Sunday, 30 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate together the feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Our Lord, with His blessed mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph. On this day we remember the special relationship that Our Lord and Saviour had with those who were closest to Him in His earthly existence, that is His mother who bore Him for nine months in her womb, and His foster-father who took care of Him as his own Son, despite not being his biological one.

First of all, we must understand that God Who is All-Powerful, Almighty and Infinite does not in fact need a family, for He exists before all ages and time, not created and has always been there, not bound by the natural laws and rules. To have a family is part of the natural law, and to have a parent and a child relationship, and for human beings, every family consists of the nucleus of a father and a mother, and having a child as a result of that blessed union of marriage.

Yet, God made Himself to be part of that Law, which He had given to us, being born into a family of man, the family consisting of Mary and St. Joseph, making Himself an integral part of the loving familial structure that we have just discussed earlier. That is because, He Who is God, the Son of God, did not just symbolically become Man, but taking up for Himself the full nature of Man, and thus conceived and being born in the flesh from His mother’s womb and having a family.

In the Holy Family, we see how God made Himself small and insignificant, in need of love as the Infant born and celebrated this Christmas season. He is the King of kings and Lord and Master of all the universe, and yet He chose to be a little and frail Infant in the manger, needing the protection and love from His mother Mary and from his foster-father St. Joseph. He therefore took up the full nature of man, our own nature, to show us what each and every one of us should become.

He grew up under the loving care and protection of His parents, and as the Scriptures mentioned, He listened to them and obeyed them. Through them He surely has learnt many important life skills and wisdom in life, and therefore, His humanity grew as we all had, and He became for us the model of the perfect Man, the New Adam through Whose obedience and love for God, His Father, became the source of our salvation.

Then with regards to the other members of the Holy Family, Mary shows us the role of a loving mother, who shows love, care and compassion for her Son, Who is of her own flesh and blood, having resided in her own womb for nine months. She was devoted to her Son, and took care of Him from His birth all the way throughout His life, and as we all know from the accounts of the Gospels, even to the final moments before His death on the cross.

Mary showed us the love of a mother, which she showed very generously to all especially her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. As a mother, she stood by her Son and caring for Him with love, and she also loved her husband, St. Joseph. And this same love, she has also shown to us all as well, by the virtue of us being the brothers and sisters in Christ, and in what the Lord had done, at the moment of His crucifixion, when He entrusted His mother Mary to St. John, His disciple, and vice versa.

Through that action, Mary became for us the motherly figure, our mother and loving woman who is always concerned about our own well-being. That is why, just recently she was recognised in her role as the Mother of the Church, and how she also appeared many times throughout history, in Guadalupe, in Lourdes, in Fatima and in other places, with the message and intention of calling us mankind, her children through Christ, to repent from our sins and to return to God’s grace.

Meanwhile, we must also not forget the important role that St. Joseph played in the Holy Family. As the father figure to the Lord Jesus, despite not being His biological father, but he took Him as his own legal Son, and treated Him as much as if He was his own Son. St. Joseph cared for the Lord Jesus and for Mary, as seen in his crucial presence when the time of census came, and both St. Joseph and Mary had to travel all the way from Nazareth to Bethlehem in Judea.

Mary could not have made the journey on her own, and St. Joseph was therefore important in the role he played, in protecting and caring for the need of Mary and the Baby in her womb along the long and difficult journey from Nazareth to Bethlehem. And even when they reached Bethlehem, their problems did not cease, as all the inns and lodgings were full, and St. Joseph must have had a very difficult time in trying to secure a place for his wife Mary to give birth, as the time for her to give birth was imminent.

For his strong sense of righteousness and commitment to God, St. Joseph was therefore known also as the Protector of the Church, as the one who stands by the Church and protecting it, just as he watched over the Holy Family, protecting the young Lord Jesus and Mary, during the times of difficulty and persecution, especially when they had to flee to Egypt to get away from the hands of king Herod, who wanted to kill Jesus.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, I am sure by now we have seen the great love that is present within the Holy Family, as each and every one of the members of the Holy Family truly have that love in them for one another. And this love is not the kind of love that we may be accustomed to, but pure, selfless and committed love that Jesus has for Mary His mother and St. Joseph, His foster-father, the love Mary had for her Son and for her husband, and the protective care and love St. Joseph had for Jesus and Mary.

And it is important that each and every one of us take the Holy Family as our example and inspiration. Each and every one of us are either a child, a son, a daughter, and can also be a father or a mother, or even grandfather, grandmother or a grandchild to our family members. And unless we follow the example of the Holy Family in their love for one another, that is when cracks and troubles can appear within our respective families.

