Sunday, 29 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 13-15, 19-23

After the wise men had left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where He stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : I called My Son out of Egypt.

After Herod’s death, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the Child are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother and went to the land of Israel.

But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. Joseph was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way, what was said by the prophets was fulfilled : He shall be called a Nazorean.

Sunday, 29 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 3 : 12-21

Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of Him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful. Let the Word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom. With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise.

And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that pleases the Lord. Parents, do not be too demanding of your children, lest they become discouraged.

Sunday, 29 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Sunday, 29 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 3 : 3-7, 14-17a (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 3 : 2-6, 12-14)

For the Lord established that children should respect their father; He confirmed the right of the mother over her children. Whoever honours his father atones for his sins; he who gives glory to his mother prepares a treasure for himself.

Whoever honours his father will receive joy from his own children and will be heard when he prays. Whoever glorifies his father will have a long life. Whoever obeys the Lord gives comfort to his mother.

My child, take care of your father in his old age, do not cause him sorrow as long as he lives. Even if he has lost his mind, have patience; do not be disrespectful to him while you are in full health. For kindness done to one’s father will never be forgotten, it will serve as reparation for your sins.

Saturday, 28 December 2019 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Innocents, the innocent martyrs of the time of the Lord’s coming into the world, those children below the age of two years old in the town of Bethlehem, the place where the Lord was born over two millennia ago according to the prophets. Those children were killed by the order of the king of Judea and Galilee then, king Herod the Great.

King Herod heard of the star that appeared over the town of Bethlehem from the three Magi who was on their way to find the star, and the king asked his advisors and the priests on the matter, who confirmed with him how the signs all pointed out to the coming of the Messiah prophesied in the Scriptures and the Torah, as the prophets had all proclaimed Him and spoke of the time and circumstances of His coming.

King Herod became afraid of the news of the coming of this Messiah, Whom the Jews believed to be the descendant and therefore Heir of king David of Israel, the once powerful and mighty King who ruled over all the people of Israel. According to the prophecies, the Messiah would restore Israel and rule over David’s kingdom and sit on his throne as his rightful Heir, and God would make His reign forever secure.

Instead of welcoming the coming of the Lord and True King of all as prophesied, king Herod succumbed to his fear, his anger, his jealousy, his desires and greed, his hubris and ambition, as he was often known for, and sought to destroy this King before He could become a threat to his own power and kingdom. That was why he sent the troops to destroy the King, ordering them to kill all infants and newborns aged two and below.

For us to understand even more clearly in context of what happened, we must also know that king Herod himself was a usurper of the righteous king, who before king Herod’s ascent to power, was the Hasmonean kings of Judea, the descendants of the Biblical Maccabees. The Maccabees as described in the Book of Maccabees led the rebellion against the tyranny of the Greek Seleucid kings and eventually won independence for the Jewish nation, and their descendants eventually became kings.

King Herod belonged to the Idumean people, a non-Jew himself, coming from the desert regions bordering both Judea and Arabia. He came to power by riding on the coattails of the Roman Republic, who under one of its generals, Pompey the Great, came to conquer the provinces and territories of Syria, and eventually, through political manoeuvres, overthrew the Hasmonean kings, and the reign of king Herod the Great was established.

Thus, all these historical facts coupled with the many grandiose projects king Herod undertook, such as the rebuilding and expansion of the Second Temple of Jerusalem, expansion of the city of Jerusalem itself and building of new cities such as Caesarea and also buildings named in his own honour like the Herodion, showed how insecure king Herod was, and how much he desired power, glory, fame and worldly honour.

That was why, he acted in such an evil and wicked manner, to preserve and protect himself from his supposed ‘Enemy’, the King Who was to come and born in Bethlehem, by killing all the innocent children hoping that this King would be killed alongside the other children, without any regards for the sanctity of human life and just how wicked that action had been in the eyes of God and men alike.

Then we may also be wondering, why God allowed such a great tragedy to happen? Why did He allow the innocent children to be slaughtered? Surely He could have done something to prevent it? But this is where then we must understand that while God is all powerful and mighty, He also gave us all, each and every one of us free will and the freedom to choose what we are to do with our own lives.

King Herod chose freely of his own free will to commit such a heinous and evil action, and his abuse of the freedom that God has granted him, the authority and power entrusted to him therefore is the culprit behind the evil deeds and all the sufferings suffered by the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem and their families. This is a classic example of how power and earthly glory can corrupt and lead us into sin, if we allow them to overcome us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the tragedy of the Holy Innocents of Bethlehem was not the only tragedy that happened in this world. So many wars, conflicts and all sorts of actions had happened throughout the history of mankind and civilisation, because men chose to abuse the freedom and the privileges given to them by God, misusing the power and authority entrusted to them to satisfy their own needs over the sufferings of others.

And we ourselves may also be to blame for this, as surely at some point in our lives we have also acted in manner that cause others to suffer for the sake of our happiness and enjoyment. If we want to blame or look down on King Herod for having committed such a terrible evil and crime, perhaps we may want to look at ourselves first before that. Have we ourselves lived worthily in our faith? Have we acted in ways that bring glory to God and happiness to everyone and not just to ourselves?

Let us all reflect on this even as we rejoice in this joyful Christmas season. Let us seek to make our Christmas celebrations meaningful and filled with the true joy of Christ and not the fleeting joy and greed of the world, the same greed and desire that brought king Herod and so many other sons and daughters of mankind into sin. Let us all turn away from excessive attachments to worldly pleasures and desires, especially in this Christmas time and season, putting our focus and attention back on the Lord, our God and Saviour.

May God be with us always and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our faith, so that we may resist the temptations of pride, greed, hubris, ambition, and all the things that often led us to sin, to manipulation and the harming of others. May God bless our Church and the world today, that true faith in God may triumph over the greed of mankind. Amen.