Second Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C

First Reading
Isaiah 62:1-5
God delights in Israel and will rejoice as a bridegroom rejoices over his bride.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,7-8,9-10
A song in praise of God’s marvelous deeds

Second Reading
1 Corinthians 12:4-11
All spiritual gifts originate from the same Spirit.

Gospel Reading
John 2:1-11
Jesus performs his first sign at a wedding feast in Cana.

Background on the Gospel Reading

This Sunday we begin the liturgical season of Ordinary Time. For many Sundays in this lectionary cycle (Cycle C), our readings will be taken from the Gospel of Luke. Occasionally, however, we will read from John’s Gospel. This is true of today’s Gospel reading, which describes the beginning of Jesus’ ministry and his first miracle.

To situate today’s reading within the context of John’s Gospel, we note that John’s report of this event follows Jesus’ call of his first disciples. John tells us that Jesus and his disciples were invited to this wedding at Cana, as was Jesus’ mother, Mary. There is no parallel report of this miracle at Cana in the Synoptic Gospels.

In the Church’s liturgical history, the wedding feast of Cana is closely associated with the baptism of the Lord and the adoration of the infant Jesus by the Wise Men. In this context, the sign Jesus performs at the wedding feast is celebrated as an epiphany or a manifestation of Jesus’ divinity.

Yet awareness of Jesus’ impending passion and death is ever present in John’s Gospel. Even in this report of Jesus’ first sign, the language used anticipates Jesus’ passion. When Jesus says to his mother that his hour has not yet come, he protests against her wishes in language that John will use again when reporting Jesus’ Last Supper with his disciples. When introducing the story of Jesus washing his disciples’ feet, John writes that Jesus knew that his hour had come. In John’s Gospel, Jesus is very much in command and aware of all that is to happen to him.

Here, as elsewhere in John’s Gospel, Mary is not mentioned by name, but is referred to instead as the mother of Jesus. Mary is influential in Jesus’ first sign. She will also be present at his Crucifixion, a witness to the final manifestation of his divinity.

John’s Gospel describes seven signs that indicate Jesus’ identity to his disciples. John never speaks of these signs as miracles because their importance is not in the deed that Jesus performs but in what these deeds indicate about Jesus’ identity. Here, as when John describes the other signs, the disciples are said to begin to believe, but no mention is made as to whether the other wedding guests are even aware of what has happened.

Marriage and wedding feasts are metaphors used in Scripture to describe God’s salvation and the Kingdom of God. Here at the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, John’s Gospel seeks to establish that Jesus is going to re-interpret and fulfill Yahweh’s promise to Israel. Jesus establishes the New Covenant. A hint about what this New Covenant will be like is made evident in the deed that Jesus performs. Asked to do something to address the awkward situation that the absence of wine at a wedding feast would create, Jesus’ miracle produces vast quantities of wine—six jars holding thirty gallons each are filled to overflowing with choice wine.

This lavish response to a simple human need is a vision for us of the abundance of God’s kingdom. It challenges us to respond generously when confronted with human need today. We respond as best we can, fully confident that God can transform our efforts, bringing the Kingdom of God to fulfillment among us.- loyolapress.com

Pope Francis’ January 2019 Intention

Public domain. From the book: Paintings in sacred and Church history : the Greatest holidays of Orthodoxy. St. Petersburg 1876

Evangelization – Young People
That young people, especially in Latin America, follow the example of Mary and respond to the call of the Lord to communicate the joy of the Gospel to the world.

