Friday, 20 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 reminding us all of the wonderful gift of God this Christmas, which is a reminder of just how loving God has been and how wonderful His love that He sent us His own Son as our Saviour and the One to deliver us all from our fated destruction. The Lord gave us all the ultimate and best gift of all, that by His coming into this world we may have hope and joy once again.

In our first reading today, we heard of the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah in which the prophet Isaiah asked the king to ask for a sign from God, as Ahaz was not a firm believer in God, leading a life of sin and disobedience against God. But Ahaz demurred and refused to ask for a sign from God, which in fact was not due to his humility by rather because he did not have enough faith in God.

The prophet Isaiah then proclaimed the famous prophecy declaring how the Messiah would come through a woman, and this Saviour would be known as Emmanuel, or ‘God is with us’, a prophecy of what God would do for the sake of His people, as fulfilled finally in our Gospel passage today, in the accounts of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary proclaiming that she would be the very woman whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken about.

Mary heard how she would become the Mother of God, as the Child she was to bear in her would be known as the Son of God Most High, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all. This was how God fulfilled the prophecy of the Emmanuel, for God has Himself come down to dwell in our midst, in the flesh by His divine incarnation, through Mary, His mother, that He became Son of God and Son of Man alike, two natures, fully divine and fully human each, perfectly united in the person of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.

Mary obeyed the Lord and allowed Him to fulfil His promised works through her, and for nine months thus she bore within her the Saviour of the world. If we contrast this with what we heard in our first reading today, in the lack of faith shown by King Ahaz of Judah, we can see how Mary on the other hand had such a great faith in God that she responded so wholeheartedly in accepting God’s will for her.

This is a reminder to all of us as Christians, how we all need to follow the example of Mary in her faith in our own lives. Mary is our role model in how she dedicated herself and her entire life to the purposes of God, showing us all what it truly means for us to be Christians. Are we able to walk the path that Mary has walked as we journey along in faith with God? And especially since Christmas is rapidly approaching us, we need to ask ourselves, how have we prepared ourselves to celebrate it?

Are we going to be like Ahaz in our attitude, in lacking the faith and in immersing ourselves in worldly pleasures and revelries commonly associated with Christmas? We can see just how prevalent excessive consumerism and materialism are in our Christmas celebrations, where everyone’s concerns are about satisfying themselves and their desires, their wants for more glamour and seeking more glory for themselves.

Ironically, the One Whom we ought to be celebrating has been forgotten and sidelined, the Child promised by God through His prophets including that of Isaiah as mentioned in our first reading today, conceived and born through Mary, His mother. This is why many of us have fallen deeper and deeper into sin, and further and further away from God and His path, precisely because God is no longer at the centre of our lives and existence.

If God is not within our hearts or if we have sidelined Him for other, worldly pursuits in life, then are we not just like Ahaz, who preferred to remain as he was, seeking worldly justification and not following the path of the Lord, leading his people into sin? We should instead be inspired by Mary, the Mother of God as I have just mentioned earlier, in her good examples of faith and dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that Christmas is just less than a week away, are we able to say ‘yes’ to the Lord calling on us to be faithful to Him and to follow Him on the path that He will show us? Are we able to centre ourselves and our existence once again upon Him, entrusting ourselves to His providence and love? Let us all spend some time from now until Christmas, to prepare ourselves well so that we may indeed worthily celebrate Christmas with true meaning, intention and purpose.

May God be with us in this journey of faith, and may He bless us all in our good endeavours and works, and may He provide us with the courage and strength to walk faithfully ever in His presence, and help us in our moments of weakness and struggles in life, that we will always be firm in our conviction to love Him at all times. Amen.

Friday, 20 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Friday, 20 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Friday, 20 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 7 : 10-14

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.”

Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we progress closer through the last one week just before Christmas, we are being reminded yet again of the great works and wonders of God’s salvation as we heard in our Scripture passages of the stories of two of His great servants whom He has sent into this world to bring forth the salvation and the good promises that He has given them.

In our first reading today from the Book of Judges we heard the story of the Judge Samson, the one who was renowned for his great and mighty strength, that God sent to His people when they were oppressed and overcome by the strength of the Philistines. Samson was sent to free the people of Israel from the tyranny of the Philistines, and by his great might, he led the Israelites to great triumphs against the forces of the Philistines.

Meanwhile in our Gospel passage we heard of the coming of St. John the Baptist, another great servant of God whom He sent just ahead of the coming of His Saviour or Messiah, His own Son Whom He sent into the world in order to be the Saviour of all. St. John the Baptist also had a very important role, as he prepared the hearts and minds of many to welcome the Lord into their midst, calling them to repentance.

Both Samson the Judge and also St. John the Baptist were those who have been dedicated to God and offered as what was called the Nazirites, those who lived solely for the purpose of obeying God and His commands, dedicating their lives to God. That was why St. John the Baptist and Samson both kept their hair long and lived in the wild, as what the Nazirites commonly did, not touching any alcoholic beverages and devoting themselves to God.

Through these two faithful servants of God all of us are again reminded of the One Whom we truly celebrate about this Christmas, that is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and not the false celebrations of merrymaking, excessive partying and revelries, or of expensive and glamorous Christmas gifts and celebrations, Santa Claus and all forms of the over-hyped secular celebrations of Christmas that are often plenty all around us this time of the year.

The two servants of God, Samson and St. John the Baptist also remind us that being disciples of the Lord is not an easy task, as both of them suffered and died a holy defender of faith each. Samson was tricked by a woman sent by the Philistines to tempt him and in the end, he was captured, blinded and humiliated by the Philistines. But Samson remained faithful and he prayed to God to give him one last burst of strength to defeat the enemies, and he brought down the whole place with him and many hundreds of the enemies of the Lord.

The faith of St. John the Baptist was also exemplary, as he spoke firmly and courageously against the wickedness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and also against the adulterous behaviour of king Herod of Galilee, which ended up with him being imprisoned. Eventually, by the wicked act and will of Herodias, the woman whom king Herod was in adultery with, St. John the Baptist was beheaded in prison, remaining faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we recall the good and faithful lives of the judge Samson and also St. John the Baptist, how are we doing with our own lives as God’s followers and servants? The two holy predecessors of ours have dedicated their lives to God, even through trials and difficulties to the very end. Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the same way that they had done with their lives?

We are all called to centre our lives, all of our efforts and works on God from now on. And let us begin by remembering the focus of our upcoming Christmas celebrations. If we have been too engrossed in our preparations for all the merrymaking and joyful celebrations, then let us all put Christ in the middle of all of our joys, so that our happiness and joyful celebrations is not for our sake alone, but rather to rejoice because God has loved us all so much that He has given us His Son, to be our Lord and Saviour.

May God bless us all now and always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith, that we may faithfully walk in His path, inspired by the examples set by His servants, Samson and St. John the Baptist. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.