Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14

The voice of my Lover! Behold He comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Now He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My Lover speaks to me, “Arise, My love, My beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, My beautiful one, come with Me, My love, come.”

“O My dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice. Your face – how lovely! Your voice – how sweet!”

Alternative reading

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day, they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 : 4th 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 again on the love of God which has become Incarnate and present in our midst as the Son of Man, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, as we approach ever closer to the end of the current season of Advent and thus the beginning of the glorious and joyful season of Christmas. And on this day, we are all reminded through the examples of the two people to whom God had revealed His Good News, through the prophet Isaiah and the Archangel Gabriel respectively, how they responded to the Lord’s effort to reach out to them, and how the responses were so different from each other and how these can also reflect what we ourselves have done in our own response towards the Lord and His love for us.

In our first reading today, we heard again the famous passage from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke to King Ahaz of Judah through Isaiah regarding the Sign that He would show to him and to all of His people in Judah, but which Ahaz then refused to obey or listen to. Isaiah told Ahaz to ask God for a Sign, the Sign that God would willingly and generously showed to His beloved ones, to show them the path of Hope and Light out of the darkness. But King Ahaz refused to ask for a Sign, and said that he would not put God to the test. This was followed immediately by a stern rebuke from Isaiah to Ahaz as he and many of his predecessors had disobeyed the Lord and put the Lord to the test so many times, and misled and misguided the people of God down the wrong path that what he had said, was truly a hypocrite’s word.

Not only that, but it might even be seen as King Ahaz not having faith and trust in God, as he would likely prefer to trust more in various things and worldly means to secure his reign and rule rather than to follow the Lord and His ways. Ahaz himself was one of the kings who was considered and counted among the ‘wicked’ ones as he led the people into the path of sin and disobedience, abandoning the Lord their God and worshipping instead the pagan idols and demons, which were placed upon the Lord’s sacred Altar, desecrating the holy places and also neglecting the observance of the Law and commandments of the Lord. Thus, Isaiah proclaimed God’s words that the Sign would indeed one day come, that all those who eventually witnessed it, would believe that indeed, God is the one and only True God, and not all the false idols that Ahaz and the people of Judah had worshipped.

On the contrary, if we remember the Gospel passage today, we heard of the Annunciation of Mary, the moment when the Archangel Gabriel proclaimed the Good News of God to Mary, that she would become the Mother of God, as she had been chosen by God to be the one through whom God’s own begotten Son, the Son of God, Incarnate in the flesh and becoming the Son of Man, have become the manifestation and personification of God’s eternal and ever-enduring love for us. This is the moment when the promise and the words of God that He had spoken through Isaiah before King Ahaz came to be fulfilled, as Mary was the Virgin that God spoke of, who would be bearing a Child, and this Child would be called Emmanuel, ‘God is with us’. This alone has already shown us that the Child that Mary bore within her, is truly not just like any other ordinary children.

Most importantly, as contrasted with the attitude showed by King Ahaz, Mary obeyed the Lord and believed in Him wholeheartedly, although she did wonder why she among all the women had been entrusted with such a responsibility. Yet, what she asked the Archangel Gabriel was made out of natural uncertainty and honest bewilderment as such a great revelation was made before her, not withstanding the fact that Mary was a mere young woman and virgin from the small town of Nazareth in Galilee, a very unimportant place and town, and herself coming from a relatively unknown origin. All of that must have obviously been hard to reconcile at the first moment, when Mary heard of the Good News from the Archangel Gabriel, and hence, her question of how it would be possible for that to happen to her, considering that she was still a virgin, to bear a Son.

