Sunday, December 31, 2017

The Holy Family: A Model For Us All

Today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family - Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The family is the basic unit of society. It is no wonder why God chose to use it in His plan for the redemption of all men, women, and children.

Joseph is often labeled "the forgotten saint." This is unfortunate because he is the patron saint of the Church, and rightfully so. Just as he protected Christ, he protects Christ's mystical body the Catholic Church.

Joseph was a carpenter by trade and taught Jesus carpentry. At first, Joseph was concerned that Mary had an affair due to her pregnancy. He wanted to secretly dissolve their union. If it wasn't for an angel appearing to him in his dreams, he would have carried through with that plan. This showed that he was a righteous man (Matthew 1: 19-24) in that he did not want Mary to face any harsh punishment as Jewish laws called for at the time. 

Mary as we know, was a virgin prior to bearing Jesus and remained a virgin afterward. She was preserved from original sin making her the Immaculate Conception Mary followed Jesus all throughout His years on Earth. She would be assumed into heaven and prior to this would also help spread the good news of her Son. Mary is the only human being to be free from sin. She is the model of what every human person must aspire to become - holy. Mary is given special veneration because of this which is called hyperdulia.

Jesus is the Son of God and the second person of the Blessed Trinity. God the Son took on flesh and became a human in all things except sin (Hebrews 4:15). As a child, Jesus was obedient to His parents. However, He always put His Father in heaven first. We see this in the account of Jesus in the temple. (Luke 2:41-52) Jesus wanders off from His parent's sight and enters the temple. In the temple, He begins speaking to the teachers, asking questions, and answering questions as well. The teachers and others were surprised at His knowledge and ability to speak as a teacher Himself (Luke 2:41-52).

Mary and Joseph found Him there and were upset that He wandered off. Jesus simply replied that He was doing His Father's business and asked why did they search for Him as if they were supposed to know what He would be up to.  I recommend reading the Holy Father's Pope Benedict the XVI's new book, Jesus of Nazareth - the Infancy Narratives (ISBN: 978038534605. The Pope goes more in deal in his scholarly style. It is very informative if you want to know more about Jesus' boyhood.

This feast day not only highlights the Holy Family but reminds us what a family should be. In today's world where the family is under attack by those who wish to create it in their image; we must look at the Holy Family and renew family life. Mothers should imitate Mary, Fathers should imitate Joseph. Children should imitate Jesus who despite being God was always obedient to His parents. What an image is that right? The Creator is obedient to the created.


In today's first reading, we have a choice to read from Sirach or Genesis. The reading from Sirach tells us that God is the one who preordains families. He "sets a father in honor over his children; a mother's authority he confirms over her sons."  The reading elaborates that children must honor their parents as the Commandments state (Exodus 20:12Ephesians 6:2). Doing so will atone for sin and store up riches in heaven. Respect and obedience to parents are extremely important (Colossians 3:20). We must care for our parents even when they grow older.  Sometimes people like to dump their parents in nursing homes and forget about them.  This is not what God wants (in regards to forgetting them).  He wants us to care for our parents and never forget them (1 Timothy 5:8). In our parents is the image of our Father in heaven (Leviticus 19:32). The reading from Genesis tells us the story of Abram who God made a covenant with him. His name would become "Abraham" which means "father of many nations." He also promised Abraham that his wife Sarah would become pregnant in her sterile state and the son would be named Isaac which means "God laughs." This reading tells us the importance of being a parent.  It is a mandate from God.  God gives men and women this ministry of love, which is how I call it. He blesses couples with children (Psalm 127:3). 

As with the first reading, there are two options. In the first option for the responsorial psalm, we are reminded that those who walk in God's ways will be blessed.  Those of us who follow God's will enjoy the fruit of our hard labor.  Our families will be blessed and our lives will be filled with prosperity.  The second option reminds us that God remembers His promise forever.  God has never broken a promise to man. When He says He is going to do something, He will do it.  Sometimes it may not be right away because our time is not the same for God (2 Peter 3:8). This Psalms tells us how God kept His covenant with Abraham and his descendants

In the second reading, we have three options. Two from Colossians and one from Hebrews. In the first option, we are reminded to be humble and to forgive one another.  We must also admonish one another when we go astray. As Catholics, we must be and live in peace with one another. This fulfills the second great commandment of loving our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:31).  The reading also reminds wives and husbands to give each other of themselves fully in love, mutual respect, and subordination.  They must not be bitter with one another and must remember what is proper with God. Children must also respect their parents. This pleases God.  The reading also warns parents not to provoke children so as to discourage them or make them rebellious.  Communication is necessary for family life. The second option for the second reading is the same as the first but leaves out the instructions for married couples and children.  The third option reminds us of the story of Abraham and how he was faithful. His faith was so great that he suspended the ethical as philosopher Kierkegaard put it in his work "Fear and Trembling."  Abraham put himself over human ethics in order to serve God after God commands him to sacrifice his only son Isaac. How many of us are willing to go that far for God? Abraham is called the "Father of Faith" because of this. This ties in with the Holy Family in that Mary too obeyed in faith and took on the role of being the Theotokos, or God-bearer without knowing what she was getting herself into since many would have suspected her of being unfaithful to Joseph, and we know what happened to women back then who commit adultery (Leviticus 20:10).

