BENEDICTUS

Wednesday 24th December

Reflection: Luke 1:67-79

BENEDICTUS

“Benedictus” is a Latin word which means “Blessed”. It is used to refer to the prophecy of Zechariah at the moment his tongue was loosened during the naming ceremony of his son John the Baptist who was the fore-runner of Jesus. As we prepare to celebrate Christ’s birth at Christmas, this message of hope must aid our expectations of the great grace which comes with this season.

This song of Blessing was initiated by Zechariah’s sudden recovery after several months of silence. What an exclamation of gratitude and joy to God who keeps his promise despite his unbelief! Little wonder the song starts with: “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel”. Awaiting the fulfillment of God’s promises should be a time of joy rather than worry. God keeps his word; He never fails! The birth of Christ which we celebrate this season has brought us liberation. Hence, we must not continue to live in the bondage of fear. This liberty makes us holy and righteous in a world of darkness and enables us to serve God without fear (Luke 1:74). Why feel lonely in your battle against sin and temptations? Do not worry, God has promised to guide your steps into the path of peace.

As you prepare for Christmas, sing songs of praise and honor to God who loves you and wants to make his home in your heart. End this season of advent with true contrition for the many times you have failed to trust God’s word and enter into the joy of your salvation with faith.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, I thank you for your mercy and grace, I am ready for you this season of joy. Come and dwell in my heart always. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 488Why should we thank God?
Everything that we are and have comes from God. Paul says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). Being grateful to God, the giver of all good things, makes you happy.

HIDE A TREASURE: “I will sing of your mercies, O Lord, forever with my mouth I will proclaim your faithfulness to all generations.” Psalm 89:1 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: 1 Samuel 7:1-5, 8-16; Psalm 89: 2-5, 27,29; Luke 1: 67-79

HIS NAME IS JOHN


Tuesday 23rd December

Reflection: Luke 1: 57-66

HIS NAME IS JOHN

Like it is in the African setting, it was a common practice among the Jews to name a first born son after his father. This was the intention of the friends and neighbours of Zechariah and Elizabeth who considered it a honour to Zechariah to name this “special” child after him. But his mother spoke up “he is to be called John”, the name the Angel had given and this was confirmed by his father.

Dear friends, God knows us individually, calls each of us by name and His has a specific plan for the lives of every one of us. He has a certain task for you to carry out in this world; a task no one else has been saddled with. 

Regardless of how influential our parents may be, their purpose in life is different from ours hence we must not be satisfied in being anyone’s “shadow”. Though both Zechariah and John attained holiness, their paths to holiness and their God given purpose differed.

Mother Teresa took her name after St Therese of Lisieux whom she greatly admired. St Therese was largely unknown outside her convent until her death at age 24 and she attained holiness of life in loving God in the “little” things of life. Mother Teresa on the other hand became widely known as she busied herself with her call to work amongst the poorest of the poor in India. She died in old age. Both are great female saints who attained holiness through different paths.

Your name is your identity, though it is good to name a child after his parent or a saint or influential person, we must bear in mind that each person is unique and has his own purpose to fulfil. As we reflect on the role of John the Baptist in salvation history, let us seek God’s purpose for our lives and walk in it.

PRAYER: Lord, I open my heart to You; please help me to discover your purpose for me so that I can live each day of my life in fulfilment of that purpose. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 201 – What is the significance of receiving a name in Baptism?

Through the name that we receive in Baptism God tells us: “I have called you by name, you are mine” (Is 43:1).
In Baptism a person is not dissolved into an anonymous divinity, but rather is affirmed precisely in his individuality. To be baptized by a name signifies that God knows me, he says Yes to me and accepts me forever in my unrepeatable uniqueness.

HIDE A TREASURE: “Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine” Isaiah 43:1 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: Malachi 3: 1-4, 23-24; Psalm 25: 4-5, 8-14; Luke 1: 57-66

REMEMBER, IT IS ONLY A GIFT


Monday 22nd December

Reflection: 1 Samuel 1: 24-28

REMEMBER, IT IS ONLY A GIFT

When science fails to solve our puzzles, medicine fails to heal our wounds and our efforts are apparently futile, it is only natural to turn even to the most “illogical” solution. When faced with unnerving problems even the staunchest atheist (as they proudly profess) might consider talking to the God he had consistently tagged non-existent. It is amazing what promises we are willing to make when they earnestly desire something. Just then, we are reminded that God is our ultimate help.

When we ask in faith and humility, God our loving Father would not deny us anything we need for our salvation and well being. This is the assurance Christ has given us: “If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask him” (Matthew 7 :11). It is however saddening to know how many turn a cold heart to God after He has dried their tears.

Hannah, whom the Lord had saved from the shame of childlessness, was indeed grateful. She did not cling to Samuel her only son. She saw him as a gift from God and though he was still an infant whom she had just weaned, she was willing to fulfil her promise to God as difficult as it appeared to be. In gratitude, she exalted God, recounting His power to supply the needs of the weak and dejected, and humble the proud and she joyfully gave her son back to God (1 Samuel 1:28). God increased her joy, giving her five children in the place of one which she had requested for (1 Samuel 2:21)

Beloved, let us constantly remember that every answered prayer is a gift from God, who is able to do immeasurably more. When we do this, we would show enough gratitude to fulfil our vows to Him and our obligation of love to our neighbour. Remember everything you have is only a gift, and you must not forget the giver.

