Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Matthew 15 : 29-37

At that time, from the place where Jesus healed the daughter of a Canaanite woman, He went to the shore of Lake Galilee, and then went up into hills, where He sat down. Great crowds came to Him, bringing the dumb, the blind, the lame, the crippled, and many with other infirmities. People carried them to the feet of Jesus, and He healed them.

All were astonished when they saw the dumb speaking, the lame walking, the crippled healed, and the blind able to see; and they glorified the God of Israel. Jesus called His disciples and said to them, “I am filled with compassion for these people; they have already followed Me for three days and now have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away fasting, or they may faint on the way.”

His disciples said to Him, “And where shall we find enough bread in this wilderness to feed such a crowd?” Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” They answered, “Seven, and a few small fish.”

Jesus ordered the people to sit on the ground. Then, He took the seven loaves and the small fish, and gave thanks to God. He broke them and gave them to His disciples, who distributed them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the leftover pieces filled seven wicker baskets.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Wednesday, 4 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Isaiah 25 : 6-10a

On this mountain YHVH Sabaoth will prepare for all peoples a feast of rich food and choice wines, meat full of marrow, fine wine strained. On this mountain He will destroy the pall cast over all peoples, this very shroud spread over all nations, and death will be no more. The Lord YHVH will wipe away the tears from all cheeks and eyes; He will take away the humiliation of His people all over the world : for YHVH has spoken.

On that day you will say : This is our God. We have waited for Him to save us, let us be glad and rejoice in His salvation. For on this mountain the hand of YHVH rests.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together the memory of a great saint and servant of God, who is also commemorated as the Patron of all missions and missionaries, recalling the great contributions that this holy man had given throughout his many years of ministry to the far-off lands and regions, travelling from places to places bringing the Good News of the Gospel to those who have not yet heard or known of God.

St. Francis Xavier was a Spanish Jesuit who was also one of the founding and original members of the Society of Jesus, the Jesuit Order. He was remembered for his great missionary efforts and travels throughout many regions of Asia and the far eastern regions of Asia, from India to Southeast Asia and then even as far as Japan and many other parts of those areas, spreading the words of God to the people there.

At that time, Christendom was faced with many challenges both from the inside and from the outside, as the era of the Protestant reformation came about, causing many of the people of God to be splintered away and separated from the Holy Mother Church into the various heresies and false teachings, while the rise of the power of the Ottoman Turks threatened many parts of the Christian world from the outside.

The Society of Jesus was then founded at that time by St. Ignatius of Loyola, a courageous servant of God who gathered like minded to serve the Lord for His greater glory as is in their motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ or ‘For the Greater Glory of God’. Many people came to join the Jesuit order in the vigorous effort and campaign by the Church to stem the tide of the Protestant reformation and also to reinvigorate the faith among the people of God.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those whom St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered, and while quite a few of the Jesuits worked hard within the old Christian world, spreading the true faith to the people who have been swayed by false and erroneous teachings, there were many others led by St. Francis Xavier who ventured forth to distant lands that at that time were just recently discovered.

St. Francis Xavier represented the efforts of the Church to embrace those who have not yet heard of God’s salvation and truth, just as the Lord Himself had commanded His Apostles and disciples to do, as part of the Great Commission which He has entrusted to all of them. The Great Commission was a sending off from the Lord as He asked all of them to go forth to the many nations to bring God’s truth to them and to make them God’s own beloved people through baptism.

To that extent, St. Francis Xavier dedicated his whole life to missionary works, travelling far and wide at a time when travel was still hazardous and taking many months just to cross the oceans to reach the destinations. St. Francis Xavier thus travelled far from Europe, first of all to Goa in India, before travelling to Malacca and to the other parts of the Southeast Asian archipelago, laying the foundations of the Church and the faith among the many communities he visited, braving through even many storms and difficulties.

St. Francis Xavier also travelled to Macau and Japan, establishing the grounds for the faith and the Church in the latter and visiting the growing populations of Catholics elsewhere, going back and forth between India and the Far East throughout his many evangelising missions, and passed away just before he was about to enter China to evangelise there. His mortal remains and relics are now preserved in the Basilica of the Bom Jesus in Goa, India, where the faithful from all over Christendom often come to venerate this faithful and holy man of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having gone through in quite a great detail on the life and works of St. Francis Xavier, all of us are also therefore called to reflect on his many contributions and efforts, his tireless attempts and outreach to bring the Good News to the reach of many of those who had not had the opportunity to listen to the truth of God, much as how the Apostles in the earliest days of the Church travelled to many places sowing the seeds of faith.

This is a reminder for us that the works of the Church and the Apostles were far from being completed, and rather, many of our predecessors throughout the years and many generations who had endeavoured and worked hard to continue the good works that the Lord had begun in His Church. St. Francis Xavier did just that, and showed us just what we should do with our lives in being wonderful witnesses of the Lord’s truth just as St. Francis Xavier himself had done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today we remember all those who have devoted their lives to the service of the Lord as missionaries, following in the direct footsteps of the Holy Apostles and the saints, like that of St. Francis Xavier, who is their patron. We have to pray for them and ask that the Lord will strengthen them and give them the courage and the ability to persevere through challenges and difficulties they may have to endure during their journey.

But at the same time, all of us as Christians are also then reminded of our own obligation and calling to be missionaries of the Lord, as each and every one of us as the members of God’s Holy Church are also part of the Lord’s Great Commission. We do not have to aim for great things or to think that we need to perform extraordinary deeds or laboured in the way that our holy predecessors like the Apostles and St. Francis Xavier had done.

