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What Shall I Give Up for Lent?

Lent is a period to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Easter. As a process of preparation, we recall our own Baptism and do penance. Self-denial is what Jesus requires from us, in order to be his disciples. Self-denial is about making sacrifice, focusing on the Cross, and reminding ourselves of what Jesus gave up for our sake.

During Lent, the usual question, that is asked, is, “What do you give up for Lent?” Even though we are already in the second week of Lent, here are some suggestions to give up, out of our love for Jesus:

  • Give up grumbling, instead, give thanks in everything;
  • Give up five to ten minutes of personal entertainment, and spend that time in reading the Bible or in personal prayer;
  • Give up looking at other people’s weaknesses and mistakes, but concentrate on their best attributes and characteristics;
  • Give up your worries and anxieties, instead, trust in God and place them before God;
  • Give up your loneliness, replacing it by visiting someone, who is lonely or sick;
  • Give up judging others by appearance and by the standard of the world, instead, leave to Jesus to judge.

Wishing you a fruitful Lent,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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Holy Mass Explained – Part 20

Active Participation

The phrase “active participation” was conceived by the saintly Pope Pius X. He explained: If you wish to participate in the Mass actively, you must follow with your eye, heart, and mouth all that happens on the altar… You have to associate your heart with the holy feelings … and in this manner, you ought to follow all that happens at the altar. When acting in this way you have prayed the Holy Mass.”

Active participation entails participation of mind and heart expressed through bodily gestures, sacred signs, praying, singing in union with the whole assembly. During the Mass we take different postures like standing, sitting and kneeling down; Kneeling is an expression of our submission before the majesty of God and a sign of our adoration. It is by singing and responding to the priest’s prayers, we are taking active participation.

The Fathers of the Second Vatican Council promulgated the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy on Dec. 4, 1963. It explains: “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation… such a participation is their right and duty by reason of their baptism…”

While celebrating the Holy Mass, the priest acts in the person of Christ, as the head of the assembly, present in the Church. While the priest performs the celebration, the assembled faithful are expected to be present as conscious and active participants, rather than mere observers. In other words, they should not be like silent spectators, on the contrary, they should involve themselves by praying, singing and consciously being present in the celebration.

With this column, I bring to an end my explanation about the significance of the Holy Mass. I hope that you have gained a greater understanding of what we celebrate. My earnest appeal to you, now, is that you take active participation from the beginning until the end of the Mass.

May God bless you

Fr. Arul Joseph V


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Holy Mass Explained Part 19

Closing Rite

The distribution of the Holy Communion during Mass is like an act of a lover meeting with the beloved. When we receive the Eucharist, we are welcoming Christ into our hearts and so it is an important moment. The priest and Deacon are the ordinary Ministers of the Eucharist and Lay Eucharistic Ministers are the Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist, authorized by the Church-authorities. Some have scrupulous thought that it is better to receive the Body of Christ only from the priest or deacon. Such people must believe that the Lay Eucharistic Ministers distribute the same Body of Christ as the Priest or Deacon.

At the end of the distribution of the Holy Communion, the remaining Consecrated Hosts are taken to the Tabernacle for private adoration and for the use of the sick and the homebound, who are unable to participate in the Mass with the community. After receiving the Communion, there is a time for meditation whether silent or singing a song.

Is it right to leave the Church immediately after receiving Communion? It is not right. Some people receive Communion and go straight to the parking lot. If someone would leave the party, before saying goodbye to the host and the fellow guests, would this be appreciated? I am sure it won’t be appreciated; rather it would distress the host. Just so would such people distress God, who has provided the spiritual meal.

After the concluding prayer, the priest concludes the Mass with the prayer and the final blessing in the name of the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. At this point, the priest or the deacon greets the people that the Mass is ended and the assembly may go in peace. With the response, “Thanks be to God”, the assembly goes out singing joyfully, empowered to serve in the outer world.


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Holy Mass Explained Part 18

The purpose of the responsorial psalm and Alleluia

Someone asked me, why we sing the Psalm and Alleluia in between the Readings. We Catholics are accustomed to hearing the Responsorial Psalm and the Gospel Acclamation sung or recited between the Readings. These were instituted by the Second Vatican Council, in order to foster the meditation on the Word of God.

Following the first reading, we raise our mind and heart reciting or singing the Responsorial Psalm taken from the Book of Psalms in the Old Testament. Since the early centuries of the Church, what was known as the Graduale and the Sequence were sung between the readings. According to the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, the Responsorial Psalm forms an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word and the Psalm should correspond to the first Reading (cf. GIRM #61). In fact, it has a thematic relationship to the first Reading and it is people’s response to God’s Word. In the current lectionary, the Responsorial Psalm comes with antiphon which enables the assembly to sing after every verse sung by the cantor.

There is also an option of using seasonal Psalm, namely, a psalm that fits with the mood of the Church Season. This allows the assembly to reflect on the meaning of that season.

