Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this second Sunday in the season of Advent, as we continue our preparation for the celebration of Christmas in a few weeks’ time, we listened to the words of the Scripture in which the focus is placed on the actions of the servant of God, the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Lord, namely St. John the Baptist.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard the prophecy speaking about someone who cries out in the wilderness, declaring the imminent arrival of the kingdom of God. This prophecy clearly refers to the time of grace, during which time God finally fulfilled the long awaited promise of a Saviour or Messiah, and His coming was announced and heralded by this faithful servant, St. John the Baptist.

St. John the Baptist as many of us are aware of, is the son of Zechariah and Elizabeth, the relatives of Mary, the mother of Jesus Christ Our Lord. Since his youth, he has been dedicated to a life of service to God, and he went to the wilderness, wearing simple clothing, and did exactly as what was prophesied in the Book of the prophet Isaiah. He proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called on the people to repent from their sins and abandon their wicked ways.

He baptised the people with water, and through that baptism, called many to a conversion of life and a change in their way of life, that they would commit to a life worthy of God, for the kingdom of God was about to come. By doing this, this faithful servant has prepared the way for the Lord, just like that of a farmer tilling and preparing the soil, so that the soil will be ready for the sower to sow the seeds on it.

And what is the significance of what we have heard about St. John the Baptist and his works among the people? What is the importance of these on our own lives? First of all, we should heed the words of St. John the Baptist, who proclaimed the coming of the kingdom of God with the words, ‘Repent! For the kingdom of God is near!’ And reflect on his role as the voice in the wilderness who declares the coming of the Lord, preparing the way for His coming.

This means that, all of us should also spend time to reflect on our own lives, and think of what we have done in our lives thus far. Are we ready to welcome the Lord into our lives? Are we ready to enter into the kingdom of God? We know that the Lord has come into this world, and we have been taught His ways and teachings through the Church, and yet, if we see around us, there are still so many people who lack true faith in God.

And in how we are preparing ourselves for the coming of Christmas, we see for ourselves, how many of us Christians have not remembered the true purpose and meaning of our Christmas celebrations, preferring to follow the secular and worldly ways of celebrating Christmas, having been inundated with plenty of advertisements and temptations of materialistic and worldly celebration of Christmas, with shopping, lots of gifts, sparkling decorations and many other common things we see at Christmas, such as Santa Claus and many others.

But have we not forgotten why is it that we rejoice this Christmas? What is it about Christmas that is so worth to be joyful about? It is the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ which we celebrate every Christmas, but year after year as we celebrate Christmas, have we forgotten this true purpose of our celebration? Have we ended up going through motion as we celebrate yet another holiday? Is Christmas just another holiday period when we enjoy ourselves with parties and revelries, travelling or any other activities, but leaving out the One for Whom we should rejoice for?

It is time for us to look deeper into our second reading today, taken from the second Epistle of St. Peter. In his Epistle, St. Peter mentioned that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief, which means that it will be totally unexpected for all of us, and many of us will not be ready for His coming. That is why in this season of Advent, we have a two-fold preparation for us to go through.

First of all, we know that Advent is the season of preparation for Christmas, but it does not mean the time for us to go shopping and prepare for all the gifts and wrappings for those gifts, or planning how we should decorate our houses and conduct our Christmas parties, luncheons and all the sort. All these are secondary to the main celebration of Christmas, and in fact can become a distraction.

Instead, we should spend this time to reflect on the significance of Christmas, and why is it that Christians all over the world celebrate Christmas as one of the most important events of our faith, together with Easter. As I have mentioned last Sunday, Christmas and Easter are inseparably intertwined with each other, and one give meaning to the other. There can be no Christmas without Easter and vice versa. And although Easter is still more important than Christmas, Christmas does give an important meaning to Easter.

For in Christmas all of us celebrate the moment when God Who willingly took up for Himself a human existence, was born into the world, and therefore become the Light to all the nations. As what the book of the prophet Isaiah mentioned, that a people living in the darkness have seen a great Light. For Christ is the Light of the world, through Whom all mankind can finally find their way towards their Lord.

But without Easter, and all that happened preceding it, during the Passion of the Lord in the Holy Week, Christmas would be just the birthday of another person, no different or any special compared to any other birthdays. Instead, understanding the full mystery of Our Lord’s birth, life, ministry and later on His suffering, death and resurrection from the dead makes Christmas truly special, as Christmas marks then the moment when Our Lord’s plan of salvation comes to its fruition.

Let us all then, think carefully of how we should celebrate our Christmas in the coming few weeks. We need to prepare ourselves thoroughly and wholeheartedly in our hearts, minds, bodies and souls, that we may embrace the meaning of Christmas in our joy. It is not wrong that we should be happy, to rejoice and to be merry, but we must rejoice for the right reason and for the right purpose.

And as mentioned, our Christmas celebration is not just for us to reflect on the historical birth of Our Lord, but also to prepare for the future second coming of Our Lord, which He has promised to all of us, when He ascended to heaven in glory. He will come again at the end of time, to gather all of His faithful ones towards Himself, and as St. Peter mentioned in his Epistle, we will not know the timing when this will happen.

Are we able to do our best to prepare ourselves for the coming of the Lord? That is what we should think about, as we go through this season of Advent. Let us prepare ourselves by spending more time with God, through prayer and through charitable works. Let us all devote ourselves and do our best to obey the Lord in all His commandments, that when He comes again, He may find us all ready and prepared for His coming, and we will be worthy to receive the eternal glory He promised to all those who are faithful to Him.

May the Lord bless all of us and our endeavours, that we may draw ever closer to Him, and found to be worthy of Him. May our Christmas celebrations be ever more meaningful and fruitful, as we recognise the true joy of Christmas. May each and every one of us find blessings in all that we do, and receive God’s grace. Amen.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Peter 3 : 8-14

Do not forget, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord does not delay in fulfilling His promise, though some speak of delay; rather, He gives you time, because He does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion.

The Day of the Lord is to come like a thief. Then, the heavens will dissolve with a great noise; the elements will melt away by fire, and the earth, with all that is on it, will be burnt up. Since all things are to vanish, how holy and religious your way of life must be, as you wait for the day of God, and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire, and the elements melt away in the heat.

We wait for a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise. Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive, that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.