Finally, in the Gospel, we also have two options from Luke.  One reading is simply just shorter than the other.  However, both tell the story of the Presentation of the Lord.  Jesus is presented in the Temple as it was customary in the Hebrew faith. While there, the righteous Simeon tells Mary and Joseph that Jesus is the savior who will save the world but will cause the rise and downfall of many. He will be a sign of contradiction and promised Mary that her heart would be pierced with a sword. He did not mean a literal sword but was prophesying the sorrow Mary would feel as she would watch her Son suffer the passion (John 19:26-27). This Gospel tells us of the role the Holy Family played. Both Joseph and Mary prepared Jesus for His ministry by teaching Him the Jewish faith, the dignity of work as a carpenter, and the importance of family life. They are a model for all families. Today the family is under attack. Certain agendas want to remodel the family in their own image and this must be stopped. The Holy Family is who we are to look at in order to keep our own families stable and holy.  The family today is under attack. These attacks are demonic in nature. Some believe that Satan is some caricature the Church invented to scare believers or to represent the evil of man. This is not so. We can see in the world today an evil that can only come from outside of the human experience. Ideas such as so-called gay marriage and gender theory which pushes the idea that we can be whatever gender we feel are Satanic in nature. Satan is the father of lies. He wants nothing more than to cause confusion, doubt, and for more people to fall.  We must resist at all cost this ancient enemy. He is attacking the family now more than ever.  We see his tactic is not new. From the very beginning, he attacked the first family Adam and Eve. He fed them lies that were convincing. Today nothing has changed other than the timeline. Satan uses ideas such as gender theory to bring parents to believe a child may not be in his or her "right sex." They go to the extreme of even getting these kids surgically altered. It is disgusting and child abuse!  The family is where the battle is.  We must ask the Holy Family to help protect the family as we are about to start a new year in 2018 in a few hours.     

Let us pray to the Holy Family to help all families of today rediscover family life. Divorce has to disappear. Children must not suffer from having access to only one parent. So-called "same-sex" unions must be dissolved and the family must be respected as naturally composed of one man, one woman, and child(ren). Children must not be avoided or treated as a commodity. They should also respect their parents and elders. 

O God, who were pleased to give us the shining example of the Holy Family, graciously grant that we may imitate them in practicing the virtues of family life and in the bonds of charity, and so, in the joy of your house, delight one day in eternal rewards. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.


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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Erica Garner dies at 27

Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner passed away today after suffering an asthma and heart attack which left her in a coma. She was the daughter of Eric Garner who was killed when a police officer placed a choke hold on him causing him to suffocate and get a heart attack.  The officer was later acquited which led to Garner's daughter becoming an activist against police brutality.  Many were shocked at her death including former presidential candidate Bernie Sanders. He took to Twitter to offer his condolences.  Others were not so humane. Many from the alt-right movement posted hateful and even celebratory comments after learning of the death of the Black Lives Matter activist. 

Regardless of her views, she was a human being who tried to do the right thing after her father was killed. May she rest in peace. 


Thursday, December 28, 2017

Bronx Fire in Belmont Area on Prospect Avenue Kills 12

It seems to never fail. During the holidays there is always a tragedy of some sort. This time the tragedy was close to home, so to speak. A huge fire broke out at 2363 Prospect Avenue in the Bronx, New York in the Belmont section. This area is known for Little Italy, The Bronx Zoo and Fordham University. It is also just blocks from where I grew up. The area used to be mostly Italian, Puerto Rican, Irish, Jewish with a few Polish, Germans and African Americans when I was little. Eventually, Mexicans, Albanians, Africans, Ecuadorians and Dominicans began to populate the area. The old fashion tenement buildings are everywhere with a few houses still left over. 2363 is one such tenement with the charm of days long gone. Unfortunately, it became the place where twelve people died.

According to reports, the fire broke out in the first floor and made its way up to the fifth. People tried to escape via the fire escapes but they became crowded. Residents left with only the clothes they had on. Many were children who were barefoot wearing pajamas or t-shirts. As you may know, New York and most of the nation is under an artic blast. The temperatures was as low as 11 degrees during the time of the fire. This cold weather gave the fuel necessary for the fire to grow out of control due to the airy conditions.

Fire fighters investigating the fire believe a three year old child was playing with the stove as his mother was showering. She came out to find the kitchen ablaze. As anyone would do in such a scenario, she escaped but did something wrong. The mother left the door open. Fire fighters always remind citizens that they are to close the door during a fire in order to contain it and possibly weaken it as it loses oxygen to feul on. The building built in 1916 during a time where fire concerns were not a priority. Its interior is wooden and it had no elevator. Residents relied on stairs to get to their floors. All of this, the airy weather and the mother of the toddler who started the fire negligence contributed to the fire getting out of hand. Flames escaped the opened door and moved up through the stairs kiling people on each floor. Among the dead is an 8 month old who was playing with gifts from Christmas while being babysat by her grandmother. The grandmother called her daughter to say goodbye and letting her know that she and the 8 month old would not make it. Both were found dead by fire fighters in their tub; grandmother clutching the baby in her arms.

