Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fourth and last Sunday of the season of Advent, we focus on the last of the four themes that we are focusing on this Advent, namely hope, peace, joy and love. And this Sunday therefore, we focus on the theme of love in preparation of Christmas. As we all know, love is the most important of all Christian virtues, and is in fact the very reason why we have Christmas in the first place.

For without love, there would not have been Christmas and all of its celebrations and joy. In turn, there would not have been peace on earth, or a new hope for all of us mankind, and joy would have been dimmed and out of reach for us, because God’s love has not manifested among us. But thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, the love of God has been manifested in none other than His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This has been clearly stated to us, in what the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee in one of the most well-known phrase in the entire Scriptures, from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only beloved Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.’ And this is in essence, what Christmas and all of its joy is all about, a celebration of God’s ultimate love for us.

That is why, after reflecting in the past three Sundays on the aspects of hope, peace and joy that Christmas has brought us and which we will celebrate again very soon, it is timely that on this last Sunday of Advent before the time of Christmas that we look into the very core of the Christmas celebration itself, the love of God made Man, the love of God coming to dwell among us in Christ.

And this is what the Scripture passages today have delivered to us, in the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation, beginning from the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah, in which the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah, clearly speaking of how the Messiah would come, through the sign of the Virgin bearing a Child, the One through Whom God would dwell among His people, ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God is with us’.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah and afterwards, as the people awaited for the coming of the Messiah, the true meaning of those words in the prophecy of Isaiah was not fully understood, and it was only then, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, upon a young woman and virgin betrothed to the local carpenter, Mary, the one who was destined to be the Mother of God and Saviour, that the fullness of God’s intentions was made bare to all.

The Archangel Gabriel was very clear, and he said that through the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary herself would bear the Son of God in her, God Himself incarnate in the flesh, just as St. Paul mentioned in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, as a core tenet and belief of our Christian faith, that God became flesh, assuming the full nature of our humanity and become both Son of Man, as well as Son of God.

This was what the Angel of God reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he hesitated to take Mary as his wife because she bad become pregnant before their marriage and before it was to be consummated. The Angel also made a link and reference to what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied earlier, a prophecy clearly well known to St. Joseph and all the Israelites, which right there and then was coming to its fulfilment.

And it was God’s love that made all these possible, as all of us must remember that even though we are looking forward to the coming of Christmas, but we must also not forget why Christmas exists in the first place. Christmas exists because of Easter, and all that is related to the Easter celebrations, namely the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death on the Cross and finally, His glorious Resurrection.

It was Easter that made Christmas fully meaningful and it is by understanding fully the grand scheme of God’s plan of our salvation that we can better appreciate why Christmas is so important to all of us. It is not just merely another holiday or moment to celebrate, to exchange gifts or to expect good things from one another. It is not just a time for us to have parties or good food and drink, or to shop and buy the latest apparels and paraphernalia.

Sadly, this is what many of us believe, and what many of us embrace as we think of Christmas as merely just another good time and time to relax and enjoy ourselves, forgetting the very reason why Christmas exists and why we even should be joyful in the first place. We have relegated the Lord to the least important place in our preparations and celebrations, and we have overlooked Him in Christmas.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ has given everything to all of us, as He did not even hold back giving us the ultimate gift of all, that is the gift of His very own life, when He suffered and died on the Cross, willingly enduring all those pains and sufferings, bearing our sins and the consequences for our sins, so that all of us may live and not perish, as He Himself said to Nicodemus.

And it was because of all these that we can truly rejoice in Christmas! Indeed, if not for all that Christ has gone through for our sake, there would indeed be no reason to celebrate, because by our sins and wickedness, we would have been condemned to utter annihilation and destruction, eternal suffering and pain. Instead, Christ took all the pain and suffering to Himself, and through Himself, He offered us all the Way to eternal joy and life.

If the world had forgotten the reason for Christmas and the true joy and meaning, then should it not then be a challenge for us all as Christians to remind the world? What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? I mean that we should show it in how we ourselves celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for the Christmas joy to come. It is how we then remind everyone Who it is we are truly celebrating about.

