the prophesies are fulfilled and the greatest love is accomplished. Jesus is the model for what love is and how that love has to be lived out. Therefore we need to develop in our sense of faith and living, certain amount of maturity, wisdom, compassion and generosity.  Spiritual writer Henri J. M. Nouwen says, “we seldom realize fully that we are sent to fulfill God-given tasks. We act as if we were simply dropped down in creation and have to decide to entertain ourselves until we die. But we were sent into the world by God, just as Jesus was. Once we start living our lives with that conviction, we will soon know what we were sent to do.” 

All through his life, Jesus lived with rejection. It may be at his birth in getting an inn, from King Herod, from his relatives (John 7:5), from disciples (John 6:66), by the simple folk of Garasenes (Mk 5:17), by the Samaritans (Mk 9:53), from Peter, Judas and finally people, elders and leaders (Mk 15:13). Jesus learnt to live with such kind of rejections even though it must have hurt him terribly especially when his own people rejected him. But Jesus knew who he was and that is what made a difference. This challenged him to love his people more. In one of his interviews, the world-famous Zen Buddist Monk Thich Nhat Hanh who died this week in Vietnam said, if Jesus died on the Cross, it is because of compassion and merciful love, knowing fully well that his death on the Cross was certain. It is a non-violent protest which you do not out of anger or frustration but out of compassionate love including that of self-immolation of Buddist Monks in Vietnam during the 1960's civil war. The rejection and resentment do not make Jesus love humanity less instead to love more and more. Let all those betrayals and rejection turn our lives NOT bitter but sweeter and better. 

Questions for reflections
 1. How do you consider Jesus as a person who wanted to cleanse the false system? Do you like to be part of this Christ's mission today?
2. If today God calls you like Prophet Jeremia as known, consecrated and appointed, what would be your response?
3. What is God’s word for you now in your present reality, where God has appointed you to be? How do you want to respond?

Prayer

Heavenly Father, thank you for these prayers, scriptures and words of Godly discernment, wisdom and encouragement that you have given us. Help us cling tightly to the truth of Your Word in the Bible and let go of the ideas in the world, our culture and our own thinking. Fill us with your Holy-Spirit love, for we simply don’t have enough love on our own. 

Gracious God, when we are offended, help us to remember Jesus, who was more highly offended, insulted and betrayed than anyone and yet loved to the end. Help us abide in Christ minute by minute, so we may grow in the fruit of His Spirit. Strengthen us so that we may give without counting the cost, and have the humility to celebrate your works in others. Grant that we may never turn away from you or our neighbour. We make this prayer in Jesus' Holy Name. AMEN.

-Olvin Veigas, SJ
28 January 2022

Friday, January 21, 2022

Called to Unity for a Greater Cause

 The Third Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C): January 23, 2022

Readings: Nehemiah 8:2–610Psalms 19:8–10151 Corinthians 12:12–30Luke 1:1–44:14–21

To listen to my audio-video reflections on YOUTUBE, please click on this link

By the time we celebrate the Third Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have prayed a weeklong prayer for Christian unity. Perhaps, in a Catholic-dominated country like India where the Orthodox and the Protestant brothers and sisters make comparatively a smaller number, the urgency for Christian Unity has not taken deep roots. This argument is based on the number of articles that are published in the theological and popular Catholic journals of India. Even if I search with a floodlight, sadly but hardly any article on ecumenism could be found in our journals today! Having myself lived in the heart of the robust and influential with an almost State Religion status of the Russian Orthodox Church in Moscow for many years, brushing aside any sort of ecumenical fervour in spirit and action would cost dearly your apostolic endeavours as a priest. In this context, the liturgical readings of this Sunday remind us very powerfully that we are all called to be part of the one body, one book and one mission, in fact, called to be ecumenical in every way. 