Fire fighters from local 18th Battalion, a firehouse I often visited during my elementary school years for school trips were the first on the scene. They wer emet with cold conditions which made using water nearly impossible. Moreover, the hydrant nearby did not work. They had to use a hydrant on 187st street which was working. Survivors of the fire are upset with the mother of the child who started the fire. They claim that she did not warn them of the fire. She has not been identified. Four others remain hospitalized with one in a coma and not expected to survive. One victim actually went back into the burning building several times to rescue others. U.S. Army mechanic Emmanuel Mensah was home from serving duty. He was found in a fourth floor apartment dead.

Immediately, the Catholic Church took action to help those affected by the fire. Our lady of Mount Carmel pastor Father Morris was at the scene offering support and prayers. A prayer service is scheduled at his parish on January 2nd. Another nearby parish, St. Martin of Tours where my uncle served as a deacon and my grand mother attended also started a clothing drive. So far, only the Catholic Church has been active in humanitarian aid. Local Baptist, Kingdom Halls, Mosques and Pentecostal organizations have not been present to help.

You can donate at:

Let us pray for all those affected. I cannot imagine the pain and suffering the family and friends of the fire victims are experiencing. To lose people just days after Christmas is heart-breaking.


Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Atheist Mutants?

According to a study published in the Evolutionary Psychological Science journal a rise in atheism is linked to prevalent mutant genes. Because of this, religious people are more healthy than atheists. Religion is part of human survival.

Evolutionary psychologists mostly agree with this fact. Because atheists shun religious belief, they go against nature and become a social deviation. The study classifies these social deviations as being associated with unfit genetic mutations. 

In my opinion, the study seems way off. First, it tests people who are left-handed and claims that this trait is somehow related to health, intelligence, and atheism. A trained science student such as myself can easily detect the experimenter bias in this research. The lead researcher Edward Dutton makes conclusions which are not scientific. he claims:

"We will be taken over by a more religious society which is more ethnocentric than us. In that our intelligence is decreasing, I suspect civilization will go backwards, Natural selection will return and we will become more religious once more. This seems to be a rule of history."

This is hogwash.  Our intelligence is increasing. We know more than people 100 years ago. The majority of people on earth are religious or believe in God. Therefore, there cannot be a decrease in intelligence if societies are religious. In fact, if it were not for the Catholic Church, we would not have science or academia. The research Dutton is presenting seems shoddy to me. Anyone with good critical thinking skills can see this. 


Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Atheism Has a Suicide Problem

During the holidays, we tend to see atheists and atheist groups come out more strongly against religion. WHy is this? They are often quiet during the summer, fall and even during Easter. However, when Christmas approaches, we see caricature atheist groups like Freedom from Religion or American Atheists spend thousands of dollars carelessly on advertisements promoting religious bigotry. Instead of using the donations they receive from their sheep to help others, they waste it on hateful campaigns. The question remains: Why?  Why during this time?

It is not news that people often get depressed during the holidays. Memories of the past come back due to cues we get from the senses. The holiday music, decorations, cold weather etc all bring back memories. Atheists seem to experience something deeper. Some believe the onset of atheistic beliefs bring about atheism. When someone seems to think God is imaginary, this may affect his or her happiness since God is an image of goodness and love. Perhaps the memories of when they were a religious believer start to come back and make them feel remorseful. Then there are those atheists who feel targeted by overzealous religious folks who condemn them. In any event, atheism has a big suicide problem.

According to a study done in 2004, atheists and those unaffiliated with religion had the highest rates of depression and suicide. These individuals were young, unmarried, had no children, did not keep in contact with family and had no moral objections to suicide due to relativistic views. This makes sense. Atheists are often self-centered. They believe that they are somehow enlightened and others are not. To them, everyone else is indoctrinated with "delusions" and other ideas that are of the "iron age." However, then they realize that life without God and religion is meaningless, they begin to collapse psychologically. They become angry and bitter, easily triggered by anything good that is related to God. They become unhappy and want to spoil all the fun for everyone else. This is why we see them come out strongly during the holidays which is for many a time of great joy.

Atheism does not offer anything to the atheist. It is just diatribe against God based on misconceptions and an insistence on adopting ignorance as a rule of life. To the atheist, there is no objective truth or morality. It is a no-holds-bar scenario. Because of this, everything is arbitrary. All hope is gone in the atheist's life. Nothing matters anymore because there is no God in heaven and no judgment. To quote one of my former philosophy professors Massimo Pigliucci, "No one is keeping score above." We are all hardwired to believe in God and the afterlife. Once we break off this important evolutionary trait, our sense of humanity begins to fade. We begin to de-evolve back to simple primates seeking to survive at the expense of others and even our own selves.

Think about it. Which one is more hopeful:

A). Believing in God and that we may reach a reward in heaven by being good.

B). Not believing in God and believing that you die into oblivion.

If you chose A, then you will be more hopeful. You will do good and care for others because you will receive a reward in heaven.  Not only will you receive a reward, but you will also feel good about doing good deeds. We all know it feels good to help others. When you feed someone who is hungry, give company to an elderly or sick person, or make someone who is suffering smile, it feels good. You feel the "warm and fuzzies," so to speak. Life is worth living. There is a purpose to it. Instead of just being an organism eating, sleeping and eliminating waste, we have more to live for.

