Today marks the second Sunday of Advent and it also marks the end of the university semester which is great news. I am thankful and grateful in making through yet another semester. This is one of the better semesters I feel because I do not have final examinations. However, I will start my reservist in a few days’ time, so do keep me in prayers. I am immensely grateful for the opportunities that my university has given me in grooming me and other students. Hopefully, I can give back to the university after I graduate which is next year.
The gospel reading’s central theme is based on repentance from sin and to accept the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
“John the Baptist appeared,preaching in the desert of Judea and saying,”Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” It was of him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said: A voice of one crying out in the desert, Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight your paths.John wore clothing made of camel’s hair and had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. At that time Jerusalem, all Judea, and the whole region around the Jordan were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins”(Matthew 3:1-12).
“When he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to the baptism,he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee the coming wrath? Produce good fruit as evidence of your repentance. And do not presume to say to yourselves,”We have Abraham as our father.” For I tell you, God can raise up children to Abraham from these stones. Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire. I am baptizing you with water, for repentance, but the one who is coming after me is mightier than I. I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in his hand. He will clear his threshing floor and gather his wheat into his barn but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire”(Mathew 3:1-12).
Repentance in its simplicity means turning away from sin but we need to move past the thought and really look within. It is to acknowledge our sins and move away from the materialism and complexity of the ideologies of the world. An analogy of this would be cleaning the bathroom. The bathroom is probably one of the dirtiest and used places in a household. Everyone uses the bathroom everyday. After a while, the bathroom becomes dirty with the soap stains and dirt. One area of the bathroom that accumulates dirt is the sink.
The sink represents our state of whether we are in a state of sin or grace, and we know that the accumulation of dirt will cause the sink to get choked. Now, this is where the problem emerges. Have you used a choked sink before? It is frustrating to use one as the water does not flow properly and soon the sink becomes un-usable. There is hope though, as we can take charge and rectify the situation. Using a bathroom pump might not be effective and this is where the hard part comes in.
Therefore, we need to get our hands dirty (literal sense). I had to open the catch at the bottom of the sink and the amount of dirt is scary. So armed with toilet cleaners and water, I had to flush the dirt with clean water and scrub the pipe. It is an unpleasant task and more so when we face our sins. After several minutes of enduring the stench and dirt, the pipe is clean again and water can flow easily again. That is the part where we experience being reconciled with ourselves and Jesus through confession.
Just like the bathroom sink, dirt and grime will always come back and sin is a never ending struggle.But knowing that our efforts are not in vain and the feeling of satisfaction and relief in knowing that our life is not choked with sin is enough for me to keep working at my shortcomings and to seek the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is a nice feeling to look at a clean bathroom or any room in the house to know that our efforts are not in vain.
This week I was researching about scapulars because I always wanted to know if there were different types of them and the meaning behind them. This article answered my questions regarding the scapulars. Below are excerpts taken from the article which was written by Fr. William Saunders.
The brown scapular of Our Lady of Mount Carmel. This scapular is the best known and most popular of the different scapulars. According to tradition, our Blessed Mother appeared to St. Simon Stock at Cambridge, England on Sunday, July 16, 1251. (In our liturgical year, July 16th is the feast day for Our Lady of Mount Carmel.) She presented him with the scapular and said, “Take, beloved son, this scapular of thy order as a badge of my confraternity and for thee and all Carmelites a special sign of grace; whoever dies in this garment, will not suffer everlasting fire. It is the sign of salvation, a safeguard in dangers, a pledge of peace and of the covenant.”
The red scapular of Christ’s Passion. In 1846, Christ appeared to a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul and presented a red scapular: One side depicts our crucified Lord with the implements of the passion at the foot of the cross; around the image is the inscription, “Holy Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, save us.” On the other side, the Hearts of Jesus and Mary are depicted, with the surrounding inscription, “Sacred Hearts of Jesus and Mary, protect us.” Christ promised that all who wear this scapular on every Friday would have a great increase of faith, hope and charity
The black scapular of the Seven Sorrows of Mary. After Pope Alexander IV’s formal establishment of the Servite Order in 1255, lay men and women formed a confraternity in honor of the seven sorrows of Mary. As a sign of membership, they wore a black scapular, usually with an image of our Mother of Sorrows on the front.
The blue scapular of the Immaculate Conception. In 1581, Venerable Ursula Benicasa, foundress of the Order of Theatine Nuns, had a vision of our Lord who revealed to her the habit and scapular her community was to wear in honor of the Immaculate Conception. Venerable Ursula implored our Lord to grant the same graces to the faithful who would wear a small, light blue scapular, bearing on one side the image of the Immaculate Conception and on the other the name “Mary.”
The white scapular of the Holy Trinity. When Pope Innocent III approved of the order of the Trinitarians on Jan. 28, 1198, an angel appeared to him, wearing a white garment on which was a cross formed of a blue horizontal bar and a red vertical bar. This garment became the habit of the Trinitarians, and eventually was the model for the scapular worn by the lay people who became members of the Confraternity of the Most Blessed Trinity.
The green scapular. In 1840, our Blessed Mother gave the green scapular of the Immaculate Heart of Mary to Sister Justine Bisqueyburu, a Daughter of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. She belonged to the same community as St. Catherine Laboure, to whom our Blessed Mother had manifested the Miraculous Medal ten years earlier. This green scapular has the image of the Immaculate Heart of Mary on one side, and the image of the Immaculate Heart itself, pierced by a sword, surrounded by the inscription, “Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us now and at the hour of our death.” This scapular can simply be blessed by a priest, and then worn, or placed in one’s clothing, on the bed or in the room.
“O God, the author and perfecter of all holiness, you call all who are reborn of water and the Holy Spirit to the fullness of the Christian life and the perfection of charity. Look with kindness on those who devoutly receive this scapular (in praise of the Holy Trinity or in honor of Christ’s passion or in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary). As long as they live, let them become sharers in the image of Christ your Son and, after they have fulfilled their mission on earth with the help of Mary, the Virgin Mother, receive them into the joy of your heavenly home.”
I was particularly reading up on the green scapular because I wanted to know more. According to the Society of the Green Scapular, “Favors obtained by invoking Our Lady under this title have been truly remarkable. The Society of the Green Scapular was formed specifically because of the incredible miracles obtained from Our Heavenly Mother during a brief six-month period. There were miracles of health, peace and conversion. At a major national medical center in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., two people were cured of fatal diseases, just a few days from death! Others were on the verge of suicide. Through the Green Scapular devotion they were given the wisdom to understand why they were so miserable, and the strength to make the changes necessary to bring happiness and hope into their lives. Most importantly, there were truly wonderful graces bringing people in various circumstances to reconcile themselves to Jesus in the fullness of His Truth and grace. Family and friends, who had fallen away from the Catholic Faith, and even those who never had faith, came to embrace the Sacraments (sometimes after being away a lifetime). People involved in dangerous relationships saw their bad companions change for the better or leave the relationship. Work environments witnessed an increase of purity in speech, modesty in dress and charity in behavior.”
It is always enlightening to read things and to keep discovering interesting aspects of the faith. May we keep the sick and suffering in our prayers and for those lost to come home to the loving community of the Church this Christmas so that everyone can experience the love and warmth of the people around them. God Bless!
Written By: Darren Chan Keng Leong