Even though additional tremors continue to rock the Himalayan nation of Nepal, the thousand-odd Hindus of Tarkerabari village in the nation’s Okhaldunga district are rejoicing over the April 25 ordination of Jesuit Deacon Tek Raj Paudel of their village. The ordination is credited with sparing the village from calamitous casualties from the massive quake that struck immediately after the ordination ceremony. “They are still excited with what had happened. They continue to share their joy with me,” said newly ordained Father Paudel. The village is 125 miles northeast of Kathmandu, near the epicenter of the earthquake that rocked the Himalayan country on April 25. The disaster that claimed more than 8,000 lives occurred around noon, 30 minutes after the two-hour ordination ceremony, which was led by Bishop Paul Simick of Nepal and attended by hundreds of the Hindu villagers. While dozens of people died in the neighbouring villages, he said that the escape of the entire village is hailed by the Hindu community as “a blessing due to the ordination.” “I heard even the MP, Ram Hari Khathiwoda [the Nepalese member of parliament from the area], thanking the Christians for holding the ordination in the village,” said Augustine Lepcha. Lepcha is a Catholic relief worker who returned to Kathmandu on May 6 after taking relief supplies to the village, where most families are living under tents. “All the people there are only speaking of the miracle,” she added. St. Joseph of Cluny Sister Angelica reached the village two days before the ordination, along with a dozen other Catholics, to prepare the altar decorations for the ordination. “The soil under my feet was throwing up. Only when people started screaming and running, I realized it was earthquake,” recalled Sister Angelica, who was packing altar decorations when the quake struck. The villagers were saying, “Because of the ordination here, we were saved,” Sister Angelica said. “A miracle has happened here.” Similarly, Jesuit Father Casper “Cap” Miller, who comes from the USA but has been based in Nepal for 57 years, said that he heard local women saying, “Because of the [ordination] ceremony here, we were saved. God has protected us.” Father Paudel, the ninth of 10 children in a Hindu family, came to Kathmandu in 1988 for his college studies. “Curiosity to read the Bible changed my life,” the Jesuit priest said during an interview after returning to Kathmandu. “After I heard about the Bible during English classes in the government college, I went to find out more about Bible.” “I visited several churches and finally landed at St. Xavier’s School (of Jesuits) in 1990,” he added. After four years of catechism, he was baptized in 1994. “I was keen to have my ordination in the village, as the entire village belongs to my clan. I am happy that the superiors obliged my request,” Father Paudel said. “Now it has become a blessing to my whole village.” He added, “Many of them are now very eager to know about the Church and are planning to visit Kathmandu and the churches.”
Pope Francis formally announced the Extraordinary Jubilee Year of Mercy during Solemn Vespers this evening in St. Peter’s basilica. The Bull of Indiction, through which the announcement was made, was presented before the Holy Door of the basilica to a representative group of heads of the dicasteries of the Holy See. The Jubilee will open on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, December 8th, and end on the Feast of Christ the King on November 20th, 2016. The Pope explains in the Bull it is his “burning desire” that, during the Jubilee, “the Christian people may reflect on the corporal and spiritual works of mercy. It will be a way to reawaken our conscience, too often grown dull in the face of poverty.” He adds that mercy is “the very foundation of the Church’s life” and that “all of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers.” Francis later says that “nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy. The Church’s very credibility is seen in how she shows merciful and compassionate love.” In his homily at Vespers, he said “many question in their hearts: why a Jubilee of Mercy today? Simply because the Church, in this time of great historical change, is called to offer more evident signs of God’s presence and closeness. “This is not the time to be distracted,” he continued. “On the contrary, we need to be vigilant and to reawaken in ourselves the capacity to see what is essential. This is a time for the Church to rediscover the meaning of the mission entrusted to her by the Lord on the day of Easter: to be a sign and an instrument of the Father’s mercy.” The Pope concluded: “My thoughts now turn to the Mother of Mercy. May the sweetness of her countenance watch over us in this Holy Year, so that all of us may rediscover the joy of God’s tenderness. No one has penetrated the profound mystery of the incarnation like Mary. Her entire life was patterned after the presence of mercy made flesh. The Mother of the Crucified and Risen One has entered the sanctuary of divine mercy because she participated intimately in the mystery of his love. In this Jubilee Year, let us allow God to surprise us. He never tires of throwing open the doors of his heart and repeats that he loves us and wants to share his love with us. The Church feels the urgent need to proclaim God’s mercy. Her life is authentic and credible only when she becomes a convincing herald of mercy!”
Following Tuesday’s vote in the House of Commons to allow 3 person embryos, Bishop John Keenan, the Bishop of Paisley said: “The proposed techniques fail on a number of ethical grounds which should concern us all: They destroy human life, since in order to construct a disease free embryo, two healthy ones will have to be destroyed. The technique is not a treatment, it does not cure anyone or anything, rather it seeks to remove anyone affected by certain conditions from the human gene pool. Destroying those who have a particular disease and presenting it as a cure or as progress is utterly disingenuous and completely unethical. No other country in the world has licensed these procedures. A majority of responses to the Department of Health consultation opposed the proposal. Experts are divided on the advisability of the techniques and the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA) have suggested only that the procedures are “not unsafe”. Mitochondrial Donation completely destroys and distorts the natural process of fertility. It is surprising that a society which increasingly favours and supports natural and “environmentally friendly” products and services should countenance the genetic modification of human beings. How can we object when scientists genetically modify plants but not when they do the same with people?”
