THE WORD MADE FLESH

What a Christmas season for us this year. It’s my privilege to journey with you. This is the last reflection. May God bless you and be with you always. -Fr. Tat

DAY 25: The Nativity of the Lord (Christmas) – Mass During the Day

IS 52:7-10; HEB 1:1-6; JN 1:1-18

LET US WELCOME JESUS

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.

Imagine that you are going to a very big and world-known concert. One of the international well-known performers is in town.  You have to wait for a very long time to get your ticket. And then you have to get in a long line to get through the security gate. Then you find your seat. You look around the huge auditorium decorated with so many lights and oracles. It’s so beautiful and magnificent. There are two best masters of ceremonies on stage. Then many more great performances constantly surprise you with their excellent skills and talents. You still wait for the most important ONE. Because of this Person, you are here.

Finally, the MC announces his name. And he is …walking out slowly and gently and holy….here is Jesus. The Superstar of all-stars. The super-light of all lights. The whole auditorium is applauding him constantly. They all are standing and clapping their hands. You are seeing him with your mouth open and your imagination is spreading out beyond this world. You might say to yourself, “Oh, my God(sh)! Oh, my son of God! Here is the one I’m waiting for and looking for so long. He is indeed the Savior. He is so good. So humble. So wise. So amazing. So spectacular. So attractive. So loving. So drawing. So god. So everything. He is mine. I want to be his….now and now.” Jesus is smiling and looking at each one of you with gentleness, joyfulness, and love.

Yes, my sisters and brothers. Jesus is here. Let us go out and welcome him, connect with him.

The Gospel of John today describes Jesus beautifully. “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God, and the Word was God. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory…” This is a magnificent truth and presence of God.

Today, let us begin to acknowledge the presence of God in our lives through Jesus. Only Jesus can help us to know beyond our reality. Only Jesus can reveal his Father to us. Only Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Through him, everything is created. He is the true light. He is our loving Redeemer.

Reflection question: Who is Jesus for you? Please share your story, relationship or belief about Jesus with others.

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 24: Tuesday in the Fourth Week of Advent  – Mass in the Morning

2 SM 7:1-5, 8B-12, 14A, 16; LK 1:67-79

MY FAVORITE PRAYER: LORD, MY GOD AND MY ALL

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free.”

Today, Zechariah raised his voice and heart to praise God, “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel; for he has come to his people and set them free….” These words for me are like the lyrics of his song of praise to his loving and merciful God. These words were busted in freedom and joy. Nothing could stop Zechariah to shout out the goodness of the Lord. They are so beautiful. All priests and religious men and women pray these words every morning as they pray the Christian Prayer or Breviary. 

My favorite prayer if I may say to God is “Lord, my God and my All.” These six words could fill up my heart and express my beautiful relationship with God. God is everything to me. God is the center of my life. God has done so many good things to me that I cannot even count. I cannot even imagine. Therefore, I only can say, “Lord, my God and my All.”

Each one of us has a very special and unique relationship with God. No matter how hard or how comfortable our lives are, we are God’s. We are blessed by God. God is with us. 

God is coming for you to see you and to be with you. Please open your heart, mind and soul to welcome the humble God into your life. Let’s get up and go out of our fears to meet and to praise God with our favorite song or prayer. Jesus is near. Jesus is here. Jesus does not need a big present from us. Jesus only needs a humble and longing heart from us.

Reflection question:

If you had a chance to express your “song of praise” or prayer to God today as he comes to see you, what would you like to say?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 22: Fourth Sunday of Advent

IS 7:10-14; ROM 1:1-7; MT 1:18-24

EMMANUEL – GOD IS WITH US

“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, which means “God is with us.”

The story of how Jesus came about is told today. Of course, everyone remembers and memorizes the whole scene of the story. The archangel Gabriel came and dialogued with Mary. After that Mary was conceived by the Holy Spirit. But Mary has engaged with Joseph already. Joseph was very surprised by the news about Mary’s pregnancy. Joseph intended to divorce her. But the angel told him in his dream that the son Mary will birth, “will save his people from their sins.”