God revealed to Mary all that He would do through His Archangel Gabriel, and what is important is how Mary responded to all of that. Unlike King Ahaz who refused to obey the Lord, His will and commandments, His request and wish, Mary gave herself totally to the Lord and accepted everything that God had planned to happen through her. Through her response that she is the ‘handmaid of the Lord’ and that it may be done unto her as the Lord has willed it, Mary’s yes to the Lord made through His Archangel Gabriel was the catalyst that sparked the beginning of the final fulfilment of God’s long awaited salvation and liberation for His people. Through Mary’s acceptance of her role in becoming the Mother of God and Saviour of the whole world, she has shown us all that each and every one of us as Christians, should also obey the Lord, listen to Him and His commands, Law and will.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we draw now ever closer to Christmas, we truly need to ask ourselves, are we like that of King Ahaz, who refused to obey the Lord and chose to walk his own path? Or are we more like Mary, whose obedience and commitment to the Lord brought forth the Saviour into this world? We do not have to look far but to our own way of preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebration of Christmas as well as our actions and works in life. We should see if we have allowed our pride and ego to come between us and our obligations to God, just as King Ahaz had done. His pride, ego and worldly desires had become stumbling blocks preventing him from admitting his errors and that he was in need of God’s guidance and help, and hence instead leading the people of God further and further into the path of sin. Hence, we should be more like Mary, in her faith in God and love for Him, and also for the humility that she had in embracing and accepting what the Lord willed to do through her.

Let us all make good use of the remaining time this Advent season to reconsider our paths in life, and see in what way we can reconnect ourselves with God and draw closer to Him, and if we have let worldly temptations, desires, ambitions, pride and greed, as well as all the excesses of worldly attachments and things to distract us thus far, then we should start making the effort to distance ourselves from those and return once again, wholeheartedly towards God. Let us all make our Christmas celebration most worthy and meaningful, as we grow to understand that all the celebration and joy of Christmas is not about ourselves and all the pleasures we shall enjoy, but rather is a joyful celebration of God’s love made manifest and tangible before us all through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

May God be with us all and may He continue to guide and lead us down the right path, that we may continue to seek Him and be ever better Christians, inspired by the faith and examples that His own Mother Mary has shown us. May all of us be more courageous and able to also say ‘yes’ to the Lord calling on us to follow Him. May all of us continue to have a blessed and fruitful season of Advent, towards the joyful Christmas that is soon to come. Amen.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Tuesday, 20 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 7 : 10-14

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

Monday, 19 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened together to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that the Lord remembers us all His people, all that He has promised us and how God will not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, but that He will lift them out of the darkness and into the light, sending them His salvation and grace, strength and hope, through the servants whom He had appointed, called and chosen from among His people, and in the case of our Scripture passages today, we heard of the examples of two of God’s great servants whom He sent to be with His people at a time of hardship, and to prepare the path for His glorious reign, namely through Samson and St. John the Baptist.

There are indeed many parallels between the story of Samson and St. John the Baptist, that such a connection is explored in our set of Scripture readings today. Both of them had been dedicated to God before they were even born and conceived in their mothers’ womb, and the Lord proclaimed through His Angels, of the coming of those two mighty servants, through whom God would do great deeds among His people. Samson would be one of the Judges of Israel, becoming a leader of the people of God at the time when they were troubled and constantly harassed by the Philistines, leading the Israelites free from their troubles, while St. John the Baptist would be the Herald of the Messiah, guiding and showing God’s people to the path of repentance and freedom from the bondage and dominion of sin, evil and death.

In our first reading today, we heard how Samson’s birth and arrival was announced by God through His Angel, who told his parents that he would be consecrated and dedicated to God, and essentially, he became what was then known as a ‘Nazirite’, that is someone who gave himself or herself to the cause of the Lord completely, and who abstained from worldly corruptions such as wine and strong drink, and led a certain kind of lifestyle such as what Samson, and later on St. John the Baptist would follow. In the Gospel passage we heard then of the similar story of what happened before St. John the Baptist was born, how his birth was announced by the Angel of God, traditionally associated with the Archangel Gabriel. Both Samson and St. John the Baptist were also conceived when their mothers had not been able to conceive for a long time, and had been without hope.