PRAYER: Lord Jesus, you have given me so much, please give me one more thing – a grateful heart. May I never forget that You are the source of my life and happiness. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 488 – Why should we thank God?
Everything that we are and have comes from God. Paul says, “What have you that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). Being grateful to God, the giver of all good things, makes you happy.
The greatest prayer of thanks is the “Eucharist” (“thanksgiving” in Greek) of Jesus, in which he takes bread and wine so as to offer in them to God all of creation, transformed. 

HIDE A TREASURE: “What have you that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?” 1 Corinthians 4:7 RSV-CE
Readings for Today: 1 Samuel 1: 24-28; 1 Samuel 2: 1, 4-8 (Canticle); Luke 1 : 46-56

WORKING IN LINE WITH GOD’S PLAN

Sunday 21st December – 4th Sunday of Advent
Reflection: 2 Samuel 7: 1 -11, 16
WORKING IN LINE WITH GOD’S PLAN
Since the beginning, God in His wisdom has set plans for redemption so that we may attain the dominion into which we were created. In His faithfulness and love, God has made a covenant with all His children, a covenant sealed by the blood of His Son. But as it is in every covenant, each party has a part to play in order to enjoy the blessings of the covenant.
King David, at the peak of his reign thought it wise to repay God for the numerous victories he had given him by building shelter for the Ark of the Covenant, the symbol of God’s dwelling amongst the Israelites. Even Nathan the prophet of God agreed with this plan as it was indeed very laudable. Yet, God’s plan for David stood in contrast. Though He acknowledged David’s beautiful desire, He had plans as to who was to carry out the assignment of building Him a temple. It wasn’t David; it was going to be his son, the heir to his throne.
As we seek to please God, we are naturally drawn to offering up praise, thanksgiving and service to Him in different ways, usually within the limits of our human wisdom. As good as this is, let us bear in mind that our real focus in seeking to fulfill our own part of the covenant should be submitting to “God’s superior plans” as against our own schemes. The Obedience of faith which St Paul speaks about in Romans 16: 26 is our God given grace to truly surrender ourselves to God, trusting that only in doing in His will can we find the peace and satisfaction that our hearts yearn for. Indeed, only in submitting to His plans for our lives do we truly live out the covenant we have with Him.
Dear friends, let us constantly seek God’s will and submit to His plans, trusting that His plans are ultimately for our own good. Our faith must be backed with prompt obedience to God however difficult this may seem.
PRAYER: Lord, teach me to live daily according to your plans. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: CCC 52 – God, who “dwells in unapproachable light”, wants to communicate His own divine life to men he created, in order to adopt them as his sons in His only-begotten Son. By revealing Himself God wishes to make them capable of responding to Him, and of knowing Him and of loving Him far beyond their own natural capacity.

HIDE A TREASURE: “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts” Isaiah 55: 8-9 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: 2 Samuel 7: 1-5, 8-11, 16; Psalm 88: 2-5, 27 ,29; Romans 16: 25-27; Luke 1: 26-38

GOD IS WITH US


Saturday 20th December

Reflection: Isaiah 7: 10-14

GOD IS WITH US

When we think of God, the image that readily comes to mind is that of a great and awesome being far away in the Heavens who created all things and sustains the universe. Though we know we are his children by virtue of our baptism, we still often do not relate to him as a father; we often find ourselves obeying His commands more out of fear than out of love.

The beautiful message of this season of Christmas is that the same God who is great and mighty, the God who created all things has come to dwell amongst us as man. This is how much He loves us. He has come to live in our midst, to experience the ups and downs of daily life with us and to show us that He is not disconnected from us and unaware of the challenges of our human nature. More importantly, He has not only humbled Himself to be like us, he has raised us up from our fallen state to be like Him… to be truly children of God, bearing the same nature of the Father and heirs to His kingdom.

Dear friend, as you reflect on today’s reading, let the name “Immanuel” bring you joy and hope. Let it remind you that God truly dwells with us. Though Christ has left this world in his human nature, He is ever with us by virtue of His Spirit that dwells in our hearts. He unites Himself to us in the Eucharist, continually pours out His grace upon us so that despite the difficulties we face, we may live the holy life to which He calls us. Remember, God is truly with us!

PRAYER: Thank you dear Lord for stooping down to our level and raising us up to where you are. Please help me to always be conscious that you dwell with us so that I can face life with hope and trust. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 79 – Did Jesus have a soul, a mind, and a body just as we do?

Yes. Jesus “worked with human hands, he thought with a human mind. He acted with a human will, and with a human heart he loved” (Second Vatican Council, GS 22, 2).