Liturgical Feasts / Anniversaries /Observances

(Legend: Ab=Abbot  Ap=Apostle  Pp=Pope  Bp=Bishop  Ch=Children  De=Deacon  Dr=Doctor  Kg=King Ma=Married  Mt=Martyr  Pr=Priest  Qu=Queen  Re=Religious  Vg=Virgin  Fd=Founder)

JAN 1: MARY, MOTHER OF GOD*** (New Year’s Day/Day of World Peace)

Jan 2:  Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzen* (Bps, Drs)

Jan 3:  Most Holy Name Of Jesus

Jan 4:  Elizabeth Ann Seton* (Re)

Jan 5:  John Neumann* (Bp)

JAN 6: EPIPHANY OF THE LORD***

Jan 7: Raymond of Penyafort (Pr)

JAN 13 : BAPTISM OF THE LORD**

Jan 17 : Anthony* (Ab)

JAN 18 : CHURCH UNITY OCTAVE BEGINS

JAN 20 : 2ND SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Jan 21 : Agnes* (Vg, Mt)

Jan 22 : Vincent (Dn, Mt)

Jan 24 : Francis de sales* (Bp, Dr)

JAN 25  : CONVERSION OF ST. PAUL**(Ap)       (Unity Week Ends)

Jan 26 : Timothy & Titus* (Bps)

JAN 27: 3RD SUNDAY OF THE YEAR

Jan 28: Thomas Aquinas* (Pr, Dr)

Jan 31: John Bosco* (Pr)

Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God

Credit Raphael Stock Photo

First Reading
Numbers 6:22-27
God gives a blessing for the Israelites.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 67:2-3,5,6,8
All the people sing praises to God.

Second Reading
Galatians 4:4-7
God sent his Son to make us children of God.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:16-21
The shepherds find Jesus in a manger in Bethlehem.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today’s reading is a continuation from the Gospel proclaimed at the Christmas Mass at midnight. In it the shepherds act upon the message they receive from the angel and go to find Jesus in the manger in Bethlehem. In their visit to the manger, the shepherds find things just as the angel had said. The shepherds’ visit, therefore, is a moment of fulfillment, manifestation, and the beginning of the salvation we receive through Christ.

In the context of today’s Solemnity, this reading also helps us focus on Mary as the Mother of God. The reading tells us at least three things about Mary as a mother. First, Mary is described as a reflective person, keeping the reports of the shepherds in her heart. Second, we are reminded of how obedient Mary was to God when she named the baby Jesus as the angel Gabriel had directed. Third, this reading shows Mary and Joseph faithfully observing their Jewish tradition by having Jesus circumcised.

Mary’s faithfulness to God is evident in all three of these things. Her reflection upon the events in her life indicates that she was a person of prayer. This prayer made possible her obedience to God and God’s will, even if the outcome was not clear. Finally, her faithfulness to a community of faith grounded her relationship with God and enabled her to participate in God’s plan of salvation.

Because of Mary’s faithfulness to God, she was able to receive the gift of God’s Son and accept her role in God’s plan for salvation. By doing so, she models for us the path of discipleship and is also called Mother of the Church.

Our call to discipleship also includes these three aspects. First, discipleship means prayer and reflection on the events of our lives that we might see God’s presence and work in our lives. Second, discipleship means obedience to God and God’s will. Third, discipleship includes fidelity to a community of faith. – loyolapress.com


WISHING ALL OUR VISITORS & READERS A GRACE-FILLED NEW YEAR 2019!


 

Prayer for our nation

Leader:
Let us proclaim the name of the Lord; and ascribe greatness to our God!

All:
Lord, Your work is perfect. And all your ways are just.  Let Your voice be heard today by all the nations.

O God, Judge of the nations, put fear into our hearts so that we may know that we are only human. Father, the whole of creation groans and labours to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of God.

Lord Jesus, send forth Your Spirit of Truth and let this Spirit prove to ‘the powers that be’ how wrong they are about sin, righteousness and judgment. O Lord, declare the power of Your works to Your people and let us be filled with the knowledge of Your glory as the waters cover the sea.

Gather us, O Lord, in Your Name and may all worship the One True God. Amen.

(A prayer composed from various Scripture verses of the Bible – Herald Malaysia)

The Baptism of the Lord

First Reading
Isaiah 40:1-5,9-11 (The first reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Isaiah 42:1-4,6-7.)
Isaiah tells the people to prepare a way for the Lord.

Second Reading
Titus 2:11-14; 3:4-7 (The second reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Acts of the Apostles 10:34-38.)
Jesus Christ saved us and renewed us with his Holy Spirit.

