Wednesday, 1 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are presented with the accounts of God’s love and presence, His providence and genuine care for each one of us. God has reminded us all of this fact as we embark on this Advent journey, preparing ourselves in our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into our existence and lives. Thus, we are all called to renew our love for Him and our faith in Him, remembering just how much He has loved us first.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which we heard how God promised His people through Isaiah that He will always provide for them and that He will bring about His salvation and eternal happiness to those whom He loves. He will gather them all from among the nations and bless them, where they shall have no more fear and doubt, as they enter into the kingdom that God has prepared for all of them. This is the assurance that the Lord had given to all of us.

At that time, the prophet Isaiah was ministering to the people of the kingdom of Judah, who had suffered for a long time under oppression and wars from their neighbours and other great powers. The old days of great glory of the kingdom of David and Solomon were long gone, and their very existence as a nation and people was under a great threat, just as how the northern kingdom of Israel, composed of the ten separated tribes oft the Israelites, had been crushed and destroyed by the Assyrians.

The same Assyrians also almost did the same to the kingdom of Judah, having brought their full might to Jerusalem, besieging it and almost conquering it if not for the Lord’s most gracious intervention. The Lord listened to the prayers of his faithful, the king of Judah, Isaiah, who himself was also there and the people of Judah, sending His Angel to wipe out the entire mighty army of the Assyrian king overnight. Thus, God saved His people and provided for their need at the hour of their greatest need, showing His love and dedication to us.

In today’s Gospel passage we then heard of the works of the Lord Jesus, Our Saviour, Who had been sent into this world to be the bearer of our salvation. The Lord Jesus healed many people and performed many wonders, and He taught the people with such authority, bringing them message of the Good News and the salvation in God, that many flocked to Him, in the thousands and more even though He was doing His works in the wilderness far from the cities and towns, because of the opposition from the Jewish leaders.

And it was also there that the Lord performed one of His most well known miracles, when He fed the multitudes of people gathered there, with just a few loaves of bread, seven of them, and a few small fishes. There were thousands of people over there, and that have not even counted the women and children that came along as well. The Lord again showed us all His love and providence, in caring for the needs of those who have sought Him and wanted to be with Him. He blessed them, gave them food and nourishment, breaking the bread and miraculously giving them enough food to satisfy the whole multitude.

This is part of the fulfilment of what we have heard earlier on from the passage of the prophet Isaiah, of God fulfilling His promise to provide for the needs of His beloved ones. And yet, this was not the only thing that God would about to give us. He did not just feed His people with food and make them physically nourished and satisfied, but even more importantly, He gave them spiritual nourishment and provision through His Good News and truth. And that is just a foretaste of what all of us shall receive in the end, in the everlasting kingdom of glory, the heavenly joy that the saints and martyrs already enjoys in their beatific vision and graceful state.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we listened to these words of the Scriptures, and as we are reminded of the love and faithfulness of God that He has shown to us all these while. The Lord has provided for us and He is always ever concerned about us, and wanting to gather us all into His loving presence. But more often than not, we are really very stubborn in refusing to listen to Him and obey Him. We prefer to follow our own paths and trust in our own flawed judgments without contemplating God’s Wisdom and guidance.

Nowadays, all of us are faced with many tough challenges and trials in life. This year and the past year we have faced a lot of uncertainties and many among us had experienced suffering and even loss of our loved ones due to the impact of this still ongoing pandemic, not withstanding its impacts on the economy and our society. Many among us face depression and many are struggling on daily basis, with the end of suffering nowhere in sight yet. Many of us are worried if our livelihood will be alright and if tomorrow will be good for us. This is where we need to have more trust in the Lord, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Let us not doubt God’s providence any longer. He has always been with us from the very beginning and all throughout our darkest moments. But we are often too busy and too distracted by our many fears, concerns, insecurities and doubts that we ended up not realising that God has been with us, journeying with us and providing us all that we need along our journey. He sent us our fellow brethren whom we meet along the way to encourage us and strengthen us, and that is often how God works wonders in His most mysterious ways.

Therefore, all of us are called and challenged to be loving Christians in our every actions and in our every interactions with one another. We are all called to bring hope to each other, to strengthen and accompany one another, especially those who are depressed and downtrodden, all those who had no one to cheer them up and to journey with them. Let us all do whatever we can to remind each other that God is always by our side, and through each one of us, He has also shown His companionship and love, through how we as Christians care for our fellow brethren in need.

Let this Advent season be a time of reminder for each one of us that we prepare ourselves not just to celebrate Christmas but also to truly welcome the Lord into our hearts, by devoting our time, effort and attention to live a most wholesome and genuine Christian life, for each and every one of us to do whatever we can to serve the Lord, and to be faithful and obedient to Him, at all times. May God be with us all and may He strengthen us in faith, and give us the gift of Hope and Wisdom, that we will always stay faithful to His path, always. Amen.

