Monday, 16 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the many wonderful blessings and works which God has bestowed and done among His people all throughout time, just as we heard the story from the Book of Numbers in which we listened to the story of the prophet and holy man of God named Balaam, who was hired by one of the enemies of Israel during their Exodus and journey from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites and to give their enemies an edge over them, but as we heard in our first reading passage today, instead of cursing the people of Israel, Balaam blessed them and prayed over them for good bounty and prosperity to the dismay of the enemy of Israel, as God had spoken and delivered His will through him and Balaam obeyed God’s will to the end.

It was a wonderful providence and reassurance from God, how He will always be faithful to His Covenant, that even curses intended for His people turned into blessings. And Balaam also in fact prophesied of the coming of the Star of Jacob, as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah to come, even though it was still a long time away by then. This Star coming forth from Jacob, referred to a vision of the Almighty, was none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was indeed fitting that as we come gradually closer to the celebration of Christmas within just slightly more than a week from now, we are reminded yet again of the One Whom we are celebrating for in this Christmas. Not the glamour and festivities, not the merrymaking and gifts, but rather, for the love and compassion of God, by which He gave us a new Hope through the giving of His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour.

That is the true meaning and purpose of Christmas, the joy that we celebrate for the coming of the glorious Saviour through Whom we have been saved and brought out from the darkness of sin into a new life filled with the grace of God. However, it is sad to note how many among us mankind, even among us Christians who have not understood or realised this truth, and treat Christmas as merely just another holiday or time to party and be merry.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Temple authorities, the chief priests and the elders, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees all rallied against the Lord, with the context of His earlier action in driving all the cheating and greedy merchants and money changers out of the courtyards of the Temple, questioning Him on whose authority that the Lord had acted in that way, for they saw in Him a threat to their own power and authority.

At that time, the priests and elders of the Temple benefitted from the presence of the merchants and money changers, as probably they gained from the rental fees and other costs incurred for those merchants to use the Temple courtyard, and they also provided the necessary means for the worship at the Temple by selling the animal sacrifices for the Temple worship. However, those merchants likely profited immensely from such endeavours, overcharging the pilgrims and worshippers for their products and services.

And the Temple authorities also benefitted in the same manner, and when the Lord acted justly in driving out all those who brought corruption and the defilement of sin into the holy House of the Lord, they became angry because they saw not the Lord acting as how He and everyone who had faith in God should have acted, but rather, they saw the loss of their income and their many other worldly concerns.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this then related to us? It is in fact exactly what often happen to us in our own lives. Too many times we often sidelined the Lord in our lives, preferring to put our priorities to gain things and benefits for ourselves, in our pursuits for power, glory, wealth and all the other things that we seek in this world that made us to forget about God. We ended up living for the world and forgot about the love which God has lavished upon us, all these while.

Through today’s Scripture readings, through Balaam’s blessings of Israel and the rejection of Jesus by the Temple authorities, we are all called to remember God’s love and blessings for us, in each and every moments of our lives. God has loved us so much and yet we often disappointed Him by our refusal to detach ourselves from our ego and many desires in life, in our repeated fall into sin and living in a state of sin all these while.

But God is ever loving and ever merciful, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this time of Advent is truly the best time for us to take a stock of our lives, to reevaluate our direction and current heading in life. Let us all make a new commitment from now on, that we will try our best to live our lives with ever greater faith, each and every days of our lives, and draw ever nearer to God and His love through our every living actions.

May the Lord bless our journey of faith this Advent, that we may indeed make the best use of these few remaining days left in this time of sacred preparation that we may prepare ourselves well, not just for the coming of Christmas, but also for our conversion to be better and true disciples of the Lord in all things. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 16 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 21 : 23-27

At that time, Jesus had entered the Temple and was teaching, when the chief priests, the teachers of the Law and the Jewish authorities came to Him, and asked, “What authority have You to act like this? Who gave You authority to do all this?”

Jesus answered them, “I will also ask You a question, only one. And if you give me an answer, then I will tell you by what authority I do these things. When John began to baptise, was it a work of God, or was it merely something human?”

They reasoned out among themselves, “If we reply that it was a work of God, He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ And if we say, ‘The baptism of John is merely something human’, we have got to beware of the people, for all hold John as a prophet.” So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.”

And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what right I do these things.”

Monday, 16 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4bc-5ab, 6-7bc, 8-9

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Remember Your compassion, o Lord, Your unfailing love from of old. Remember not the sins of my youth, but in Your love remember me.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

Monday, 16 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Numbers 24 : 2-7, 15-17a

Balaam looked up and saw Israel camping, tribe by tribe; and the Spirit of God came upon him and he uttered this song : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, and beholds the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled.”

“How goodly are your tents, Jacob, your encampments, Israel! Like valleys stretching far, like gardens beside a stream, like aloes planted by YHVH, like cedars beside the waters. His buckets are overflowing and His seeds are always watered. His king becomes stronger than Agag, and His kingdom grows.

Then Balaam pronounced his oracle : “Word of Balaam, son of Beor, the seer, the one who hears the words of God, who has the knowledge from the Most High, and sees the vision of the Almighty, in ecstasy, with eyes unveiled. I see a Figure, but not really. I behold Him but not near. A Star shall come forth from Jacob, He rises with a staff in His hand.”