Gospel Reading
Luke 3:15-16,21-22
Jesus is baptized by John.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the feast of the Baptism of the Lord. In today’s Gospel, as in the other Gospel accounts of Jesus’ baptism, we hear John the Baptist address the confusion of the people who thought that John might be the Messiah. In response, John contrasts the baptism that he performs with the Baptism that Jesus will inaugurate. John the Baptist says that he has baptized with water, but that someone will come and baptize with the Holy Spirit. The type of baptism that John performed was not yet a Christian Baptism; it was a preparation for Christian Baptism through which sins are forgiven and the gift of the Holy Spirit is received.

The baptism of Jesus is reported in each of the three Synoptic Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Clearly, it was an event of great significance for Jesus and for the early Christian community. The Evangelists Mark and Luke report the story from Jesus’ perspective; the voice from heaven is addressed to Jesus. Compare this to Matthew’s Gospel in which the voice from heaven speaks to everyone. In Luke, however, the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus during his time of prayer after his baptism. Through his Gospel, Luke will show Jesus to be a person of prayer who withdraws regularly from the crowds and his disciples to pray to his Father.

The baptism of Jesus is considered a manifestation of God in Jesus, another “epiphany.” On this, the last day of the Christmas season, our Gospel reveals to us Jesus’ relation to God: the son of Mary and Joseph is also God’s own Son. In Luke’s Gospel, all three members of the Trinity are manifested here: God the Father in the voice, the Holy Spirit descending, and Jesus the Son. At the beginning of his Gospel, Luke is communicating to us important information about the identity of Jesus. In the verses that follow, Luke lists the genealogy of Jesus, tracing Jesus’ ancestry back to the first person, Adam, who is also identified as the son of God. We, the children of Adam and Eve, are again made children of God through Baptism. – loyolapress.com

Former FSP missionary passes away

PASAY, Philippines – Former Daughter of St Paul missionary passed away on 27 Dec 2018 at the St John of God Hospital here. She was 92.

Born in Iloilo City Philippines on 22 Feb 1926 as Elena Bravo, the future Sister Maria Eulalia entered the congregation in Lipa on 26 May 1949 when she was 23. She made her first profession on 19 Mar 1952 and took her final vows in 1957.

In 1961, she was one of the four sisters sent to establish the congregation’s presence in North Borneo. She sailed to Jesselton together with Sisters Elisabetha Capello, Assunta Labay and Virginia Guevarra on 21 Jan 1961.

From her memoirs she wrote:

This was the only place where we did not start from Bethlehem.  What a beautiful house of Mrs. Philip Lee.  After a week, when everything were settled, Sr. Virginia and I started our house-to-house propaganda, visiting the schools, offices, hospitals and stores. 

We enjoyed our mission in Borneo, as we were accepted by the people, Catholics, non-Catholics and even by pagans.  Everybody knew of our coming as our arrival was announced over Radio Sabah.  How good really is God.  That’s why we were really happy in this mission land.  Though the place was not well-developed and there were few inhabitants yet our mission was very successful because we are welcomed by the people.  My hardship was with the languages: Malay and Kadazan.  A few months later, Sister Elizabeta Capello was replaced by Sr. Silvana Guerrero from Italy.

In 1963, Sabah, Sarawak, Singapore and Malaya formed Malaysia. She left Sabah on 27 Apr 1968. Upon her return to the Philippines she dedicated herself primarily to bookcentre work and also to the technical apostolate for a certain period of time.

Of a sunny disposition, she was always on the lookout for vocations and often asked the young women who visited the book centre whether they would like to become a Daughter of St Paul. Her sweetness and conviction led many of them to accept her invitation, receiving the question as a call from the Lord. Sr Eulalia had a big heart and wished she had “a thousand lives” to help out wherever there was a need in the congregation.

Sr Eulalia carried out the Pauline mission zealously but she was also a woman of profound prayer. The chapel was her “home” and she wanted it to be large and spacious enough to welcome as many people as possible, especially members of the laity, with whom she wanted to share the wealth of the Pauline charism.

