Wednesday, 14 December 2022 : 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 all reminded of our calling as Christians to be focused on God, Our Lord and Saviour, and remember everything that He had done for us, and for all the wonderful things that He had done to us, His beloved people. God has done all sorts of wonderful things for His people despite of their constant rebelliousness and stubbornness, their betrayal of Him for pagan idols and gods, and their hardened hearts and closed minds. God still reached out to them, loved them and showed them that truly, He is the one and only true God, and they ought to turn away from their wicked and evil ways, and embrace His love and truth once again.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord for His people, reminding all of them that all of creation, all their lands, their kingdoms and dominions, everything that happened all around them are due to the Lord’s works. God is the reason for all things and the centre of everything that have ever existed, and He shows forth His might before the people to remind them that they are His people and that they should keep in mind that they ought to walk in His path and obey His Law and commandments, trusting in Him and His providence, not to be swayed or easily distracted by the temptations of the world, and the many obstacles that the devil and all of his allies have placed in our path, preventing us from returning towards God.

The Lord has called upon all of His people to return to Him, rejecting the path of evil and sin, and He sent unto us all the salvation and deliverance through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, Who came into this world, born of His mother Mary and becoming unto us the source of Hope and Light that pierced through the darkness and the hopelessness of our wretched lives and existences. He fulfilled all the promises He had made to our ancestors, all the promises He made of saving all of them and liberating them from their hardships and troubles. He sent them His Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, to redeem all of us and to lead us all back to Himself, to be our Shepherd Who is calling on us to embrace Him once again, and to be lost from God no more.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord performing His miracles and wonders, how He healed the sick and those afflicted with various conditions like blindness, deafness, mute, and also possession by evil spirits and demons among other things. We heard how the Lord rescued all of those people from their troubles and difficulties, and when those people sent by St. John the Baptist asking Him whether He was the One Who was promised, essentially, they could witness for themselves that everything which the prophets had spoken about, all came true with Christ, His coming into this world and His works. And today as we listened to these words, we are reminded that this Advent, all of us are preparing ourselves to welcome this same Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, as our Redeemer and King.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect upon this season of Advent and what it means for us to prepare ourselves for the glorious celebration of Christmas, of its true meaning and purpose, let us all contemplate on whether we have been using this time well and good for the purpose of reorienting ourselves and our focus on the Christmas preparations so that we do not end up preparing ourselves in the wrong way. Many people have spent a lot of time trying to celebrate Christmas in the secular and worldly way, spending a lot of time trying to outdo each other in how lavish and great we can celebrate Christmas with all of its festivities and merrymaking. But in doing so, we often forget and neglect why it is that we should celebrate Christmas in the first place. We forget that in the end, Christmas is not about all the celebrations and rejoicing, in the manner that we are often presented in all around us this time and season.

Yes, I am sure we can see just how ubiquitous the secular Christmas all around us are, in everywhere we go to, and in all of the festivities arrayed everywhere. However, amidst all of these, we must always keep in mind what the true reason for Christmas is, the true joy and happiness which has come to us through Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. It is not in all the merrymaking and festivities that we can find our true Christmas joy, but in the salvation which our Lord has brought into our midst. And that is why as Christians, each and every one of us should have a profound change in our way of life as well as our way of celebrating and preparing ourselves for Christmas. This is what we should be doing, to show others what it truly means to be joyful in Christmas, and what Christmas is all about.

Today, we have the example and role model in St. John of the Cross, whose life and actions can be great example for us all. St. John of the Cross was one of the founders of the Discalced Carmelites order together with St. Teresa of Avila, another great and renowned saint of the Church, and both of whom are considered as Doctors of the Church for their many contributions and works, writings and inspirations in their commitment to reform the Church and the Carmelites order. Back then, the Carmelites had fallen under a period of disrepair and waywardness, as excesses of worldly corruptions and ways had crept into the order and caused its members to be veering further and further away from the path which the founders of the Carmelites had once envisioned for the order. Hence, both St. John of the Cross and St. Teresa of Avila, together with the other reformers all worked together to reform the order and the Church.

Back then, it was also a time of great turmoil for the Church, having gone through a difficult period with the Church being attacked from outside and within, as threats from the external invaders and those opposed to the Christian faith in the case of the threat of the Ottoman Turks, as well as the splintering and fraying of Church unity and communities due to the Protestant reformation, which raged all around Christendom back then. St. John of the Cross joined the reform efforts initiated by St. Teresa of Avila, purifying and returning the Carmelites back on the right track, facing many oppositions and obstacles along the way. Through his persistence and efforts, there were quite a few people who were inspired and touched by the efforts of the reformers, and came to join the reformed order, henceforth known as the Discalced Carmelites.

St. John of the Cross had to face a lot of trials and challenges in the midst of all of his efforts, having to endure even incarceration and prison, ridicule and humiliations from other friars, and all other people who were opposed to his works and his efforts at reform. Yet, that did not prevent him or discourage him from continuing to devote his time and efforts in serving the Lord to the best of his abilities. This should also therefore be a source of inspiration and example for all of us to follow so that we may all grow ever stronger in faith and love for God, and that we may draw ever closer to Him, and be reconciled to Him thoroughly as we ought have, and reorientate our lives particularly making good use of this time and season of Advent to rediscover our faith in God, and our true joy in Christ.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life, and may He empower each and every one of us to walk ever more faithfully in His ways, reminding us all of His guidance, protection and providence throughout the way. May we make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves well to celebrate Christmas worthily, inspired by the examples of the holy saints and martyrs, especially that of St. John of the Cross, whose life and works we have just reflected upon. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, all for His greater glory, now and always. Amen.

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