Now, if you chose B, you may still feel a sense of purpose and happiness. However, as you age and watch people die around you, your perspective changes. You start to wonder why even live. What is the point of waking up in the morning and engaging in societal rituals such as hygiene, nutrition, school or work? What is the point of having a family or even friends?  Why party? Why study?  If we are just going to die at any time and disappear into oblivion, what is the point?  Life becomes meaningless without God. It becomes hopeless. Despair sets in. An existential crisis arises when one is an atheist. I know this too well as a former atheist. I remember becoming a cold stoic adopting utilitarian point of view where choices in life were based on points or a calculus system. All that mattered was me. The homeless, uneducated, sick, unborn, elderly were meaningless to me because they were unfit. They failed natural selection and had to go so that the rest of us "fit" ones can survive.

So as you can see, atheism does nothing good for the mind. It is a disease that leads to empty hearts and minds. Once empty, depression and possibly suicide will follow. Life without God is meaningless. Instead of being sons and daughters of God, we become just mere atoms animated in space and time. 


Monday, December 25, 2017

Christmas: The Word and Righteous Sun Becomes One of Us


We rejoice! Christ is born!  The first reading reminds us that the savior has come. He has come to redeem His people and open the doors of heaven to them through His person. Christ was promised to mankind. He came as a baby boy today and continues to come to us in the Holy Eucharist. We respond to this reading with the words: A light will shine on us this day: the lord is born for us.  How true are these words!  Christ is the light that shines for us. It is He who is born unto us today on Christmas day. Christmas is an ongoing celebration that does not end after the 25th of December. We continue to rejoice as the Psalm says we should do. The earth rejoices! The savior has come. God, the savior has appeared as the second reading tells us. Christ is God in the flesh. He is the Son of God and second person of the Blessed Trinity. He is our door to eternal life. We must continue to allow Christ to be born in our hearts each day. In the Gospel, we read about the shepherds going to Bethlehem to see the Christ infant lying in the manger with Mary and Joseph present. We are also told that Mary kept all of these events in her heart. These words give us a clue as to where Luke got his information from to write this Gospel. It was Mary herself who gave the details. Only Mary would have known what happened during the birth of Christ. By this time, we believe Joseph may have passed away. Mary would have been the only one available to the Luke to supply the information necessary for the nativity narrative. This is why Luke wrote that Mary kept this all in her heart. It is clear that Mary herself was his source. This is awesome just thinking about it.  Another awesome thing is that Bethlehem means "House of Bread" in Hebrew. Jesus is the Bread of Life. Bethlehem in Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, means "House of Flesh." Jesus is the Bread From Heaven whose flesh is bread.  See the link to the Eucharist?  We see how God has planned everything since the beginning. Every detail of even the geography of the nativity points to Christ. Bethlehem is the House of Bread. Jesus was born there who is the Bread of Life.  Mary was the tabernacle God chose. Everything is all connected.  God had a detailed plan. The Eucharist is like Christmas every day when we receive the Lord.


The first reading shows the joy we have upon the birth of Christ.  How beautiful are the feet upon the mountains of Him who brings glad tidings and bears good news!  This is, of course, referring to Christ. All the ends of the earth will see God's salvation because the savior is born. We respond in the responsorial Psalm that All the ends of the earth have seen the saving power of God. God has made known His salvation in Christ Jesus born of Mary. We rejoice and sing praises. The day of salvation has come. Christmas is not just a birthday. It is a way of life, a new beginning. God has prepared all things for His Son Jesus Christ. We read in the second reading how God spoke to us via the ancestors and prophets.  They prepared the way of the Lord. All was created for Christ and through Christ. Christ is the savior who sits at the right hand of the Father.  He is the Majesty on high.  He is the one we waited 2,000 years ago and await Him again in the second coming. The Gospel puts this all well using Greek philosophical axioms such as the Logos. In the beginning was the Word, the Word was with God and was God. This Word is Jesus Christ, the Logos. Jehovah Witnesses alter this verse by saying that the Word was "a god." This is wrong and blasphemous. They are altering God's word to fit their heresy. The Word is Christ. Christ is God, not a god. Christ is part of the Holy Trinity. Christ the Word came to us via the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary. He came to bring us light and open the doors of salvation to us all. We make the choice as to whether we want to be saved or not by following His teachings in the Catholic Church. Jesus the Word became flesh. He was one of us in all things except sin. John the Baptist was sent before Him to prepare His way. Jesus is the true light and the way. There is no other person who can save us. Saints do not save, not even Mary saves. Buddha does not save. Mohammad does not save. Moses and the prophets of Israel do not save. Only Jesus Christ the Lord saves. He is the Word made flesh. We receive Him in the Holy Eucharist at every Mass. He is truly present there. Every time we receive, it is like Christmas replaying in our souls. Christ is born in our hearts via the consecrated bread and wine. Remember, Jesus was born in Bethlehem which means House of Bread in Hebrew and House of Flesh in Aramaic the language Jesus spoke. The Eucharist is key. Christ is truly present. The Word is made flesh and truly dwells among us even today in 2017 in the Holy Eucharist. On this Christmas day, let us thank God for coming to us. Let us thank Our Lady and St. Joseph for opening their hearts and lives to Christ. Let us spread the joy and love of Christ to one another. Christmas is not just on December 25th. Its message must live in us each day. Some atheists love to claim that we celebrate a Pagan holiday. While the Romans did celebrate the day of Sol Invictus on the 25th of December, this came way after Christians associated the 25th as Christ's birth. Moreover, Christ is the Sun of righteousness as we read in Malachi 4:2. Christ is not an amalgamation of Pagan gods. Christ is God. This is why the memory of Christ lives on while that of Pagan Roman gods lives only in history books. Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh is the one true God. May He be praised.

