Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the first day of the solar Gregorian calendar year, marking the New Year and the beginning of a year ahead that I am sure we all hope to be better than last year and also the previous year before that. And today, the Church also celebrates a great Solemnity in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Holy Mother of God or Theotokos, on this Octave or eighth day of Christmas, capping the great eight day celebrations of the Christmas Octave, although the Christmas season itself will still continue through the Epiphany this coming days and beyond.

First of all, the importance of this great Solemnity cannot be underestimated, as the belief in Mary as the Mother of God is a fundamental and essential Christian tenet that is inseparable from our believe in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour as God Himself, incarnate in the flesh. That is why today’s celebration is a fitting reminder of the true nature and importance of Christmas, a reminder for us all why we celebrate and rejoice during this Christmas season, a time for us to remember the love of God manifested to us in the flesh and appearing before us in Christ.

For at the time when the Dogma of the Divine Motherhood of God was officially proclaimed by the Church at the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus almost a thousand and six hundred years ago, there had been a lot of arguments and divisions amongst the members of the Church regarding the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ. The debates were whether He was truly the Son of God or just a mere Man, and whether He was the Co-Eternal and Co-Equal Son of God or subordinate to the Father. These divergent ideas and teachings had led to a lot of heresies which had misled many among the faithful and caused divisions in the Christian communities.

That was why, beginning with the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the Church and its many leaders have already gathered together and inspired by the Holy Spirit to safeguard the true teachings of the Church as handed down to all of them and which we have also now received, from the hands of the Apostles and their successors. Firstly, the relationship between Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour and the Father was clarified, that He is not only just the Son of God, but is also Co-Equal and Co-Eternal with the Father and the Holy Spirit, not subordinated but in equal and indivisible unity within the Holy Trinity, the One Triune God that yet maintains its distinct identities, One God in Three Persons.

This became the Nicene Creed as we know it today, which was then further updated at the subsequent Ecumenical Council of Constantinople to become the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed that we are still using regularly to this day. Through this Creed and the many other decisions by the venerable and courageous Church fathers inspired by the Holy Spirit, those who sought to subvert and change the teachings of the Church to suit their own self interests and ambitions were thwarted and many of those who have fallen to the heretical teachings and thoughts eventually returned to the Holy Mother Church.

Nonetheless, there were still disagreements and controversies surrounding the nature of Christ until that time particularly with regards to Mary, the Mother of Our Lord as there were disagreements between those who thought that Mary, as a mere woman could not have been the Mother of God, the same Infinite God and Creator of all the Universe. They thought how it was possible for a woman, a created being to become the mother of the One and Eternal God and Creator, for a created being to become the Mother of the Creator. This was the argument of those who also held the view that Jesus the Man was distinct and separate from the Divine Son of God.

Hence, they used the terms such as the Mother of Christ, or the Bearer of Christ in their references of Mary, highlighting that Mary was merely the mother of the human Jesus Christ, and not the Mother of God. But this view was totally flawed in that in the true nature of Our Lord, we can never completely separate His human and divine natures. Instead, as affirmed by the Ecumenical Councils at Ephesus and Chalcedon, the Lord and Saviour, Son of God and Son of Man is indeed one and only Person but with two distinct yet inseparable natures, Divine and Human at the same time. Each natures are distinct from each other and yet perfectly and completely united in the one Person of Jesus Christ.

And naturally therefore, if Jesus Christ is not just Man but also God, then Mary being His mother, as the one who bore Him in her womb, is also the Mother of God and not just the mother of Jesus Christ the Man. Just as Christ’s Divine and Human natures are inseparable, we cannot separate Mary’s motherhood of Christ from the fact that she is indeed the Mother of God. She was indeed full of grace and blessed among all women as said by her cousin Elizabeth, because she alone from all the creatures of the Lord was to bear the Almighty God Himself in the flesh, in her womb.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect today on Mary as the Mother of God, today all of us are also called to look to her examples and dedication to the Lord. She is not just honourable because she is the Mother of God but because she is also truly dedicated and faithful in her own way as well. She has obeyed the Lord wholeheartedly and followed Him throughout His life and ministry, ever since He was still in her womb, and then after He was born and then grew up, she still cared for Him, followed Him even throughout His works and then even through to the foot of the Cross. She remained true and faithful to the mission which God has entrusted to her.