HIDE A TREASURE: “For our high priest is not someone who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, for he was tempted in every way just as we are, yet without sin. Let us, then, with confidence approach the throne of grace, so that we will obtain mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Hebrews 4:15-16 CCB

Readings for Today: Isaiah 7: 10-14; Psalm 24: 1-6; Luke 1: 26-38

TRUST IN GOD

Friday 19th December

Reflection: Luke 1: 5-25

TRUST IN GOD

Our lives are often filled with moments of uncertainty. Ranging from a few minutes or hours to several years or even decades, these times of uncertainty can cause us to question our hope in God’s love for us and His power to meet our needs and wants. Zechariah and Elizabeth, the parents of John the Baptist were righteous and worthy in the sight of God (cf Luke 1:6) yet they were childless. They had experienced decades of uncertainty, hoping that someday, God will give them a child. Yet, nothing happened and as they grew old they lost any hope of child bearing (Luke 1: 18).

Indeed, uncertain moments of uncertainty in our lives can make us give up on God especially when we have waited for so long. Zechariah and Elizabeth remind us however, that we must not lose our fear of God, our faithfulness to Him and our readiness to serve Him. The couple continued to live in righteousness and Zechariah continued his priestly ministry. Little did they know that God had greater plans for them. God desired that they would have a part to play in His salvation plan for man; for from them was to come the greatest of the prophets, one who would prepare the way for Christ and make Him known to the people when He came. And when did God reveal this? Just as Zechariah was at his duty post, ministering before God.

Dear friend, in what area of life are you waiting on God? What periods of uncertainty are you currently going through? Are there certain needs and desires you have been praying about for which the response seems delayed? Please do not lose faith. God has better plans for us than we can ever have for ourselves. Trust Him and remain faithful and then like John the Baptist’s parents and like Manoah and his wife, Samson’s parents whom we encounter in today’s first reading, we will realise that God is indeed faithful. With the Psalmist let us pray:

PRAYER: It is you O Lord, who are my hope, my trust, O Lord since my youth. On you I have leaned from my birth, from my mother’s womb you have been my help. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 507 – What happens if you find that prayer does not help?

Prayer does not seek superficial success but rather the will of God and intimacy with him. God’s apparent silence is itself an invitation to take a step farther—in total devotion, boundless faith, endless expectation. Anyone who prays must allow God the complete freedom to speak whenever he wants, to grant whatever he wants, and to give himself however he wants. 

HIDE A TREASURE: “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will.” Mark 11:24 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: Judges 13: 2-7, 24-25; Psalm 71: 3-6, 16-17; Luke 1: 5-25

HONOURABLE COURTSHIP

Thursday 18th December

REFLECTION: Matthew 1: 18-24

HONOURABLE COURTSHIP

Living in an increasingly secular society, we can easily lose the values that make us stand out as children of God. Such values that can easily be eroded, especially for young people, include purity of mind, heart and body. We do not need to look very far to get caught up with examples of impurity. Simply observing the trend at school – secondary school or higher institution, the “stars” in music, movie and sports etc that the world projects to us and while innocently surfing the web, we hear the same message ringing out: “purity is old fashioned!”; “It does not really matter whether or not you are a virgin!”; “everyone engages in premarital sex, you cannot possibly do without it!”. If we are not extra careful and strengthened by God, we can easily become persuaded to live in impurity.

Dear friends, the results of this secularisation are clear: increasing number of unhappy people and marriages, increasing rates of separation and divorce, increased incidence of depression etc. If we are to live out the fullness of our faith as young Christians, we must strive to live honourable lives and seek out honourable friendships and courtships that will lead to happy homes. We must be willing to listen to God’s voice as He speaks to us and gives us the path to follow when we are uncertain.

Today’s gospel reading describes Joseph as an honourable man. His courtship with Mary was pure and holy such that there was no reason for him to panic when she was found to be with child. There was no chance he could be responsible for the pregnancy! Yet, in the midst of this confusing situation, God gave him direction about what to do. He reassured him that Mary’s story was true and that He had a role for him: to be the foster Father of our Lord. Let us open our hearts to God and ask Him for the grace to live lives that honour Him always. As we do, we can trust his direction every day of our lives.

PRAYER: Oh Lord, please help me to live in purity. Help me to build up good friendships and when the time for marriage draws near, grant me the grace of a fiance(e) and a courtship that honours you always. Amen.

KNOW YOUR FAITH: YOUCAT 404 – What is chaste love? Why should a Christian live a chaste life?

A chaste love is a love that defends itself against all the internal and external forces that might destroy it. That person is chaste who has consciously accepted his sexuality and integrated it well into his personality. Chastity and continence are not the same thing. Someone who has an active sex life in marriage must be chaste, too. A person acts chastely when his bodily activity is the expression of dependable, faithful love.

 HIDE A TREASURE: “Shun immorality. Every other sin which a man commits is outside the body; but the immoral man sins against his own body” 1 Corinthians 6:18 RSV-CE

Readings for Today: Jeremiah 23: 5-8; Psalm 72: 1-2, 12-13, 18-19; Matthew 1: 18-24