Thursday, 14 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard again about St. John the Baptist in the Gospel passage today, as Our Lord Jesus exalted this faithful servant of God, in his faith and conviction to serve Him, being the one who has been trusted with the mission of proclaiming the coming of the Saviour of the world, preparing the way for His coming and entry into this world.

He proclaimed the Good News which was long awaited by all mankind, as through the Saviour all of us have been saved from our fated destruction because of our sins and disobedience against God. In the book of the prophet Isaiah, from which is taken our first reading today, we heard God’s promise to His people, that He will help His people and will no longer turn His back against them.

And this prophecy was fulfilled completely and perfectly in the Lord Jesus Christ, Our God and Saviour, by Whose coming and entry into this world, and later on by His death on the cross and glorious resurrection from the dead has delivered us all from death into life, for He fulfilled His promise to those who have faith in Him, that He will redeem them and protect them from their enemies, and gather them as He gathers all of His flock to Himself.

And St. John the Baptist was the important servant of God, who became His mouthpiece and messenger, calling upon the people to repent from their sins and turn back towards their Lord. He revealed to them that the Lord would soon come and redeem His people as He promised, and they should prepare themselves for His coming. That is why St. John the Baptist laboured hard among the people, devoting himself completely to God.

St. John the Baptist is the epitome of the discipleship in Christ, as he obeyed the Lord and His will, and faithfully carried out the mission which he has been entrusted with. He did not sway away from the purpose of his mission, and as we witness in the Gospels, when asked whether he was the Messiah, he could have been tempted to claim that he was the One. Yet, he did not do so, and he humbly mentioned that he was not the One Who was to come after him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we prepare for the coming of Christmas season, we need to heed the examples of St. John the Baptist in his faith, devotion and commitment to the Lord. We should also listen to what he has also preached, calling on us to repent from our sinful ways to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord. For as I have mentioned a few times in the past month, as we prepare for Christmas, we do not just recall His historic birth in Bethlehem, but we should also remember that He will come again the second time, at the time of the final judgment.

Are we ready to welcome Him should He come again at a time we do not expect at all? The coming of the Lord will be sudden and swift, catching many by surprise. Surely we do not want to be counted among those who are caught unprepared if this happens. Then, we should follow the examples and faith of St. John the Baptist, in his humility and commitment to the Lord.

And we should also heed the examples of St. John of the Cross, the saint whose feast day we celebrate today. St. John of the Cross was known as a holy and devout priest, who together with St. Teresa of Avila were remembered for their roles in reforming and purifying the religious order of the Carmelites. Through the reform, both saints sought to return the religious order and its members to a more faithful observation of a devout spiritual life, filled with prayers and devotions to God, deepening their commitments to God.

Through his many works and writings, St. John of the Cross inspired many others to seek a deeper understanding of their faith, and to walk more faithfully in the ways of the Lord. His pious examples and simple lifestyle, and humility echoed that of St. John the Baptist, whose life we just discussed earlier on today. That is how all of us Christians should also be, putting our trust in God, and be ever humble before the Lord, remembering that without the Lord, we are truly nothing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, as we approach the time of our Christmas celebrations, let us reform our lives, that we throw away the excesses of this world, as well as all sorts of temptations and other things that have become obstacles in our ability to love the Lord and to devote ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. May He continue to bless each and every one of us, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and be found worthy to receive His eternal glory when He comes again. St. John the Baptist and St. John of the Cross, pray for us always. Amen.

Thursday, 14 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 11 : 11-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you this : no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.”

“Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy : all the prophets and the Law. And if you believe Me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Thursday, 14 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 144 : 1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab

I will extol You, my God and King; I will praise Your Name forever. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom; and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign, and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures, from generation to generation.

Thursday, 14 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 41 : 13-20

For I, YHVH, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you : “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your Redeemer, says YHVH, the Holy One of Israel, your Helper.

I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth : you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in YHVH and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, YHVH, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine – that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of YHVH has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture giving us assurance that if we put our trust in God, we will not be disappointed, that is because He is the only One Who can be completely trusted and depended on, even though we may find His path to be difficult and challenging.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, God has given each and every one of us free will, that we may choose how we are to live our lives, and whether we want to choose Him as Our Lord and Saviour, or whether we would rather follow the devil in rebelling against God’s laws and ways. He has given us this choice, that we may decide whether we want to follow the path He has laid before us, or rather take a different path.

Yet, many of us are not aware of God’s grace and love. We are not aware that He has given us the opportunity to be filled with grace, by walking in His path, and He even invites us all to come to Him, as what the Lord Jesus said to His disciples, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and heavily burdened, and I will give you rest.” This is the reality and truth which Our Lord wants to present to us.

This means that He wants us to realise that despite the challenges that we may encounter if we remain faithful to Him, but in the end, it leads to an eternity of joy and happiness, rather than an eternity of suffering because of our damnation, if we choose the seemingly easier path of the devil. Yet, unfortunately, many of us willingly chose to follow the path of the evil one, because of the temptations and persuasions he has levelled on us.

Many of us are rather short-sighted in a sense that we would rather experience joy and happiness for the moment that we live in. We do not want difficulties or suffering, and we would rather choose the easy way out, and that is why, we end up being tempted by the devil with false promises of comfort and safety, and we succumbed to those temptations, falling into sin. Only when we have been trapped deep within his traps, that we realise our folly, and it may be then too late for us to get out of the trouble.

Let us instead look up to the examples of our holy predecessors, many of whom have resolutely remained faithful despite the challenges and difficulties they have encountered. Many of them chose to remain faithful despite threats and indeed facts of suffering and martyrdom that they encountered. And thus was the story of St. Lucy or St. Lucia, the saint whose feast we celebrate today, a holy virgin and martyr.

St. Lucy was a Christian woman born to a noble family in Syracuse, and her father died while she was still young. She dedicated her life and consecrated her virginity to God from the time of her youth. However, she had many suitors as she was reported to be very beautiful. She was also arranged in marriage to a pagan nobleman. However, St. Lucy continued in her faith and devotion, giving much of her riches to charity to the poor and the homeless, much to the consternation of the pagan nobleman.

She was therefore denounced before the governor as a Christian, and was ordered by the governor to offer sacrifice to the Roman Emperor as was mandatory, but she refused to do so. She would rather choose suffering and death rather than to abandon her faith, and when the governor tried to defile her sacred virginity in a brothel, miraculously no one could move her from the place where she was at, and in the end, her life was ended with a sword.

The devotion to St. Lucy continues until today, as many people are inspired by her faith and piety, by her commitment and charitable actions, through which she showed her way of following the Lord’s path, which may be filled with challenges, sorrow and difficulties, and yet in the end, only eternal glory awaits her and all those who have chosen the same path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in her footsteps and seek to remain true to our faith, remembering that the Lord Jesus Himself had said that all those who want to follow Him must take up their crosses and follow Him. Let us all therefore, faithfully bear up our crosses in life, with its joys and sorrows, and help one another to persevere on our way to reach out to the Lord. May God be with us always, and bless each and every one of us and our endeavours. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Wednesday, 13 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.