Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture passages we are all called to reflect on those words we received and which we have heard, that we may continue to hold on to the hope we have in the Lord, in His light and truth, and in our genuine desire to be reconciled and be reunited with Him. We are all called to focus our attention on the Lord as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, this blessed time of preparation and renewal that is meant for us to rediscover our faith in the Lord.

We heard in our first reading today the words of the Lord through His prophet Isaiah, in which He spoke of the coming of the good times in the future, the time of His providence and reckoning. God spoke to His people reassuring them on the coming of the days of rest after the long periods of challenges and trials. The Lord will bless all those who have persevered in their faith and those who have devoted their time and effort to love Him and to commit themselves to the works that the Lord has entrusted to them.

Contextually, the people of God at the time of the prophet Isaiah as I mentioned before earlier in the week, had been suffering humiliation, oppressions and challenges from the pressures exerted by the great powers of the region, their neighbouring states and others because of their disobedience, wickedness and lack of faith in God. Those sufferings were the just consequences of their wrongdoings and their fortunes then were at an all-time low. But God did not abandon them and still cared for them.

That was why He sent prophets and messengers to them, to show them the way and to lead and guide them through their journey so that they may know how to find their way to the Lord. God revealed to them that in the end, His love for them shall endure and they shall see His great love being shown at the end. The people of God shall not be disappointed if they place their faith in God, unlike if they place their faith in the worldly things which they hope to give them consolation and support. That is because His promise and grace is everlasting while the world is not.

In today’s Gospel passage we have also heard the Lord carrying out His works and missions all over the whole land, performing miracles, healing many people who came to Him, caring for the needs of those who were searching for fulfilment and longing for His truth. He spent much time and many hours among all of them, showing them how much God loved them and committed Himself to them. The Lord truly remembered His people and cared for them despite their infidelities and wickedness. He has always been patient in reaching out to them and wanting to be reconciled with them.

He mentioned how the harvests of the Lord were plentiful but there were few labourers to collect them. And what does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that in this world, there are numerous opportunities for us to bring forth the truth of God, His light and hope among many of those who still remain lost to the Lord. God has bestowed on us all Christians with the truth, and He has shown us what it means to be beloved by Him, and it is up to us to do as He has taught us to do.

Many people have yet to believe in God simply because in many of us who are Christians and consider ourselves as such have not truly believed in God ourselves, in our words, thoughts and actions, many of which have shown lack of faith and even things that are contrary to the Divine truth and love of God. This is why we often ended up causing others to turn away from God and even have misunderstandings of God’s works and truths in this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us are called to be missionaries and good examples of our Christian faith in our respective societies and communities. Through us and our actions, God reveals His truth to more and more people, and with that, He may touch the hearts and souls of many more people that they may be stirred to follow Him and entrust themselves to Him. And the same can be said to all of us as well, especially those among us who are lukewarm in our faith.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by our holy predecessor, St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. St. John of Damascus was a renowned Church father and theologian, a monk and teacher of the faith who was well-known for his commitment to God, his piety and dedication to the Lord. St. John of Damascus was credited with a lot of works on treatises of the many aspects of the faith, on our relationship with God, the love and actions of God, as well as the nature of the Holy Trinity and others.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great holiness, his love for God and also concern and compassion for his fellow brethren. He was indeed a role model for many Christians through his words, works, actions and many other examples of his virtues. He was also most influential in the opposition against then raging heresy of iconoclasm which was supported by the Emperor of the Roman Empire and the highest echelons of those who were in power, even among the clergy.

Through his passionate defence of the truth of God, his commitment to God and his truth, his tireless efforts and works, among all the many other contributions he had made, we all can see how we ourselves can become model Christians ourselves, in what we do, in what we act and say, so that in all things, we may indeed be exemplary and be inspiration to others just as how St. John of Damascus is an inspiration to us and many others out there.

Let us all seek the Lord, our loving God with renewed faith and zeal. Let us all grow ever more in faith and devotion, following the great examples set before us by St. John of Damascus and the many other holy men and women of God. May the Lord be with us all in our journey and may we all put our trust more in Him, Who alone is our hope and light. Amen.

Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 5a, 6-8

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting, to praise Him! YHVH rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great, and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. YHVH lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Saturday, 4 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, He will listen; when He hears, He will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, He, your Teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see Him, and your ear will listen to His words behind you : “This is the way, walk in it.”