The devil knows this very well, and this is where he is intensifying his efforts in trying to destroy the fabric and the foundation of our families. We must realise that Christian families are the very important basic units of our faith and the important part of God’s Church. In fact, each Christian families are smaller subset of the larger Church, and it is through a functioning and loving Church, that the faith is preserved well among us, God’s faithful people.

That is why the devil is busy at work trying to undermine the institution of Christian families and marriage, by making use of many temptations, pressing on us to succumb to the temptations of worldly pleasures, fornication, adultery and unfaithfulness in the family. He tempts us to be disobedient and to create problems within our families, which eventually can lead to the breakup of its integrity and structure. And once we are vulnerable, the devil and his forces will strike.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all appreciate what we have in our families, and reflect on our actions and deeds thus far as members of our respective families, be it as a father, or as a mother, as a child or grandparent or grandchild. Have we truly made our families to be like the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother Mary and His foster-father St. Joseph? If we have not done so, that is probably why there were often problems within our families.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all imitate the examples of the Holy Family in our own families, by placing God first and foremost at the centre of our family lives, and spending time together in prayer, if possible every day. For a family that prays and works together, God will be in their midst and will become the anchor of the family. And that is also when, true love will bloom within the family, and when the true, selfless and unconditional love between the members of the family will flourish, and not the selfishness often found in our world today.

Let us pray, that our Christian families will remain strong and faithful amidst the challenges and difficulties we may encounter in life. May all of us continue to model ourselves on the Holy Family, and imitate the great love present in the Holy Family, in our own families. May God bless us all and our families, and keep us all in His loving grace. Amen.

Sunday, 30 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 41-52

Every year the parents of Jesus went to Jerusalem for the Feast of the Passover, as was customary. And when Jesus was twelve years old, He went up with them, according to the custom of this feast. After the festival was over, they returned, but the Boy Jesus remained in Jerusalem, and His parents did not know it.

They thought He was in the company, and after walking the whole day they looked for Him among their relatives and friends. As they did not find Him, they went back to Jerusalem searching for Him, and on the third day they found Him in the Temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking questions. And all the people were amazed at His understanding and His answers.

His parents were very surprised when they saw Him, and His mother said to Him, “Son, why have You done this to us? Your father and I were very worried while searching for You.” Then He said to them, “Why were you looking for Me? Did you not know that I must be in My Father’s house?” But they did not understand this answer.

Jesus went down with them, returning to Nazareth, and He continued to be subject to them. As for His mother, she kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in divine and human favour.

Sunday, 30 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 1-2, 21-24

See what singular love the Father has for us : we are called children of God, and we really are. This is why the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. Beloved, we are God’s children, and what we shall be has not, yet, been shown. Yet, when He appears in His glory, we know, that we shall be like Him, for, then, we shall see Him as He is.

When our conscience does not condemn us, dear friends, we may have complete confidence in God. Then, whatever we ask, we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is, that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ, and that, we love one another, as He has commanded us.

Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us, that we know He lives in us.

Sunday, 30 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 83 : 2-3, 5-6, 9-10

How lovely are Your rooms, o YHVH of hosts! My soul yearns; pines, for the courts of YHVH. My heart and my flesh cry out for the living God.

Happy are those who live in Your house, continually singing Your praise! Happy, the pilgrims whom You strengthen, to make the ascent to You.

O YHVH of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, o God of Jacob! Look upon our shield, o God; look upon the face of Your Anointed!

Sunday, 30 December 2018 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Samuel 1 : 20-22, 24-28

And Hannah became pregnant. She gave birth to a son and called him Samuel because she said : “I have asked YHVH to give him to me.” Once more Elkanah went to the Temple with his family to offer his yearly sacrifice and to pay his vow to YHVH. Hannah would not go along but she said to her husband, “I will bring the child there as soon as he is weaned. He shall be presented to YHVH and stay there forever.”

When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three year old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to YHVH’s house of Shiloh. The child was still young.

After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed : “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to YHVH. I asked for this child and YHVH granted me the favour I begged of Him. I think YHVH is now asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to YHVH.”

And they worshipped YHVH there.

Saturday, 29 December 2018 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the Law and the commandments of God, His precepts that He has revealed and given to us, for our benefit and for our salvation. God has given us this Law to guide us and to help us on our way, that we can remain strong in our faith, and not be lost to the sways and the temptations of the world, the temptations and pressures for us to sin.

God intends for us to be reconciled with Him, and to be with Him once again, in His grace. He presented before us the way to Himself, and reminding us again and again, to obey Him and to listen to Him, and through those, He guided us through the perilous and difficult path towards His salvation, and many amongst us fell into the traps of sin, the temptations of the devil who is always constantly at work trying to pull us into damnation.