Heavenly Father, help us remember that the idiot who cut us off in traffic last night is a single mother who worked nine hours that day and is rushing home to cook dinner, help with homework, do the laundry and spend a few precious moments with her children. Help us to remember that the pierced, tattooed, disinterested young man who can’t give change correctly in the shop is a worried 19-year-old college student, balancing his apprehension over final exams with his fear of not getting his student loans for next semester. Remind us, Lord, that the scary looking tramp, begging for money in the same spot every day (who really ought to get a job!) is a slave to addictions that we can only imagine in our worst nightmares. Help us to remember that the old couple walking annoyingly slow through the supermarket aisles and blocking our shopping progress are savouring this moment, knowing that, based on the biopsy report she got back last week, this will be the last year that they go shopping together. Heavenly Father, remind us each day that, of all the gifts you give us, the greatest gift is love. It is not enough to share that love with those we hold dear. Open our hearts not to just those who are close to us, but to all humanity. Let us be slow to judge and quick to forgive, show patience, empathy and love. Amen.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it…He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s only Son, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-14)
Together with the shepherds we go to the stable in Bethlehem. There we are able to encounter God himself – God who became a defenceless little baby – a baby in swaddling clothes – in modern terminology, a baby in a nappy. Is this not an incredible miracle? Is this not a wonderful mystery of the creative love of God? The Father sends us his Son, to be born of a Virgin, and they wrapped him in a nappy. The One who is God from God, and light from light eternal, the One who is the focal point of human history – past, present and future – lies before us in a nappy! God in a nappy shows us the true nature of who God is. God is love. His love is full of compassion, full of mercy and wisdom. He loves us so much that the Son of God takes on our human condition and becomes like us. He grows like us, he is in need of love and affection like us, he is vulnerable like us. He will also suffer like us: God in a nappy, and one day God on a cross. God comes as a child to ensure that between him and us there are no barriers, no fears. Who would be afraid of a little child? He wants us to love him with all our hearts and with our own souls. The God of love only wants love. He wants to be hugged and cared for like a little child. God who becomes a child so that we can love him, invites us to come closer. Christmas is a time to allow that deep and personal encounter with the Lord to finally happen in our own lives. We long for intimacy with God. Is there a better moment to take this all-compassionate love seriously? It invites us to a never-ending union with him. Every newborn child awakens love. The Christ Child also awakens the power of love in the human heart. He conquers us completely with his love. This personal encounter with God changes our lives. We are forever changed. If we want to love the Saviour as he wants to be loved, if we want to let him enter our lives with no “buts” or “maybes”, if we want to truly become like him, we will always find him in the arms of his Mother Mary. In the covenant of love with her we may bow our heads in adoration before the miracle of Christmas – God in a nappy! It’s amazing!
And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favour rests.” (Luke 2:8-14)
A old legend tells the story of a hidden bell that is completely silent throughout the year, but when Christmas comes this bell starts to ring out joyfully. Where is this bell hidden? It is hidden in our own hearts. Christmas is the time when many longings and hopes come to the surface again. These yearnings need to be fulfilled. The church bells call us and invite us: Come to Bethlehem and see what has truly happened there! When we set off and make our way to that little place of grace – our parish church, the shrine – what will we find? We will find the Saviour of the world in a manger. Are we free enough to leave everything else behind – our worries, our weaknesses, our troubles and distractions, our dependence on material things – and go to Bethlehem to be a part of this never-ending miracle? What is the miracle of the Holy Night? It is an answer to that continuous, desperate call of the human race since the beginning of time – the yearning for peace. We yearn for peace in our own hearts, because we are all so inwardly divided. We yearn for peace in our families, because there are often conflicts and hurts. We yearn for peace in every nation, in all the world, so that our children can grow up in security and have a future. The bells ring out a call of peace to men and women of good will, because tonight in the town of David, in Bethlehem, a Saviour has been born for us, a Child has been given to us! The Miracle of the Holy Night is the birthday of the Prince of peace in our world. It is also the birthday of the gift of peace itself. The peace that Christmas offers is a unique and lasting kind of peace. As the angels of heaven announced to shepherds in the fields that the Messiah had been born, they sang with one voice: “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to all people of good will!” (Luke 2:14). When will we have true and lasting peace? When we give God the glory, when we place God firmly in the centre of our lives. Whoever places the Lord at the centre, whoever has the freedom to detach himself or herself from everything that holds us back from truly loving God and our neighbour, will receive the gift of peace in their heart. This is the firm promise of Christmas. This is our prayer that we again bring to the Christ-Child in the manger: Give peace to our hearts, peace to our homes, peace to the whole world!
Take some time to find a moment of inner peace, and pray: Blessed Mother Mary, we have given ourselves to you, and you have given yourself to us. We have made a covenant of love with you and you have made a covenant with us. From the depths of our hearts, we ask you: Care that our longing for the Lord will never decrease, and never be held back by slavery to possessions and material things. Break the chains that bind us here on earth. Help us to sing a hymn of love to the Lord, that echoes and re-echoes everywhere in our lives. Amen. (Joseph Kentenich)