He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when YHVH binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruises inflicted by His blows.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the feast of one of the great saints of God, one of His most faithful and dedicated servants in delivering the truth of the Gospel and the Good News of God’s salvation to the far-off lands, spending much of his life, his time and effort to spread the Word of God in many distant shores, enduring trials and challenges for the sake of the Lord, and for the many people to whom he had endeavoured to bring God’s truth, light and hope.

St. Francis Xavier was born in the Kingdom of Navarre in the early sixteenth century, at the town of Javier, then known as Xavier, which was to become part of his name. He was born as a son of the seneschal or court official of the Xavier castle, and his family became embroiled in the war of conquest that the king of Aragon and Castile waged for the control over the dominion of Navarre. It was at that same war that St. Ignatius of Loyola experienced his life-changing conversion which led to him later on establishing the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, which St. Francis Xavier himself would later join.

St. Francis Xavier encountered St. Ignatius of Loyola and another future Jesuit saint, St. Peter Faber during his studies in Paris. It was there that St. Ignatius of Loyola, who had gathered ideas to establish a new order dedicated to serving the Lord and His Church, persuaded St. Peter Faber to become a priest. However, St. Francis Xavier was initially not convinced by what St. Ignatius of Loyola had told him, as he was still considering and desiring worldly advancement and glory, something that St. Ignatius of Loyola himself was once longing for.

Eventually, according to one tradition, after St. Ignatius of Loyola asked him, in the words of the Lord Himself, ‘What will it profit a man to gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?’, these words left a great impact on St. Francis Xavier. He eventually decided to join with St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Peter Faber and some other men to establish the Society of Jesus, vowing chastity, poverty, and obedience to the Pope, committing themselves to the missions of the Church. The Jesuits were involved deeply in the Counter Reformation efforts in Christendom and also in the missionary efforts to the newly discovered foreign lands in the Americas, Africa and the Far East.

St. Francis Xavier was one of those tasked with the mission in the newly discovered lands, as he was sent along with Portuguese explorers upon the request of their ruler, who was concerned that the Christian faith was being eroded among them. He was therefore sent to the mission, and he never returned to the lands that he came from. He spent most of his life in those territories, travelling from places to places, preaching about God among the Christian populace who were already there and also revealing Him to many others who have not known Him yet.

He travelled the long journey to India, to Malacca and explored the Malayan Archipelago, visiting many islands and communities, braving through storms and dangers along the journey, in very tough living conditions. He had to learn the local languages and brave through opposition from the local populace among many other hardships, but all of that did not discourage St. Francis Xavier from doing his best to serve the Lord and His people, committing himself to more and more efforts at evangelisation and outreach.

He went further to Japan and other far-flung islands, helping to establish the foothold for the Christian faith and Church in all those places. He worked tirelessly in explaining the faith to the local people and was involved in establishing diplomatic relationships with the local rulers. St. Francis Xavier also wished to go to China, his ultimate destination to evangelise to that great nation, but he did not make it as while waiting to enter China at Shangchuan Island he passed away. Nonetheless, his efforts and determination had helped the cause and the works of the Church greatly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the life story and works of St. Francis Xavier, surely we know why he was made the Patron Saint of Missions, for all missionaries and all those who dedicated themselves to the great works of the Church’s evangelisation and outreach. But even more important as we recall his great works and contributions, is the need for us to remember that each and every one of us are also called to be missionaries and to contribute to the great work and effort of the Church in whatever way we can.

We are not just mere idle players that have no part in the works of mission of the Church. And we should not think that only missionaries, priests, religious brothers and sisters that are involved in the works of evangelisation and the work of the Church. All of us, each and every one of us are part of this work of evangelisation even through the very smallest things we do and act on in our respective lives. And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is through our own commitment throughout life.

In even the smallest things we do on each day, each and every one of us should live our lives in manner as Christian-like as possible, and we must really live our lives in accordance to the path that Our Lord has shown us, through His teachings and truth. That is how we make others to come to know God. It is not by mere words that we can convince others to believe in God but also through our real action, as we heard in our Scripture passages today and from the life and example of St. Francis Xavier, our holy patron of missions.

May the Lord be with us all and may He encourage us all to live our lives as faithful Christians so that we may be great missionaries in our everyday living moments. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, for His greater glory. Amen.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Friday, 3 December 2021 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded that we must place our faith and hope in the Lord, and in Him alone. We should not easily be distracted by temptations and by fear to abandon God for other false idols and other false assurances of this world. Through what we have heard today we are again reminded that despite all the challenges that we face in this life, we can always put our trust in the Lord.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah in which God spoke to His people through Isaiah regarding the Lord’s providence and glory, all that He has done for His beloved ones and how He has trampled on the mighty and the proud, all those who have disobeyed Him and oppressed His people. And He spoke of these things not based on mere words alone, but He Himself has shown it with real actions throughout history.