1. Lack of unity is self-destruction 

Let's start with the book of Nehemiah which speaks about the sad state of affairs of the Israelites (Nehemiah 8:2–610). Priest Ezra and the captive Israelites return from exile in Babylon, the infamous Babylonian captivity which took place in 586 BC.  Foreign and non-Jewish king Cyrus of Persia not only sends back the Jews to their own Fatherland but also rebuilds their ruined temple in 538 BC. Then Ezra and Nehemia having rebuilt the ruined city and its walls come together with the Israelites to celebrate their unity by reading the book of Thora, the scriptures. Both Ezra and Nehemiah are contemporaries. They are given the task of rebuilding the Israelites, their temple, their land, and their nation. People quickly understand that if there was such a destruction of their national culture, tradition, religion, freedom and prosperity and very sense of nation, it is due to the Babylonian captivity, it is because of their discord with God and one another. If the people had to live in bondage first with Babylonians and then with Persians it's because of their lack of unity among themselves. They had forgotten the God of their ancestors. They had neglected their covenant with the Lord and His commandments. Moreover, they had gone behind the pagan Gods, both king and his people. Now, a new stage was set for the renewal of the covenant and the re-establishment of the Law of Moses as the people’s rule of life. 

A quick lesson could be drawn here. We are living in a very odd and difficult time in India and in many parts of the world including in the so-called liberal world. As Christians and minorities, we are intimidated by more and more violence. We are threatened to live as peace-loving citizens of this country. These are not just outside forces only. The evil and wicked forces within our Christian Churches and outside our Churches are leading this onslaught very powerfully. Our Shepherds - Bishops, priests - have forgotten to speak up in public, speak up collectively and boldly, regrettably, their mouths are shut. You can speak up if you are morally right, ethically correct, spiritually strong, prophetically ascetic and radical like Jesus and his apostles. We need the courage of Ezra and Nehemia very urgently. 

2. In and through Christ, we are made one

St Paul has beautiful words for us as we grapple with how to defend ourselves, who we are and what we are in the pressing problem of maintaining our true identity as Christians in fact, good Christians today! St Paul extols, "For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit" (1 Corinthians 12:12-3). The early Christian community had its share of difficulties when people from different nations, cultures, languages and traditions embraced Christ as their saviour. They found it difficult to accept each other as brothers and sisters of one faith, one baptism and of one God because of their differences and divisions. 

We are in the midst of fulfilling a great dream of our Pope Francis for synodality in the life and mission of the Church, which has been taking a definite shape in our dioceses and parishes at least on a talking level. Is synodality possible in our Churches - parishes, dioceses, congregations? In a patriarchal society, where clericalism has taken such deep roots, where lay people are given hardly any role or function of governance in our dioceses, churches or parishes, can we make any headway at all? Certainly,  governor Nehemia, priest Ezra and apostle St Paul should come into our midst and teach us what is to live in synodality. Just as good Pope John the XXIII called at the Vatican II to open the windows so that the fresh breeze enter into the house, so too, today we must open our dioceses, parishes, congregations to breath the fresh air of synodality, working together, deciding and moving further. In the Spirit, we must be united with God through the Church, which is the body of Christ. 

3. Unity in Christ is possible only by following his Nazareth Manifesto

St Luke, the Evangelist begins the gospel by invoking those who love God (Theo- Philus) to believe in him and follow him. Then he gives us the famous Nazareth Manifesto of Jesus where the mission of our Lord is disclosed in the scroll of prophet Isaiah (Is 61:1). "The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to bring glad tidings to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to let the oppressed go free, and to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord" (Lk 4:18-19). Just like priest Ezra, Jesus stands before the people, reads and interprets what is read and calls for renewing their life in God.

As disciples of Christ, we are all invited to follow in the footsteps of our master, caring for the poor, giving freedom to those who are captives, sight to the blind, setting the oppressed free and saying to the world that God is within our reach. In other words, we are invited in our everyday affairs of life to be caring, loving, gentle and generous people. If we carry Christ within us then we must manifest Christ's works in us. Moreover, we should have those words of Nehemiah on our lips: “Today is holy to the LORD your God. Do not be sad, and do not weep” “Go, eat rich foods and drink sweet drinks, and allot portions to those who had nothing prepared; for today is holy to our LORD. Do not be saddened this day, for rejoicing in the LORD must be your strength!” (Nehemiah 8:10). Such should be our choice, such should be our vocation as Christians.

