Monday, 17 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we draw ever closer to the coming of Christmas day and season, our focus and attention is brought directly to the very reason why we rejoice and why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. As we all should know, Christmas is the celebration of the birth or the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the moment when He was born into this world about two thousand years ago in the small city of Bethlehem.

That is why today’s readings focus on this aspect of Christ’s coming into the world, particularly in His being born into our humanity, as the descendant of David, and because of that, also as the descendant of Abraham, the father of the people of Israel and many other nations, and though not mentioned in the whole list of genealogy that is our Gospel passage today, but He is therefore born as a Son of Adam, the first of all mankind.

And this is linked to the first reading passage we heard today, from the Book of Genesis, in which we heard of the moment when Jacob, also named Israel, the father of Israel, was dying and gathered all of his children before him to grant them a blessing each. And among all the blessings that Jacob gave to his sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites, it was peculiar that Judah, though not the oldest, but he received a special blessing.

Again in that blessing we heard of something like a prophecy of what was to come. And it came true with David, of the tribe of Judah, who became the chosen king of Israel, to whom God promised that his house would remain in power forever, and that his house will be forever firm, a fulfilment of what Jacob has said to his son Judah in the blessing he gave him. And all of the prophecies and revelations are fulfilled completely in none other than Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

We heard of the history of mankind in today’s Scripture readings, because the Lord wants us all to recall all that He has promised us, all that He has given us and shown us throughout the long history since the beginning of time, and how faithful He has been to those promises, by the arrival of His salvation into this world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

We need to understand, first of all, why we need salvation in the first place, and that goes back all the way to the time of the first man, Adam and Eve, whom at the beginning of creation, fell from grace and disobeyed God, because they chose to listen to the temptations and lies of Satan rather than to remain in God’s love. And because of that, sin entered into our lives, and because of sin, we have become separated from God’s love.

Sin has no place before God because God is all good and perfect, and sin is a stain and corruption that is abhorrent to God. And because of that, due to our sins, we cannot be in the presence of God and would have to suffer eternity in the darkness beyond God’s love, to suffer the absence of God’s grace in our midst, which is what hell is all about. And hell is truly very real, brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless we get rid of sin, there is no hope for us.

But we cannot get rid of sin, and the corruption and sickness that is sin cannot be healed and removed from us, save for God’s action alone. And since the beginning, although God had to send mankind into exile on earth for our disobedience, but He has promised us, that His salvation will come, and the time of reckoning will be there for us, through a Woman, through whom the power of the devil, the deceiver, will be forever broken.

Throughout history, God promised His people and renewed the promise He has made about His salvation. To His faithful ones, Abraham, David and all, He has made Covenants as proofs of His faithfulness and love for each and every one of us. And the final and perfect fulfilment of His promises, is none other than the coming of the Messiah that was promised. The word Messiah means Saviour, and while the people of Israel had different understanding and idea of what salvation God would bring to them, but He revealed it all, through Jesus Christ, Our Saviour.

He chose to assume the flesh of man, so that, according to St. Paul, He could become the New Adam, through Whom the race of man can be saved and absolved from their sins. While the first and old Adam disobeyed God, Christ, as the New Adam, would be the perfection of obedience to the will of God, His Father, and by that obedience, which He took even unto the point of suffering and death, is the source of our salvation.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were instructed to offer sacrificial offerings of animals in atonement of their sins, as the sin and burnt offerings before God. The priests took up the offerings and offer the offerings for the forgiveness of their sins as well as for the sins of the people. The blood of the offerings was sprinkled as the sign of the Covenant with God and the forgiveness of sins.

And Jesus Christ became our eternal High Priest, the One and True High Priest, Who offers not the body and blood of animals, but His own Body and His own Blood, for He is both God and Man united in His person, and that offering is the only perfect offering that is worthy for the atonement for all of mankind’s sins. And He offered this sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross, accepting the heavy burden of the cross, obeying His Father’s will, and thus attain for us the eternal life promised to those who have faith in Him.

Today, as we reflect on the great love which God has for each one of us, that He was willing to endure all the pains and sufferings, the punishments for our sins, we should spend some time thinking about our own lives in this world. God is willing to forgive us our trespasses and faults, and He has given us the opportunity through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Whose birth brought hope to a world filled with darkness of sin and despair.

And the celebration of Christmas is indeed about the joy for us for having that hope, which God has given us through Christ. But have we realised that many of us are still in need of healing and forgiveness for our sins? Many of us have not lived our lives as how we should have lived it, in obedience to God, and instead, we continued to live in the state of sin. But God is always patient, and He always remembers His love for us.

