Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Lord speaking to us through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures, we are all reminded that we have to listen to His words, obey His Law and commandments, and walk in the path that He has shown and taught us to walk in, and distance ourselves from the excesses of worldly temptations and desires, all of which can lead us down the wrong path and end up in damnation and eternal suffering. God has revealed to us His love, shown to us in the manifestation of His Son in this world, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and we ought to listen to Him, and everything that He has revealed to us and taught us through His Church. We must not harden our hearts and minds anymore, but be more receptive to listen to His truths.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord as spoken through Isaiah to His people telling them of everything that they could have enjoyed if they had not rebelled against Him and disobeyed Him, His Law and commandments as they and their ancestors had done. The glory of the people of Israel and the kingdom of the days of David and Solomon as recorded in the Old Testament would have endured and persisted, because if the people of God had remained firm in their faith in God, God would have continued to bless them and guide them, and He would have protected and guarded them even more, that their realm and dominion would have been secure, and they would not have been humiliated and suffered the way that they had endured by the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry.

By then, the glorious days of the kingdoms of David and Solomon were long past, and what remained was just a remnant of that glorious past, as the people of God were becoming shrunken and lesser, and having endured centuries of strife and never-ending struggles with one another, as they became divided and torn into different parts. Much of the ten tribes of the Israelites who separated themselves from the dominion of the House of David had also been scattered all around the world, when the Assyrians crushed and destroyed their kingdom just mere years prior to the time of the prophet Isaiah and his ministry. The lands of the Israelites, the people of God were made barren, and pagans and foreigners were made to dwell in the lands where they once dwelled, as a reminder of the folly of their rebellion and disobedience against God.

Thus, God reminded all of His people of their folly and lack of faith, and hence actually urged them to do something to stop them from being stubborn and foolish any further. He called on all of them to follow Him once again, and to obey His Law and commandments once more. As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord lamented the lack of faith in His people, as they hardened their hearts and minds, refusing to believe in Him and His servants, even after they had witnessed the wondrous miracles and heard the great words of Wisdom and truth presented clearly to them. They continued to disobey God and preferred to follow their own ways, indulging in their own desires and personal, worldly ambitions, which is why the Lord again warned them all to turn away from that dangerous path, lest it be too late for all of them.

This is a likely reference to how back then, at the time of the Lord’s ministry, many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, the elders and the influential members of the community of God’s people had rejected the Lord and refused to listen to Him, no matter how convincing and full of Wisdom and truth the Lord’s words had been. Ironically, being those who were most knowledgeable and accustomed to the teachings and words of the prophets, those same Pharisees and the teachers of the Law should have been the first ones to recognise the truth and wisdom present in the words and teachings that the Lord Jesus brought to us all. Yet, they allowed their personal desires and ambitions to distract them and harden their hearts and minds, as they became fearful and afraid that the Lord would eclipse them and their influence, and end the privileges they enjoyed all those while.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we have heard from the passages of the Scriptures, we are all therefore reminded of the importance for us to have faith and trust in God, and to be careful and vigilant against the temptations of our flesh and body, and the allures of worldly glory and ambitions, all of which can draw us further away from God and His path. If we are not careful we may end up walking down the same path that the people of Israel and all those elders, Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done, in not following God and His ways, and instead walking down their own path towards ruination and damnation. We must be careful because the lures and forces of sin can truly be very powerful, and we may not be able to resist them unless we continue to deepen our faith and relationship with God.

Today, we should perhaps look upon the good examples of faith and dedication to God as shown by St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as St. Juan Diego, the saint whose feast day we are celebrating today. St. John Diego was known as the one who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, now well known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. John Diego was one of the early Christian converts from among the native peoples of the region now known as Mexico, where he became a devout follower of Christ, and was known for his exemplary life and virtues. Back then, it happened that St. John Diego was passing by the area known as the Hill of Tepeyac when the Mother of God appeared to him, and spoke to St. John Diego in his own native language, revealing herself to be the Mother of God.