Today we look up to Mary, who is not only just the Mother of God but also the mother of us all. For through His incarnation in the flesh, Our Lord has become part of our humanity and by sharing in our nature and in entrusting His own mother to us from the Cross, He has made all of us to be Mary’s own adopted children. She has watchfully guided us all and has never ceased praying for each and every one of us, and hoping that we can also follow her examples and also the examples of many of our faithful brothers and sisters, that we may also be truly faithful to God in all things.

Today we may then be wondering why is it that we are celebrating this occasion on the New Year’s Day. This is important because on this New Year’s Day, all of us are called to start the year right and not to continue living our lives in the manner that is not proper and unbecoming of our calling as Christians if that is what we have been doing all these while. All of us ought to remember that first and foremost, as Christians all of us are called to live our lives faithfully in accordance to the Law and the commandments that God has placed before us, which He has taught us and revealed to us through His Church.

If we call ourselves as Christians, then it is only right that all of us commit ourselves to a new life in God, to be true followers of Our Lord and be genuinely dedicated to Him in the way that Mary, the Mother of God and our mother had done. As we rejoice for her sake today, let us remember how all of us should also listen to her and her Son, in how we live our lives so that we do not end up being hypocrites in our Christian faith. That is why, as we begin this current new year, all of us should do our best and spend the time and effort to begin a year that is new, blessed and filled with true joy in Christ. The Lord has given us many opportunities in life and as such let us not forget to give Him thanks and to show our gratitude towards Him for His ever enduring patience and love for us.

In our lives in this new year, let us do whatever we can to be a source of light and hope, inspiration and strength to one another, especially to our brothers and sisters who are now suffering and are filled with sorrow and despair. In whatever way we can, and at least even through prayer, let us reach out to those who need our help, our love, care and attention. Just as Christ, Our Lord and Saviour has brought us the light of God’s salvation and revealed to us the wonders of His love, let us all pass on the light, love and all the wonders we have received to our fellow brothers and sisters.

Today, we also mark the occasion of the World Day of Peace, and hence it is an appropriate time for us to also dedicate ourselves to the pursuit of peace in our world. We all know how conflict and troubles had affected our world and many innocent people out there. If we do not actively make strides to go forth towards bringing Gos’s peace and harmony into our midst, then let us know just how our year and livelihood could be ruined by the conflicts, disagreements and hatred that are all around us. As Christians, all of us are called to pray for peace and to always work hard in championing the cause of peace.

Let us all do our best to live out our new year with ever greater faith in God and be ever fuller in love for Him, as we all gather together to celebrate this new year. And as we rejoice in all the new year celebrations, let us not forget to put Christ back at the centre of our hearts, our lives and existence so that we may live our lives from now on with Him as the focus and the inspiration for everything that we say and do.

Let us follow Mary, the Mother of God and our loving mother that we may be ever more righteous and obedient in following the Lord and in living our lives as role models to our fellow brothers and sisters, as genuine Christians at all times. And let us not forget to share our joy and blessings with others, especially those who have little or none to rejoice with this new year. Let us bring hope to the downtrodden and those who are in need of strength, encouragement and hope.

May God bless us all and may He empower each and every one of us so that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may always ever strive to seek Him and to walk in His ways. May our new year be blessed and be filled with joy, through Christ our Lord, through His light and hope. May God be with is all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him, they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : Abba! That is, Father! You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.

Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the peoples praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Saturday, 1 January 2022 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, and World Day of Prayer for Peace (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White or Blue

Numbers 6 : 22-27

Then YHVH spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them : This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say : May YHVH bless you and keep you! May YHVH let His face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May YHVH look kindly on you, and give you His peace!”