This Christmas, let us make our celebrations more meaningful, by preparing ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually to welcome and rejoice in God’s coming, by living our lives in a better way from now on, turning away from sin and becoming more obedient to God’s will, and grow deeper in our faith in Him. Let us also confess our sins to a priest at the soonest available opportunity, before the time of Christmas, so that we may find our peace with God, and be worthy to celebrate the true joy of Christmas.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He continue to strengthen us in our faith and resolve, so that we may come ever closer to Him, and find the true joy of our life, the joy of being reunited with God and being forgiven from our sins, this Christmas. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 17 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 1-17

This is the account of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, Son of David, Son of Abraham. Abraham was the father of Isaac, Isaac the father of Jacob, Jacob the father of Judah and his brothers. Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (their mother was Tamar), Perez was the father of Hezron, and Hezron of Aram. Aram was the father of Aminadab, Aminadab of Nahshon, Nahshon of Salmon.

Salmon was the father of Boaz. His mother was Rahab. Boaz was the father of Obed. His mother was Ruth. Obed was the father of Jesse. Jesse was the father of David, the king. David was the father of Solomon. His mother had been Uriah’s wife. Solomon was the father of Rehoboam. Then came the kings : Abijah, Asaph, Jehoshaphat, Joram, Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, Hezekiah, Manasseh, Amon, Josiah.

Josiah was the father of Jechoniah and his brothers at the time of the deportation to Babylon. After the deportation to Babylon, Jechoniah was the father of Salathiel and Salathiel of Zerubbabel. Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud, Abiud of Eliakim, and Eliakim of Azor. Azor was the father of Zadok, Zadok the father of Akim, and Akim the father of Eliud. Eliud was the father of Eleazar, Eleazar of Matthan, and Matthan of Jacob.

Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary, and from her came Jesus Who is called the Christ – the Messiah. There were fourteen generations in all from Abraham to David, and fourteen generations from David to the deportation to Babylon, and fourteen generations from the deportation to Babylon to the birth of Christ.

Monday, 17 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 7-8, 17

O God, endow the King with Your justice, the Royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Let the mountains bring peace to the people, and the hills justice. He will defend the cause of the poor, deliver the children of the needy.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him, and He will be blessed by all nations.

Monday, 17 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Genesis 49 : 1-2, 8-10

Jacob then called his sons and said, “Gather round, sons of Jacob. And listen to your father Israel!”

“Judah, your brothers will praise you! You shall seize your enemies by the neck! Your father’s sons shall bow before you. Judah, a young lion! You return from the prey, my son! Like a lion he stoops and crouches, and like a lioness, who dares to rouse him?”

“The sceptre shall not be taken from Judah, nor the ruler’s staff from between his feet, until he comes to Whom it belongs, and Who has the obedience of the nations.”

Sunday, 16 December 2018 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a unique occasion during the season of Advent, as we can notice from the difference in the liturgical colour used in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that is rose. The rose colour is only used on two occasions throughout the whole liturgical year, one that is during the season of Lent, on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and then one that is today, the third Sunday of Advent, also known as the Gaudete Sunday.

The word Gaudete is the Latin word which means ‘joy’ and the name Gaudete Sunday comes from the beginning of the Introit of today’s Holy Mass, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’ which means ‘Rejoice in the Lord always…’. And this points out to the joyful nature that is present in this season of Advent. During this season of Advent, indeed, our celebrations are a bit muted as we focus more on the preparation of ourselves, our hearts and minds, in expecting the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, we must also not forget that in this season of Advent, we are expecting the fullness of joy that comes with the occasion of Christmas. Christmas is the moment when the fullness of God’s glory and the true joy He is bringing upon us is revealed in its wholeness. It is just like when a mother gives birth to a baby, as at the moment when the baby is successfully delivered, the joy that the mother and the whole family feels is truly overwhelming and impossible to quantify.

Yet, that does not mean the mother and the family was not joyful before the baby was born. For when the baby was still in the mother’s womb, surely the mother has all of the designs and wishes she has on the baby that is to come, all the joy that comes with the expectation of the fullness of joy to come. The whole family also has that suspense and joy knowing that the baby to come is to bring even greater happiness and joy after the baby is born.

We surely have seen and experienced how expectant mothers and the fathers-to-be planned in our families, among our friends and acquaintances, how they all did all they could to prepare for the eventual birth of the baby, their bundle of joy and blessing from God. Although it must have been challenging and difficult at times to prepare everything, especially for those who are first-time fathers and mothers, but somehow, we can see the energy and joy in them, that hidden joy in expectation.

Thus, this is the same joy that we are focusing on today, on the occasion of this Gaudete Sunday. We do not yet celebrate the fullness of joy that comes with Christmas, just as it is inappropriate for us to pre-empt Christmas celebrations by our revelry and partying during this season of Advent, unless circumstances require us to do so. On this Gaudete Sunday, we take some kind of a short break to the penitential and sombre nature of Advent, and focus on the expectant joy of looking forward to the fullness of joy of Christmas.

