Monday, 19 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened together to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that the Lord remembers us all His people, all that He has promised us and how God will not abandon those who have been faithful to Him, but that He will lift them out of the darkness and into the light, sending them His salvation and grace, strength and hope, through the servants whom He had appointed, called and chosen from among His people, and in the case of our Scripture passages today, we heard of the examples of two of God’s great servants whom He sent to be with His people at a time of hardship, and to prepare the path for His glorious reign, namely through Samson and St. John the Baptist.

There are indeed many parallels between the story of Samson and St. John the Baptist, that such a connection is explored in our set of Scripture readings today. Both of them had been dedicated to God before they were even born and conceived in their mothers’ womb, and the Lord proclaimed through His Angels, of the coming of those two mighty servants, through whom God would do great deeds among His people. Samson would be one of the Judges of Israel, becoming a leader of the people of God at the time when they were troubled and constantly harassed by the Philistines, leading the Israelites free from their troubles, while St. John the Baptist would be the Herald of the Messiah, guiding and showing God’s people to the path of repentance and freedom from the bondage and dominion of sin, evil and death.

In our first reading today, we heard how Samson’s birth and arrival was announced by God through His Angel, who told his parents that he would be consecrated and dedicated to God, and essentially, he became what was then known as a ‘Nazirite’, that is someone who gave himself or herself to the cause of the Lord completely, and who abstained from worldly corruptions such as wine and strong drink, and led a certain kind of lifestyle such as what Samson, and later on St. John the Baptist would follow. In the Gospel passage we heard then of the similar story of what happened before St. John the Baptist was born, how his birth was announced by the Angel of God, traditionally associated with the Archangel Gabriel. Both Samson and St. John the Baptist were also conceived when their mothers had not been able to conceive for a long time, and had been without hope.

Hence, through their miraculous conception, God removed from their mothers the stain of barrenness, which was actually a taboo and a disgrace in the eyes of many in the community of the people of God. The Lord showed His providence and guidance to them, and also through the coming of His servants, brought a new hope to His people, that just as He promised, He would lead them all into freedom, into the path of light and salvation, where their troubles and hardships would be no more. And even more importantly, both of them also preempt the coming of the even more glorious days of God’s reign over His people, with Samson being one of the last judges, preparing the path for the days of the kingdom of Israel, with David as the most prominent of the Kings, leading Israel into glory and triumph over its enemies, as David himself was remembered for his triumph over Goliath the Philistine, and his victory over them, the same Philistines whom Samson struggled against throughout his life.

In the same way, as we all know, St. John the Baptist is the Herald of the Messiah, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. St. John the Baptist and his coming into the world marked the moment when God revealed to His people just how imminent the coming of the day of His salvation was. Christ Himself is the Heir of David, the One Who would sit upon David’s Throne and restore the people of God, reconciling all of them to His heavenly Father, leading them from the darkness of sin and despair into the light of God’s ways and salvation, grace and hope. And through St. John the Baptist, many came to respond to God’s call and changed themselves, submitting themselves to His will and repenting from their sins, and hence preparing themselves for the coming of the Saviour, through Whom God will save all of His people, all mankind from the path towards damnation.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we heard the story of these two faithful and great servants of God, let us all be reminded of God’s love and compassionate mercy for all of us, just how generous He has been with the efforts He did in order to reach out to us and to be reconciled with us. He never gave up on us although we have often disobeyed Him and rejected His love and kindness. He still patiently reached out to us and cared for us, and because of this, we can have hope in Him, in all the love that He has shown us. The Lord has already given us all so much, although we are still sinners and although we have often hurt and disobeyed Him. Yet, He still called on us all and wanted us to be reconciled with us nonetheless. That is, brothers and sisters, the very reason why we rejoice in Christmas, and why we spend this time of Advent to prepare ourselves well that we may worthily and properly celebrate Christmas as we should.

Now, as we continue to draw ever closer to the end of the Advent season and the beginning of the glorious and joyful Christmas season, let us all therefore reorientate our lives and our focus, that we turn our attention and direction in life, our celebrations and our rejoicing to be focused once again on God and not on all the material things and goods of this world. We can see for ourselves all the extensive merrymaking and festivities surrounding the mostly secular way of how Christmas is celebrated, and while we can indeed rejoice in that way, we must take care to remind ourselves and each other that we do not end up losing sight on what is important and what matters in our celebration of Christmas, which should be focused on Christ and His role in bringing about new Hope in our hearts and minds, as He came into our midst, to dwell among us.

As we reflected upon the lives of Samson and St. John the Baptist, let us all first of all therefore remember God’s love and care for us, that He gave us those faithful servants to help lead and guide us to Himself, and at the same time, let us also reflect upon the obedience and the commitment which each one of them gave to the Lord, in dedicating their whole lives to God and in serving Him wholeheartedly so that we too may also do the same with our own lives. Let us hence make good use of this remaining time of the Advent season to redirect our attention and efforts, and also our focus on the Christmas celebrations and preparations so that we may truly celebrate it with proper understanding and appreciation of how through Christmas, God has brought us towards His salvation and grace, and showed us His perfect and wonderful love.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this remaining time of Advent, and help us to appreciate all that the Lord had done for us because He truly loves us all very much, so that He wants us all to be lifted up and rescued from our fated destruction, forgiven from our sins and be reconciled with Him. Let our actions and deeds be exemplary at all times, and help to inspire our fellow brothers and sisters all around us to be able to live their lives faithfully in accordance with the path that the Lord has shown us as well, just like how Samson and St. John the Baptist ought to have inspired us all in our faith and lives. May God be with us all and may He bless our every efforts and good works, our every endeavours for His greater glory, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Monday, 19 December 2022 : 4th 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.”

Monday, 19 December 2022 : 4th 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.

Monday, 19 December 2022 : 4th 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.