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Vol. 167 No. 48 - November 26 - December 02, 2016

01 Cover

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:17 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:18 AM ]

03 Index

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:16 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:17 AM ]

04 Engagements

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:15 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:15 AM ]

05 Editorial - Advent and Beyond - Fr Anthony Charanghat

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:08 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 9:50 PM ]

The four weeks of Advent occupy such a brief space in the liturgical calendar that it has become increasingly difficult to register it as anything other than a pre-Christmas period. We must look at Advent as a time which evokes a waiting and an expectancy embracing a passionate hope which reaches far beyond the celebration of Christmas.

As our world has become ever more fragile, with the growing threat of terrorist attacks, with eruptions of violence and ecological disasters, with economic uncertainties and stunning political victories, we have become dulled by apathy and numbed by fear. The readings for the first Sunday of Advent seem surprisingly relevant. Luke talks of 'nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom; earthquakes and famines… people dying of fear as they await what menaces the world.'

We are alerted to the need to 'Watch… to stay awake.' And at the same time, we are offered words of consolation and promise: 'In those days and at that time, I will make a virtuous branch grow for David, who shall practise honesty and integrity in the land.' The choice is, as always, between fear and trust.

To enter into the space of stillness offered by the season of Advent is not to escape from the world, but to come to see it more clearly. Everything around us conspires against the possibility of allowing us to walk in darkness, and yet this is what we must do before we can come to the light. The longest night leads to the sweetest dawn.

In a similar way, our culture resists silence, refuses us a space of stillness, but this is also what we need before we can receive Wisdom, and know that God is Peace. Advent insists on the importance of contemplative silence, so that we may be ready to be surprised by the gifts of knowledge or insight. Only in silence can we be nudged by grace.

Advent offers a space of stillness, a time of darkness, a place of waiting in expectant trust. The liturgies of Advent do not cloak our fears, but unmask their darkness, so that we may face their shadows and yet proclaim our future with hope. Advent calls us to look to the past with gratitude, live the present with passion, and embrace the future with hope.

Traditionally, the first candle of the Advent wreath represents hope. As we pray with the first purple candle lit this week, how can we embrace the future with hope? In a world full of violence, environmental degradation, cruelty, disease and crushing poverty, and horrendous deaths and railway accidents, where do we find hope? It is easy to lose hope in the face of situations of entrenched injustice. But hope is not the same as blind optimism.

If we stay spiritually awake, rather than acting like consumer zombie 'Christmas shoppers' during Advent, we can perceive the movement of God's Spirit in the world. It is real and active. We can nurture alertness to the simple kindness all around us. Elementary acts like reducing, reusing and recycling can speak of deep commitment and the potential of each of us for transformative action.

We wait in joyful hope for God to enter our human rea

lity and transform it, yet Jesus is born every day in acts of loving kindness that make the love of his Heart more visible here and now. If we stay awake, actively listening for God's call, we will hear it in our deepest desires. God is already with us there.

If we listen, we can hear the heartbeat of God's mercy in the world in humanity's yearning for justice, peace and love. It is like the heartbeat of a child in the womb, already alive, but waiting to come to birth. And so Advent is to wait in joyful hope for the coming of God's reign of truth, justice, love and peace on earth and beyond.

06 Advent - Repentance, Reparation, Celebration - Josephine Fernandes

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:05 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:05 AM ]

Advent is a time of repentance and reparation, and it comes with a message of 'hope' for our celebration. It marks the beginning of the new Liturgical year. The very word 'Advent' brings to our mind the Christmas celebrations. Very seldom do we think of Advent as a season for repentance and reparation. We usually associate the season of 'Lent' with repentance, sacrifice and penance; and Advent just passes by as a time to prepare for Christmas celebrations. Whereas our Mother Church in all her wisdom has given us this opportunity, this season to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christ.