I want to wish you all a very blessed and Merry Christmas!  This is Christ's birthday. Let us celebrate with love and holiness. 

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Christmas Eve: A Child Is Born Unto Us

Today is Christmas Eve. We commemorate the birth of the Lord, We had the Mass of the 4th Sunday of Advent this morning and have the Vigil Mass and Midnight Mass as well. I will offer brief reflections for each in this post. I understand this is a busy time both at your parish and home.


The first reading tells us the excitement that is present. We will not be silent. The Lord has chosen us as His people.  He comes as a  bridegroom ready to meet His bride. This reading is referring to Christ who is coming to His people to bring redemption and salvation. God has not forgotten His people. He has promised to send a savior, His own Son.  We respond to this reading by singing about the goodness of the Lord. God has not forgotten us. He made a covenant and has kept it. On David, He set up a kingdom which Christ would be heir to. God is our rock, our father, and our savior. He is always there for us.

The second reading reminds us that God chose the Jews first. He made a covenant with the Hebrews of Israel. God set up His kingdom on David. Christ would stem from David's lineage and will rule both the tribes of Israel and the flock of sheep from all over the world, the Catholic or Universal Church. Christ is the center and link to it all. He links both the old and new. He is the center of both. This is why in the Gospel for the vigil we read of the lineage that links Christ to David. The Gospel of Matthew was written for a Jewish audience. Its wording and references are meant to help the Jewish people understand who Jesus is and why He is the Messiah they have been waiting for.


We the people have been walking in the darkness. However, we now see a bright light. Tihs light is Christ the Lord. God has not forgotten His people. He has not forgotten the human race. He has sent HIs only begotten son to be Wonder-Counselor who helps us, God-Hero who protects us, Father-Forever who loves us and Prince of Peace who bring serenity to our minds and hearts. We respond to this reading the Psalm saying Today is born our Savior.  We sing to God and we rejoice. God has come to us. He became one of us. Our savior has been born, Christ the Lord! Our joy must not be contained. We must celebrate!  God has appeared to us. The second reading reminds us of this. The grace of God has truly appeared! This grace brings salvation and teaches us to reject all falsehoods that the world offers. It teaches us to live holy lives and reject sin.  Christ came to us to make us a part of Himself. He delivers us from the chains of sin and lawlessness.

The Gospel tells us the story of what happened. We are introduced to Joseph and Mary who are about to witness the most important history ever. They are to give witness to the birth of the Savior Christ the Lord. Mary was with child, the Holy Child. Joseph cared for them as a father and husband should care for his family. Mary gave birth to a beautiful baby boy in a manger. There was no room for Him anywhere else.  Christ showed His humility. To imagine that the creator would come in poverty is a reflection of itself. This is why we can see that this story is not just any story or myth. Myths are embellished, historical events are not. Other myths that atheists love to cite in their claims that Christ is an amalgamation of other gods present their gods as all-powerful. These gods are born rich and powerful. They have honor and glory.  The story of Christ is way different. God is not born rich and powerful. There is no mansion or expensive castle where He is born at. Christ is born in a manger and wrapped in swaddling clothes. This tells us that this story really happened. It is not a myth. A myth pays close attention to details and embellishes the narrative. The Gospel of Luke does not do this. It keeps it real, so to speak. The God we read about here is unlike the gods of Pagans and other faiths. This God is humble and prefers to be poor. He contradicts the idea Pagans and others had of the divine. This is because He is the one and only true God. 

The Gospel continues to tell us of how the shepherds saw the angel of the Lord singing Glory to God. The angel told them not to fear. We must never fear God. We must respect Him but never fear Him as if God were some dictator. God is love. Midnight Mass is an awesome event. It is one that spoke to me loudly as an atheist years ago. I remember my first Midnight Mass. It was surreal. I could close my eyes and picture the Christmas scene in my head as the readings were read. This is for real. It spoke to me deeply. To think that God would become a baby boy born in poverty is mind-boggling. On this night, atheism was destroyed, Empirical evidence for God became flesh and walked among us. God became one of us in all things except sin!  I invite you to take time to meditate on this. God, the creator of the cosmos became a little baby boy. God became one of us opening Himself to feeling all things we do; experiencing everything we do. This speaks volumes about how awesome and loving God is.  A child is born unto us, Christ the Lord!


Fourth Sunday of Advent: Jesus the Messiah & Mary Our Link To Him

What is Advent?
We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is that purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences and a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Today's readings:

Here we are in the fourth and last week of Advent with also falls on Christmas Eve date-wise. Jesus is almost here.  The day of His birth is just around the corner. Since it is so near, the Church reminds us of how it all started.