Gospel Acclamation/ Alleluia:

The Gospel Acclamation is a song of praise, with a verse from the Gospel. Except during the season of Lent, we sing “Alleluia”. It is usually sung by everybody, standing and is led by the cantor. The verse is sung by the cantor. We stand while singing this song of praise because this posture would help the assembly to welcome and greet The Lord, who is going to speak to us in the Gospel.


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Jesus’ Healing Ministry

We hear in the Gospel from Mark how Jesus healed Peter’s mother-in-law. Note that she immediately served Him after this miracle; she wanted to show thanks for what Jesus had done for her. The passage states that after sunset the whole town gathered at the door seeking Jesus. This was due to the Jewish laws regarding work on the Sabbath; no work could be done, even the act of bringing someone to be healed could be considered work, as well as Jesus’ healing actions, thus the gathering after sunset.

Jesus healed out of compassion and concern for their wellbeing. He was generous with His ministry, not holding back His power, not judging if someone was “worthy” of healing, not trying to discern the reason the person was seeking His healing powers.

I believe there are many people who seek Jesus only when they need something. A job is going poorly, their marriage is struggling, their health is poor… Yes, we can fall into this routine where the only time we pray is when we are in need. One of the commercials on Relevant Radio describes this type of prayer as a vending machine; we put in our prayer and God produces whatever we have prayed for.

The trouble with this is God is not just there for the problems in our lives, but at all times. We need to seek Him at all times; when we are living the daily routine of our lives, when we celebrate the joys of life and when we face trials. Jesus showed us the importance of prayer as we hear in the passage today; “Rising very early before dawn, he left and went off to a deserted place, where he prayed.” Jesus knew the importance of a strong relationship with the Father.

We are called to this same relationship. One of love and trust. When we pray we should always remember who it is we are addressing, the God of power and might, of love and mercy. The God who desires each of us to be in union with Him. The God who grants our prayer requests with His wisdom. We don’t always get what we pray for, because God knows what is best for us. We often don’t understand God’s wisdom, which is why we struggle when our prayers seem to go unanswered. This is where our faith, trust that God knows best, plays a role in our relationship.

Keep on praying!

Deacon Ray


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Holy Mass Explained Part 17

Meaning of the word “Amen” in the Mass

The word “Amen” is not a strange word for any Catholic, because it is used as a concluding response to all the prayers we recite. It is also used during the Holy Mass as people’s response to the prayers offered by the priest as the president of the assembly. What does this word mean? What is its significance?

Etymologically, the word “Amen” is a Hebrew term. It signifies trustworthiness and faithfulness. Hence, the Catechism of the Catholic Church inculcates that this Hebrew word expresses both God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in him (cf. CCC 1062). It is also used to affirm, approve and emphasize something that is said. Jesus uses this word often, in order to affirm his statements: “Amen, amen, I say to you…” This Hebrew word would also mean “truly”. Thus, the double “Amen” Jesus uses is sometimes translated as “truly, truly” or “verily, verily”. The statement “Amen, amen, I say to you…” is used, in order to emphasize the trustworthiness of his teaching and his authority founded on God’s truth (cf. CCC 1063).

When we say “Amen”, in response to a prayer, it affirms the content of the prayer as an expression of faith that God will hear and act on the prayer. The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches: “… after the prayer is over you say ‘Amen’, which means ‘So be it’, thus ratifying with our ‘Amen’ what is contained in the prayer…” (CCC 2856).

When we receive the Holy Communion, our response to the statement “The Body of Christ” implies God’s faithfulness towards us and our trust in Him (cf. CCC 1062). Thus, it is an act of our faith in God’s trustworthiness and our trust in His love. The word “Amen” precisely means that we believe in the reality of the real presence of Christ in the Eucharist.


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Holy Mass Explained Part 16

How Many Times May a Person Receive Holy Communion?

Some of our parishioners have asked me, whether one can receive Holy Communion more than once in a day. Let me clarify, how often in a day one can receive Holy Communion.

The Church law, namely, the Code of Canon Law stipulates:

Canon 917: “A person who has already received the Most Holy Eucharist can receive it a second time on the same day only within the Eucharistic celebration in which the person participates, without prejudice to the prescript of Can. 921, §2.”

Canon 921, §2: “Even if they have been nourished by holy communion on the same day, however, those in danger of death are strongly urged to receive communion again.”

Based on the above two Canons, we can conclude that a person can receive Holy Communion twice a day by participating in the Mass; nevertheless, a person in danger of death can receive Holy Communion again the same day, even outside the Mass.

The rationale for such a concession is that the participation in the Mass and the reception of the Holy Communion are intrinsically connected. In other words, the two parts of the Mass: The Liturgy of the Word and Liturgy of the Eucharist are two parts of the one whole celebration.  Full participation in the Mass entails that one has to be present from the beginning until the end of the Mass and receive Holy Communion. Unfortunately, a few individuals come for Mass in the middle, receive Holy Communion and leave before the Mass concludes. One has to participate in the whole Mass and more precisely, one has to thank The Lord for His gift after receiving the Holy Communion.