The coming of Jesus into our heart! The Latin word for Advent is 'Adventus' which means 'coming', the coming of someone or something important. The popular Greek translation is 'Parousia' which means the second coming of Christ or awaiting the coming of the Messiah. Advent is a four week journey to prepare our hearts to welcome Christ.

Jesus will be born at the Christmas vigil, not into the beautiful cribs in our church, but in the manger of our hearts. We need to prepare our crib there! We spend too much of our time, resources and attention on the externals, whereas the manger which really needs a thorough cleansing is often neglected, and is in terrible shambles. This pure, sinless, spotless 'Lamb of God' cannot be born into a manger which is full of the grease and grime of our sinfulness.

With the onset of Advent, let's start cleansing this little manger for our Lord to be born on the eve of Christmas. It would be a wonderful gesture for the family to come around the Advent wreath and pray together the special Advent prayers. Let forgiveness and love be our focus, forgiving one another with love the wrongs done, the hurt we have caused each other; our extended family members too can be remembered and forgiven during this time of prayer. Forgiveness is the key to all blessings! After repentance and forgiveness, there's a need for reparation too. Just as Zacchaeus said, "Lord, half of my possessions I'll give to the poor, and if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I will pay back four times as much." (Luke 19:8)


07 Advent:  Hope for Transfiguration and Transformation - Christopher Mendonca

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:03 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:04 AM ]

The experience of John, the Evangelist (a first person account)

As an Evangelist, I say very little about the Lord's coming in history
limiting myself to the fact that the Word was made flesh
and came to dwell among us.
I am at pains, however, to underline the fact
that there are those who see and yet do not perceive.
The whole of Israel waited with expectancy,
but so many failed to recognise Him when he came. 1
Once He has come in history, Advent ceases to have any meaning
unless we are willing to transform it
from being a mere remembrance into a "memorial".
The early Church took its time to absorb this fact.
They were still locked in the framework of time.
His second coming was thought to be imminent
until it slowly dawned on them
that the Kingdom was with us and within us.
Henceforth, "Advent" would mean
more than just His coming in history and at the end of time.
It would mean "our coming to a recognition of Him".
Advent is a time of waiting, not so much for God's revelation,
but waiting for the scales to fall off our eyes


08 Advent Season:Time to Give - Fr Michael Fernandes

posted Nov 24, 2016, 1:01 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:02 AM ]

The action of giving, and how giving releases joy into our lives and into the lives of others is what is taught and communicated during the season of Advent. We will soon begin the great season of Advent, and I am sure we won't be confining ourselves to gift giving to our friends, but giving something to those who have nothing.

We always give to our dear ones and sometimes to those who ask us. We give to the Church for the charitable works, and sometimes we give when there are natural calamities. Giving is characteristic of our Church's mission. The Church always gives us a call to give to those who have nothing to live on. The mission of giving carried out by the Church all over is awesome and huge. Even in India, the Church is not lagging behind; our presence in the remotest villages is a sign of giving ourselves to the people.

What we show in mission and charitable work is nothing but the great Giving by the Lord to Humanity: giving Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. The Church is giving Christ's love and hope to those who have no chance of having it all. During the season of Advent, the Church offers us a chance to share our blessings and love and through our warmth of heart, we can warm the hearts of our needy brothers and sisters.

Today, if we look around, we see that there are so many who are affected by poverty and government policies and decisions like the demonetisation. Some churches in Kerala gave an example of sharing and giving by opening the alms boxes to share their donations with people affected by demonetisation.

God gave His greatest gift by offering His Son Jesus. God who taught us how to receive with gratitude and how to give, as He gave to us totally, will definitely fill our hearts and families with blessings and joy. The season of Advent allows us to deeply meditate and understand how God gave; we would be more willing to receive His gift and to give to others like He gave to us. Love and no other reason and motive motivated God to offer Jesus to us as our way, truth and Life. If we want to experience joy, we need to first receive God's gift of love, and then we are to give to others, as God gave unconditionally to us.


