3rd Sunday of Advent


Dear Friends,

Today marks a significant milestone in my life. I was ordained a priest on December 17, 1983 in my home parish in the southern state of Kerala, India. As I looked for an apt verse as a motto for my priestly life, I was fascinated by a poem of Rabindranath Tagore, a famous Indian Nobel Laureate, poet, playwright, composer, philosopher, social reformer and educationist. It was titled: Give Me the Strength! Here’s the poem:

This is my prayer to thee, my lord,

Strike, strike at the root of penury in my heart

Give me the strength lightly to bear my joys and sorrows.

Give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.

Give me the strength never to disown the poor or bend my knees before insolent might.

Give me the strength to raise my mind high above daily trifles.

And give me the strength to surrender my strength to thy will with love.

The motto I chose was a line from that poem: “Lord, give me the strength to make my love fruitful in service.” As I look back at the 40 years of my priestly life, I can honestly say that I have tried my best to live this motto, despite my own human frailties and weaknesses. I’m grateful to our loving God who kept me going in all situations of my life and ministry. I was blessed to be born into a wonderful family. The faith of my parents and the role model I saw in the priests who served in our parish, planted the seeds of vocation to priesthood in my heart. Though sad to leave my parents and siblings as a teenager, I joined the seminary to become a missionary priest in the north-east of India, some 2500 miles away from home. I am grateful to all the people who came into my life, too many to name or count. I am grateful to them for their love, support, and encouragement, as I believe I too have given the same to them when they needed.

Thank you for the love, acceptance, and support I received and continue to receive from you, the people of God of St. Matthias. Thank you for your constant prayers that kept me going despite the challenges I faced. Please continue to support me with your prayers. We shall be relentless in our efforts to bring the mission of Jesus Christ to our community and to all around us. A group of our parishioners volunteered to form a Celebration Committee and put in a lot of hard work to plan and execute this celebration today. I am truly indebted to them for their love and sacrifice.

It is so providential that this celebration falls on the third Sunday of Advent which is known as ‘Gaudete’ Sunday. Gaudete is the Latin word meaning “rejoice.” This Sunday is so named because “Rejoice” is the first word in the entrance antiphon for today’s Mass taken from Philippians 4:4,5: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice! The Lord is near.” The third candle we light on our Advent wreath is of pink color, a joyful reminder that our salvation is near. Let us celebrate together the Lord’s coming into our hearts.

Your brother in Christ,

Fr. Abraham Orapankal