It does not mean that we should then reject everything that the world has celebrated about Christmas, but rather, we should celebrate in that manner in moderation, not to give in to excesses in all the consumeristic attitudes that are always prevalent during this season and time of the year. We should instead focus our celebrations on Christ, and the best way for us to do that, is to follow the example of Our Lord.

If God has loved us with so much love, and therefore brought us new hope, peace and joy through Christmas, then should we not then show the same love to one another? This is what in essence we need to do in our Christmas celebrations, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must celebrate the love, not the gifts; rejoice with our brothers and sisters, and not with all the glamour and bling of the occasion; love and forgive one another for anything that we have caused hurt to each other instead of being jealous or trying to outmatch each other in how we celebrate; reach out and share our joy and love rather than selfishly keeping all the joy to ourselves.

This is easier said than done, brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not then make it as an excuse then to be idle and to continue our lukewarm attitude towards Christmas. Let us all instead be beacons of light showing the path to one another, guiding each other and inspiring our fellow brethren to celebrate Christmas more meaningfully by turning ourselves once again to God’s love in Christ as the one and true focus of our Christmas festivities and celebrations.

May God continue to love us all as He has always done, and bless us all in our good endeavours, and may He help us all to prepare ourselves heart, mind and soul for the coming joy of Christmas that we may celebrate it well, and not to forget to share the love and joy we have with one another, especially with those who had no chance to celebrate. May God bless our Advent preparations for Christmas. Amen.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday 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.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 1 : 1-7

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an Apostle, called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises He foretold through His prophets in the sacred Scriptures, regarding His Son, Who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognised as the Son of God, endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead, through the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of His Name, we received grace, and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved God in Rome, called to be holy : May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday 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.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Fourth Sunday 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.”

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Offertory, Secret Prayer of the Priest, Communion and Post-Communion Prayer

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Offertory

Luke 1 : 28

Ave, Maria, gratia plena; Dominus tecum : benedicta tu in mulieribus, et benedictus Fructus ventris tui.

 

English translation

 

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the Fruit of your womb.

Secret Prayer of the Priest

Sacrificiis praesentibus, quaesumus, Domine, placatus intende : ut et devotioni nostrae proficiant et saluti. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Look with favour, we beseech You, o Lord upon these offerings here before You, that they may profit both for our devotion and for our salvation. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

Communion

Isaiah 7 : 14

Ecce, Virgo concipiet et pariet Filium : et vocabitur Nomen Ejus Emmanuel.

English translation

Behold a Virgin shall conceive, and bring forth a Son, and His Name shall be called Emmanuel.

Post-Communion Prayer

Sumptis muneribus, quaesumus, Domine : ut, cum frequentatione mysterii, crescat nostrae salutis effectus. Per Dominum nostrum Jesum Christum Filium Tuum, qui Tecum vivit et regnat in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Having received Your gifts, o Lord, we pray that the saving effect of the mystery may increase as we frequent it. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who with You lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Holy Gospel

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Sequentia Sancti Evangelii secundum Lucam – Continuation of the Holy Gospel according to St. Luke

Luke 3 : 1-6

Anno quintodecimo imperii Tiberii Caesaris, procurante Pontio Pilato Judaeam, tetrarcha autem Galilaeae Herode, Philippo autem fratre ejus tetrarcha Ituraeae et Trachonitidis regionis, et Lysania Abilinae tetrarcha, sub principibus sacerdotum Anna et Caipha : factum est verbum Domini super Joannem, Zachariae filium, in deserto.

Et venit in omnem regionem Jordanis, praedicans baptismum paenitentiae in remissionem peccatorum, sicut scriptum est in libro sermonum Isaiae Prophetae : Vox clamantis in deserto : Parate viam Domini : rectas facite semitas ejus : omnis vallis implebitur : et omnis mons et collis humiliabitur : et erunt prava in directa, et aspera in vias planas : et videbit omnis caro salutare Dei.