Questions for reflections
1. What do you feel when you read the Jesus' mission statement at the synagogue in Nazareth?
2. What image of Jesus comes to your mind when you contemplate this passage?
3. How do you look at your Church? Admiration, disappointment, indifference?
4. What are your suggestions to make your church a truly synodal, concilliatory and dialogical?
5. After having listened to these reflections and spent time in prayer, where have you been really touched? Where did you find God’s peace? What is God saying to you at this time? What do you want to say to God today?

Prayer
Gracious and Loving God, Your words, Lord, are spirit and life, I pray to be kind to myself when I recognize my sinfulness. Help me Lord to listen to you and the promptings of your Spirit to do as  Jesus did by honoring the poor, the captives, the blind and the oppressed and many more such vulnerable people and situations.  

Grant me, I pray, your divine helping grace; endow me with patience and strength to endure my tribulations with complete submission to your will. You know my misery and suffering and to you, my only hope and refuge, I flee for relief and comfort; trusting your infinite love and compassion, that in due time, you will deliver me from my troubles, and turn my distress into comfort, and I will rejoice in your mercy, and exalt and praise your Holy Name, O Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Amen.

- Olvin Veigas, SJ

21 January 2022

Friday, January 14, 2022

Participating in the Joy of Others

The Second Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle C): January 16, 2022

Readings: Isaiah 62:1–5Psalm 96:1–37–101 Corinthians 12:4–11John 2:1–12

Jesus performs a miracle in Cana from water into wine

To listen to the audio-video reflections on YOUTUBE, please click on this link

During this Christmas Season, I witnessed a number of weddings. I attended a few of them either presiding over the Eucharist or as a preacher. In fact, I had done hardly before. In my 10 years as a priest abroad, (i.e., until 2016, in the US, UK and Russia), I blessed or attended no Church weddings at all! The recent weddings in my native place gave me a glimpse into how India has changed in its way of celebrating love and life together. The sanity and sanctity of wedding celebrations have been taken over immensely by the external pomp and glamour so much so that the reality of life, its context and content has little meaning. I also wondered in such external celebrity hype and over-commercialization of the weddings, does the question of suffering and sin, anger and frustration, loneliness and stubbornness in a couple's life could be transformed into harmony and peace, joy and laughter, fellowship and togetherness in the long run. In contrast to this, we have a wedding feast at Cana attended by Jesus and his beloved mother Mary. 

1. Large heartedness of Mary 

On the Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, we have a Gospel passage from St John enumerating a beautiful episode of the wedding celebration in Cana (John 2:1–12).  In fact, St John the Evangelist gives us the first miracle of Jesus ever performed in his Gospel and that too happens to be at the marriage feast. As the passage suggests to us, it is a social celebration where everyone seems to have been invited, Mary, the mother of Jesus, and the disciples. There seems to be a close family bond between the marriage party and the family of Jesus. What is fascinating is the initiative of Mary in proposing to Jesus to do something for the marriage host to save his self-respect. Mary had absolute faith in her son and would respond immediately. Jesus' quick intervention was utterly necessary to save the skin of the host. It was a question of lack of wine at the wedding party. The scarcity of a traditional drink would spoil the whole celebration itself.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Called to be the Beloved Forever

 The Feast of the Baptism of the Lord - Cycle C: January 9, 2022

Readings: Isaiah 42:1–46–7Psalm 29:1–49–10Acts 10:34–38Luke 3:15–1621–22

A mosaic on the Baptism of the Lord by Fr Marko Rupnik SJ
To listen to this video-audio reflections on YouTube, please click here

Most of the cultures or traditions have definite ways of educating their people. For example, in ancient India, there were sages or gurus who had mastered a certain kind of ability to give spiritual depth to the seekers. They anointed their disciples and continued the legacy of their masters. Russian Christian tradition and history speaks about Starets (Старец) or elders who were spiritual masters in their own capacity, and common men and women would run to them seeking advice on spiritual and other matters of life. The imagery that comes to our mind as we celebrate the Baptism of our Lord is that of an elder, John the Baptist leading young Jesus into a ministry of faith and service in building the Kingdom of God. There is someone who is an experienced wise man initiating or laying a strong foundation towards the future work of a person of God.