But now, then, we need to reexamine ourselves and look deep into our own lives and actions. What is joy for us, and specifically, what is the meaning and significance of Christmas joy for us? Have we actually ever given it a thought, or have we instead allowed ourselves to just follow the flow and all the formalities of Christmas, year after year, again and again? That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, unfortunately what many of us have been doing all these while.

The joy of Christmas, according to what many of us have experienced, is the joy of prosperity, of celebrations and parties, of often lavish and elaborate Christmas lunches and dinners, of going to multiple celebrations, of all the decorations we put in place to prepare for the parties that we are going to have, and of all the gifts we are going to exchange and receive from one another. To us, Christmas is joyful because it is a time of merrymaking and enjoying ourselves, looking at all the beautiful decorations and receiving all the satisfactions be it for our stomach, or for our other desires.

And that is what exactly the problem is with how we celebrate Christmas and how we prepare ourselves for Christmas. We have often been swayed too much by the currents of the world, in how the secular Christmas celebration is perceived. It is indeed sad to note that while Christmas is a very popular celebration worldwide, but at the same time, it is also one of the most secularised and commercialised celebration of our faith.

We just need to look all around us, and we can easily see all the usual paraphernalia and items associated with Christmas, from all the lights and decorations, the Christmas trees and the ubiquitous Santa Claus, the Christmas candies and cakes, bells and all other things we are surely very familiar with, every time we celebrate Christmas. Yet, in all these, many of us have forgotten what the true joy of Christmas truly is.

The practices of using lights and Christmas tree originally came from the desire to honour Christ Himself, as He is the Light of the world, Light that comes to vanquish the darkness present in the world, and He is the Lord of life, ever living and He has vanquished death by His resurrection, symbolically represented with the Christmas tree, made from the evergreen pine trees. In many countries where our Christian faith traditionally existed, the time of Christmas coincided with the peak of the winter season.

And Christmas happened just right after the winter solstice, the time of the longest night in the year. The darkness and the cold that winter brings usually cause most of the vegetations and plants to become barren during that time, but not for the evergreen trees used for the Christmas trees. This again symbolises Christ and the Light He is bringing to the darkened world, and the hope and joy of a new life He is bringing with Him, overcoming the darkness of sin and death.

A lot of our Christmas traditions in fact have relations and origins from the desire to honour Christ, and to expect the joyful coming of Christ, but in the twists of time, the meaning and purpose have been overlooked and forgotten. And in the end, what we have is a twisted, materialistic, hedonistic and self-serving celebration that feeds instead on our ego, pride and greed within us.

We are familiar with the figure of Santa Claus, or also known as Father Christmas. We often know him as the figure who comes bearing gifts for children during the Christmas time. But we end up becoming greedy for the gifts and for the many goods we expect to enjoy during this time of celebration. But if we look deeper into the original figure of Santa Claus, he actually came about from St. Nicholas of Myra, a renowned saint, whose love and charity for those who have little or nothing was truly remarkable.

Instead of focusing on what we are to receive, how about if we instead be inspired by what St. Nicholas of Myra had done, in how he gave generously to the poor and those who have little to celebrate? Instead of expecting to receive even more when we already have plenty, how about if we instead share the joy we have with those who have less than us, and even more for those who do not have the joy?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget that there are still many out there who cannot celebrate Christmas in the way that we do. There are those who have to celebrate in hiding or in fear because of persecutions, in places where Christmas cannot be celebrated openly. In those places, each and every day may even be a time of life or death for some of them, and we need to keep them in mind, as we prepare for the joy of Christmas.

Today, let us all rediscover for ourselves what the true joy of Christmas is for us, and realise that behind all of the merrymaking and the happy celebrations we are preparing, we often forget the One Whom we truly ought to be joyful for, and that is Christ, Our Lord, the One born and celebrated in Christmas. Let us all turn ourselves towards Him and put Him once again at the centre of our celebrations this Christmas.

Let us be generous in giving and in sharing our Christmas joy with everyone around us, and be mindful especially for the needy and for all those who have not been able to celebrate the joy of Christmas for various reasons. Let us be the bearers of Christ’s joy and bring the light of hope He has brought into our midst, that each one of us can be the sources of joy for our fellow brethren, for our families and friends, for those who are around us, and for the poor and the needy in our midst. May the upcoming joy of Christmas be the true joy that inspire us all, to be ever more devoted and loving to God, Our loving Father. Amen.

Sunday, 16 December 2018 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Luke 3 : 10-18

At that time, John said to the tax collectors, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.” Then some soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?” And he answered, “Do not take anything by force, or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.”

The people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water, but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with the Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan, to clear His threshing floor, and gather the grain into His barn. But the chaff He will burn, with fire that never goes out.”

With these, and many other words, John announced the Good News to the people.

Sunday, 16 December 2018 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Philippians 4 : 4-7

Rejoice in the Lord, always! I say it again : rejoice, and may everyone experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near : do not be anxious about anything. In everything, resort to prayer and supplication, together, with thanksgiving, and bring your requests before God.

Then, the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.