God has showed His power to the people of Israel, long before the days of Isaiah, as we all knew, how He liberated the Israelites from the hands of the Egyptians and their Pharaoh, how He delivered them from their slavery in the land of Egypt and brought them out free through ten great plagues that He sent to Egypt for their constant stubborn refusal to let the people of God go. And surely we all also know of the story how God opened the Red Sea and made His people walk on the dry seabed and crushed the armies and chariots of the Egyptians sent after them.

God has always guided His people throughout history despite their history of constant disobedience and rebellions against Him, by sending His servants, the Judges and the leaders and messengers that He had given His people to lead and guide them all to Him, to help them to live righteously according to the Law that He had given and revealed to them, and the Covenant that He had made with them. He has remained faithful and committed to His Covenant and sent them messengers and prophets to remind His people to do the same.

Then, during the time of the prophet Isaiah himself, God has shown His love and providence for His people yet again. The forces of the Assyrians and their king, which had destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, as well as the Arameans and other great nations that had troubled the people of God for a long time, came to Jerusalem and other cities of Judah, besieging them with such a mighty force that there could not have been anything for them to do but to be defeated or to surrender.

Yet, while previously the people had depended on other means, on alliances and other means of this world to protect and provide for themselves, and all these failed, God came and listened to the prayers of His faithful ones, of which Isaiah himself was present in that occasion, and it was written that God sent His mighty Angels to destroy the whole army of the Assyrians overnight, that out of such a great host little remained, and the king of Assyria had to return to his homeland in shame.

All of those examples and proofs were more than sufficient to show that God is indeed a sure assurance and a solid bedrock for us to depend on and to build our foundations on, just as we listened to the Gospel passage today of the famous parable of the Lord on the foundation of sand and the foundation of solid bedrock. That parable is a reminder to all of us that we must not depend on things that are not fully trustworthy, and in God alone we can be fully committed without fear.

In our fast changing world today, especially for the past two years or so, we all know how the coronavirus pandemic had impacted our world and most of our society, wherever we are in the world. The world that we once knew was gone. The security and iron bowl that many of us had once had, are now no more, and many people, as we knew, lost their jobs and livelihood during the pandemic, and many more were affected in the months that passed.

Even to this day, while there are increasingly more glimpse of hope and light at the end of the darkened tunnel, but there are still many uncertainties and there are still many fears that we have. Many of us fear of falling sick and dying, and many of us fear losing our loved ones and friends. Many of us fear losing our job and livelihood, and many of us fear of how the world will turn out to be, and how next year, next month, next week and even tomorrow will be like for us.

Today, through what we have heard in our readings from the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded that we have to trust the Lord more. The things that we used to depend on may have failed us, but God will not fail us. We have to persevere and have trust in Him, knowing that in the end, no matter what challenges and trials we may face, we shall triumph in the end together with God, Who will always remember those who are faithful to Him.

And what is important for us to do now is for us to help one another, to remember that we are all brothers and sisters in the same Lord, our God and Father. To each one of us, God has given unique talents, capabilities and opportunities, and in this pandemic and unfortunate situation that we are facing now, we are all called to be less selfish and more caring towards one another, to share whatever excess we have for those who have less or even none.

We must remember that even in the midst of our misfortune, there are still many others who are facing even greater misfortunes. We must help one another and love each other, and not be divided and be selfish in our actions. For we may not realise it, but in fact, God is working through us, through our seemingly small and little actions of love, to show His love and providence to us. He has called us in our hearts and minds to do these, but are we all willing to respond to His call and do as He asked us to do?

Let us all discern carefully how we can be more Christ-like in our actions and how we can be more generous in giving and in sharing our love with one another especially during these difficult times that we are all facing now. Let us all put our faith in God, our solid foundation, and help one another to rebuild ourselves, our families and our world, together with the grace and blessings of God. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 December 2021 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 7 : 21, 24-27

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of My heavenly Father. Therefore, anyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts according to them, is like a wise man, who built his house on rock. The rain poured down, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house. But it did not collapse, because it was built on rock.”

“But anyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act accordingly, is like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain poured, the rivers flooded, and the wind blew and struck that house; it collapsed, and what a terrible collapse that was!”