Thursday, 16 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 7 : 24-30

At that time, when John’s messengers had gone, Jesus began speaking to the people about John. And He said, “What did you want to see, when you went to the desert? A reed blowing in the wind? What was there to see? A man dressed in fine clothes? But people who wear fine clothes and enjoy delicate food are found in palaces.

What did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. For John is the one foretold in Scripture in these words : I am sending My messenger ahead of You to prepare Your way. No one may be found greater than John among those born of women, but, I tell you, the least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.

All the people listening to Him, even the tax collectors, had acknowledged the will of God in receiving the baptism of John, whereas the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, in not letting themselves be baptised by him, ignored the will of God.

Thursday, 16 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 29 : 2 and 4, 5-6, 11-12a and 13b

I extol You, o Lord, for You have rescued me; my enemies will not gloat over me. O Lord, You have brought me up from the grave, You gave me life when I was going to the pit.

Sing to the Lord, o you His saints, give thanks and praise to His holy Name. For His anger lasts but a little while, and His kindness all through life. Weeping may tarry for the night, but rejoicing comes with the dawn.

Hear, o Lord, and have mercy on me; o Lord, be my Protector. But now, You have turned my mourning into rejoicing. O Lord my God, forever will I give You thanks.

Thursday, 16 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 54 : 1-10

Rejoice, o barren woman who has not given birth; sing and shout for joy, you who never had children, for more are the children of the rejected woman than the children of the married wife, says YHVH.

Enlarge the space for your tent, stretch out your hangings, lengthen your ropes and strengthen your stakes, for you will spread out to the right and to the left; your descendants will take possession of the nations and inhabit cities that have been abandoned.

Do not be afraid for you will not be deceived, do not be ashamed for you will not be disgraced. You will forget the shame of your youth; no longer will you remember the disgrace of your widowhood. For your Maker is to marry you : YHVH Sabaoth is His Name. Your Redeemer is the Holy One of Israel : He is called God of all the earth.

For YHVH has called you back as one forsaken and grieved in spirit. Who could abandon His first beloved? says your God. For a brief moment I have abandoned you, but with great tenderness I will gather My people. For a moment, in an outburst of anger, I hid My face from you, but with everlasting love I have had mercy on you, says YHVH, your Redeemer.

This is for me like Noah’s waters, when I swore that they would no more flood the earth; so now I swear not to be angry with you and never again to rebuke you. The mountains may depart and the hills be moved, but never will My love depart from you nor My covenant of peace be removed, says YHVH Whose compassion is for you.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 : 3rd 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 Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded of God and His enduring love for us, the salvation that He has presented to us and the generosity by which He has always cared for us and provided for our needs. He has always watched over us and has done everything for us, for our salvation and eternal and true happiness, together with Him in eternal life.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of Lord reminding His people that He is the One and only God and Creator of all the whole Universe. He is their God and they are His people. All of us are also reminded of this same truth, and are reminded how God alone is worthy of our worship and our adoration. He has created us out of love, which endured all these time despite of our lack of faith and our constant disobedience and waywardness. He has always looked after us and sought for us to return to His loving embrace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the encounter between the Lord Jesus and two of the disciples and followers of St. John the Baptist. Those disciples asked the Lord with the question from the St. John the Baptist, inquiring whether He was indeed the One that had been predicted to come, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, or whether the Messiah was still yet to come. St. John the Baptist had been sent into this world ahead of the Lord to proclaim His coming and to prepare His way, but even he did not know fully who the Messiah would be.

This is the case even though St. John the Baptist himself had baptised the Lord at the Jordan, and recognising Him as the One Whose coming he was proclaiming before the people. St. John the Baptist was in fact just making sure that the One Whose coming he had been preparing for, had indeed come, and therefore the time of mankind’s salvation was already at hand. The Lord told them that everything had happened as God Himself had said would happen, all the miracles and wonderful works that had taken place, and they were evidences enough to prove the truth about His coming.

Now, having heard all of these words from the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of what we are all supposed to do this season of Advent, to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas. We are just another ten days away from Christmas, and yet, if we ask ourselves, are we ready for Christmas?, can we surely give a definitive yes as an answer? We may think that we are ready for Christmas and all are set and prepared, but in truth, Christmas is not as much about the celebrations and feasts, but rather, most importantly, it is about the state of our hearts, minds, our whole body and soul.

We may have prepared everything needed for our Christmas festivities and celebrations, all the things that we planned to do for our Christmas parties and merrymaking. Yet, are we ready to welcome Christ, Our Lord Himself this Christmas? Are we ready to welcome Him into our hearts, into our families and houses, into our presence and life? That is what Christmas is all about, brothers and sisters in Christ. Christmas is more than all the lights and glamours, all the celebrations and feasts. Those things are superficial, as Christmas is truly about Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we must always remember that Christmas is the time to celebrate and rejoice because Christ, Our Lord has willingly come down upon us because of His great and enduring love. He Himself had taken the rein of everything that He had planned for our salvation and came to us to bring forth His love and generous mercy, to show us His compassion and desire to be reunited and reconciled with us. But we are often still distracted and easily swayed by the many temptations in this world that we forget about Him and we ignore Him, and sadly, the same can be said about Christmas as well.

We have to remind ourselves just how fortunate we are to have been beloved by God. Yet, by our own stubborn attitude and ignorance, we end up shutting Him out from our lives. And there is nowhere else that this is more evident than in our celebration of Christmas. Too often we celebrate Christmas with a lot of glamour and merrymaking, and yet, we forget the One Whom we ought to be focusing our celebrations on, the One Whose birth and coming into this world. This is not what we should be doing, brothers and sisters in Christ.