“In that way they put My Name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the very last day of the solar year calendar, and being still in the middle of the Christmas season, all of us through the readings of the Sacred Scriptures are reminded to keep our focus on Christ, on God’s truth and love, and not allow ourselves to be distracted and deceived by the many temptations present all around us. As we end our current year and look forward to the beginning of the new year, we have to keep our focus steadily forward, with Christ as our focus and direction, the Star that guides our path ever forward in life.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, the Apostle spoke of the dangers of the antichrists, all those who spoke of falsehoods and heretical teachings not in accordance to the truth and the teachings of the Lord. At that time, even that early in the history of the Church, there were already those who sought to divide the Church and mislead its members and adherents, by spreading teachings and thoughts that were contrary to the truth that the Lord has passed down through His Apostles.

Many of those heresies came about because of the power and influence that those heretical teachers and even wayward priests and clergy could attain by spreading their own version of the truth and teachings of God. They were more concerned with their own fame and glory, and the advancement of their selfish, worldly causes and ambitions rather than to proclaim the truth of God. As such, St. John the Apostle, who have worked for a long time and laboured hard among the people of God, showed his concerns on how all these led the people away from God.

What he was mentioning to us is for us to be vigilant as we look forward to the future and guard ourselves against the many possible corruptions from the world. We must not allow ourselves to be easily swayed and instead we have to keep ourselves firmly focused on the Lord, on His truth and love. We have to live our lives with genuine love for the Lord, obeying His will, His Law and commandments. The Lord has given us the opportunities for us to follow Him, and He has revealed to us His message of love, by the coming of His Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour into this world.

That is why today in our Gospel passage we are yet again reminded of the reason of our many celebrations that we have during this season of Christmas. We all celebrate because of the Word of God, the Son, Who chose to become Incarnate in the flesh, so that by the action of the Word made flesh, He might become for all of us, past, present and future, the One to redeem us and save us from our fated destruction because of our many sins. In Christmas all of us have been reminded of this great love of God manifested in the flesh, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the last day of this year, let us all take stock and evaluate carefully how our year had been like. Have we spent the time and effort to be faithful to God and also to dedicate ourselves to His works? Have we truly placed Him at the centre of our lives as we should? As we prepare to welcome the new year, we should look back and see in what way we can do better especially as Christians in living our lives ever more sincerely and genuinely in faith. We should be ready to lead a more wholesome Christian life in the year ahead, and we can do so by following the examples of our holy predecessors, the saints, the holy men and women of God.

Today in particular, on this last day of the year, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Silvester I, also known as Pope St. Sylvester. Pope St. Silvester I was the leader of the Universal Church, as the Pope and Bishop of Rome during the time of new beginnings for the Church. His twenty-one years long pontificate was one of the longest of any Popes, and it ushered in the era of new beginnings for the Christian community and the Church. This is especially considering that his pontificate came right after Pope St. Miltiades, during whose pontificate the Edict of Milan officially tolerating Christianity was declared by the Roman Emperors Constantine and Licinius. This Edict was proclaimed just less than two years before the pontificate of Pope St. Silvester I began.

Pope St. Silvester I and his long pontificate marked the beginning of a new era for the Church and the Christian population throughout the Empire. Of course persecution did not end outright and there remained sporadic persecutions and tensions with the pagans and the authorities, but the end of persecutions opened a lot of opportunities for Christians who have long suffered from various persecutions and opposition from both the Roman government and from the pagan followers. There were a large number of churches and other Christian buildings being built during his pontificate, marking the beginning of a new and brighter future.

However, at the same time, the tensions and divisions that once were not previously apparent or visible began to make themselves apparent as various heretical teachings and thoughts like Arianism and Gnosticism amongst many others began to arise at that time, and in particular Arianism gained so much following and support that with the collaboration of the Roman Emperor, Pope St. Silvester I and many other bishops decided to organise the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea which formulated the official teachings of the Church and the rejection of heresies, just as St. John had warned against earlier.

The life and works of Pope St. Silvester I should remind all of us, brothers and sisters in Christ, that the future is not necessarily bleak or dark. We all know just how difficult these past two years had been on so many of us, but we must have faith in the Lord that everything will one day be fine again. We have to look forward to a brighter future while at the same time being vigilant against all the evils and wicked influences, all the false paths that can mislead us down the wrong path. The best way for us is to commit ourselves fully to the Lord and entrust ourselves to Him.