It’s a great story. The Great Emmanuel will be born to Mary by the Holy Spirit.

Emmanuel had to go through the process of becoming human. This is a great mystery of the divine for us to meditate today. Everything needs time. Everything is a part of the whole. We all are connected.

If you are sitting on a chair, sit. If you are driving a car, keep driving. If you are drinking a cup of coffee, drink slowly. If you are visiting your beloved mother, enjoy her presence and present.

Why? Because all these things do not end up at the existence we are experiencing. They all come together from different sources. There are many parts and materials collected and processed to be able to make a chair or a car or a cup of coffee for us to use. It takes a thousand generations to have your beloved mother. So, we need to be careful and appreciative of what we have and who we are. We need to treasure and respect all things and peoples we have.

God is with us, always! Jesus is also nourished and loved by so many people in his life. Mary, Joseph, cousins and disciples were there to support him. Now the spirit of Jesus is in and among us as we love one another.

Reflection question: How do I connect with my Emmanuel today? When do I feel God’s presence the most during my day?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 21: Saturday of the Third Week of Advent

SG 2:8-14; LK 1:39-45

THE JOY WITHIN

“For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.” 

When was the last time you felt a real joy leaped in your heart or your gut or your mind? After Mary received the annunciation from Archangel Gabriel, she set out …and traveled to a hill country in haste…” Her greeting and presence made Elizabeth leaped for joy.

In a few days, we will celebrate Christmas, the birth of Jesus. We are invited to set our hearts a joyful place for Jesus to stay. We are also called to become a joyful presence to one another, like Mary to Elizabeth.

If I tried to put myself in “their situations” to imagine the visit in order to have an overwhelmingly joyful moment, I would consider the following realities of Mary and Elizabeth:

Mary’s genuine care for God and others. Her Yes to the Angel Gabriel was a mixture of sincere acceptance and fear (no doubt). It’s like you drink a glass of wine. It carries both sweetness and bitterness at the same time. When we assume a big mission or responsibility, we are afraid of how to accomplish it. Her sincerity and courage inspired and “leap” Elizabeth with joy.

Elizabeth’s generous reception. Her sisterly welcoming reached out to Mary as soon as she walked in. They both brought comfort, trust and joy to each other. Her acknowledgment of Mary’s blessedness, in a way, brings her also to the fulfillment of joy.

In order to have joy in life, we need to be open ourselves genuinely to the invitation of God (don’t fight back) and to the needs of other people. Selfishness never can contain real joy. Only generosity and gratefulness are the best friends of joyfulness.

Reflection question: How are you doing with your generosity and gratefulness?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 20: A RISKY HOME VISIT OF THE ANGEL GABRIEL

“Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

When I worked with high school students in Chicago two years ago, I needed to visit students’ homes. My students already warned me, “Don’t come to my house because my mother won’t  welcome you.” Another student said, “Don’t come to my neighborhood. It’s not safe for you. Period.” They wanted me to be safe and they did not want me to waste my time.

I can feel for the Angel Gabriel who “was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph…” This will be a risky home visit. Why? not because of violence or shooting, but because Mary and Joseph were already engaged. It’s an almost impossible mission for me. How do you know they would say yes to your invitation? Gabriel could not be”welcomed” in their home. His message could be considered “too good to be true.”

After a few minutes of dialogue and explanation from both sides, Mary moved from feeling “troubled” to “how can this be” to “Behold, … may it be done to me according to your word.” She submitted her will to the will of God. How sweet!

Wow! Thank God! And Thank you, Mary! “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you.”

Reflection question: How often did you play the role of Gabriel (the sent) in your life? Will you be open to being sent (again) to announce God’s good news to others? If you were in Mary’s situation, what would you do?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 19: DO NOT BE AFRAID

But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, because your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John.”

