Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my Hope; my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

I will come to Your strength, o YHVH, and announce Your justice, Yours alone. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Judges 13 : 2-7, 24-25a

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of YHVH appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son.”

“Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of YHVH from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to YHVH. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”

The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an Angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name.” “But he said to me : ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death.’”

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and YHVH blessed him. Then the Spirit of YHVH began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (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 speaking to us about the coming of the Lord’s salvation and the hope which all of us have received in sharing that joy the Lord has promised to His people. We heard first of all from our first reading, how the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the time of the coming of God’s day of salvation when He would send to His people the Saviour and Deliverer.

And if we understand the context and condition upon which the words and prophecy of Jeremiah was delivered, we will appreciate even better and more of how significant this promise of the Lord was to the people to whom Jeremiah had delivered the words of the Lord. At that time, when the prophet Jeremiah performed his ministry, the southern kingdom of Judah was in its very last throes of its existence.

The great empire of Babylonia was threatening the existence of Judah, having destroyed the earlier empire of Assyria who had in turn destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel over a century prior and brought most of the northern tribes of Israel into exile in far-off lands. Babylonia had conquered Assyria and all other smaller nations, and it was just some time before it would crush Judah and conquer Jerusalem.

Yet, despite all their troubles and trials, caused by their disobedience against God, the people of Judah still continued to sin and disobey God, and they did not put their trust in Him. They mocked and rejected Jeremiah, and made him to suffer if we read on through the rest of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah. Nonetheless, as we heard from what the prophet spoke of in today’s first reading, God still loved His people despite all that they have done.

He was still faithful to the Covenant that He has made with them and with their ancestors, a Covenant that He constantly renewed again and again, as the prophet Jeremiah mentioned how God saved His people during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, when by His great power and through the Ten Plagues and other miracles, God brought His entire people Israel out of their slavery in Egypt under the Pharaohs.

And Jeremiah mentioned how God would no longer be remembered as the One Who saved His people from the Egyptians and their slavery, for He would save them yet once again, out of their then present predicament and problems, mentioning how God would remember His people and bring them back into the lands that once belonged to their ancestors, mentioning the northern kingdom of Israel in that same prophecy.

This was a prophecy of what was to come, that although Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed because the people continued to sin and lead wicked lives in opposition to God, but God would still lead them to freedom as He has once done before because truly, He loved them all very much. And that promise and prophecy would indeed come to fulfilment many decades later, when King Cyrus of Persia freed the descendants of Israel and allowed them to return to their homeland.

And now, all of us have known how God had yet done another even more wonderful act in saving His people, and this time it is not just the children of Israel that God has saved, but indeed, all of mankind, for God has extended His salvation to all the peoples, of all the nations and of all the races, through none other than His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Whom He had sent into this world to be our Saviour.

It was what the Lord reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he was reluctant to take Mary to be his wife when he heard that Mary somehow had become pregnant with a Son. The Lord reassured St. Joseph that Mary was pregnant with the Child Who was to become the Saviour of all, God’s own Son Whom He had sent into this world to be the One by Whose hands, not just the sons and daughters of Israel, but all the children of mankind would be saved.

Thus, the Lord would then be known not just as God Who saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and neither would He be known as the One Who freed the Israelites from the exile in Babylon, but forevermore, by His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, He would be known as the Ever Loving God, full of compassion and love for His children and all of us, His beloved people, that He was willing to endure the full burden of the Cross for the sake of our salvation.

It is indeed timely that we are all reminded of all these wonderful loving acts of God just within a week from Christmas, so that each and every one of us may remember what is all of our Christmas preparations and celebrations are for, and how we should put the Lord, Our Saviour at the very centre and focus of all of our wonderful joy and festivities this Christmas. If we have not done that yet, it is not yet too late for us to reorientate ourselves now.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as today’s Scripture passages have reminded us all of how loving and compassionate God has been to us, that in Christmas He has given us all the wonderful and most perfect gift of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us all dedicate ourselves to God and His love for us, and make our upcoming Christmas celebration truly meaningful. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 18-24

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit. Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to disgrace her.

While he was pondering over this, an Angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife, she has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ fo He will save His people from their sins.”

All this happened in order to fulfil what the Lord had said through the prophet : The Virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be called Emmanuel, which means : God-with-us. When Joseph awoke, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 2, 12-13, 18-19

God, endow the King with Your justice, the royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

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 lives of the poor.

Praised be YHVH, God of Israel, Who alone, works so marvellously. Praised be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 23 : 5-8

YHVH further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a King Who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called YHVH-Our-Justice!”

“The days are coming,” says YHVH, “when people shall no longer swear by YHVH as the Living God Who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they will swear by YHVH as the Living God Who restored the descendants of Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where He had driven them, to live again in their own land!”