Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this celebration and occasion, we are all reminded of the moment when Mary, the Blessed Mother of God was taken up body and soul into Heaven, to enjoy forever the glorious inheritance and the honour that she has been worthy of, as the Mother of God and faithful servant of the Lord, full of grace and love for God and for her Son, the Saviour of the world. Her Assumption into Heaven marks the end of her existence in this world as she entered into heavenly glory.

First of all, the Assumption does not equate to the Lord’s own Ascension into Heaven, as this is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Assumption of Mary. The difference is that while the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven by His own power and will, being the Almighty God and All-Powerful Divine Word Incarnate, Mary was assumed into Heaven by the will of God, and not by her own will or power. She was taken up or assumed into Heaven rather than ascending on her own volition and power. That is the clear difference between that of the Ascension and the Assumption that we all need to know.

Then, we may ask and wonder what the significance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is to us? The Assumption marks the occasion when Mary did not experience the lasting effect of death, but went on to assume her rightful place in Heaven at the side of her Son’s Throne, and she experienced that because she was first of all conceived without the taint of original sin, and according to tradition, remained free from sin throughout her life, and therefore because sin leads to death, and the latter is the consequence and punishment for sin, then sin has no hold or dominion over Mary. This is in conjunction with what we heard in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in Corinth.

Mary was conceived without original sin as the Church taught through the Dogma of Immaculate Conception, another Marian Dogma besides the Assumption itself. And this has Scriptural basis as we ourselves have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Chronicles, where King David of Israel was welcoming the Ark of the Covenant coming into the city of Jerusalem, to come to dwell with His people after having been placed in the Holy Tent of Meeting for all the years previously. That Ark of the Covenant contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Law of God passed down to Moses, as well as the staff of Aaron and the manna, the bread eaten by the Israelites during their time in the desert.

The Lord’s own Holy Presence descended onto the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Scriptures, in the Book of Exodus and others, it was mentioned how God’s Presence came and sit upon the Cherubim crafted upon the top of the Ark of the Covenant. As such, the Ark of the Covenant itself was crafted using the finest materials of this world, from precious metals and other materials, and God had also blessed and hallowed it. No one could touch the Ark of the Covenant, and even the High Priest could only come into the Holy Presence of God once a year. When a priest accidentally touched the Ark to prevent it from slipping during an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by David to move it to Jerusalem, that priest was immediately struck dead.

Then why is the comparison with the Ark of the Covenant? That is because Mary is the New Ark, of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she has been hallowed, blessed and prepared by God, unique above all other of His creations, to be the most worthy vessel bearing His Holy Presence. For no taint of sin can come even close to the Sinless One, the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate, and when He came into this world through His mother Mary, being in her womb for nine months as all other human beings have experienced, the very vessel of His entry into this world ought to be as perfect and immaculate, as Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception.

If the old Ark was so precious and treated so respectfully despite it being made and crafted by the hands of men, then all the more that Mary is hallowed and blessed beyond all, since she was made by God Himself. And when the Archangel Gabriel hailed her as ‘Full of Grace’, this also refers to Mary as being completely free from sin even throughout her life, as for her to be the bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, she has to be perfect and immaculate. What may seem to be impossible for us, is possible for God, Who willed in singular grace for Mary to be so created and maintained in a state of full of grace.

It means that Mary loved God so much and was always in state of perfection of grace, that she remained faithful completely to God and the taints of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of lust and greed and many other worldly vices had no hold over her. And because of this, as mentioned, Mary did not deserve death and neither should she succumb to it, because it would have been so ironic for the Mother of the Saviour to succumb to death when her own Son had been victorious and triumphant over death. Yet, according to tradition and agreement by Christian scholars, Mary still did die in a way, but how?

That is because, it was explained that Mary, when it was time for her to rejoin her Son in Heaven, having loved Him so much, she could not be separated from Him, and therefore, just as He had endured death temporarily, she also went through it momentarily. Apostolic traditions stated that when the appointed hour came, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The Assumption matters to all of us because first of all, now that Mary is in Heaven by her Son’s side, she became our greatest help and intercessor, constantly praying for us, her adopted children, for us all sinners who are still separated from her and her Son. The Assumption gave us the hope that through the Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, we may have the sure way towards the Lord and His salvation, by following Mary and her examples, and through her constant intercessions. She has always showed her maternal care to us, and it has been evident in multiple occasions how she appeared in various instances to different people, calling on us to repent from our sins and to return to God.

Then, not only that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 11 : 27-28

At that time, as Jesus was speaking, a woman spoke from the crowd and said to Him, “Blessed is the one who gave You birth and nursed You!”

