Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the second Sunday in the season of Advent, a time for preparation and anticipation for the celebration of the Nativity, of our Lord’s birth at Christmas. On this day we heard about the life and works of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah and servant of God, and also of the promise of the time of His Second Coming, a time of true peace and harmony.

The readings hearken us to the meaning of Advent, which is anticipation and preparation, not just to celebrate the first coming of our Lord Jesus which happened two millennia ago, but also that of His expected and promised Second Coming, which many of us are currently not aware of and are ignorant of. This is a time for us to prepare ourselves for the coming of our Lord, so that when the Lord comes again, we will be ready for Him.

It is therefore related to what we heard in the Gospel today, when we heard about St. John the Baptist, who came before the Lord to proclaim His imminent coming and arrival into the world to prepare the people, so that when the Lord comes again, they will be ready to welcome Him. It is therefore important that we should heed what he said in the Gospel today, so that we will be able to make full use of this Advent season for our benefit.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are looking for the time of the Lord’s coming, when He will herald peace, justice and harmony among all the peoples, as we heard in the First Reading, a vision that the prophet Isaiah had seen at that time of the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of the world. But before He comes, we have to prepare ourselves, heart, mind, body and soul, so that we will not be caught unprepared when the Lord comes again.

Otherwise, what St. John the Baptist said to the Pharisees and the elders would also be said to us by the Lord. At another occasion in the Gospel, Jesus told His disciples and the people about the Last Judgment, where the good and wicked will be separated from each other. Those who are wicked are rejected by God because they have not done what the Lord had asked them to do.

They have ignored the plight of the needy, the needs of those who are hungry, thirsty, imprisoned and without love, and thus God rebuked them and rejected them. Those who have done what they could to help these needy brothers and sisters of theirs have been rewarded by the Lord with the gift of eternal life and joy in the kingdom of God.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the elders and the scribes, all of these liked to show off their faith to the people, showcasing their piety to the people to see, but at the same time, they strictly enforced the tenets and practices from the laws of Moses, and made it difficult for the people of God, and they condemned people like tax collectors and prostitutes, whom they deemed to be unclean and damned, without hope of salvation.

And in their hearts, they did not place God as first in their priorities, but instead, they put themselves and their ego first. Why is this so? That is because in all the things they do, not only that they had made it difficult for the people to remain faithful, they also closed the door of salvation to those whom they deemed to be sinners and unworthy, and they did all that they have done in order to be seen by the people and receive praise and fame.

Let us all ask ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we like the Pharisees in our faith? Have we considered ourselves as Christians and yet, in our actions, we tend to exclude and condemn others because of their supposed sins and wickedness? Have we all acted to enhance our own self-prestige and glory amongst men? Have we gone to the Mass intending to boast of our own piety and look down on others.

First of all, we have to realise that all of us are sinners, from the ones with the least sins to those who have committed great sins. But all of us are equal in the manner that all of us have disobeyed the Lord at one point of our life or more. Some have committed more and some committed less sins, but nevertheless, all of us have been separated from the love and grace of God by our sins.

And that is why this Advent should be a time for us to contemplate our actions and deeds, and remember the moment of our own baptism, even as we listened to St. John the Baptist and how he baptised the people at the Jordan with water to bring them to a turning and conversion of the heart that they abandon their sins and wickedness, be washed through and through and made clean, and begin a new path towards God.

At our own baptism, we have made the promise to reject the advances and the false promises and lies of Satan, and we have made that profession of the faith committing ourselves to God and His ways. But along the way, we have encountered many persuasions and temptations, and some of us fell into the temptation and sinned.

Nevertheless, God always gives us the opportunity and chance to repent and to turn our back away from our sins. As long as it is not too late for us, and as long as we still draw breath in this world, there is always a chance for us to change our ways. Let us all not be like those who always procrastinate, thinking that they can always delay their repentance and do whatever they want first, and delay their conversion and repentance to the last minute.

After all, who among us are able to tell when is the exact time we will meet the end of our earthly life. It is only God Who will know the time. Many people who were condemned and met their end in hell were those who kept delaying their repentance even unto their last breath. They waited and waited, and when the time comes they realise that it is too late for them.

Let us all think about how we have lived our lives so far, and let us reflect about our actions in life. Have we been procrastinating about turning towards the Lord? Have we waited and delayed in our repentance? There is always time before it is too late, and therefore, let us wait no longer. Let us use this opportunity given to us this Advent season to reexamine our lives, devoting ourselves to new actions for each other, founded in love and mercy.

Let us all show mercy, compassion and love in all of our dealings. Let us forgive each other our mistakes and whatever had caused hurt in our hearts and bodies. Let us show love and care for our brethren who are in need of these, those who are unloved, ostracised and abandoned by the society, and all those who are poor, oppressed and weak.

May each and every one of us be able to show true Christian values in our lives, being selfless and caring for one another, and do as what the Lord had taught us to do. Let us not be hesitant and delay no longer, for the Lord is coming, and surely we will not want us to be caught unprepared when that happens. Do not tarry and wait until the moment when the Lord is before us and He cast us out of His presence and we are condemned to suffer eternally because we have ignored all the reminders and opportunities given to us thus far.