Wednesday, 1 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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, 1 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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, 1 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great Apostles of Our Lord, one of the Twelve Apostles and in fact the first one among them to be called, that is St. Andrew the Apostle, the brother of Simon, who was later known as St. Peter the Apostle, leader of all the Apostles and the Church. St. Andrew was according to the tradition, one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of his disciples that decided to follow the Lord right after He was baptised at the Jordan.

As such, he was the first one of the Apostles to be called and to respond to that call, which is why he is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called. Through him, he likely introduced his brother Simon, the later St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee to the Lord. They were all fishermen at the Lake of Galilee where they worked and laboured every day. The Lord came by there after His baptism and preparation in the desert, calling the first of His disciples to follow Him.

As one of the Twelve Apostles, St. Andrew was a close confidant of the Lord and was present in much of the Lord’s works and ministry, and he was also present at the most important events in the work of God’s salvation. Receiving the Holy Spirit together with the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, he was empowered and strengthened to carry out the mission entrusted to him and many others to spread the Good News of God to all the nations and peoples.

According to Church tradition and history, St. Andrew went to far-off regions including the area around the Black Sea and the Caucasus, in what is today Ukraine and Crimean region, spreading the Christian faith and the Good News of God to places as far as the northern reaches of Russia. He also went to Greece and other places in the vicinity, helping to build the foundation of the Church in those places. By tradition, during his journey, he also established the foundation of the present day See of Constantinople, then known as Byzantium at the crossroads of Europe and Asia.

That is why St. Andrew is regarded as the Apostolic origin of the current Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, the second most important See in Christendom and also the leader of our separated brethren in the Eastern Orthodox communion. St. Andrew meanwhile was arrested and martyred in the city of Patras in the Peloponnesus region of Greece, for his perseverance in evangelisation and preaching the Good News among the pagans and many people. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross which is now popularly known as St. Andrew’s cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we recall the life, work and ministry, the faith and dedication showed by St. Andrew in his mission and life today on his feast day, in fact all of us are also called to reflect on our own lives and our own mission that has been entrusted to each one of us as fellow disciples of Christ. What St. Andrew had done in his life and ministry is part of the greater works and efforts of the Lord through His Church to bring His truth, salvation and Good News to more and more people, and this work is still far from being done.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord has called His disciples and Apostles from various backgrounds, empowered them and gave them the mission to evangelise the Good News, then through our baptism we too have been called to be missionaries of our faith, the faith that we have in the Lord and which we are all called to share with zeal and conviction, and with genuine desire for the salvation of souls and for the love of our fellow brothers and sisters. Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to make the commitment to follow the Lord and to do His will in our daily lives?

St. Paul in our first reading today in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Rome spoke of are reminded of the faith we have in the Lord and the salvation and wonders that we have received with full assurance from Him. And he reminded us all, the faithful that those who bring with them the message of God’s Good News and truth will be blessed, and God’s grace will be with them. It means that despite the trials and challenges that we may face in our journey as Christians and despite the obstacles we may encounter in our mission as faithful servants of God, we must not be easily disheartened by setbacks and sufferings.

God will be with us and He will be by our side, providing for us and our needs, and even if we suffer, we suffer together with Him, He Who Himself has been persecuted for the truth, and Who had suffered and died for our sake. We do not need to be afraid and be hesitant to stand up to our Christian faith and beliefs, and instead we should inspire one another not just with words, but through genuine actions and commitment in our daily living. After all, it is not by our own power and might that we do the work of God successfully, but God Who empowers us to be His instruments in this world.

Let us all entrust ourselves to the Lord and His providence, and remembering the faith and courage with which St. Andrew, Holy Apostle of Our Lord has laboured hard for the glory of God and for the salvation of all His people, may all of us be inspired to follow in his footsteps and be ever more committed to live our every moment with genuine and devout Christian faith. Let us all make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves wholly, to be worthy to welcome the Lord into our midst, from now on and always. Amen.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 4 : 18-22

At that time, as Jesus walked by the lake of Galilee, He saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. He said to them, “Come, follow Me; and I will make you fish for people.”

At once they left their nets and followed Him. He went on from there and saw two other brothers, James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John, in a boat with their father Zebedee, mending their nets. Jesus called them.

At once, they left the boat, and their father, and followed Him.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 18 : 2-3, 4-5

The heavens declare the glory of God; the firmament proclaims the work of His hands. Day talks it over with day; night hands on the knowledge to night.

No speech, no words, no voice is heard – but the call goes on, throughout the universe, the message is felt to the ends of the earth.

Tuesday, 30 November 2021 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Romans 10 : 9-18

You are saved, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord, and, in your heart, you believe that God raised Him from the dead. By believing from the heart, you obtain true righteousness; by confessing the faith with your lips, you are saved.

