Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great saints of God, one of His most faithful and dedicated servants in delivering the truth of the Gospel and the Good News of God’s salvation to the far-off lands, spending much of his life, his time and effort to spread the Word of God in many distant shores, enduring trials and challenges for the sake of the Lord, and for the many people to whom he had endeavoured to bring God’s truth, light and hope.

St. Francis Xavier was born in the Kingdom of Navarre in the early sixteenth century, at the town of Javier, then known as Xavier, which was to become part of his name. He was born as a son of the seneschal or court official of the Xavier castle, and his family became embroiled in the war of conquest that the king of Aragon and Castile waged for the control over the dominion of Navarre. It was at that same war that St. Ignatius of Loyola experienced his life-changing conversion which led to him later on establishing the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, which St. Francis Xavier himself would later join.

St. Francis Xavier encountered St. Ignatius of Loyola and another future Jesuit saint, St. Peter Faber during his studies in Paris. It was there that St. Ignatius of Loyola, who had gathered ideas to establish a new order dedicated to serving the Lord and His Church, persuaded St. Peter Faber to become a priest. However, St. Francis Xavier was initially not convinced by what St. Ignatius of Loyola had told him, as he was still considering and desiring worldly advancement and glory, something that St. Ignatius of Loyola himself was once longing for.

Eventually, according to one tradition, after St. Ignatius of Loyola asked him, in the words of the Lord Himself, ‘What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’, these words left a great impact on St. Francis Xavier. He eventually decided to join with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Faber and some other men to establish the Society of Jesus, vowing chastity, poverty, and obedience to the Pope, committing themselves to the missions of the Church. The Jesuits were involved deeply in the Counter Reformation efforts in Christendom and also in the missionary efforts to the newly discovered foreign lands in the Americas, Africa and the Far East.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those tasked with the mission in the newly discovered lands, as he was sent along with Portuguese explorers upon the request of their ruler, who was concerned that the Christian faith was being eroded among them. He was therefore sent to the mission, and he never returned to the lands that he came from. He spent most of his life in those territories, travelling from places to places, preaching about God among the Christian populace who were already there and also revealing Him to many others who have not known Him yet.

He travelled the long journey to India, to Malacca and explored the Malayan Archipelago, visiting many islands and communities, braving through storms and dangers along the journey, in very tough living conditions. He had to learn the local languages and brave through opposition from the local populace among many other hardships, but all of that did not discourage St. Francis Xavier from doing his best to serve the Lord and His people, committing himself to more and more efforts at evangelisation and outreach.

He went further to Japan and other far-flung islands, helping to establish the foothold for the Christian faith and Church in all those places. He worked tirelessly in explaining the faith to the local people and was involved in establishing diplomatic relationships with the local rulers. St. Francis Xavier also wished to go to China, his ultimate destination to evangelise to that great nation, but he did not make it as while waiting to enter China at Shangchuan Island he passed away. Nonetheless, his efforts and determination had helped the cause and the works of the Church greatly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the life story and works of St. Francis Xavier, surely we know why he was made the Patron Saint of Missions, for all missionaries and all those who dedicated themselves to the great works of the Church’s evangelisation and outreach. But even more important as we recall his great works and contributions, is the need for us to remember that each and every one of us are also called to be missionaries and to contribute to the great work and effort of the Church in whatever way we can.

We are not just mere idle players that have no part in the works of mission of the Church. And we should not think that only missionaries, priests, religious brothers and sisters that are involved in the works of evangelisation and the work of the Church. All of us, each and every one of us are part of this work of evangelisation even through the very smallest things we do and act on in our respective lives. And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is through our own commitment throughout life.

In even the smallest things we do on each day, each and every one of us should live our lives in manner as Christian-like as possible, and we must really live our lives in accordance to the path that Our Lord has shown us, through His teachings and truth. That is how we make others to come to know God. It is not by mere words that we can convince others to believe in God but also through our real action, as we heard in our Scripture passages today and from the life and example of St. Francis Xavier, our holy patron of missions.

May the Lord be with us all and may He encourage us all to live our lives as faithful Christians so that we may be great missionaries in our everyday living moments. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Thursday, 2 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 all reminded that we must place our faith and hope in the Lord, and in Him alone. We should not easily be distracted by temptations and by fear to abandon God for other false idols and other false assurances of this world. Through what we have heard today we are again reminded that despite all the challenges that we face in this life, we can always put our trust in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke to His people through Isaiah regarding the Lord’s providence and glory, all that He has done for His beloved ones and how He has trampled on the mighty and the proud, all those who have disobeyed Him and oppressed His people. And He spoke of these things not based on mere words alone, but He Himself has shown it with real actions throughout history.