May God help us all in our endeavours, and may He strengthen our faith and our resolve to live our everyday life filled with commitment and love for each other and for our Lord, so that when the time comes, we will be welcomed into the life everlasting filled with harmony, peace and true joy as what we have heard in the first reading today, the vision of the prophet Isaiah. May the Lord be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Matthew 3 : 1-12

In the course of time John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea and began to proclaim his message, “Change your ways, the kingdom of God is now at hand!” It was about him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said : A voice is shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight!'”

John had a leather garment around his waist and wore a cloak of camel’s hair; his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from all Judea and from the whole Jordan valley, and they were baptised by him in the Jordan as they confessed their sins.

When he saw several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptised, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who told you that you could escape the punishment that is to come? Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion, and do not think : We have Abraham for our father. I tell you that God can raise children for Abraham from these stones! The axe is already laid to the roots of the trees; any tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”

“I baptise you in water for a change of heart, but the One Who is coming after me is more powerful than me; indeed I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptise you in Holy Spirit and fire. He has the winnowing fan in His hand and He will clear out His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn in everlasting fire.”

Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Romans 15 : 4-9

And we know that whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, for both perseverance and comfort given us by the Scripture sustain our hope. May God, the source od all perseverance and comfort, give to all of you to live in peace in Christ Jesus, that you may be able to praise in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Welcome, then, one another, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Look : Christ put Himself at the service of the Jewish world to fulfil the promises made by God to their ancestors; here you see God’s faithfulness. The pagans instead give thanks to God for His mercy, as Scripture says : Because of that, I will sing and praise Your Name among the pagans.

Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Psalm 71 : 2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor, He saves the life of the poor.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him, and He will be blessed by all nations.

Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Second Sunday of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Isaiah 11 : 1-10

From the stump of Jesse a Shoot will come forth; from his roots a Branch will grow and bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and power, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord.

Not by appearances will He judge, nor by what is said must He decide, but with justice He will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, His word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of His lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of His waist, truth the girdle of His loins.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay.

By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over My holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord. On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of Him, thus making His dwelling place glorious.

(Usus Antiquior) Second Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet
Offertory

Psalm 84 : 7-8

Deus, Tu conversus vivificabis nos, et plebs Tua laetabitur in Te : ostende nobis, Domine, misericordiam Tuam, et salutare Tuum da nobis.
English translation

O God, turning, You will bring us life, and Your people shall rejoice in You. Show us, o Lord, Your mercy and grant us Your salvation.
Secret Prayer of the Priest

Placare, quaesumus, Domine, humilitatis nostrae precibus et hostiis : et, ubi nulla suppetunt suffragia meritorum, Tuis nobis succurre praesidiis. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
English translation

Be appeased, we beseech You, o Lord, by the prayers and offerings of our lowliness, and where no support of merits is at hand, do You hasten to us with Your aid. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.
Communion

Baruch 5 : 5 and Baruch 4 : 36

Jerusalem, surge et sta in excelso, et vide jucunditatem, quae veniet tibi a Deo tuo.
English translation

Arise, o Jerusalem, and stand on high, and behold the joy that comes to you from your God.
Post-Communion Prayer

Repleti cibo spiritualis alimoniae, supplices Te, Domine, deprecamur : ut, hujus participatione mysterii, doceas nos terrena despicere et amare caelestia. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.
English translation

Filled with the food of spiritual nourishing, we humbly beseech You, o Lord, that by our partaking of this mystery You would teach us to condemn earthly and love heavenly things. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Second Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 4 December 2016 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet
Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Matthaeum – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Matthew

Matthew 11 : 2-10

In illo tempore : Cum audisset Joannes in vinculis opera Christi, mittens duos de discipulis Suis, ait illi : Tu es, qui venturus es, an alium exspectamus? Et respondens Jesus, ait illis : Euntes renuntiate Joanni, quae audistis et vidistis.

Caeci vident, claudi ambulant, leprosi mundantur, surdi audiunt, mortui resurgunt, pauperes evangelizantur. : et beatus est, qui non fuerit scandalizatus in me. Illis autem abeuntibus, coepit Jesus dicere ad turbas de Joanne : Quid existis in desertum videre? Arundinem vento agitatam? Sed quid existis videre? Hominem mollibus vestitum? Ecce, qui mollibus vestiuntur, in domibus regum sunt.

Sed quid existis videre? Prophetam? Etiam dico vobis, et plus quam Prophetam. Hic est enim, de quo scriptum est : Ecce, ego mitto Angelum meum ante faciam Tuam, qui praeparabit viam Tuam ante Te.
English translation

At that time when John had heard in prison the works of Christ, sending two of his disciples, he said to Him : “Are You He Who is to come, or do we look for another?” And Jesus making answer, said to them, “Go and relate to John what you have heard and seen.”

“The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead rise again, the poor have the Gospel preached to them, and blessed is he who shall not be scandalised in Me.” And when they went their way, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John, “What did you go out into the desert to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Behold those who are clothed in soft garments are in the houses of kings.”

“But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yea, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send My Angel before Your face, who shall prepare Your way before You.'”