1. God's way of leading is wholesome
Fyodor Dostoevsky, the author of the classical novel Brothers of Karamazov takes Starets Zosima as a spiritual guru in educating his son Aloysia. The role of persons like elder Zosima is to show a path of morality, righteousness and truth to people. We need to have virtuous and upright people who already walked that path for a long time. Such leaders and teachers are like signposts or like educating a child to walk. Today in the liturgical readings, we heard the names of prophet Isaiah and John the Baptist, both in different times of the history of humanity guided their people in their cosmic and acosmic quest for truth.

Saturday, January 1, 2022

God's Revelation at an Opportune Time

 The Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord (Cycle C): January 02, 2021

Readings: Isaiah 60:1-6; Psalm 72:1-2, 7-8, 10-11, 12-13; Ephesians 3:2-3a, 5-6; Matthew 2:1-12

To listen to my audio-video reflections via YouTube, please click here

As we celebrate the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, we are on the threshold of a new year. Perhaps, our hearts and minds are full of dreams and aspirations, plans and projects for the New Year 2022.  We might be having a number of commitments and resolutions, ideas and pledges for the year which is ahead of us. We make plans and God blesses them. We work towards the implementation of tasks ahead of us while God realizes them silently. We have said goodbye to the year 2021 which was in many ways not so kind to us with the second wave of Corona pandemic taking away many of our near and dear ones and making many orphans and jobless.  We hope that the New Year 2022 truly becomes a year of grace and blessings, peace and prosperity.  I wish all my readers greetings of the New Year.

1. What belongs to God is known widely and urgently

Today we commemorate the familiar account of the visit of the Three Wise Men also called as Magi to the little baby Jesus. The word Epiphany literally means "a showing," "a revelation," "making known," which emphasizes the revelation of Jesus to the world. In fact, these three wise men are travellers from the East belonging to a certain category of people in society who exercised certain power or authority. Unlike the Shepherds who are simple and always on their feet, the Magi are learned and come to know the birth of Jesus through the books and knowledge of the celestial signs namely astrology and come from the East. From the East sun rises and makes the world bright and beautiful. So too the Magi reveal to the world, who the baby Jesus is all about, through the symbolic gifts they offer to baby Jesus namely, gold, frankincense and myrrh. 

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Christmas: God's Special Intervention in the World

 Christmas Day: December 25, 2021

Readings (of Midnight Mass): Isaiah 9:1-7 | Titus 2:11-14 | Luke 2:1-14

(Crib at Mount Carmel College, Bangalore 2021)
To listen to my audio-video reflections on YouTube please click here

  “Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace to those on whom his favour rests.” With these beautiful words of Angels, we begin this great festivity of Christmas. As the global Christian community enters into this great mystery of God becoming human, we are invited to contemplate this mystery and draw some profit for our spiritual well-being. 

1. Christmas: From Ordinary to Extraordinary 

On this Christmas, we are commemorating a very ordinary and extraordinary event in human history that is the birth of God amongst us as a human baby. Let’s take the ordinary first: Can we imagine that seen of Mary, Joseph and little baby in an unknown city of Bethlehem in a cowshed and the baby is just born. This family from Nazareth could not get a place because people were not generous enough to say “yes” to what they were asking for, a place to stay. And now the baby is laid on a manger while cows or goats and their donkey are watching this scene. We can see the vulnerability of Joseph, the husband of Mary for having failed to give a modest place and privacy to his wife so that she could give birth to a child in a normal, anxiety-free place. 

Friday, December 17, 2021

Never Alone When God Accompanies

 Fourth Sunday of Advent (Cycle C): December 19, 2021

Readings: Micah 5:1–4Psalm 80:2–315–1618–19Hebrews 5:5–10Luke 1:39–45

As the season of Advent comes to a close, with barely a week to go to celebrate Christmas, we are invited by the liturgical readings on this fourth Sunday of Advent with a call to follow both Mary and Elizabeth. The role of these two women in the salvation history of humanity is very important. They speak about the good news that both are carrying within them. Their sons are going to bring a big change in Jewish society in particular and in the world at large in general. 