Let us all seek the Lord with a new heart and be more committed to Him from now on. May He continue to bless us and guide us, and may He strengthen each and every one of us, so that we will always have hope in Him and as we enter into the new year, may He continue to bless us in each and every good endeavours, and bless our loved ones, families and friends. May God bless us all, and bless our year ahead. Amen.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One Who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.”

From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name. Proclaim His salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord.

He Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Friday, 31 December 2021 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 18-21

My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour.

They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom.

I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Thursday, 30 December 2021 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to continue to remember that this is still now part of the Christmas season, and all that we have heard today reminded us that God in His ever enduring and supreme love for all of us have given us the perfect gift in Jesus, His most beloved Son, Whom He sent to the world to be part of our lives, to be the Bridge that brought us closer to Him and helped in reuniting and reconciling us to Himself. Too often we have been caught up in our busy life schedules and forgot about all these, ignoring God and His ever generous love.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John, the Apostle reminded all the faithful to keep in mind their Christian calling, that is to follow the Lord and His path, to love Him more than anything else by their words and deeds, and not to succumb to the temptations of worldliness among other things. St. John reminded us all because it is very easy for us to love the world more than we love God, for the world often offers us easy pleasures and quick satisfaction that can tempt us to desire more of them.

St. John reminded all of us that the Word of God, the Word of Life has come upon us and dwells in our midst. He is the Divine Word Incarnate, the Word of God made flesh, the Son of God born through His mother Mary as the Son of Man, entering into our world and gracing us with His love, the perfect manifestation of God’s Love, made fully tangible and approachable, that all of us may know the truth of God, His love and ever generous compassion towards us. It is all these that we have been celebrating this Christmas season.

It is the same Jesus Christ Whom as a young Infant, was brought to the Temple of Jerusalem, the House of God to be offered to God, as in accordance to the Law of Moses, as we heard in our Gospel passage both today and yesterday. The old prophetess Anna confirmed again what the old man of God Simeon had already spoken regarding the Child Jesus, before His parents, Mary and St. Joseph, who heard how this Child indeed would become the Saviour of all and amaze all by His power and deeds. It is this same Child that would later on grow to become the One to bear the Cross of suffering, dying and offering His own life for our sake.

For Christmas is indeed inseparable from the Passion of the Lord and His Resurrection at Easter. Through Christmas and all that we celebrate, we remember God Who has made Himself tangible to us, and sharing in our human existence, resolving to take upon Himself all of our sufferings, our human sufferings due to our sins, which would not have been possible without the Incarnation, and bore it upon Himself as the worthy offering in atonement for our sins. Through that act of supreme and most selfless love, God had redeemed us and saved us, assuring us who keep our faith in Him, the assurance of eternal life and true joy.

Yet, as mentioned just earlier, it is very easy for us to forget about all these, and forget why we call ourselves as Christians in the first place. In a world filled with a lot of selfishness and various temptations, of pleasures of the flesh, of wealth and glory, of fame and influence, power and others, we often sidelined the Lord and ignored His ever generous love, choosing instead to listen to Satan and all the temptress’ seductions, believing in their lies instead of God’s truth and ever enduring love for us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we continue to celebrate the joy of Christmas, let us always remind ourselves and one another of the reason of our celebrations and rejoicing. Let us not be easily swayed and tempted by the excesses of worldly pleasures and instead seek the true joy and happiness that can be found in God alone. Let us all be good role models to one another and inspire everyone whom we encounter in our daily lives with the light and hope of Our Lord Jesus Christ. In these dark and difficult times, let us bring hope and encouragement to others, especially to those who are suffering and sorrowful without anyone to console or help them.

May the Lord continue to guide us and bless us in our every good works and endeavours, and may He continue to inspire and encourage us to be the bearers of His light and hope in our world today. May our love for the Lord continue to grow and remain strong despite the challenges and trials we may encounter in life. Amen.