Unfortunately, as history had shown, despite the laws and commandments that God had given to His people, but many among them failed to understand and appreciate the real purpose and meaning of the Law. The most obvious example was shown in the Gospels, as the actions and philosophy of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law at the time of the Lord Jesus showed us. Those people claimed to be faithful, righteous and devout before others, but in reality, they were not.

The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law championed the way that required the people of God to live following a very strict and harsh application of the laws of Moses, where the people were expected to obey all the commandments, the precepts, the rules and regulations that were written in the Book of the Torah, as preserved from the time of Moses, the traditions and customs that were added along the way by the elders up to that time.

Yet, despite having outwardly showed piety and devotion to God, but in their hearts and minds, they did not give place to God. That was why, at the same time, many among them refused to listen to the Lord’s truth, when He came into their midst, even performing miracles and speaking words of God’s wisdom, revealing before them what the prophets had once spoken about, all being fulfilled in Christ.

That was because of the pride and ego that were in their hearts, which filled them up and prevented them from opening their hearts to God’s love. For they did obey the Law and follow the precepts of God, but they did so without knowing what the Law is actually all about. And the Law is in fact, all about love, just as Christ has revealed before us all, through His disciples. The essence and the heart of the Law is love, loving God and then loving one another.

And God is love, and He gave us the perfect example of His love, by giving us the perfect and best gift that nothing can surpass. He gave us His beloved Son, Who willingly emptied Himself from glory and majesty, and taking up the humble appearance of Man, born in the poorest conditions, in a dirty stable in Bethlehem, as a King Who was to save His people, and yet not with the power of arms and might, but with love, love that surpasses everything else.

That is why He presented before us, what the Law truly means, that is first and foremost, love for God, like the love which Christ as the Son has for His Father, as example for each and every one of us to follow. Instead of loving ourselves and being selfish, He emptied Himself and gave Himself so completely for the love of God His Father, and for the love He has for each and every one of us. He bore all the sufferings and pains, all of our sins, so that by His suffering and death, we may live.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings and what we have just discussed, all spoke of how we should follow the Law of God, with understanding and appreciation of its meaning and purpose, by doing what the Lord Himself had shown us. We must first of all, love God with all of our strength, with all of our ability, and place Him as the first and foremost in our respective lives. And then, we must also love our fellow brethren in the same way, and as much as we love ourselves.

It is when we do not do this, but instead succumb to the temptations of our pride, ego and greed, that we end up sinning against God. Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint, whose devotion and love for God, whose faith and commitment to serve Him, caused him to suffer and to die in martyrdom when he stood by his faith against those who sought to attack the Church and who wished to follow their own ego, pride and greed.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Thomas Becket, a famous saint and bishop who was the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus, the Primate of England, the most important bishop and leader of the Church in the British isles. St. Thomas Becket, prior to his reign as the Archbishop of Canterbury, was once a powerful noble, who was a good and close friend to king Henry II of England, and was appointed as the Chancellor of England, a position that is probably just second to the king in the secular realm.

King Henry II then appointed St. Thomas Becket as the Archbishop of Canterbury, hoping that keeping the highest ranked clergy in his realm close to him, as one of his closest confidants, the king and his fellow nobles could benefit financially and from other collaborations because of this appointment. However, little did king Henry II realised or could have predicted that St. Thomas Becket had a change of heart and conversion after taking up the role of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Amidst the struggle and controversies between the Church and the state, especially with matters of state jurisdiction and control over the Church, and the appropriation of properties and the right of nobles and the king over the Church matters, St. Thomas Becket stood up for his fellow churchmen, and defended the rights of the Church against the egoistic and corrupt desires of the nobility and the king.

As a result, the growing tension between the Archbishop and the king eventually resulted in the action taken by four nobles with tacit support from the king, in assassinating St. Thomas Becket right at his Cathedral, and thus making him a martyr of the Church, who died defending his faith and the rights of the Church of God, against those who sought to attack it for corrupt purposes.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have seen how St. Thomas Becket went through a conversion of heart and being, from one who lived his life of pleasure and debauchery, into a courageous and committed defender of the faith, who did not fear even going against the mighty and the powerful in his love for God and for His people, the flock whose souls were entrusted under his care. We too can follow in his examples and imitate his commitment to the Lord.

Today therefore, let us all reflect on our own lives, and see in which area that we have failed to live up to our expectation to observe the Law of God, not just in words and in paying lip service like what many of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law, king Henry II and his nobles had done, but with pure and genuine love for God as St. Thomas Becket and many other holy men and women of God had done. May the Lord be with us all, and bless us in our effort to live more worthily of Him, day after day. Amen.