In the first reading from Samuel, we read how King David is bothered that he is living in a house of cedar while the ark of the Covenant where God was is in a tent. He finds that troubling because: 'how can he (David) be living in a palace while the Lord God who did everything for him is out there in a tent as if He were camping in the woods?' The prophet Nathan replies to David that he can do whatever he wants because God is with him.  However, God spoke to Nathan.  Knowing that David wanted to build a house for God, the Lord reminded Nathan who is the real builder. He reminds Nathan and tells him to also remind David that it was He who "took you from the pasture.. cared from the flock; was commander of the people of Israel; went before them, destroyed their enemies.." and so forth.  In other words, God is saying, "you want to build a house for me?? I was the one who did everything and I can do it myself."  Now God is not being an ingrate here.  He is simply reminding David, Nathan, Israel and all of us today that He is the one who does it all. 

There is nothing we can offer to God that is truly our own, for all comes from Him (James 1:17John 1:3). Think about it.  Would a gift of an iPhone to the late Steve Jobs be truly a gift?  No, it would not because he was the one who invented them and had those devices made. So, how can one build a house for God if all in this universe belongs to God and He allows things to be built or destroyed? Moreover, God states that He will establish a house for David and that when the time is right, an heir will come who will be His Son and He will be His Father.  Sounds familiar?  Who do you think this guy God is talking about is?  If you guessed Jesus, then you are correct!  Jesus is this heir who will be this descendant of King David (Matthew 1).  This is why the Gospel of Matthew begins with the genealogy of Christ.  The Gospel of Matthew was written for the Jews Per Se.  Its audience was meant for those of Jewish descent so that they could understand who Jesus was and why He is important. We will also read about the importance of Mary. Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant who will house the Lord Himself. She is the living tabernacle! 

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading saying that "forever I will sing the goodness of the Lord."  What is this goodness?  Well, the Psalm tells us.  It is about God being faithful to us.  Just think about this for a moment.  The God of the universe is faithful to these little creatures made of carbon, water, iron, proteins, calcium and other compounds - human beings.  Why?  Because He loves His creation (John 3:16).  The Psalm reminds us that God made a covenant with David and swore that his throne will be established and will last for all generations.  

In the second reading from Romans, St. Paul reminds us that our faith is manifesting.  The prophetic writings and faith that has been passed on were fulfilled in Jesus Christ so that all nations of the world will come to the obedience of faith in God. God kept His promise. Jesus Christ was born over 2,000 years ago and established the new covenant in His blood which is the Catholic Church. This Church is spread throughout the nations.  It is universal and excludes no one. From the Tree of Jesse sprung the branch that would capture the entire world.  The Catholic Church is the only religion that can truly claim to be universal.  We must continue to evangelize so as to bring more people into the fold. This evangelization must not only be intellectual, but also familial. We must always be welcoming of others in the Church and those outside of her. This is how we win people over to Christ. Catholic parishes can be huge, but we must make every effort to make others feel welcome and be friendly.  

Finally, in the Gospel, we read how the first reading from Samuel is fulfilled.  The archangel Gabriel is sent from God to Mary who lived in a town called Nazareth. She is a virgin and betrothed to Joseph of the house of David.  Notice the Gospel emphasizes this link between David and Joseph and in doing so, connects this to King David and the promise made to Him by God.  This Virgin is named Mary and the archangel greets her with powerful words, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you!"  Sound familiar? It is the beginning of the "Hail Mary" prayer.   The word here in Koine Greek is "kecharitomene" which means "full of God's grace." It is the passive participle of "charitoos" which means "to pour on or fill with grace." This means that Mary was literally "full of God." There was no room for sin or anything evil because God took its place.  If I tell you that a glass is full of water, then that means there is no more room for anything else. This is why the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was the Immaculate Conception. She was conceived without original sin. 

Moreover, Gabriel tells Mary that she will conceive an important child who she is to name Jesus.  This child will be called the Son of the Most High and will be given the throne of David His father. Notice how this is connected to the first reading in Samuel.  God told Nathan that He will build a house and rise up an heir of David who will be His Son.  Now since Mary's Son is an heir, then this means that He is King since He is inheriting the throne of King David. Mary in her innocence asks how this is possible since she is a virgin and has had no relations with a man.  The angel responds that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and the power of the Most High will overshadow her resulting in the child being the literal Son of God.  The Gospel ends with the angel telling Mary that her relative Elizabeth will bear a son in her old age. This will happen because with God nothing is impossible. These are powerful words indeed! God can do all things. Nothing is above Him. God can do the possible and impossible.  

Mary shows her faith in God by accepting and saying, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”  These are also familiar words found in the Angelus prayer.  The Virgin birth was foretold in Isaiah 7:14.  Many atheists have a problem understanding this "Virgin birth" thing.  However, it is not impossible, naturally and biologically speaking.  We have seen "virgin births" in nature via Parthenogenesis.  Since God created this world including Mary's body, then what is to prevent Him from allowing Mary to conceive a child in a virginal state?   The answer is nothing for with God nothing is impossible as Gabriel stated to Mary.  Mary is an example to all of us.  She shows her confusion at first which is normal but trusts that God is good and allows Him to do His will. God respects our free will and does not force Himself on us.  Mary is the model Christian. She points to Christ.  Her last recorded words in the Gospel were "Do whatever He tells you (John 2:5)."  Unfortunately, some of our separated friends in Protestantism believe that Catholics put Mary above Christ. This is extremely far from the truth. We value Mary greatly via hyperdulia or a special veneration given to Mary alone.  Christ, His Father and Holy Spirit receive latria from us or supreme worship reserved only for God alone.    

