Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard from the Scriptures we heard of the parallel stories of two of God’s trusted servants, namely that of Samson, the famous Judge of Israel, as well as that of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah. Both of them were born of a woman who had not been able to conceive children, and then miraculously, they were able to conceive by God’s grace.

And God spoke to both of their parents, through His Angel, by which He revealed how those sons of theirs would become great servants dedicated to Him. They were not to touch alcoholic and strong drinks, and they were to live in the wilderness, as those who have taken the vow of obedience to God, called Nazirites. And thus, the Lord sent His servants into the world at the time when they needed help and guidance.

Samson was sent to the people of God when they were oppressed and suffered under the tyranny of the Philistines, who had overcome them and ruled over them with their mighty power. At that time, the Lord had repeatedly sent Judges, one after another to help His people as they were facing difficulties, trials and challenges from various oppressors and their neighbours because they had not obeyed the Lord and lived in sin.

We saw how the Lord repeatedly showed His care and concern for His people, that He did not want any of them to perish and suffer, and despite their sins and wickedness, He still loved them and wanted them to repent from their sins, and thus, sent to them those whom He had appointed as Judges, as those who were supposed to lead and guide the people to the right path.

Thus, Samson came at the time when the people were groaning and suffering under the heavy hand of the Philistines, and in time, as he grew in age and strength, he led the Israelites in overcoming the Philistines, their oppressors, and crushed them with the might of God on their side. Of course, as we all knew, Samson himself was tempted when the Philistines sent Delilah, a beautiful woman to lead Samson astray, but in the end, although by trickery they managed to blind and subdue Samson, but Samson did one last great act, in crushing many Philistines to death with him, as Samson dedicated his whole life to God.

In this manner, we can see that Samson was in fact the spiritual predecessor of St. John the Baptist. Just as Samson was sent to the Israelites to lead them in their struggle against the Philistines, thus St. John the Baptist was sent to guide the people of God in their long struggle against the tyranny of sin and death by calling them to repentance and to turn wholeheartedly towards God.

And just as Samson came not long before the time of king David, the just and righteous king and servant of God, who led Israel to great glory and final triumph against the Philistines, thus, St. John the Baptist led us all towards the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Saviour of the whole world, Whose birth we rejoice and celebrate in this upcoming Christmas day and season.

That is why, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, we are all called to turn towards the Lord and refocus our attention towards Him with all of our hearts. If we do not do so, then our celebration of Christmas is nothing less than empty and meaningless, with just merrymaking and celebrations, but without the right focus and purpose.

All of us should model ourselves on the faith and dedication that both Samson and St. John the Baptist had shown to the Lord. Samson as mentioned, died with many Philistines at the end of his life, while St. John the Baptist remained steadfast in his mission to the very end, not fearing even the king Herod, and consequently was imprisoned, and by the plotting of Herodias, was martyred in prison.

Let us all therefore purify ourselves as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, purifying our thoughts and our hearts, and rededicating our words and actions, our very being to serve the Lord at all times. Let us no longer tarry and wait, but do whatever we can, and make use of this blessed time of Advent to respond to God’s call with genuine and renewed faith.

May the Lord bless us and guide us in our journey, and may He help us and strengthen us that we may persevere in faith just as Samson and St. John the Baptist had done so. May God be with us always. Amen.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my Hope; my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

I will come to Your strength, o YHVH, and announce Your justice, Yours alone. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Judges 13 : 2-7, 24-25a

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of YHVH appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son.”

“Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of YHVH from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to YHVH. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”

The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an Angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name.” “But he said to me : ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death.’”

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and YHVH blessed him. Then the Spirit of YHVH began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.