Jesus replied, “Truly blessed are those who hear the word of God, and keep it as well.”

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 54b-57

When our mortal being puts on immortality, the word of Scripture will be fulfilled : Death has been swallowed up by victory. Death, where is your victory? Death, where is your sting?

Sin is the sting of death, to kill, and the Law is what gives force to sin. But give thanks to God, Who gives us the victory, through Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 131 : 6-7, 9-10, 13-14

Then came the news, “The Ark is in Ephrata, we found it in the fields of Jaar.” Let us go to where He dwells and worship at His footstool!

May Your priests be arrayed in glorious mantle; may Your faithful ones shout in gladness. For the sake of Your servant, David, do not turn away the face of Your Anointed.

For YHVH has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling : “This is My resting place forever; this I prefer; here, will I dwell.”

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Chronicles 15 : 3-4, 15-16 and 1 Chronicles 16 : 1-2

Then David gathered all Israel together in Jerusalem to bring the Ark of God up to the place he had prepared for it. David called together the sons of Aaron and the sons of Levi. And the Levites carried the Ark of God with the poles on their shoulders, as Moses had ordered according to the command of YHVH.

David then told the leaders of the Levites to assign duties for some Levites to sing and play a joyful tune with their various musical instruments : harps and lyres and cymbals. They brought the Ark of God in and put it inside the tent that David had prepared for it; and they offered burnt offerings and peace offerings to God.

And when David had finished offering the sacrifices, he blessed the people in the Name of YHVH.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday after we have heard all of our readings and passages from the Sacred Scriptures, it is clear that the message the Lord has given us through His Church is that, all of us as Christians must remember that being the followers of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, is something that is not trivial and which will often require from us time, effort, commitment and even the willingness to suffer and to endure persecution in the midst of us living our lives with faith. Persecution has been part and parcel of the lives of many Christians from the very beginning, and that is true even right to this very day.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah detailing to us what happened to the prophet as he was almost brought to death’s door as his many enemies, the officials of the kingdom of Judah, rose up against him and demanded the king to punish him to death for all that he had said and done in delivering the words of God’s truth, but which his enemies used as accusations to persecute him and to remove him, using accusations such as him being a traitor to the nation and to the people for his works, so that he would be put to death. It was then that the king told the men that they could do all they wanted to Jeremiah.

Contextually, Jeremiah brought God’s words to the remnants of Judah, who was then rebelling against the rule of the king of Babylon. Jeremiah warned the people of the impending destruction of Judah and Jerusalem, the city and its Temple, and how many of them would be brought into exile far away from their ancestral lands. All those things were due to the people’s own disobedience against God, their stubbornness in refusing to listen to Him and to the prophets and messengers whom God had sent to them to remind them of their obligation to follow the Law. They had closed their hearts and minds from God and refused to listen to His call.

But Jeremiah had help from God, as He sent some who were sympathetic to Jeremiah and his cause, and helped him to get out from the cistern in which the enemies of Jeremiah had hoped that the prophet would die from drowning and hunger. Not only that, one of them would also house and protect Jeremiah, even as the whole kingdom and city eventually fell just as Jeremiah himself had prophesied, and protected him from harm’s way. Nonetheless, we have heard just how terrible was the persecution and the challenges that Jeremiah had to endure in the midst of his ministry and work.

In our second reading today from the Epistle to the Hebrews, the author of this Epistle spoke of how many of the witnesses of the Lord and His truth had suffered because of what they believed in, and the author also encouraged all of them by telling them to look upon the Lord Jesus, their Lord and Saviour, Who has suffered Himself as He faced rejection and persecution from the world, from His enemies and from all those who refused to listen to Him. The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews exhorted all of his target audience to be faithful and strong in enduring those challenges and trials, remembering how the Lord Himself suffered, and how they were all suffering the same thing together with the Lord. They were not alone in their suffering.

There had been many saints and martyrs, most prominently during the early days, weeks, years, decades and centuries in the history of the Church, when the Church and the faithful were still facing a lot of hardships, having to proclaim the truth of Christ, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation against the various oppositions and hurdles from firstly the Jewish authorities, the members of the Sanhedrin composed of the Pharisees, the Sadducees and other most influential members of the Jewish community, many of whom were against the Lord Jesus and His teachings. There had been many early persecution against Christians by the Jewish authorities, and before his conversion, St. Paul the Apostle as Saul was one of the leaders of these bitter and harsh persecutions.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard from the Lord Jesus Himself, how He revealed before His own disciples that becoming His followers would not mean having good and peaceful lives. Instead, His teachings and truths would more likely than not bring about hardships and challenges, divisions and misunderstandings to arise even between close family members, relatives and friends. The Lord highlighted that fact, saying how family members would even rise against each other just because of their differences in opinion regarding the Lord and His truth. This would in fact presage how quite a few of the martyrs came to be because they were persecuted by the members of their own families, for refusing to abandon their faith in God.