So in today's readings, we are reminded of the promise of this "Son" who would inherit King David's throne. This Son would be the Savior of the world. The Catholic liturgy beautifully links salvation history via Sacred Scripture. This is a holy time for all of us. I recommend families to watch the film "The Star" which is an animation of the story of the Nativity. This movie is great for the little ones and big ones as well.  Advent and the upcoming Christmas season are vital to our faith.  

Let us all gather now and pray "Maranatha," asking the Lord to come as we celebrate His first coming 2,000 years ago which we commemorate on Christmas.  Together with King David, the prophet Nathan, St. John the Baptist, the Blessed Mother Mary, and St. Joseph let us shout: Ad maiorem Dei gloriam! 

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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Egypt to Criminalize Atheism

Recently, a 29-year-old computer science graduate named Ibrahim Khalil was arrested by Dokki police. His crime was promoting atheism via a Facebook page. Khalil comes from a Christian family.  However, he confessed to being an atheist and using the Facebook page to discuss religion. He is being charged with blasphemy for defaming religion. Because of this, Egyptian officials believe there is a large atheist population growing in Egypt. They are now planning to ban atheism in the nation. Any activity that attacks religion is interpreted as an affront to the nation and social peace. Atheism is a threat in this regard. If religion is questioned, deep cultural ties are severed which may lead to dissension and civil unrest.

Egyptian officials want to prevent any further divisions and dissent such as those experienced in 2013. Moreover, the religion commission of the Egyptian parliament believes that atheism causes mental imbalances which lead to homosexuality, debauchery, sexual deviancy and other immoral concepts. The push to ban atheism was introduced by Amr Hamroush and supported by Riyad Abdel Sattar who believes that those who identify with the LGBTQ community have a mental disease. Atheism is considered a mental disease as well and the cause of immorality.

I think Egyptian officials are overreacting. Atheism is really not a threat to anyone or any nation. It is void of facts and substance. Strong religious instruction, science, and philosophy will undo the negative effects of atheism. Atheism is just a phase in many atheists, especially the youth. Young people crave rebellion. Atheism on the internet presents itself as the ultimate rebellion. This is why it attracts many ignorant young people and uneducated adults. Freedom is very important. Egypt needs to grant it to all, including gays and atheists. If God Himself does not interfere with man's freedom, why should the government? Atheists must be allowed to express themselves and engage in discourse. If Egypt is facing an increase in atheism, then its religions must ask why. They must reach out to atheists and inquire why they have abandoned faith. This is the charitable thing to do, not ban different ideas. Again, God made man free. If man wants to do stupid things or think stupid things, that is his/her choice and he/she will face the consequence for those stupid things. Atheism is not a threat. Atheists should not be arrested, jailed or tortured. This is immoral. It goes against any sane religious belief.


Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Disgraced Former Archbishop of Boston Bernard Cardinal Law Dies at 86

The disgraced former archbishop of Boston, Cardinal Bernard Law died today at the age of 86 after a long illness. Law became famous not for his role as arcbhishop or cardinal, but for his role in the sex abuse scandals that rocked the American Catholic Church in 2002. He was accused of shuffling priests who abused minors from parish to parish. At the time, there was no zero tolerance policy in any diocese. He was born on an Air Force base in Torreon, Mexico on November 4, 1931 to Helen and Benard and was ordained a priest in Mississippi on May 21, 1961.  In 1973 he was made a bishop for the Springfield-Cape Girardeau diocese and elevated cardinal in 1985, a year after being appointed archbishop of the Archdiocese of Boston.

Because of Cardinal Law, the world began to know more about the role of bishops in handling abusive priests. The Church would face one of the biggest challenges to date which had driven many away from her. The death of the cardinal is being celebrated by many who hope the aformentioned is in hell burning. This anger stems from mostly victims of sex abuse and others who hold a grudge against the Catholic religion. 

Law was moved to Rome after 2002 and appointed archpriest at the Basillica of St. Mary Major. Some view this as an insult to victims and an obstruction of justice. Cardinals are citizens of the Vatican. They hold duel citizenship. By moving Cardinal Law to the Vatican, he was pretty much protected under diplomatic immunity. This prevented legal charges from moving through against him in Boston. There was no way he could be arrested and indicted for his mishandling of abusive priests.

Regardless of his actions or lack of actions, we must pray for his soul. He was not a perfect man, but was still a prince of the Church.  May Cardinal Law rest in peace.  May God have mercy on his soul.


Sunday, December 17, 2017

Third Sunday of Advent: Christ Our Joy

What is Advent?
We are now in the holy season of Advent where we prepare for both the coming of Christ at Christmas and the second coming at the end of time.  It is a spiritual period in which to meditate on these two mysteries and prepare for them.  We use the wreath and 4 candles to mark down the 4 weeks before Christmas.  

Three of the candles are purple and one is pink.  The purple symbolizes preparation through penance and prayer.  Purple is also used during Lent.  Another way to see it is purple is a physical sign of healing. When we get hurt, the injury becomes purple.  During the time of healing, it remains purple until it clears up.  Sin hurts us and we need time to heal from it by using the Sacraments of Penance and Eucharist, Prayer, Fasting, Indulgences and a genuine Spiritual life.  

