Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the tenth day of December for the very first time the Universal Church celebrates together the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, a celebration linked to the holy site of Loreto, which is according to the tradition of the Church and our faith is none other than the sacred dwelling place of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph. This holy place was initially located in Nazareth, the place where Mary and St. Joseph lived.

Throughout the years, the holy house of the Lord remained standing even though other buildings and places were changed or destroyed. When St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who ended persecution against Christians came to the Holy Land as part of her search for the True Cross and the holy relics of the Passion, the holy house of the Lord in Nazareth was discovered, and a Basilica was built over the place of the holy house, which was undisturbed and remained intact.

Through the many centuries afterwards, when many times and moments of turmoil, wars and conflicts caused changes in ownership of the land, and the great Basilica above the holy house were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, miraculously, the holy house itself remained intact and indestructible by any earthly forces, right through to the time of the Crusades, over a thousand years after the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, the holy house disappeared after the last time the Holy Land fell into the hands of the enemies of the Lord.

Then, miraculously, one day, in the small town in Dalmatia in what is now Croatia, the holy house suddenly appeared again and accompanied by a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appeared to the local priest saying that the miraculous appearance of the holy house was by the will of God and how the house was the actual house of the Holy Family of Nazareth. And when under various circumstances, the house was threatened yet again, it moved a few more times until it stayed in Loreto in Italy where it remained until today.

Therefore, there is then until today a great pilgrimage site at Loreto, to the Basilica of the Holy House, within which is that same house that once was the dwelling place of the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother Mary and also His foster father St. Joseph. And the interesting tale behind its miraculous survival after all these years in fact is a testimony and a reminder of how God and His presence endures all the time, regardless of changes in this world.

His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome declared that beginning from this year onwards the celebration of Our Lady of Loreto and its glorious shrine should be celebrated by the Universal Church as a reminder for us all that indeed, especially during this season of Advent when the feast always takes place, it is important for us to return to the roots of our faith, that is within our own family units.

And we should model ourselves and our families after the loving examples of the Holy Family, which is the perfect model for our Christian families to follow, in the love, dedication and faith that each of the members of the Holy Family had shown, in being a good example how we ourselves should build our own families. A good and strong family foundation is essential to the establishment of a strong and living faith, for we must understand and realise that each and every one of our families are the basic and fundamental units of the Church.

In our world today, sadly, there had been much attack to the structure and bonds joining our families together. Many forms of temptations and false ideas had led to the dissolution of many families, as divorces and divisions became prevalent in our families today, which inevitably led to further problems including loss of faith and the weakening of the bonds joining the members of God’s Church together.

All these were the works of the devil and all of his wicked allies who must have worked hard to destroy us all, by striking at our families. Now, let us all look at the Holy Family for inspiration of how we should model our families and also our faith lives together, and let us all ask for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of our God and Our Lady of Loreto that we may be strengthened by her Son, Our Lord in our faith.

May the Lord bless us all and our families, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our commitment and courage to live each and every day with genuine faith and dedication to walk in the path that He has shown us all. May God be with us all and guide us in our journey of faith, and bless our Advent observation and preparation. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

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.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

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, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 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.

Alternative Psalm (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

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.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is usually celebrated on the eighth day of December but since yesterday the eighth fell on a Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Advent, this Solemnity is brought to the next day that is today, the ninth of December.

This celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception refers to the time when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne without any trace or corruption of original sin, and does not refer to the moment of her birth, her Nativity which is celebrated exactly nine months from now, on every eighth of September. This Immaculate Conception is a very significant belief of our faith, which was formalised as a Dogma by Blessed Pope Pius IX in the year 1854 in his Papal Bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

Although it has only been formalised as a Dogma relatively recently by the Church but in truth, the Church and the faithful since the earliest times and history of the Church has always believed that Mary, as the Mother of God was free from any taints of sin by the singular grace of God, because of the role that she has been entrusted to by the Lord Himself. Mary has been called and chosen to be the one who was to bear the Messiah in herself.

Through this, we can see essentially what is the significance of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to all of us, as her Immaculate Conception actually underlines the core tenets of our faith, the central focus of our beliefs in God. This is such that if we do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, or worse still, reject this Dogma, then we actually have done nothing less than to reject the basic and most important core beliefs of our faith itself.

