Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

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, 12 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the feast of the Marian apparition which was one of the first apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary to be recognised and approved by the Church, that is of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Mary appeared to a local Christian, who is also now a saint, St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, showing herself to him in a vision on a hill called the Tepeyac hill, where now a great Basilica stands in her honour, the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego a few times over a series of visions, in which she spoke to St. Juan Diego about who she was, and on the ninth of December, the now feast of St. Juan Diego, Mary made her first appearance before him. This happened in the year of Our Lord 1531, just slightly more than a decade after the conversion of Mexico and many parts of the New World to the true faith in God.

Mary identified herself in St. Juan Diego’s own native language, revealing that she is the mother of the One True God, Who is Jesus Christ, Our Lord. She also asked him for a church to be built at the site in her honour. When St. Juan Diego spoke of this to his Archbishop, the latter requested him to ask the Lady for a miraculous sign as a proof of her authentic apparition. Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared to St. Juan Diego again and agreed to provide a sign.

When St. Juan Diego’s uncle was very sick, and St. Juan Diego seeking to find a priest to minister to him on his deathbed, again Our Lady appeared to him and chided him with the now famous words, “Am I not here, I who am your mother?” and promised that St. Juan Diego’s uncle would be healed, and also asked him to gather some flowers from Tepeyac hill to be shown as a sign to the Archbishop.

When St. Juan Diego presented the flowers to the Archbishop, the latter was surprised with what he saw in the tilma or cloak in which St. Juan Diego had carried the flowers. The very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe who appeared to St. Juan Diego was imprinted on the tilma, which is kept until today in the great Basilica, as the proof of Our Lady’s miraculous apparition in Guadalupe.

Ever since then, Guadalupe became a centre of intense devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, through which many of the faithful came seeking for petitions and favours from the Mother of God. And Mary did also appear several more times in various other places, of which those that had been recognised include Fatima, Lourdes, La Sallette, and many others. Through all these apparitions, Mary sought to remind us, as the mother of Our Saviour, that we ought to be faithful to her Son.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Mary is the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, and as we have just celebrated a few days ago, she was special amongst all of us mankind, for she has been conceived without the taints of sin, the Immaculate Conception, as the one whom God had bestowed His fullness of grace and as the one who would bear the Messiah in her, as the New Ark of the New Covenant.

Mary is special to us because she is the role model for all of us mankind, as the perfect disciple and follower of God, having lived her whole life in total devotion and commitment to the Lord, and having dedicated her life to the love and care of her Son, seeing Him taking up the cross and dying for the sake of all of us mankind, fulfilling the role which the Lord had sent Him to do in this world. And at the very end, He entrusted her to us all, through St. John, His disciple, and vice versa, entrusting us all to her in the same way.

Mary is the mother of us all, and as a mother loves her children, thus, that is why Mary is also loving to each and every one of us. She certainly does not want us to fall into damnation, and thus away from her and from her Son for eternity. Mary has appeared many times throughout the years for this purpose, reminding us again and again of the need for genuine repentance and change of hearts and attitude in our minds.

She appeared in Guadalupe to help us, His people to become closer to Him through her. By following her examples in life and by devoting ourselves just as she had devoted her own, we can be closer to God, and be able to reach out to the salvation which He has promised all of us. Now, we are called to reach out also to the blessed Mother of Our Lord and God, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, asking her to intercede for our sake, that we may received the grace of God in our own lives.

O Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, you who have been conceived without sin, the Mother of God, pray for us all sinners, and bring us ever closer to the saving grace and love of Your Son. May God bless us all, and may He continue to love us, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!”

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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.

Alternative Psalm (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more.

The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone. YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up.

YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.

Wednesday, 12 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 40 : 25-31

To whom, then, will you liken Me or make Me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see : who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is His power, so great His strength, that not one of them is missing.

How can you say, o Jacob, how can you complain, o Israel, that your destiny is hidden from Me, that your rights are ignored by YHVH? Have you not known, have you not heard that YHVH is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, His knowledge is without limit.

He gives strength to the enfeebled, He gives vigour to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in YHVH will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10c

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.”

Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel, for God-is-with-us.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture showing us just how great God’s love is for each and every one of us, that He is willing to do everything in order to be reconciled with us, that we may be saved from the predicaments caused by our sins. He loves each and every single one of us, without exception and without any prejudices. He used a parable to deliver this truth about His love to the people, as we heard in the Gospel passage today.

In that passage, we heard about the parable of the lost sheep, in which He told them a story of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of those sheep strays from the flock. He told them how the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine who are safely together behind, and do all he can in order to track and find the stray sheep, and bring it back to the flock. This is what the Lord exactly used in His own way of reconciling with His people, those represented by the lost sheep.

God went out all of the way just so that He could reclaim us, His lost ones, who have been lost and sundered from Him since the day we first disobeyed Him and chose to follow Satan and his temptations rather than to be faithful and fully in love with Him. Satan is the false shepherd, the wolf is sheep’s clothing that is ever ready to distract us and to lure us away into our downfall, by separating us from our loving shepherd.

And that is exactly how the devil works, brothers and sisters in Christ, by the means of persuasions and false promises of worldly glories, pleasures and other forms of enjoyment of the flesh and the body, or of the mind. He presents to us a path that seems to be easier and less challenging, more profitable and enjoyable for us. And thus, many were tempted to abandon the path of righteousness, and instead embracing the ways of sin.

But God did not give up on us, and instead, as He Himself said, that He is the Good Shepherd, He truly loves us and cares for us, even to the point of doing everything so that we may be saved, even if that requires Him to suffer and to be persecuted for our sins, suffering the blows and punishments that should have been ours. He, our Good Shepherd, stands between us and our destruction, offering up Himself for our sake, that we do not perish.

That was what the Lord has done for us, by what He has done, all that we believe in our faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Whom God has sent into this world in order to be our Saviour. He willingly took up the appearance and substance of Man, to be crucified for us, bearing the cross to Calvary, and by gathering all of our sins to Himself, offering up His own perfect offering of His Body and Blood, He, our Good Shepherd, is gathering all of us, God’s lost sheep, back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father.

Sadly, it was our reluctance and stubbornness, our predisposition and vulnerabilities to sin, that have prevented many of us from taking full advantage of this love which God has shown us. We are like those lost sheep that stubbornly run away from our loving shepherd, and instead, seeking those seemingly more enticing and enjoyable opportunities elsewhere, without knowing that those false leads are efforts by the devil and his forces to prey on us, waiting for our downfall.

Many of us are too busy with those temptations and allures of worldliness, that we fail to notice God’s love for us, and we continue to dwell in our state of sin, which unless we repent from it, we are at risk of falling into eternal damnation and separation from God, when even all of our regrets will have no use at all. This is not what God wants to happen to us, and certainly, He wants as many of us to be rescued and to be recovered from our lost state.

That is why, it is important that today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, roughly halfway towards Christmas as of now, we need to recalibrate our lives and reflect on our actions and deeds in life thus far. We are called to find the true meaning of our Christmas celebrations, that we may be able to enrich our own lives, with genuine faith and understanding of God’s love. Do we truly know what Christmas is about?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas is in fact the moment when the tangible reunion between God and man is made possible, through the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born on Christmas day in the manger, the One Who would save all of us by His death on the cross. It is a time of joy, not because of all the parties and merry-making, all the merchandises and shopping we can enjoy, but instead, because in Christ, we have seen the hope and fulfilment of our salvation.

Today, let us all discern on our lives and how we can live it better to be more in accordance to God’s ways. Let us all see God’s great love for us, and find that courage and desire to love Him, and to be reconciled with Him. Today, as we also celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope and a devout servant of God, who contributed greatly to the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, by his tireless efforts to combat heresy and by giving his support to the Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome, let us ask for his intercession, that we may find the humility and the desire to love God, to return to Him, our loving Father and Good Shepherd.

May the Lord Who loves us so dearly continue to love us and to reach out to us, just as we also make the conscious effort to seek Him out, to realise how much He has loved us and given Himself for us on the cross. Let us turn away from sin, sin no more, and become devoted children of God, our loving Father, from now on. May this blessed season of Advent be a time for us to rediscover our love for God. Amen.