In 2017, Sr Eulalia was transferred from Iloilo to the Pasay City infirmary due to advancing age and fragile health. In November 2018 she contracted pneumonia–a health issue that hastened her meeting with her Lord and Master. She died peacefully in the hospital on Thursday, the day when the Provincial Chapter started.



           

Epiphany of the Lord

First Reading
Isaiah 60:1-6
Jerusalem shall be a light to all nations.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 72:1-2,7-8,10-11,12-13
Every nation on earth shall worship the Lord.

Second Reading
Ephesians 3:2-3a,5-6
Gentiles are coheirs in the promise of Christ.

Gospel Reading
Matthew 2:1-12
The Magi seek out Jesus and do him homage.

Background on the Gospel Reading

The visit of the Magi occurs directly before the story of the Holy Family’s flight into Egypt. Matthew’s Gospel tells a version of Jesus’ birth that is different than the one in Luke. Of the actual birth of Jesus, Matthew tells us little more than, “When Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea, in the days of King Herod . . . ” The story of the census is found only in Luke’s Gospel, but we hear about the visit of the Magi only in Matthew’s Gospel.

We know little about the Magi. They come from the East and journey to Bethlehem, following an astrological sign, so we believe them to be astrologers. We assume that there were three Magi based upon the naming of their three gifts. The Gospel does not say how many Magi paid homage to Jesus. In Matthew’s Gospel, they represent the Gentiles’ search for a savior. Because the Magi represent the entire world, they also represent our search for Jesus.

We have come to consider the gifts they bring as a foreshadowing of Jesus’ role in salvation. We believe the meaning of the gifts to be Christological. Gold is presented as representative of Jesus’ kingship. Frankincense is a symbol of his divinity because priests burned the substance in the Temple. Myrrh, which was used to prepare the dead for burial, is offered in anticipation of Jesus’ death.

The word Epiphany means “manifestation” or “showing forth.” Historically several moments in Christ’s early life and ministry have been celebrated as “epiphanies,” including his birth in Bethlehem, the visit of the Magi, his baptism by John, and his first miracle at Cana.- loyolapress.com

Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, Cycle C

First Reading
1 Samuel 1:20-22,24-28 (The first reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Sirach 3:2-6,12-14.)
Hannah dedicates her son, Samuel, to the Lord.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 84:2-3,5-6,9-10 (The psalm from Cycle A may also be chosen, Psalm 128:1-5.)
Those who dwell in the Lord’s house are happy.

Second Reading
1 John 3:1-2,21-24 (The second reading from Cycle A may also be chosen, Colossians 3:12-21)
We are God’s children now.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:41-52
The boy Jesus is found in the Temple.

Background on the Gospel Reading

Today we celebrate the feast of the Holy Family. This feast is part of the Christmas season, and we should place today’s Gospel in the context of what Luke’s Gospel tells us about the birth of Jesus. Luke has been answering the question “Who is Jesus?” through his stories of the births of John the Baptist and Jesus. Today’s Gospel reading continues this theme. It has no parallel in the other Gospels and is the conclusion of Luke’s Infancy Narrative.

Mary, Joseph, and Jesus are presented in this Gospel as a faithful Jewish family. They are participating in the annual pilgrimage to Jerusalem for the feast of Passover, an event shared each year with family and friends. When Jesus is found, Luke describes him as seated in the Temple in the midst of the Jewish teachers. Although he is young, Jesus seems not to need teaching about his Jewish tradition. In his dialogue with these learned teachers, Jesus astounds them with his insight and understanding. Jesus is a child of Israel. His Father is God.

The dialogue between Mary and Jesus contains many references to family relationships. In fact, in this Gospel reading Mary and Joseph are never identified by name. Instead they are referred to by their relationship to Jesus. Ultimately, this emphasizes Luke’s point about the identity of Jesus. When Mary and Joseph find Jesus in the Temple, they question Jesus and express their anxiety. Jesus replies in words that many have thought to be disrespectful. Jesus says that he was never lost; he was at home. Jesus is God’s Son, and he is in his Father’s house. Luke will continue to suggest that faith in Jesus establishes new family relationships as he describes Jesus’ public ministry.