Hence, through their miraculous conception, God removed from their mothers the stain of barrenness, which was actually a taboo and a disgrace in the eyes of many in the community of the people of God. The Lord showed His providence and guidance to them, and also through the coming of His servants, brought a new hope to His people, that just as He promised, He would lead them all into freedom, into the path of light and salvation, where their troubles and hardships would be no more. And even more importantly, both of them also preempt the coming of the even more glorious days of God’s reign over His people, with Samson being one of the last judges, preparing the path for the days of the kingdom of Israel, with David as the most prominent of the Kings, leading Israel into glory and triumph over its enemies, as David himself was remembered for his triumph over Goliath the Philistine, and his victory over them, the same Philistines whom Samson struggled against throughout his life.

In the same way, as we all know, St. John the Baptist is the Herald of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. St. John the Baptist and his coming into the world marked the moment when God revealed to His people just how imminent the coming of the day of His salvation was. Christ Himself is the Heir of David, the One Who would sit upon David’s Throne and restore the people of God, reconciling all of them to His heavenly Father, leading them from the darkness of sin and despair into the light of God’s ways and salvation, grace and hope. And through St. John the Baptist, many came to respond to God’s call and changed themselves, submitting themselves to His will and repenting from their sins, and hence preparing themselves for the coming of the Saviour, through Whom God will save all of His people, all mankind from the path towards damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we heard the story of these two faithful and great servants of God, let us all be reminded of God’s love and compassionate mercy for all of us, just how generous He has been with the efforts He did in order to reach out to us and to be reconciled with us. He never gave up on us although we have often disobeyed Him and rejected His love and kindness. He still patiently reached out to us and cared for us, and because of this, we can have hope in Him, in all the love that He has shown us. The Lord has already given us all so much, although we are still sinners and although we have often hurt and disobeyed Him. Yet, He still called on us all and wanted us to be reconciled with us nonetheless. That is, brothers and sisters, the very reason why we rejoice in Christmas, and why we spend this time of Advent to prepare ourselves well that we may worthily and properly celebrate Christmas as we should.

Now, as we continue to draw ever closer to the end of the Advent season and the beginning of the glorious and joyful Christmas season, let us all therefore reorientate our lives and our focus, that we turn our attention and direction in life, our celebrations and our rejoicing to be focused once again on God and not on all the material things and goods of this world. We can see for ourselves all the extensive merrymaking and festivities surrounding the mostly secular way of how Christmas is celebrated, and while we can indeed rejoice in that way, we must take care to remind ourselves and each other that we do not end up losing sight on what is important and what matters in our celebration of Christmas, which should be focused on Christ and His role in bringing about new Hope in our hearts and minds, as He came into our midst, to dwell among us.

As we reflected upon the lives of Samson and St. John the Baptist, let us all first of all therefore remember God’s love and care for us, that He gave us those faithful servants to help lead and guide us to Himself, and at the same time, let us also reflect upon the obedience and the commitment which each one of them gave to the Lord, in dedicating their whole lives to God and in serving Him wholeheartedly so that we too may also do the same with our own lives. Let us hence make good use of this remaining time of the Advent season to redirect our attention and efforts, and also our focus on the Christmas celebrations and preparations so that we may truly celebrate it with proper understanding and appreciation of how through Christmas, God has brought us towards His salvation and grace, and showed us His perfect and wonderful love.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this remaining time of Advent, and help us to appreciate all that the Lord had done for us because He truly loves us all very much, so that He wants us all to be lifted up and rescued from our fated destruction, forgiven from our sins and be reconciled with Him. Let our actions and deeds be exemplary at all times, and help to inspire our fellow brothers and sisters all around us to be able to live their lives faithfully in accordance with the path that the Lord has shown us as well, just like how Samson and St. John the Baptist ought to have inspired us all in our faith and lives. May God be with us all and may He bless our every efforts and good works, our every endeavours for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.