Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name; proclaim His salvation, day after day.

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Monday, 5 December 2022 : 2nd 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 reminded of the coming of God’s great hope and light, the promise of happiness and joy that will come through Him, as He comes into this world bearing that Light dispelling the dominion that darkness and sin, evil and others had over us all. We are reminded that in God alone there is Hope and the path towards everlasting peace and happiness, and we can truly trust in Him because He has been ever faithful to the Covenant He had made and renewed with all of us. Through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the fulfilment and the proof of God’s ever enduring love, and the power of His saving grace, which during this Advent we should really reflect upon as we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration at Christmas.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, as it had been for the past one week or so, we continue to hear the words of the Lord’s pronouncements for His people, made through Isaiah, of the days of joy and salvation that will come upon them. We have to understand that from the perspective of those people who heard those words of comfort and encouragement, it was really a relief from the hardships, struggles and challenges that they had faced. Back then, as I have discussed earlier in last week’s discourses, the people of God in Judah, where Isaiah performed his ministry, had fallen under hard times, having had to witness the downfall of their northern neighbour, the northern kingdom of Israel, composed of their own relatives and brethren, the ten tribes that rebelled against the House of David, to the forces of the Assyrians.

The same Assyrians conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, exiled its people and then brought their forces also against Judah and Jerusalem, which only escaped destruction and defeat, and the same fate as their northern neighbours thanks to God’s timely intervention. God crushed the forces of the Assyrians and sent their king back home in disgrace, saving the people of Judah from harm and safeguarded them, because of the faith that still remained in them and their faithful kings. The Lord showed them His power and might, as He rescued them from harm just in the same manner as He had rescued their ancestors, from their enslavement in the land of Egypt much earlier on. And just as back then He had led them all to the Promised Land, freed from their bondage in Egypt, so He would also lead them all back to their land, which was fulfilled later on when God restored His people to their land once again, after they had been exiled from their homeland of Israel and Judah.

How is this then relevant to us? Similarly, all of us here present in this world, the children of mankind, descendants of Adam and Eve, have been placed under the bondage of sin and evil, death and destruction after our disobedience against God and refusal to listen to His commands and obey His Law. The Lord has reassured and promised us since the very beginning that He will bring us His deliverance and salvation through His Messiah or Saviour, the One Whom He promised will be born of the Woman, Who will rule and judge over all people, past, present, future, all throughout time. And in Jesus Christ, this promise of salvation, renewed again and again by the Lord throughout history, had been fulfilled, as He was born into this world manifesting God’s love and compassionate mercy, making God and His love tangible and approachable by us.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, that is exactly one of the manifestation of that love, as we listened to the well-known story of the Lord Jesus healing a paralysed man, who was brought to Him through the roof of the building that He was preaching and teaching in. The Lord had pity in the paralysed man and was touched by the dedication and faith shown by the man and his fellow helpers, who brought him up all the way to the roof and helped to bring him right to the Lord for healing. Yet, just as the Lord healed the paralysed man, those hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the Law who were there with the Lord, criticised Him and argued with Him regarding what He was doing, especially because they regarded the Lord Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralysed man’s sins as a blasphemy against God, and hence, took great offence at that.

The Lord was dismayed at the stubbornness of those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had repeatedly failed to see the truth and love of God personified and manifested in Him. Many of those Pharisees and teachers of the Law had seen and heard everything that the Lord had done, His wisdom and truth, the authority and justice in His teachings and words, and all the miracles and wonders that He had done before their very own eyes. And those people, being the most knowledgeable and educated among the people of God, and well-versed in the words and the prophecies of the prophets, ought to be the ones who first acknowledged and welcomed the Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Holy One of God. Instead, they took pride at their own supposedly superior knowledge, understanding and skills, and refused to listen to the Lord and His truth.

Nevertheless, the Lord healed the paralysed man, showing all of us that He has come into this world to heal us from our predicaments and maladies, as the foreshadowing of the ultimate act of His love, which He performed on the Cross. The Lord Jesus obeyed His heavenly Father perfectly, and willingly took upon Himself all the combined weight and burdens of our sins, and offered Himself through His suffering and death, the perfect and most worthy offering for the atonement of our innumerable sins and evils. Through Christ, God has brought us close once again to Himself, bridging the once infinite chasm separating us from Him due to sin. Christ has reconciled us to God, through His Cross, His death and Resurrection, and by that same Resurrection, He showed us all that there is life and existence beyond this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today, and especially now that as we prepare ourselves in this season of Advent in the preparation for Christmas and its joyful celebration, let us all therefore spend the time to reflect and focus ourselves on God and His love, upon everything that He has promised us all and all that He has shown us, through Jesus Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. Let us all refocus our attention towards Him, and be no longer ignorant of God’s most amazing love and kindness, His compassion and mercy that He has constantly shown us all these while. Let us all make great use of this time and season of Advent to make ourselves ever closer to God and reorientate our lives so that we are truly focused on Him as the centre and the pinnacles of our lives and existence.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Advent and through life, that we may grow ever stronger in faith, and devote ourselves ever more, in time and attention to Him. May God bless our every good endeavours and hard works, for the greater glory of His Name. May He empower us all to become the worthy bearers of His truth and love in our world today, and may He help us to remain humble, open-minded and willing to listen to Him, and not harden our hearts and minds the way the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. May God bless us always, now and evermore. Amen.