In Luke’s Gospel, Mary’s importance is even greater than her role as Jesus’ mother. Mary is the first disciple and will be present with Jesus’ disciples after his Resurrection at Pentecost.- loyolapress.com

Archbishop John Wong’s Christmas Message 2018

THEREFORE the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Emmanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14)  How humbling it is for us each time when we contemplate on the mystery of Emmanuel – God is with us, and on the reality of how God chose to reach out to us by becoming one of us!

If we just take a moment to look at how fallen our world is, we will realize that we are living in a culture that has lost touch of what faith and the meaning of love truly mean; a culture that flows with the current of secularism and relativism. God’s design for every human person to be dignified is slowly being washed away by this current. We see a trend where every individual is now allowed to determine what they want to believe. The truth is no longer objective, but subjective to one’s right in deciding what is truth for themselves.

My dearest brothers and sisters, we truly have fallen behind; and the world needs a saviour! God is relentless when it comes to reaching out in love to His people. God had each of us in His mind when He planned to send His Son, Jesus Christ. God planned, God prepared, God brought to fulfillment, and God became. That is what Christmas is all about. God’s love is manifested because He chose to become one of us; taking upon himself every aspect that a human being can ever possibly experience or go through.

No matter what our circumstance may be at this present time – be it a personal struggle, a family problem, a financial burden, a work issue, or dealing with the loss of a loved and dear one, or just the pain of feeling and suffering alone, may we all find comfort and joy, knowing that this Christmas, He is coming to us and He is with us. He is not just with us, in a vague and general sense, but He comes to meet each of us exactly where we are at in our individual lives. In our joy, in our pain, in our suffering, in our incapability of making sense of what is going on in our own lives, in our brokenness, in every possible circumstance we are going through – God is right here, with us, and He truly understands.

Sick, our nature demanded to be healed; fallen, to be raised up; dead, to rise again. We had lost the possession of the good; it was necessary for it to be given back to us. Closed in the darkness, it was necessary to bring us the light; captives, we awaited a Saviour; prisoners, help; slaves, a liberator. Are these things minor or insignificant? Did they not move God to descend to human nature and visit it, since humanity was in so miserable and unhappy a state? (Catechism of the Catholic Church 457).

No one can put it more beautifully than what is stated in our Catechism. God is moved when He sees His children suffering, and He draws near to them at once, and at all costs, even if it meant descending to human nature. This is TRUE LOVE.  This Christmas, True Love comes down once again and wants to dwell in our hearts.

But are we prepared to welcome this Love into our hearts at this Christmas? Will Love find any room in our hearts when He comes this Christmas? How can I prepare my heart for Christmas? It is too easy to get carried away with the hustle, bustle and busyness as we draw nearer to Christmas, especially in our world today, where Christmas is extremely secularized and commercialized. While there is nothing wrong to celebrate Christmas in festivity and merriment, let us take a moment this Christmas to truly reflect on the true meaning of what we are celebrating, which is found in Christ, the “Word made flesh” in the most vulnerable form – a baby, born in a stable, on a still night.

Therefore, we may say that making room for Love to enter our hearts, means taking time to be silent in our hearts. Let us not miss the sound of the Baby Jesus’ cry when He arrives. May He find room in each of our hearts when He comes.

The great Venerable Fulton Sheen once said, “How to find Christmas peace in a world of unrest? You cannot find peace on the outside, but you can find peace on the inside, by letting God do to your soul what Mary let Him do to her body, namely, let Christ be formed in you.”

Let us not be afraid to respond to the mystery of God’s great love this Christmas. Let us be unafraid to come as we are and surrender to Him our sins, our brokenness, our weaknesses, our lacking, and all our struggles. Let us not be afraid to let Christ form our being! In the words of one of the greatest saints, St Therese of the Child Jesus, “A God who became so small could only be mercy and love.” God chose to come as a helpless infant to us. May we too, come to Him in our most vulnerable state and surrender to His love this Christmas.