Therefore, let us all seek the Lord with a new heart full of faith and love for Him. Let us all prepare ourselves to be worthy to receive Him and to welcome Him into our hearts this Christmas, remembering how two thousand years ago, He has come to us in Bethlehem in Judea, revealing once and for all, God’s eternal love for us, and His plan to save us and lead us into everlasting life with Him. May our Christmas joy be complete and may the rest of our Advent season be meaningful, by our proper preparation from now on. Amen.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 7 : 19-23

At that time, John the Baptist sent two of his disciples to the Lord with this message, “Are You the One we are expecting, or should we wait for another?” These men came to Jesus and said, “John the Baptist sent us to ask You : Are You the One we are to expect, or should we wait for another?”

At that time Jesus healed many people of their sickness and diseases; He freed them from evil spirits and He gave sight to the blind. Then He answered the messengers, “Go back and tell John what you have seen and heard : the blind see again, the lame walk, lepers are made clean, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the poor are given Good News.”

“Now, listen : Fortunate are those who meet Me, and are not offended by Me.”

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 84 : 9ab and 10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Wednesday, 15 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 45 : 6b-8, 18, 21b-25

From the rising to the setting of the sun, all may know that there is no one besides Me; I am YHVH, and there is no other. I form the light and create the dark; I usher in prosperity and bring calamity. I, YHVH, do all this.

Let the heavens send righteousness like dew and the clouds rain it down. Let the earth open and salvation blossom, so that justice also may sprout; I, YHVH, have created it.

Yes, this is what YHVH says, He Who created the heavens, – for He is God, Who formed and shaped the earth, – for He Himself set it : “I did not let confusion in it, I wanted people to live there instead!” – for I am YHVH and there is no other.

Who announced this from the beginning, who foretold it in the distant past? Is it not Me YHVH? There is no other God besides Me, a Saviour, a God of justice, there is no other one but Me. Turn to Me and be saved, all you from the ends of the earth, for I am God and there is no other. By My own self I swear it, and what comes from My mouth is truth, a word I say will not be revoked.

Before Me every knee will bend, by Me every tongue will swear, saying, “In YHVH alone are righteousness and strength.” All who have raged against Him will come to Him in shame. But through YHVH there will be victory and glory to the people of Israel.

Tuesday, 14 December 2021 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember our duty and responsibility to listen to the Lord, to obey Him and follow His ways and teachings. The Lord has shown us all the way, and He calls on us to follow Him that we may become His people, His disciples and followers. And through His truth, He shall gather us all into His presence and free us from the fetters and chains of our bondage to sin and evil.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, in that occasion, God spoke to His people through the prophet who lived during the time of King Josiah of Judah, one of the last kings of Judah who happened to be also the last among the righteous kings. At that time, so that we can understand better the context of the words of the Lord, the people of God had been scattered and divided among the nations, as the former northern kingdom of Israel had been crushed and destroyed, while the southern kingdom of Judah had gone through many periods of difficulties and defeats against their enemies.

And all these happened because the people had not always stayed faithful to the Lord, as their kings and lords led them to sin and disobey the Lord, false prophets and teachings going rampant all over the whole land. They had strayed from the guidance shown by the prophets and the messengers of God, and they had turned a deaf ear against those who had called on them to return to the Lord and to repent from their sins. They had not heeded the Lord’s call that He had made repeatedly calling on them to return to Him with faith.

That was why God smote His people who had been rebellious against Him, that all those who disobeyed Him knew what it meant for them to go against His will and for walking in the path of wickedness and evil. While God is always loving, compassionate and merciful, but we must not forget that He is also a just God Who upholds justice and truth. No sin and evil can stand before Him unaccounted for and unless we have sought Him for forgiveness and mercy, then we will need to account for our sins and wickedness.

Yet, He still loved us nonetheless and still wanted all of us to be reunited and reconciled with Him, as He fulfilled His promises made through the prophets, promising all of us that salvation would come in His Messiah, Whom He later revealed to be none other than His own Son, Himself descended in the flesh and taking up the form and existence of Man. In Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, God has extended to us the loving hands and outreach of His ever generous love, compassion and mercy. Despite our constant stubbornness and delinquency, our persistence to sin and disobey Him, God still wants us to come back to Him.

That is why in our Gospel passage today we heard the Lord speaking to the people using the parable of a father and his two sons, reminding all of us that what is important for God is for us to follow Him, in not just words but also actions, as there is no point for us to speak of faith in the Lord and yet in our actions, we are not doing what someone faithful to God should be doing. And without God being truly present in our hearts, without true and genuine love for the Lord, then our faith is dead, meaningless and empty. We are no better than hypocrites.

Today, all of us should follow the great examples set by St. John of the Cross, whose feast day we are celebrating this day. St. John of the Cross was a famous co-founder of the Discalced Carmelites together with St. Teresa of Avila, another great saint of the Church. They worked together and did their best to reform the then corrupted and divergent Carmelite order, to return to the original designs and aims of the order’s founders and eliminate the excesses and creeping worldly corruptions.

St. John of the Cross was also a great figure in the Counter Reformation, in his efforts and works to bring many of those who have fallen to the sway of heresy and false teachings to return to the Mother Church. Through his writings, numerous theological works, sharings of his mystical experiences, preaching and tireless dedication, gradually more and more of the faithful began to be touched by his great piety and devotion to God, and many others who have erred and lost their path came back to the Lord with repentance.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all be inspired to follow the Lord, to be faithful and obedient to Him as St. John of the Cross had done, that is with genuine faith and devotion, and not with false and empty promises and merely superficial faith. Let us truly love the Lord, our most compassionate, loving and patient God, Who has done everything to reach out to us and to save us all from our fated destruction because of our many sins. Let us all look up to His love and generous mercy, and dedicate ourselves anew to Him, now and always. Amen.