For Scripture says : No one who believes in Him will be ashamed. Here, there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; all have the same Lord, Who is very generous with whoever calls on Him. Truly, all who call upon the Name of the Lord will be saved.

But how can they call upon the Name of the Lord without having believed in Him? And how can they believe in Him, without having first heard about Him? And how will they hear about Him, if no one preaches about Him? And how will they preach about Him, if no one sends them?

As Scripture says : How beautiful are the feet of the messenger of Good News. Although, not everyone obeyed the Good News, as Isaiah said : Lord, who has believed in our preaching? So, faith comes from preaching, and preaching is rooted in the word of Christ.

I ask : Have the Jews not heard? But, of course, they have. Because the voice of those preaching resounded all over the earth, and their voice was heard, to the ends of the world.

Monday, 29 November 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures, we are all reminded to have faith in the Lord, in Whom alone is our salvation and glory, and through Whom we shall receive true happiness and joy, true satisfaction and fulfilment, for the Lord is our Hope and our Light, the Light of our salvation and our redemption. As we enter into this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on this truth and redirect our attention to the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King.

Today in our first reading we heard from the passage in the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which the Lord spoke to Isaiah regarding the coming of God and His salvation to His people, Israel and all the nations, in the vision that He has given to Isaiah, then a prophet working in the kingdom of Judah. At that time, the land of Judah was in turmoil and far from its past glory days during the glorious reigns of King David and King Solomon. The northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed by the Assyrians and their king, and its cities destroyed, its population mostly brought away into exile in far-off land.

Then the kingdom of Judah was also attacked by the same Assyrians, just as they had endured centuries of humiliation and hardships under attack from their neighbours and other great powers of the region. The kingdom and people of Judah themselves would later on be crushed by the Babylonians over a century after the time of the prophet Isaiah, due to their continued disobedience of God and refusal to repent from their sinful ways. But as we heard from the words of the Scriptures today, that despite all these, God actually still loved His people.

He loves all of us and although we are sinners, He does not despise us, but rather our many sins. The fact that He still sent His prophets, messengers and many others to His people, including that of Isaiah and speaking the words that we have heard today, the promises of the coming of God’s glory and kingdom, the coming of His salvation and days of rule over all the nations are proof enough that God cares for all of us, without exception. Had He despised all of us, He could have erased us all from existence and condemned us all immediately into hell without giving any of us a chance for repentance and forgiveness.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is an important truth that we must realise as we enter into this holy season and time of Advent, a time for purification and reorientation of our lives, a time for discernment and self-introspection that we may find our path in life going forward, ever closer to God. We must have faith in Him and hold on fast to that hope and faith that we have in Him, and believe that in God alone is our salvation, and that He alone is our Hope and our desire, through our repentance and the forgiveness of our many sins.

In our Gospel passage today that we have heard earlier on, we should be inspired by the faith of the army centurion or the officer whom the Lord met in His way. The army centurion had heard about the Lord and His miracles and power, and being an army officer, he likely must have been a Roman, whom as an officer was an even more prestigious member of the community. As a high-ranking persona, he had no need to humble himself, and yet that was exactly what he did before the Lord and everyone.

He asked the Lord to heal his beloved servant, who was very sick to the point of death, and he believed wholeheartedly that the Lord has the power to heal his servant. His faith was such that he did not need to see or witness the Lord performing the healing, and humbling himself before the Lord by saying that he was unworthy to welcome the Lord in his house, likely due to the common belief among the Jews at the time that one should not enter the house of a Gentile or risk becoming impure, the army officer asked the Lord to say and to command that everything is to be as He said.

This was a genuine faith that the army centurion had in the Lord, believing without even seeing the action, as compared to many of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who had seen many of the miracles and yet, still refused to believe and stubbornly opposing the Lord and His works. The Lord then praised his faith and commanded that everything be as He said, and true enough, later on the army centurion’s servant was healed, and it was likely that after this, the army centurion’s faith in the Lord became even firmer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to have the same faith as showed by the army centurion? Are we willing and able to commit ourselves to the Lord wholeheartedly in the same way, to believe in Him and the Hope that He has brought unto us, and not be distracted by the many temptations found in this world? We are all challenged to have deeper faith in the Lord and to discern our path in life as we enter this blessed season of Advent, so that we may truly be ready to welcome the Lord, not just for Christmas, but for the time when He comes again one day, to claim us all as His own.

Let us all make our Advent season to be a blessed and most fruitful one, by committing ourselves anew to Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the perfect manifestation of God’s Love in our midst. Let us seek the Lord wholeheartedly and sincerely repent from our sinful ways, abandoning our wicked and evil ways and desires, turning away from those and be reconciled with our most loving God and Father. May God bless us always and may He remain with us, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 29 November 2021 : 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.”