09 Shatter the Silence - Simran Shaikh

posted Nov 24, 2016, 12:59 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 1:00 AM ]

World AIDS Day is celebrated every year all over the world on December 1 to raise public awareness about AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome). AIDS is a pandemic disease caused due to the infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). The day is celebrated by government organisations, NGOs, civil society and other health officials by organising speeches or forum discussions related to AIDS.

When Nelson Mandela addressed 12,000 participants at the XIII International AIDS Conference in Durban, South Africa, no one knew what the future held for the AIDS response. Access to life-saving anti-retroviral drugs in 2000 was sharply limited, and donor spending on AIDS activities amounted only to a small fraction of current funding levels.

More than a decade later, the global AIDS response has been transformed. We have reached the goal of providing 15 million people with access to life-saving HIV treatment by 2015. Additionally, UNAIDS estimates that from 2002 to 2012, expanded access to HIV treatment averted 4.2 million deaths globally and contributed to a 58 per cent reduction in new HIV infections.

However, many of the obstacles that impeded effective HIV prevention and treatment programmes in 2000 still exist today. More than 60 per cent of people living with HIV remain without anti-retroviral therapy, including women and girls, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, young people, and people who use drugs and other marginalised groups remain under-prioritised in the response; investments in HIV prevention research appear to have flattened; and widespread violations of human rights including criminalisation continue to undermine effective responses. We must now draw attention to those being left behind.


11 A Matter of Right - Victor Rodrigues

posted Nov 24, 2016, 12:58 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 12:59 AM ]

December 3 - International Day of Persons with Disabilities

On Christmas Eve, 2014, I visited the majestic Cathedral of St Madeline at Salt Lake City to celebrate the Christmas Vigil Mass. Although I was 40 minutes early, the cathedral was already full, and no seating space was available. So I stood with many others along the side wall. The Mass was to be celebrated by the much loved Bishop John Wester in three languages: Latin, English and Spanish. As I waited for the Mass to begin, a frail and elderly African-American sacristan noticed the elbow crutch I was holding. He raised his hand, pointing a finger to suggest one moment. He soon returned with a folding chair, slowly unfolding it before me. I thanked him with gratitude. On my way home after Mass, I felt touched, not so much by the charisma of the Bishop or the grandeur of Latin or the majestic cathedral, but the kindness and compassion of an elderly African-American gentleman.

When I was in primary school, I remember a pious Catholic teacher telling us that whenever she met a blind or lame beggar on the street, she prayed to the Lord, "Thank you, Lord, for not making me blind or lame." That prayer didn't seem right to me; after all, Christ's attitude towards the disabled in the Gospel was one of empathy, and not indifference.

Our attitude towards the disabled in India is deeply rooted in our culture. The idea of karma, that we receive just punishment for our sins in this life or the next, fosters an unsympathetic attitude towards people with disabilities. Disability thus becomes a taboo. Even though Catholics do not believe in karma, our attitude towards the disabled is nonetheless influenced by the culture we live in.

Ignorance too has a key role to play in our indifferent attitude towards disabled people. Most people simply do not know how to interact with disabled people. As a result, most ignore the needs of a disabled person, while others are overtly patronising.


12 Notes & Comments

posted Nov 24, 2016, 12:57 AM by Neil D'Souza   [ updated Nov 24, 2016, 12:57 AM ]

Do not miss the Rewards of Advent

Eddy D'Sa

Advent is meant to be the consuming preparation for one of the greatest feasts of the Christian year. The problem is that the lack of contemplative consideration that comes with Christmas consumerism too often drowns out the sounds of Advent, and drains not only the feast, but even, perhaps, the rest of the year of its meaning, stripped of reflection by the pressure of social protocols. It is meant to be arrived at slowly, and lived succulently. Christmas is not meant to be simply a day of celebration; it is meant to be a month of contemplation. We stand to lose one of the richest seasons of the year unless we can reclaim Advent, and the lack of it will show clearly in the way we go through the rest of life itself. Advent is an excursion through scripture, meant to give depth and emotional stability to the days for which there are no songs, no tinsel, no flashing lights to distract us.