No one initially believed what St. John Diego had said, and they disregarded him when he conveyed on them the message of Our Lady of Guadalupe about her identity and also her request that a church be built in her honour at the location of her Apparition. Then, at the next time when St. John Diego was supposed to meet Our Lady of Guadalupe, his uncle was very sick and St. John Diego had to get his uncle to meet a priest for the Sacrament of the Sick. And later on, St. Juan Diego tried to take another way, as he was ashamed of having failed to meet the Lady as he was supposed to, only to meet her on his way again, and she told him why she did not entrust his uncle and himself to God through her, with the words now well known as ‘Am I not here, I am, who am your mother?’. This serves as a reminder to all of us how the Lord has indeed entrusted His own Mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe to be our mother as well.

Then, Our Lady of Guadalupe told St. John Diego to show a sign to the local bishop, and asked him to collect some flowers that appeared there at the site of the Apparition that were not native to the region, miraculously appeared there, and then St. John Diego gathered them using his tilma or cloak. As he brought the flowers and showed them to the bishop, what stunned the bishop and all the other witnesses present was not just the unusual flowers, but the fact and evidence that the very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Mary herself was imprinted on the tilma that was worn by St. John Diego. Everyone who saw that miracle believed, and through the great occasion, many became believers and followed the Lord, all thanks to His mother and also through the faith and dedication showed by St. John Diego in faithfully living his life and in obeying God’s will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these, let us all therefore reflect on our own way of live and the state of our current existence. Are we too lax in how we live our lives that we allow the temptations of worldliness and the pleasures all around us from swaying and misleading us down the wrong path? Or have we walked faithfully in the path that the Lord has shown us? If we have not listened to the Lord and if we are still easily swayed by the worldly temptations to sin, then we should make good use of this reminder and this time of Advent provided for us to change our way of life and to reconnect with God, by following the good examples of the saints, particularly that of St. John Diego today whom we commemorate, together with our loving mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who has always watched over us and prayed for each one of us, all these while.

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen each one of us in our resolve so that we may draw ever closer to Him and be more courageous to live our lives worthily in the path that He Himself has shown us. May all of us have a good and blessed season of Advent, that we may make good use of that time to serve the Lord with ever greater zeal and sincerity, and love Him all the more. Amen.

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 9 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

Thursday, 8 December 2022 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, solemnly commemorating the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in which we believe that Mary, the Mother of God, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, free from any taints of sin, the taint of original sin that had affected every single sons and daughters of mankind from the very beginning because of our disobedience and refusal to listen to God. Mary has been conceived by the singular grace and special will of God to be free from this taint of original sin, just as He has once proclaimed to our first ancestors, to be the Woman through whom the salvation of this world would come from. After all, God is Almighty, All-Powerful, and that feat is clearly possible for Him.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words from the Book of Genesis detailing the moment when mankind, having chosen to listen to Satan, the great deceiver appearing to Adam and Eve in the form of a snake, and fell into disobedience and sin against God, was confronted by the Lord Who came to visit them, and asked them of their misdeeds. The Lord knew everything that they had done, but the two of them still tried to hide their misdeeds, and then later on blamed each other and Satan for what they had done. Regardless, God had to cast them out of Eden, the blissful home intended for all of us mankind because sin has no place before the perfection and holiness of God. But God did not do so because He despised or hated us. Rather, He despised the sins and wickedness we committed, while still loving us dearly as He has always done.

He promised us all the salvation through the Woman who will crush the head of Satan, the snake, the great deceiver and enemy of all the faithful people and children of God. That while Satan will indeed sink his fangs and entangle us in his many schemes and efforts to bring about our downfall and damnation, but in the end, he shall be defeated, crushed and overthrown. Satan, no matter how great or powerful he is, how mighty and fearsome he may seem to be, is nothing compared to the greatness and glory of God, Who is the Lord and Master of all. Even Satan had to bend the knee and submit to the Lord, and he will have to admit defeat to all that the Lord has planned for us all, the salvation that He has brought into our midst through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, born into this world through Mary, His mother.