I would like to end with the words of St Teresa of Calcutta as an invitation to all of us: “At this Christmas when Christ comes, will He find a warm heart? Mark this season of Christmas by loving and serving others with God’s love and concern.”

Wishing you a very Blessed Christmas!

Archbishop John Wong, Archdiocese of Kota Kinabalu 


  

Reflections for Christmas Eve & Christmas Day

The Nativity of the Lord Christmas Eve

First Reading
Isaiah 9:1-6
To those in darkness, a child will be born who will have dominion over the earth.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 96:1-2,2-3,11-12,13
Sing a new song to the Lord.

Second Reading
Titus 2:11-14
God has appeared, bringing salvation to all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 2:1-14
Jesus is born in a manger in Bethlehem as the angel appears to the shepherds.

Background on the Gospel Reading

During the Christmas season, our liturgy invites us to consider the birth of the Lord from many vantage points. As we begin this season, it is useful to remember that the stories of Jesus’ birth and childhood are found in only two of our Gospels, Matthew and Luke. Throughout this season, we will hear stories from both Gospels. Those Gospels tell different but complementary stories about Jesus’ birth, highlighting items of theological importance about the Incarnation and the salvation that Jesus brings.

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Fourth Sunday of Advent, Cycle C    

First Reading
Micah 5:1-4
The ruler of Israel is promised to come from Bethlehem.

Responsorial Psalm
Psalm 80:2-3,15-16,18-19
A prayer for God’s salvation

Second Reading
Hebrews 10:5-10
Through his obedience to God’s will, Christ consecrated all.

Gospel Reading
Luke 1:39-45
Mary visits Elizabeth, who sings praise to Mary and her child.

Background on the Gospel Reading

On this the last Sunday before Christmas, our Gospel reading prepares us to witness Christ’s birth by showing us how Jesus was recognized as Israel’s long-awaited Messiah even before his birth. The Gospel turns our attention from the ministry of John the Baptist to the events that preceded John the Baptist’s birth. The story of John the Baptist and his parents, Elizabeth and Zechariah, are reported only in Luke’s Gospel. Luke pairs the birth of John the Baptist and Jesus, establishing John’s early connection to the Messiah.

Our Gospel reading recalls Mary’s actions after the announcement of Jesus’ birth by the angel Gabriel. Mary goes to visit Elizabeth, her cousin, who is also with child. Elizabeth greets Mary with full recognition of the roles that they and their unborn children will play in God’s plan for salvation. If we were to continue to read the verses that follow in Luke’s Gospel, we would hear Mary respond to Elizabeth’s greeting with her song of praise, the Magnificat. Both women recall and echo God’s history of showing favor upon the people of Israel.

In Luke’s Gospel the Holy Spirit helps reveal Jesus’ identity as God to those who believe. Elizabeth is filled with the Holy Spirit and sings Mary’s praise because she bears the Lord. We sing these words of praise to Mary in the Hail Mary. Even John the Baptist, the unborn child in Elizabeth’s womb, is said to recognize the presence of the Lord and leaps for joy.

It is appropriate in this season of Advent that we consider the role of Mary in God’s plan of salvation. Elizabeth describes Mary as the first disciple, as the one who believed that God’s word to her would be fulfilled. Mary’s faith enabled her to recognize the work of God in her people’s history and in her own life. Her openness to God allowed God to work through her so that salvation might come to everyone. Because of this, Mary is a model and symbol of the Church. May we be like Mary, open and cooperative in God’s plan for salvation.-loyolapress.com

SOLEMNITY OF THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF THE BLESSED VIRGIN MARY

Today we celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This feast celebrates God’s choice of Mary to be the mother of Jesus. God preserved Mary from the stain of original sin from the moment of her conception. Thus, Mary was the first to receive the benefit of the redemption that her Son would merit for all.

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