According to Canon 921 §2, even if a person has already received Holy Communion twice in a day, he/she can receive Holy Communion again, in a special circumstance like danger of death.

God bless you,

Fr. Arul Joseph V


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The Epiphany of Jesus

The Epiphany of Jesus celebrates the fact that God made Himself present or manifested himself to humanity.  God did this in a special way so we could understand He is real and understand Him. Our readings today reflect the beauty of this event in our salvation history. We hear Isaiah prophesy about this event; “Rise up in splendor, Jerusalem!  Your light has come, the glory of the Lord shines upon you.” Jerusalem, the site of the temple was the center place of the Jewish faith; the site where sacrifice was offered to God. If you are familiar with biblical history you recall the Arc of the Covenant was placed in the temple after its construction and God dwelled in the “Holy of Holies”, a special section of the temple. God was present to Israel. Much later in the history of Israel the prophet, Ezekiel describes the “glory of the God of Israel” leaves the temple. (chapter 10) God had abandoned the temple because the Chosen People had turned away from God, worshiping false gods and were soon to be overtaken by the Babylonians. With the presentation of Jesus in the temple, God once again graced this sacred space. The statement by Isaiah; “the glory of the Lord shines upon you” has been fulfilled.

The celebration story we hear today is the “Wise Men”, mysterious figures from the east who arrive with gifts and bow down before this newborn king. They fulfill the prophecy we hear in the reading from Isaiah. God’s glory has been present to us ever since this holy event, the coming of the Messiah. We continue to be blessed with His presence even today, He is always present in the tabernacle and we receive Him in the Eucharist where we are nourished by His Precious Body and Blood.

Because we are blessed in such a special way it is important that we gather together every weekend to give Him praise. We join with our brothers and sisters in Christ to be enriched spiritually, to bring our prayers of petition to God, and to be sent forth to serve all peoples. Unfortunately, some people don’t understand the importance of gathering every week to stay in touch with God. We see these people at Christmas Mass and occasionally through the year, but they are not regular in their worship practices. I encourage you to pray for these brothers and sisters so they can awake from their spiritual sleep. Make this a daily prayer petition this year; perhaps our prayers will open their minds and soften their hearts.

May the God who has made Himself manifest to us be ever present to you this year!

God bless,

Deacon Ray


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED PART 14

Guidelines For The Reception Of the Holy Communion,

Given by US Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB)

On November 14, 1996, the National Conference of Catholic Bishops approved the following guidelines on the reception of Communion.

FOR CATHOLICS

As Catholics, we fully participate in the celebration of the Eucharist when we receive Holy Communion. We are encouraged to receive Communion devoutly and frequently. In order to be properly disposed to receive Communion, participants should not be conscious of grave sin and normally should have fasted for one hour. A person who is conscious of grave sin is not to receive the Body and Blood of the Lord without prior sacramental confession except for a grave reason where there is no opportunity for confession. In this case, the person is to be mindful of the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, including the intention of confessing as soon as possible (canon 916). A frequent reception of the Sacrament of Penance is encouraged for all.

FOR OUR FELLOW CHRISTIANS

We welcome our fellow Christians to this celebration of the Eucharist as our brothers and sisters. We pray that our common baptism and the action of the Holy Spirit in this Eucharist will draw us closer to one another and begin to dispel the sad divisions which separate us. We pray that these will lessen and finally disappear, in keeping with Christ’s prayer for us “that they may all be one” (Jn 17:21).

FOR NONCHRISTIANS

We also welcome to this celebration those who do not share our faith in Jesus Christ. While we cannot admit them to Holy Communion, we ask them to offer their prayers for the peace and the unity of the human family

To be continued,

Fr. Arul Joseph V.


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HOLY MASS EXPLAINED PART 13

Part Three: Liturgy of the Eucharist: Table of The Lord

Communion is the word, we use, when we participate at the table of The Lord. This word is derived from two Latin words: com (which means “with, together”) + unus (which means “oneness, union”). The Latin root of Communion is communionem, meaning “fellowship, mutual participation or sharing”.

Meaning of Communion:

Literally, it means “sharing”. The Lord is sharing himself with us and we all share our fellowship with one another at the table of The Lord. As St. Paul says in his first letter to the Corinthians, when speaking of sharing the bread as the body of Christ, “The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread” (1Corinthians 10:16 17).

Thanks to St. Paul, the word “Communion” has been in use from 57 A.D., when he wrote his first letter to the Corinthians. He calls each member of the community at Corinth to self-examine before partaking of The Lord’s Supper: “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup” (1Corinthians 11:28). What remains absolutely central is the concept of Communion in the coming together as one body to share in the one bread, overcoming all distinctions and barriers.

Communion is not merely coming together in unity. Jesus gathers his people together at his table and then he sends us out to feed and clothe and comfort others: “I was hungry and you gave me food… as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me” (Matthew 25:35-40).

To be continued

Fr. Arul Joseph V.