That is because the belief of the Immaculate Conception, or Mary conceived without the taint of sin is rooted in the belief that Mary is none other than the new Ark of the Covenant. Why is that so? That is because the Ark of the Covenant was the historical relic and an actual receptacle, a large box made of the most precious materials to contain several objects that represent the Covenant which God has made with His people, the Israelites.

Inside the historical or the old Ark of the Covenant according to the Old Testament was the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. These were the ones that Moses made to replace the ones written by God which had been destroyed when God became angry at His people’s disobedience in worshipping the golden calf idol. It therefore became a symbol of the Covenant of God renewed with His people.

Besides that, there were also a bowl of the manna, the miraculous bread of heaven by which God had fed His people through their forty years journey in the desert, yet another reminder of the Covenant of God, how God has been faithful in taking care of and loving His people all the way even though the people had often disobeyed and walked away from the path of God. And lastly, in the Ark was also the staff of Aaron, the staff used by Moses to perform the many plagues of Egypt and his many other miraculous works, to show the power of God among the people.

The Ark of the Covenant had always been, since the time of its creation, the most hallowed and blessed object in the world. It was made from the most precious materials and God also blessed and hallowed it, for it is on the Ark of the Covenant, placed at the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting, and later on in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, that God and His Holy Presence descended to dwell in the midst of His people.

It was so holy that no one was allowed to touch it, and when one of the priests accidentally touched it when it was about to be moved to Jerusalem during the time of king David, the one who touched it was immediately struck dead. And the Ark was always placed behind a veil, to represent the great holiness of God. No one except the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and even so, he was only allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies only once a year.

We can see just how holy, blessed and hallowed the old and historical Ark had been, which was still a creation of man, no matter how precious and amazing it had been. Then let us imagine just how much more wonderful, amazing and holy the new Ark of the Covenant is, because Mary was made not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. There can be no creation of man, no matter how great can compare with God’s creation.

And while the inside of the old Ark was two slabs of stone, a bowl of manna and the staff of Aaron blessed by God’s presence, but the new Ark contained nothing less than God Himself present in the Flesh, God incarnate, Son of God, Jesus Christ. And that is why, if the people of Israel had treated the old Ark of the Covenant in such a hallowed manner, it is just perfectly logical that Mary would also have been hallowed and blessed by God.

It is as simple as how God Who is perfect and all good can never be paired together with any form of sin. No sin can ever stand in the presence of God. That is why, if He was to be born of a human being, through His incarnation in the Flesh, how can He Himself be borne into this world in a vessel so pure and blessed, free from any corruption, if all men had fallen into sin, are sinners and are tainted by sin? That is why, because of this, God gave Mary the singular grace of being immaculate, pure and free from sin.

This is primarily why we honour Mary, the Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ so much. And that is why so many of us are so devoted to her, because not just that she is the Mother of God, and therefore the one closest to her Son, but even more so, that her own exemplary faith and life, her complete obedience to the will of God as shown in our Gospel passage today, is truly the best example for us all to follow in our own journey of faith.

Her acceptance of the great role as the mother of the Lord and Saviour of all, her humble obedience and readiness to respond to God through the Archangel Gabriel is indeed a very amazing example and inspiration for us all to follow, as it is indeed not easy for any one of us to bear the burden and the crosses that Mary herself had to bear in her own journey, in having to raise Jesus and then to see her own Son being condemned, tortured and died on the Cross before her very own eyes.

Now, all of us then have to realise that each and every one of us are called to follow the example of Mary, in our own journey of faith. Do you remember what I have just said earlier on, that no creation of man can ever compare to the creations of the Lord? Each and every one of us are God’s creations, brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of us are special even more so, because we have been made in the image and likeness of God.

While unlike Mary, we have been tainted by sin, and corrupted by the darkness of our sins and disobedience, but God has always intended for us all to be like that of His mother, in faith and purity, as He made all things to be good and holy. Sin was not God’s creation and was never intended to be part of us or our lives. This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all strive to be holy, just as Our Lord is holy, and resist all the temptations to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we honour Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, for her wonderful faith and life, let us all ourselves devote ourselves anew to God, with a new faith and commitment, to be holy and to sanctify ourselves, by turning away from all of our sins, and by embracing a new life dedicated to serve God and to walk in His path alone. Let us all do our best and help one another in this journey together as one faithful people of God.

Mary, Holy Mother of God, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

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.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.