The story of Zechariah privately offering prayer to God and desiring to have a child reminds me of my own story. My mother told me that she was praying every day at St. Vincent Shrine in Vietnam to have me. A very religious and righteous woman came to my mother during the offering and said, “Don’t worry. Go home. You will have a son. The Lord accepted your prayer.” My mother went home and she conceived me and named me after Saint Vincent on my baptismal day. I was born on May 29th, 1972. You can do the math.

Don’t give up on prayer. Don’t give up on God. Be sincere and trust totally in God, not to get what we want, but to truly free and creative in God’s boundless love. Whatever happens right now that makes you anxious and frustrated, breathe in and look around. You are where you are is not accidental. It is a miracle and a blessing. God will need you to do something big that you’ve never even imagined before. I call that “the Third Possibility.”

Saint John the Baptist is the Third Possibility of hope and joy not just for Zechariah and Elizabeth, but also for the salvation history. He came before Jesus to prepare the way for Jesus. Maybe you have a similar mission: To go and to glorify God by your life.

Reflection question: What are you afraid of the most in your life right now? Will you offer that worry or fear to Jesus today to be truly free and prosperous?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 16: Monday of the Third Week of Advent

NM 24:2-7, 15-17A; MT 21:23-27

LOVE IS GOD’S AUTHORITY

Show us, LORD, your love, and grant us your salvation.

The chief priests and the elders asked Jesus, “By what authority are you doing these things? And who gave you this authority?” We, humans, are so concerned about the power and authority to be able to do great things on earth. Jesus used his power and authority of love, forgiveness, and compassion to heal the sick and to give new lives to the sinners.

In the season of Advent, we reflect on the unconditional love of God. This love overcomes everything. This kind of love will redeem us and fulfill all the longings of humanity. 

God becomes man. Only Christians believe in a fully human-God of Jesus. This action of God suppresses all words, doctrines and philosophies. This mystery of the Incarnation helps us to understand the mystery of life and death of our humanity. 

We are given the power and authority of love as well. Our love can transform the hearts and minds of our families and friends. The world needs our compassion and forgiveness from our hearts. Do not create more divisions and parties. Diversities are meant to complement one another.

Reflection question: Who needs your love the most now?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 15: Third Sunday: HOPE AND JOY

 Be strong, fear not!

Here is your God, he comes with vindication; with divine recompense, he comes to save you. Then will the eyes of the blind be opened, the ears of the deaf be cleared; then will the lame leap like a stag, then the tongue of the mute will sing.

 Have hope! God will make a difference in our lives, in our families, in our city, and in the world. The dramatic change will come. The blind will see; the deaf will hear; the lame will jump; and the mute will sing.  

 The question is “Lord, I don’t see these types of people around me anymore. You are right. They all are cured and healed.” But “Lord, we have different problems. We have different ailments. We have different acts of violence around us. “Can you save us?”

 There are so many people living in fear and hopelessness; many people living in hatred and narrow mindedness; many people living in wars and segregation; many people still living in brokenness and distrust; and young people living in poverty of family and love. Can you save us? Can you save me?

 “Yes,” whispers the Lord. “Nothing is impossible to God.” “Be patient. Make your heart firm. Do not complain, brothers and sisters, about one another,” St. Paul said.

 Have hope! Have hope in God. And have hope in one another. Maybe a lot of times, we ourselves do not be the “real persons” we are created in the beginning by God. The challenge for each one of us today is to ask God this question: “My God and my All, what do you want me to do for the good and well being of my brothers and sisters?” When we ask this question, wait hopefully and patiently for the response from God.

 God would like each one of us to rise up and celebrate together. Let us imagine and trust in God:

–  Can you imagine the city or family, in which, the narrow-minded, arrogant and ignorant people who never listened to anyone, today they start to hear the sound of music in other people?

–  Can you imagine the fearful and racist people who never crossed the line of invisible borders, today they realize there is something great on the other side of the fence?

–  Can you imagine the disabled and elderly who used to stay in the darkness of loneliness and low self-esteem, today they receive respect and dignity from the young and the privilege? 

–  Can you imagine the voiceless and powerless who used to live in impoverishment and hopelessness, today they find encouragement, empowerment and joy in their own creative styles?