English translation

In the fifteenth year of the reign of the Emperor Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate as the governor of Judea, and Herod as the tetrarch of Galilee, and Philip his brother tetrarch of Iturea and the country of Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilina, under the high priests Annas and Caiaphas, the word of the Lord came to John the son of Zechariah in the desert.

And he came into all the country about the Jordan, preaching the baptism of penance for the remission of sins, as it is written in the Book of the sayings of the prophet Isaiah, “A voice of one crying in the wilderness : Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight His paths. Every valleys shall be filled, and every mountains and hills shall be brought low. The crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways plain, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.”

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Gradual and Alleluia

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Psalm 144 : 18, 21 and Tradition of the Faith

Prope est Dominus omnibus invocantibus eum : omnibus, qui invocant eum in veritate.

Response : Laudem Domini loquetur os meum : et benedicat omnis caro Nomen sanctum Ejus.

Alleluja, Alleluja.

Response : Veni, Domine, et noli tardare : relaxa facinora plebis Tuae Israel. Alleluja.

 

English translation

The Lord is nigh unto all those who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth.

Response : My mouth shall speak the praise of the Lord, and let all flesh bless His holy Name.

Alleluia, Alleluia.

Response : Come, o Lord, and do not delay, forgive the sins of Your people Israel. Alleluia.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Epistle

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Lectio Epistolae Beati Pauli Apostoli ad Corinthios – Lesson from the Epistle of Blessed Paul the Apostle to the Corinthians

1 Corinthians 4 : 1-5

Fratres : Sic nos existimet homo ut ministros Christi, et dispensatores mysteriorum Dei. Hic jam quaeritur inter dispensatores, ut fidelis quis inveniatur. Mihi autem pro minimo est, ut a vobis judicer aut ab humano die : sed neque meipsum judico.

Nihil enim mihi conscius sum : sed non in hoc justificatus sum : qui autem judicat me, Dominus est. Itaque nolite ante tempus judicare, quoadusque veniat Dominus : qui et illuminabit abscondita tenebrarum, et manifestabit consilia cordium : et tunc laus erit unicuique a Deo.

 

English translation

Brethren, let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ, and the dispensers of the mysteries of God. Here now it is required among the dispensers, that a man be found faithful. But to me it is a very small thing to be judged by you, or by man’s day, but neither do I judge my own self.

For I am not conscious to myself of anything, yet am I not hereby justified, but He Who judges me is the Lord. Therefore, do not judge before the time, until the Lord comes, Who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts, and then shall every man have praise from God.

(Usus Antiquior) Fourth Sunday of Advent (I Classis) – Sunday, 22 December 2019 : Introit and Collect

Liturgical Colour : Violet

Introit

Isaiah 45 : 8 and Psalm 18 : 2

Rorate, caeli, desuper, et nubes pluant justum : aperiatur terra, et germinet Salvatorem.

Caeli enarrant gloriam Dei : et opera manuum Ejus annuntiat firmamentum.

Response : Gloria Patri et Filio et Spiritui Sancto, sicut erat in principio, et nunc, et semper : et in saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Drop down dew, you heavens, from above, and let the clouds rain on the just, let te earth be opened and bud forth a Saviour.

The heavens show forth the glory of God, and the firmament declares the work of His Hands.

Response : Glory be to the Father and to the Son and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen.

Collect

Excita, quaesumus, Domine, potentiam Tuam, et veni : et magna nobis virtute succurre; ut per auxilium gratiae Tuae, quod nostra peccata praepediunt, indulgentiae Tuae propitiationis acceleret : Qui Vivis et regnas in unitate Spiritus Sancti Deus, per omnia saecula saeculorum. Amen.

English translation

Bestir, o Lord, Your might, we beseech You, and come, and with great power come to our aid, that, by the help of Your grace, that which is hindered by our sins may be hastened by Your merciful forgiveness. You Who lives and reigns in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, world without end. Amen.