That is the reality for us as Christians, as the followers of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, in following Him and dedicating ourselves to Him. Our Christian faith and truth often come at odds against the acceptable norms and practices of the world, not only back then during the early years of the Church, but also even throughout history right up to this very day. There are still areas and parts of the world where believing in God and to be Christians may mean great sufferings and even high chance of death, from persecution and other reasons. We must never take our faith for granted, especially if we live in places where being Christians are acceptable and comfortable, or where everyone are Christians.

The Lord has revealed to us that more often than not being Christians require us to make a stand, and even at times we may have to go against those who are closest to us. But that is the reality and nature of the world, as not everyone readily accepts the Lord as their Saviour and King, while others may also be more lukewarm in their faith, accepting the ways of the world and as a result, also find our way of living our faith through life to be incompatible and unsuitable. Frictions and difficulties, disagreements and divisions are often then unavoidable, at times even when we have tried to avoid that from happening.

That is why this Sunday as we listened to these readings from the Scriptures, all of us are invited to reflect and discern on our lives as Christians. Have we as Christians been truly faithful and dedicated to God as we should have? And have we lived our lives in accordance to the Law and commandments that God has revealed and given to us through His Church and His servants? If we have lived our lives more in conformation to the world’s expectations and ways, then perhaps it is time for us to reassess the way how we lived our lives so that we may grow to be better and more committed Christians.

Let us all also keep in mind all of our fellow brothers and sisters who are suffering just because of their faith in God. May their courage and commitment to God just as what the saints and martyrs had shown us, continue to inspire us to live our lives ever more worthily in God’s path. Let us all remind one another that God is and will always be with us, His faithful servants, by our side at all times that we may be strengthened and inspired to do more for the glory of God. May all of our actions, words and deeds also always therefore be exemplary, that we may strengthen one another in faith, and perhaps even inspire more people to come to believe in God. Each and every one of us also share the same mission and expectation as God’s followers and disciples to proclaim Him and His truth to the people of all the nations.

May the Lord therefore continue to guide us and bless us, and may He strengthen and encourage us in faith that we may always be faithful to Him to the very end. May He bless our every works and good efforts, and our every dedication to His cause. Let us all strive to be ever more committed to the Lord and be good Christian role models in our everyday living, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Luke 12 : 49-53

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I have come to bring fire upon the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and what anguish I feel until it is finished! Do you think that I have come to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on, in one house five will be divided : three against two, and two against three.”

“They will be divided, father against son and son against father; mother against daughter and daughter against mother; mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law, and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Hebrews 12 : 1-4

What a cloud of innumerable witnesses surround us! So let us be rid of every encumbrance, and especially of sin, to persevere in running the race marked out before us.

Let us look to Jesus the Founder of our faith, Who will bring it to completion. For the sake of the joy reserved for Him, He endured the cross, scorning its shame, and then sat at the right of the throne of God. Think of Jesus Who suffered so many contradictions from evil people, and you will not be discouraged or grow weary.

Have you already shed your blood in the struggle against sin?

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Psalm 39 : 2, 3, 4, 18

With resolve I waited for YHVH; He listened and heard me beg.

Out of the horrid pit He drew me; out of deadly quicksand, He settled my feet upon a rock and made my steps steady.

He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God. Many will see and be awed and put their trust in YHVH.

Though I am afflicted and poor, yet the Lord thinks of me. You are my Help and my Saviour – o God, do not delay!

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Jeremiah 38 : 4-6, 8-10

Then the officials told the king, “This man should be put to death, because he is weakening the will of the fighting men and the people left in the city. In fact he is not out to save the people but to do harm.”

King Zedekiah said, “His life is in your hands for the king has no power against you.” So they took Jeremiah and pushed him into the cistern of Malchiah, the king’s son, in the guard’s court. They lowered him by means of ropes. There was no water in the cistern but only mud; and Jeremiah sank into the mud.

Ebedmelech, an Ethiopian official of the king’s house, heard that they had lowered Jeremiah in the cistern. While the king was sitting at the Benjamin Gate, Ebedmelech went and spoke to him, “My lord king! These men have acted wickedly in all they did to Jeremiah the prophet. They threw him into the cistern where he will die.”

So the king ordered Ebedmelech the Ethiopian : “Take three men with you from here, and draw Jeremiah the prophet out from the cistern before he dies.”