God has showed His power to the people of Israel, long before the days of Isaiah, as we all knew, how He liberated the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, how He delivered them from their slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them out free through ten great plagues that He sent to Egypt for their constant stubborn refusal to let the people of God go. And surely we all also know of the story how God opened the Red Sea and made His people walk on the dry seabed and crushed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent after them.

God has always guided His people throughout history despite their history of constant disobedience and rebellions against Him, by sending His servants, the Judges and the leaders and messengers that He had given His people to lead and guide them all to Him, to help them to live righteously according to the Law that He had given and revealed to them, and the Covenant that He had made with them. He has remained faithful and committed to His Covenant and sent them messengers and prophets to remind His people to do the same.

Then, during the time of the prophet Isaiah himself, God has shown His love and providence for His people yet again. The forces of the Assyrians and their king, which had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as the Arameans and other great nations that had troubled the people of God for a long time, came to Jerusalem and other cities of Judah, besieging them with such a mighty force that there could not have been anything for them to do but to be defeated or to surrender.

Yet, while previously the people had depended on other means, on alliances and other means of this world to protect and provide for themselves, and all these failed, God came and listened to the prayers of His faithful ones, of which Isaiah himself was present in that occasion, and it was written that God sent His mighty Angels to destroy the whole army of the Assyrians overnight, that out of such a great host little remained, and the king of Assyria had to return to his homeland in shame.

All of those examples and proofs were more than sufficient to show that God is indeed a sure assurance and a solid bedrock for us to depend on and to build our foundations on, just as we listened to the Gospel passage today of the famous parable of the Lord on the foundation of sand and the foundation of solid bedrock. That parable is a reminder to all of us that we must not depend on things that are not fully trustworthy, and in God alone we can be fully committed without fear.

In our fast changing world today, especially for the past two years or so, we all know how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted our world and most of our society, wherever we are in the world. The world that we once knew was gone. The security and iron bowl that many of us had once had, are now no more, and many people, as we knew, lost their jobs and livelihood during the pandemic, and many more were affected in the months that passed.

Even to this day, while there are increasingly more glimpse of hope and light at the end of the darkened tunnel, but there are still many uncertainties and there are still many fears that we have. Many of us fear of falling sick and dying, and many of us fear losing our loved ones and friends. Many of us fear losing our job and livelihood, and many of us fear of how the world will turn out to be, and how next year, next month, next week and even tomorrow will be like for us.

Today, through what we have heard in our readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded that we have to trust the Lord more. The things that we used to depend on may have failed us, but God will not fail us. We have to persevere and have trust in Him, knowing that in the end, no matter what challenges and trials we may face, we shall triumph in the end together with God, Who will always remember those who are faithful to Him.

And what is important for us to do now is for us to help one another, to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our God and Father. To each one of us, God has given unique talents, capabilities and opportunities, and in this pandemic and unfortunate situation that we are facing now, we are all called to be less selfish and more caring towards one another, to share whatever excess we have for those who have less or even none.

We must remember that even in the midst of our misfortune, there are still many others who are facing even greater misfortunes. We must help one another and love each other, and not be divided and be selfish in our actions. For we may not realise it, but in fact, God is working through us, through our seemingly small and little actions of love, to show His love and providence to us. He has called us in our hearts and minds to do these, but are we all willing to respond to His call and do as He asked us to do?

Let us all discern carefully how we can be more Christ-like in our actions and how we can be more generous in giving and in sharing our love with one another especially during these difficult times that we are all facing now. Let us all put our faith in God, our solid foundation, and help one another to rebuild ourselves, our families and our world, together with the grace and blessings of God. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 21, 24-27

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock.”

“But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 117 : 1 and 8-9, 19-21, 25-27a

Alleluia! Give thanks to YHVH, for He is good, His loving kindness endures forever. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the help of humans. It is better to take refuge in YHVH than to trust in the might of princes.

Open to me the gates of the Just, and let me enter to give thanks. This is YHVH’s gate, through which the upright enter. I thank You for having answered me, for having rescued me.

Save us, o YHVH, deliver us, o YHVH! Blessed is He Who comes in YHVH’s Name! We praise You from the house of YHVH. YHVH is God; may His light shine upon us.

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 26 : 1-6

On that day this song will be sung in the land of Judah : We have a strong city, He Himself has set up walls and fortifications to protect us. Open the gates! Let the righteous nation enter, she who is firm in faithfulness. You keep in perfect place the one of steadfast mind, the one who trusts in You.

Trust in YHVH forever, for YHVH is an everlasting Rock. He brought down those who dwell on high, He laid low the lofty city, He razed it to the ground, levelled it to the dust. Now it is trampled, the poor and the lowly tread upon it.

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.