First Week of Advent: Hope

Jeremiah 33:14, Luke 21:26-27

Life, say Jeremiah and Luke, is a promise; the fulfilment of which is not always apparent. Hope is thin and slippery, sorely tested and hard to come by in this culture. We have substituted power for hope, and found ourselves powerless. But hope is not for easy times, the first week of Advent says. Hope comes only when hope is gone, when we are "fainting from fear and foreboding of what is coming upon" our worlds. Then, hope and only hope reigns supreme. Then we see the works of a great God. Then we go colour blind where people are concerned, and see Jesus where Jesus has always been—in the eyes of the other who waits to see that same Jesus in our eyes. Hope is not insane optimism or attempts to "cheer us up" or some mantra to "reframe" our difficulties. No, hope is not made of denial. Hope is made of memories. Hope reminds us that there is nothing in life we have not faced that we did not (through God's gifts and graces, however unrecognised at the time) survive. As Czech President Václav Havel put it: "Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out." The first week of Advent calls us to hope in the promise that God is calling us to greater things, and will be with us as we live them.


Proclaim Christ-the king of mercy

Following Christ the King, whose regal power is love and mercy, means the whole Church and each Christian must "follow His way of tangible love," Pope Francis said.

Celebrating the feast of Christ the King Nov. 20 and officially closing the extraordinary jubilee celebration of the Year of Mercy, Pope Francis insisted, "we have received mercy in order to be merciful."

On a warm, late fall morning, St Peter's Square was filled with an estimated 70,000 people for the Mass, which was concelebrated by the new cardinals Pope Francis had created the previous day.

The Pope and the new cardinals first went to the atrium of St Peter's Basilica and gave thanks for "the gifts of grace received" during the Holy Year. Pope Francis then went to the threshold of the Holy Door and pulled each side shut. The door will be sealed until the next Holy Year, which is likely to be 2025.

In his homily, Pope Francis said that even if the Holy Door is closed, "the true door of mercy, which is the heart of Christ, always remains open wide for us."

The power of Christ the King, he said, "is not power as defined by this world, but the love of God, a love capable of encountering and healing all things."

Like the "good thief" who turned to Jesus on the Cross and was assured a place in heaven, any one who turns to God with trust can be forgiven, the Pope said. "He is ready to completely and forever cancel our sin, because His memory - unlike our own - does not record evil that has been done or keep score of injustice experienced."


Mercy endures forever

Kitty Miranda

On November 12, 2016, about thirty of us from the Young Adults Association (YAA) of our parish, made our way to the Cathedral of the Holy Name for the Jubilee Year of Mercy pilgrimage.

Fr Harry Vaz revealed through the Scriptures that Jesus Christ is not only The Shepherd, but also the Sheep Gate (Door of Mercy).

We entered the Mercy Door, singing of God's glory. We then professed our faith through the much recited yet meaningful Creed.

Fr Harry went on to explain that, as young kids, we were told that God keeps a watch on us, especially when we indulge or are about to indulge in sin. The image of God is of a strict disciplinarian. But in reality, God is ever-loving, ever-forgiving, full of mercy and compassionate, despite our failures, weaknesses and sins, which is manifested in and through His Son, Jesus, in the New Testament.

Our hearts were prepared by explaining the significance of the Year of Mercy logo – Christ puts us around His shoulder, like a shepherd does to his sheep. The logo symbolises Christ bringing stability into our lives by balancing Himself with us on His shoulder on the Cross. The logo has three eyes, signifying that when we surrender ourselves to Jesus, we see ourselves and the world through His compassionate eyes. The Mercy of Christ is not restricted to forgiveness of sins, but it also involves being set free from hurt caused by others. After explaining the significance of the logo, we were given time to introspect and prepare for confession.


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