To that extent, that is why we celebrate what we celebrate today, on this great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and the bearer of God Himself, Divine Word of God Incarnate, the Saviour of all the whole world. The Immaculate Conception of Mary is necessary because, God cannot possibly enter into this world through the means of sin, as perfect, holy and blameless He is. Hence, it is very important that the vessel of His entry and coming into this world, must be perfect and without any taint or blame, and that is why, God willed into creation, this most worthy of vessel, that is Mary herself, conceived by the grace and power of God, to be free from the taint of sin, and full of grace, just as the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed before Mary. Mary is full of God’s grace, the new Ark of the New Covenant.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Mary has often been compared and parallels been observed between the Ark of the Covenant of the times of the old days of Israel and Mary as the New Ark of the New Covenant between God and mankind. The old Ark was made from the finest materials, precious wood and metals, and with the finest craftsmanship, and becomes the presence of God on this world among His people. The Ark contained the Law of God as written on the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the bread of the manna and the staff of Aaron, with which God has performed His miracles among His people during the Exodus from Egypt, leading them out as their Shepherd out of the land of their enslavement and miseries. The Ark also contained the ‘mercy seat’, the two Cherubim on its top upon which God would come down and sit enthroned on them, His Presence coming down to dwell with His people.

Then, in the same way, Mary is the New Ark, bearing the Saviour Himself, the Son of God, incarnate in the flesh, becoming the Son of Man. By the power of the Holy Spirit, as we heard in our Gospel today of the account of the Annunciation by the Archangel Gabriel to Mary, God gave us all His Son, taking up our human flesh and existence, and He became tangible and approachable to us through this Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Who spent nine months in the womb of His mother Mary. Like the old Ark which was mentioned, Mary bore the Law of God, made whole and complete through Christ, Who came to fulfil and perfect the Law, and He Himself is the Law and its personification. He is also the Bread of Life, the One Who offered His Body and Blood for all of us, that each one of us who partake in His Most Precious Body and Blood, will have eternal life through Him.

Not only that, but Christ is also the Good Shepherd Whom God had sent into our midst, to be the One to lead us from this land of darkness and evil into the land of freedom and light. He bore the salvation of God into our midst and bring upon us the Holy Presence of God dwelling among us, as Emmanuel, ‘God is with us’. Therefore, as we can clearly see, Mary herself is the New Ark, of the New Covenant that Christ our Lord, her Son, made with us, between God and us all, through His works, His suffering and death on the Cross, and His glorious Resurrection from the dead. If the old Ark was made from the finest materials and was considered holy and sacrosanct, it is only therefore right that Mary must also be holy, hallowed, pure and sacrosanct, and sin cannot be allowed to defile her. Hence, God crafted her and prepared her well to be the bearer of His Son, the Saviour of the world.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice and celebrate in the commemoration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, the bearer of Our Lord and Saviour, the New Ark of the New Covenant, we are all reminded that this same Mary is our perfect role model and example in her piety, her obedience to God and in her inspiring actions, in dedicating herself wholly and completely to the mission that was entrusted to her. Mary did not allow the temptations of sin and evils of the world to taint her, and remained full of grace and fully obedient and filled with love for God all throughout her whole life. Mary dedicated herself to love her Son and brought Him up patiently with love. Then, she continued to show her care and love for us all, when her Son entrusted each one of us to her care, that she became our mother and we become her sons and daughters.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore reflect upon our own lives and be inspired by the examples and inspirations set by Mary, the Holy Mother of God, our beloved mother, who have watched over us, prayed for us and guided us to her Son. She showed us all the existence of life that is pure and immaculate, free from sin and full of the grace of God. All of us too can enter into this state of grace, if we commit ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord just as Mary had done, in answering God’s call, to follow Him as His faithful servants and disciples. What we need to do is to focus our attention and efforts that we may truly be ever worthy to be called followers of Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Are we willing to make the commitment and effort, brothers and sisters?

Let us all hence seek to be ever closer to the Lord, following the path and the examples set by His mother Mary, our mother and guide. May the Lord continue to guide us as well and remain with us, that in all the things we say and do, in all of our actions and interactions with one another, we will always be ever more and more faithful to the Lord, and be willing to commit ourselves to the missions that He has entrusted to us. May He bless us in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always, evermore. Holy Mary, Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, conceived without the taint of sin, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.