1. God accompanies in odd circumstances

The events of the conception in Elizabeth and Mary are extraordinary and surprising to both of them: If Elizabeth conceived at her senior (old age) years, Mary at her young age, even before she could be married formally to Joseph. The news of their pregnancies and becoming mothers for the first time baffled their families. If Zacharia, the husband of Elizabeth refused to believe such a thing could happen to his wife, Joseph on the other hand thought of leaving Mary quietly from getting married. Even though it might appear joyful news, it was also challenging. Such happenings in the life of these Jewish women was difficult to handle. Moreover, it was something odd that had happened to these God-fearing ladies in their unexpected time. However, God's ways are different. He knows to make the best out of this situation. Probably, that must be the reason why both Mary and Elizabeth happen to be relatives. If these two odd things happen to two distinct unrelated persons then it would have been much more difficult for the families to handle them well.

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Manifesting God’s Plan in our Lives

 Third Sunday of Advent (Cycle C): December 12, 2021

Readings:  Zephaniah 3:14-18a; Isaiah 12:2-3, 4, 5-6; Philippians 4:4-7; Luke 3:10-18

As we delve deeper into the Advent Season, we begin to realise the plentiful blessings this particular season bring to us. Moreover, it gives us a rare opportunity to see God’s plan of salvation with the eyes of faith, hope and love.  The season also brings to our mind the beautiful memories of Christmas. Perhaps, we can think about three-fold task this Christmas gives us prominently, namely, refreshing memories of Christmas, nurturing our faith in God’s presence among us today in sacraments and liturgical life of the church and finally, to nurture within us a faith in the glorious Second Coming of our Lord.

1. Reclaiming the season of Advent with hope
Perhaps our carefree life has been smeared by the ravages of global health crises. In the midst of hopelessness, anxiety and fear, we lost good amount of time and celebrations of our faith. It’s a high time for us to reclaim the Season of Advent and welcome its message of hope and expectation. If we are to dare to hope and brace even the fears of new Corona variant Omicron, certainly we would reap abundant lessons and graces to overcome any storm or tribulation. Pope Benedict XVI, in his encyclical “saved by hope” put it beautifully: “Man’s great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God - God who has loved us and who continues to love us ‘to the end,’ until all is accomplished.”

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Preparing the Way for our Saviour Courageously

Second Sunday of Advent (Cycle C): December 05, 2021

ReadingsBaruch 5:1–9Psalm 126:1–6Philippians 1:4–68–11Luke 3:1–6

In order to celebrate any event, we prepare ourselves well. In fact, adequate preparations go into before a successful function. Holy Advent is a time for preparation with reflection, eagerness, excitement and hopefulness. The word Advent comes from the Latin adventus, which means a coming, approach, or arrival. In the Church, it refers to the period encompassing the four Sundays prior to Christmas. We see this not only how the liturgical readings are chosen from the Scriptures but also other various things that get prepared during this season in order to put us into the mood of welcoming Christ at Christmas. They are advent wreaths, nativity scenes also called cribs, Christmas trees, keeping an advent calendar, etc. If these are external things that help us to get into the mood of the Advent season, then there are many spiritual things like attending the Rorate Caeli Mass, reading the Word of God daily, spending time in prayer, doing penance, a way to turn away from sin, thus we joyfully prepare for the coming of the Saviour. Ultimately, Advent is a time to grow in our knowledge of God’s love for us in Christ and in our response to this love in our daily choices.

1. Christ comes into our midst here and now
What makes Advent so special for Christians? It is the recognition that Christmas is not just remembering “the birthday of Jesus,” but a celebration of his coming into our world today, here and now, in the midst of joys and sorrows, hopes and tribulations.   How does Jesus come into the world today? Jesus is “born”—becomes physically tangible—through the celebration of the sacraments. It is by participating in the Eucharist, washing in the waters of Baptism, being anointed with the oil of Confirmation and so on. Jesus becomes part and parcel of our life as a friend by becoming part of the living Body of Christ which is the Church in the world today. For Catholics, then, every celebration of the Eucharist and the other sacraments is like a little Christmas.