God’s presence brings unspeakable joy to His people
“Rejoice and be glad.”(Mt 5:12a)
As we start the New Year 2017, the BLD Community Word for January – God’s presence brings unspeakable joy to His people, reminds us the reason why we just commemorated and celebrated Christmas, the day Jesus, our Emmanuel (God with us) was born. The joy of Christmas does not end here. We continue to experience the gladness and rejoicing of the birth of Christ every day of our lives. But, like Mary, we must continue to surrender our will to God whose desire for us is that we may have an abundant life of love, hope, peace and joy. We will experience such joy in our hearts as we start this year and begin reflecting upon God’s messages in the Sunday readings for the month of January.
The first Sunday of January celebrates the Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God and our theme for this week is: We experience God’s presence when we keep Him in our hearts. Without any doubt, because of Mary’s ‘yes’, the salvific plan of God for mankind was realized. Because of her humble obedience to God’s will, Mary was blessed to become the Mother of God – Jesus Christ, our Savior and Redeemer. To us who obey and follow God’s will, we too will receive His promise of blessing this month: “The Lord bless you and keep you! The Lord let his face shine upon you, and be gracious to you! The Lord look upon you kindly and give you peace!…I will bless them.” (Nb6:24 – 27b)
On the Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord, our theme is: We experience God’s presence when we diligently seek Him. Jesus was born poor. Although He is God and King, he became man in the form of a delicate and deprived little baby, born outside of a home. This year, let us change our attitude towards the marginalized people of society. Let us open our hearts of compassion towards them and give them back the respect and human dignity that they deserve as children of God. The Magi of the East came to look for Jesus. In their diligent searching, they found him in a manger in a stable. But still they gave Him gifts befitting a lord and king. Our promise this week is taken from Psalm 72:11 – 12: “All kings shall pay him homage, all nations shall serve him. For he shall rescue the poor when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.”
In the Philippines, we celebrate the Child Jesus in a very special way – Feast of the Sto. Niño. And so, our theme for this week (for Philippine Districts) is: We experience God’s presence when we manifest childlike faith. The image of the Sto. Niño in the Philippines is a representation of our faith when Christianity was brought to our shores. And when we celebrate this feast, we should be reminded of the humility of Jesus in becoming man like us. Just as Jesus trusted his parents as a child, we must be witnesses to Christ by trusting God with child-like faith. As followers of Christ, as Catholic Christians, we must do what God wants us to do and be willing to share the message of salvation to everyone. Jesus says: “…become like children, (and) you will enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Mt 18:3).
The theme for the 2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time (for International Districts) is: We experience God’s presence when we acknowledge Jesus as His son. Our faith starts with the belief that Jesus is the Son of God. It is our faith that leads us to recognize who Christ is and become His followers. As Christians, we have received the Holy Spirit who empowered us to be true disciples of Christ. This was the experience of John the Baptist who was sent by God to pave the way for the coming of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Like John, we are also called to be God’s servants and for this He promised: “I will make you a light to the nations that my salvation may reach to the ends of the earth.” (Is 49:6b)
The theme for the 3rd Sunday in Ordinary Time is: We experience God’s presence when we respond joyfully to the call of Jesus.As community people, we are here because we are responding to the call of Christ to continue His work of evangelization. To be successful in our mission to preach the gospel of love, mercy and compassion to others, we need to work together as one united and fully committed servants of the Lord. God continues to equip those who He calls with the right attitude and provides them with sufficient means to do so, for as He promised: “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men,” (Mt. 4:19).
The theme for the 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time is: We experience God’s presence when we hunger and thirst for His righteousness. “The Beatitudes remind us of the true nature of the Gospel. The Gospel cannot be appropriated by the powerful, but it can be adopted by the weak and powerless. The Lord can easily work in a humble and contrite heart. The arrogant and self-sufficient leave very little room for God’s grace to operate. Will we accept His grace? Let us pray that we choose wisely, with the will of God in mind.” (Companion 2017). The Lord’s promise this week is: “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven,” (Mt. 5:12)