Instead, what we need to do is to do our best in our each and every actions, in each and our every interactions in our daily living so that by our actions, words and deeds we become genuine and true witnesses of the Lord’s truth and salvation in wherever we are living, in our families and communities. Through this we can become missionaries of the Lord in our own way, working for the greater glory of God and making use of whatever goods and talents that God has blessed us with.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore renew in us the faith which we have in the Lord and renew the zeal and love, the dedication and commitment we have towards Him, as we are shown the inspiring examples of St. Francis Xavier, patron saint of mission and all missionaries. Let us all bear courageously and truthfully our faith in God in all things. May the Lord be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Tuesday, 3 December 2019 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Monday, 2 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into the season of Advent, all of us are called to prepare ourselves fully and well for the upcoming celebration of Christmas, the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ into this world for the first time two millennia ago as a little Child in Bethlehem, the moment when God’s long-promised and long-awaited plan of salvation came into its final fruition.

On this day we are called to reflect on God’s love and kindness towards us, His strong desire to reach out to us and to heal us from our brokenness, sinfulness and unworthiness. Through our Scripture passages today, we are called to remember just how fortunate we all are to have this such a loving, compassionate and caring God as Our Lord and Father. He never ceases to care for us, provide for us and protect us from harm all these while.

In our first reading today, from the passage taken out of the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of the Lord spoken to His people, whom at that time were already brought low after centuries of divisions and misfortunes because of their own sins and refusals to obey the Lord and His commandments. The northern kingdom of Israel and the ten tribes of the people of God had been crushed by the Assyrians and were brought to exile in far-off lands.

That was why at that time, the prophecy of the Lord that He spoke through His prophet Isaiah was truly a very delightful and awaited promise, as the Lord promised the coming of His deliverance and salvation, the Shoot of the Lord, a reference to another part of the Book of the prophet Isaiah where the Messiah of God was referred to as the Shoot of David, promising that the Saviour would come through the House of David, and restore to the people of God the true joy and happiness that they once enjoyed.

This is what He has fulfilled by sending His own beloved Son to us, Our Lord Jesus, Who came into this world to be the bearer of the Good News and truth of God, calling all of us to be redeemed and to be gathered back into His presence, reconciling us to Him by absolving us from our sins and disobediences. In our Gospel passage today, we heard of how the Lord reached out to likely a Roman army centurion or commander.

In that occasion, the Lord encountered an army commander who sought Him to heal his servant who was truly dear to him. The Lord was astonished at the great faith which the army centurion had in Him because the army centurion had such a great faith that he knew that by the commands and power alone, the Lord could heal his servant without any doubts at all. That was why he asked the Lord that He should just merely say the word, and the servant would be healed.

And he made such a profession of faith that he humbly said before all, how he was not worthy to accept the Lord coming into his house. He made such a comment first of all because it was likely that because he was a Roman and non-Jew or Gentile, for a Jew like the Lord Jesus to enter into the house of a Gentile would be considered to be unbecoming and even terrible especially by the Jewish authorities.

That was why the army centurion did not want the Lord to come into his house, and this is also then supported by what is likely to be his own personal humility and faith as well. For a person with such a high rank like that of the centurion, and as a Roman who at that time was seen as in every way superior to the local Jewish population, for him to humble himself before everyone else showed just how great a faith and love he had for God, that he willingly threw away all pride and ego, and humbling himself in seeking the Lord.

The attitude of the army centurion can indeed be contrasted with those of the Pharisees, the elders and the teachers of the Law. The latter had seen so many of the Lord’s miracles and yet they refused to believe in the Lord. Instead, they continued to doubt Him, oppose Him and worked their hardest against Him. Compare this to the army centurion who believed in the Lord and did not even need to see or witness the miracle from the Lord directly in order to believe in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having contemplated how the Lord loves us all so much, and also on the humility and faith of the army centurion. The Lord wants us all to know how precious and dear all of us to Him, and through what we have heard in today’s passages, distinctions between Jews or Gentiles, or in any other ways that we have often classified ourselves no longer stand before Him, for every single one of us are equally beloved by God.

In this time of Advent, as we proceed through our preparations for Christmas, let us all therefore put our effort and endeavours to grow in love and faith towards the Lord, and let us strive to have the same faith as what the army centurion had, that in everything we say and do, we will always glorify God, and put Him at the very centre of our own lives, now and always.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Advent, that this time may truly be blessed and meaningful for us to be able to celebrate the true meaning and joy of Christmas. May God bless us always. Amen.

Monday, 2 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 8 : 5-11

At that time, when Jesus entered Capernaum, an army captain approached Him to ask His help, “Sir, my servant lies sick at home. He is paralysed and suffers terribly.” Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.”

The captain answered, “I am not worthy to have You under my roof. Just give an order and my boy will be healed. For I myself, a junior officer, give orders to my soldiers. And if I say to one, ‘Go!’ he goes; and if I say to another, ‘Come!’ he comes; and if I say to my servant, ‘Do this!’ he does it.”

When Jesus heard this He was astonished, and said to those who were following Him, “I tell you, I have not found such faith in Israel. I say to you, many will come from east and west and sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob at the feast in the kingdom of heaven.”

Monday, 2 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5, 6-7, 8-9

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel.

To give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls and security within your citadels!”

For the sake of my relatives and friends, I will say, “Peace be with you!” For the sake of the house of our Lord, I will pray for your good.