The pink is for the third Sunday or Gaudete Sunday which means "Sunday of Joy."   We are joyous because we are getting closer to Christ's birth.  As each week goes, we light the candle that corresponds to that week.  

Today's readings:

Christmas is almost here!  We are joyous as we light the pink candle on this Gaudete Sunday or Sunday of Joy!  Christ is almost here!  But who is Christ?  Today's readings tell us.  In the first reading from Isaiah, we read about the Spirit of God being part of someone.  This someone is anointed and will bring glad tidings to those in poverty.  This someone will be there for those who are heartbroken; will free those in captivity and minister to all.  So who is this, someone?  Well this "someone" is none other than Jesus Himself. As a matter of fact, Jesus took this very text and read it at the synagogue.  It got Him into trouble as the religious teachers of His day became upset when He said that the words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Him (Luke 4:17-21).  They thought He was blaspheming and were about to beat Him up, so to speak. This is understandable.  How many of us would raise an eyebrow if someone reads Scripture and claims it was referring to him or her? We would think of this person as insane.

The responsorial Psalm responds to the first reading with joy. We rejoice in God! Today's Psalm is unique because it is not from the book of Psalms, but from Our Lady's Magnificat found in Luke. The word "Psalm" comes from Hebrew "Tehillim" which means "praises or songs of praise."  Mary's "Magnificat" is her song of praise to God while showing her joy for having been chosen to bear Christ the Son of God. She echoes Isaiah's words of God who comes to "fill the hungry with good things" and the one who is the help of Israel.  This "Psalm of Mary" is prayed/sung at Vespers (Evening prayer) every day by clergy, religious and those lay faithful who pray the Liturgy of the Hours.  It is a powerful expression of faith.

In the second reading from Thessalonians, we read about the need to rejoice and pray at all times. We must give thanks in ALL circumstances.  This means even in circumstances that are "bad." Many times we only pray and get joyous when things go well for us.  When they get rotten, we get upset at God. Sometimes we even try to barter with God: "Lord, if you do this or make this better, I will go to daily Mass or pray more."  This is not how a prayer life should be like. We must be with God and trust in God always, even when things go bad (Job 13:15). Life will not always be "puppies and kittens," so to speak. Things can get "hairy" really fast during the day. We can wake up cheerful and walk with a "skip" during the day and at night come home gnashing our teeth after facing long schedules, uncontrollable events and all kinds of personalities that give our facial muscles a good work out as we make different faces to each emotion we feel. Despite this, God will never allow us to deal with something we cannot handle (1 Corinthians 10:13).  So in light of this, we must thank God even for the bad things that happen in life (James 1:2-3).  I know it sounds crazy, but it makes sense and demonstrates that God gives us power and freedom over all scenarios. They do not control us. Furthermore, the second reading continues to tell us not to "quench the Spirit" or set aside the fire in us from the Holy Spirit.  Our Christianity must be our lives, not something we do on Sundays. We must not reject things that will lead us to God and must always test everything. Many times, atheists claim that Christians believe things by blind"faith" and never question. This is not true. We are called to question everything. The reading then ends with a blessing to keep us in God's peace, holy and ready for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Finally, in the Gospel, we read more about Jesus' cousin John the Baptist.  The reading tells us that John came to prepare the way for Christ.  He cries out in the desert preparing the way for Jesus. During this preparation, he offered a symbolic form of Baptism using water ( Ezekiel 36:24-27). Today we are also in preparation for the coming of Christ, not only on Christmas but also at the end of time.  However, we are joyous. We cry out "Maranatha" and hope for the return of the Savior of the world. The return of Christ is a joyous occasion even though it entails judgment. If we follow what needs to be done, then there is no need to panic or be fearful of this day. Christianity is about joy!  Nothing gets us down not even the pressures of this world. We are an "alleluia" people who proclaim Christ as the light and hope of this broken world. Gaudete Sunday reminds us of this joy. We are to take this joy and share it with the world.

Like St. John the Baptist, we must prepare the way of the Lord once again though we have not seen Him ourselves as John did (1 Peter 1:8-9). People will think of us as crazy, but that is okay.  This world will never like Catholics or anyone who claims to believe in Christ.  We are seeing this more and more in the world.  Many governments are restricting religious freedom.  Others, like Australia, want to seal of confession to be opened allowing for priests to "snitch" on people who confessed crimes to them.  It will only get worse I am afraid to say.  But fear not!  Christ is with us!  We will suffer, but it is all for the good.  We must remain holy and joyful.  They will see the joy in us and it will become contagious.  God is all about joy, happiness, mercy, and peace (Romans 14:17).  This is why Pope Francis has stressed the fact that we must not have "funeral faces." We must smile and be happy. We must show visibly our joy in Christ Jesus. Whenever we see someone come out from a show or movie, we can get a sense of how good that show or movie was based on the face of those exiting. The same with our faith. Outsiders will get an idea how our Christian faith is based on how we present it outwardly. If we come out of Mass with gloomy faces or pray as if we were doing it out of obligation, then outsiders will see us as miserable sheep. This will not attract them. Our faith must be joyous and welcoming so as to prepare the world for Christ.  We are an Advent people who prepare; we are a Lenten people who suffer, we are an Ordinary people who live by extraordinary faith, but we are an Easter people who live in the joy of Jesus.

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