 Yes, all of these are possible for God. If we can do all these possibilities, there will be no more gun down or violence in our families and societies. We will start a new chapter of life, a new chapter of hope. 

Hope is here. Hope is now. With God, there is plentiful of hope and possibility.

 Reflection Question: Are you willing to hope with God to write a new chapter of Hope for others?

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 14: ELIJAH AND JESUS ARE ON THE SAME JOURNEY

Jesus said, “They did not recognize him [Elijah] but did to him whatever they pleased. So also will the Son of Man suffer at their hands.”

“Jesus is coming.” “Jesus will be born.” “Jesus is our king and prince of peace.” These statements are perfectly correct. What we do not connect right away or try to avoid is “Jesus will be rejected, suffer and die” as well. This is the hardcore truth about Jesus. Like they treated Elijah, they will treat the same thing with the Son of Man.

Will you accept your destiny as Jesus accepted his? Are you content and courageous to be born and live out God’s will as Jesus did regardless of hardship and difficulties?

Let us pray today that each one of us truly connects with God in all situations. Let us be willing to allow God to be our destiny and our salvation. Let us set our goal in heaven by living out every moment of our lives with trust and joy. Let us together say, “It is a privilege and blessing to be here with my family, friends and others.” Jesus is on the same journey with us, like he did with Elijah and two thieves on Calvary.

Reflection question: Are you aware of Jesus is journeying with you every day?

 

THE WORD MADE FLESH

Day 13: LISTENING IS WISE

IS 48:17-19; MT 11:16-19

“If you would hearken to my commandment, your prosperity would be like a river.”

 In the Gospel today, Jesus compares us with playful and distracted children who never pay attention to the very moment of presence. If we listen to God just for a minute, our lives will be much better.

 We live in the digital technology age. Video games, online movies, social media, constant news, messages, and notifications are playing 24/7. It never stops. We do several things at the same time. We are here but our minds fly across the ocean. Our lives are so distracted and playful.

 How can we listen to God’s voice more attentively? The answer is to practice humanity more. Be attentive to our daily activities, like eating, driving, nature, wearing clothes, opening doors, seeing constructors…. and be grateful to all of these. All these things are not accidents but realities of God’s mercy and goodness. The water we drink, the food we eat, the air we breathe, the car we drive, the shoes we wear, are the real sweats of so many people. Be thankful and grateful to those who make them available to us. That is prayer. That is how we listen to God. Be respectful of one another. And be generous towards one another. That is God’s commandments. When you are doing this, you are listening. A listening person is wise and blessed.

 Reflection question: Could you name three people/things that you are deeply grateful for?

 

Day 9: Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary

DOES GOD’S WORD MATTER?

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.”

 Adam and Eve ate the fruit forbidden by God, and they were punished. Mary listened and kept the Word of God and pondered in her heart. She said to the Archangel Gabriel, “May it be done to me according to your word.” And she faithfully followed this mystery to the end.

 As we celebrate the solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we are called to meditate on the willingness of Mary and the goodness of God.

 First, Mary’s willingness brings salvation to all humanity. Regardless of her current situation and relationship, she was willing to have a conversation with the Archangel about “the big plan” ahead.

 “You will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus.”

 This news was huge. She was open to it. Her private life and plan with her spouse Joseph will be changed. This acceptance without Joseph’s opinion will be very risky. Nevertheless, Mary still said YES to God to fulfill God’s will. Her faith, hope and love must be very strong and real to be able to discern this promise of God.

 Second, God’s goodness is boundless. God became human through another woman. God is willing to become a little child and to be raised by a simple couple, Joseph and Mary. God must love us so much. God does not just become a human but also he is with us forever to bless and to guide us.

 We are in the middle of the Advent season. We are invited to settle down, to submit ourselves, to be open to God like Mary, and to allow God’s love flowing in our lives. Every breath of life is the breath of God’s grace.

Reflection question: How often and open are you to encounter God through your daily activity? If God sent a messenger to ask you a favor, would you say yes?