Saturday, 31 December 2022 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, on this very last day of the current Gregorian Solar Calendar of this Year of Our Lord 2022, we are all reminded of the need for each one of us to contemplate and reflect on the year that has just passed us by. And at the same time we should also spend some time to consider our options going forward to the next, new year in 2023. We have to spend some time at the end of this year to see how we can make the next and new year better for all of us, in terms of our lives as Christians and as members of our various, diverse communities and peoples, as well as in terms of our mission and calling to serve the communities we are living in.

In our first reading today, we heard from the words of St. John the Apostle in his Epistle to the faithful people of God in which he spoke of the imminent coming of the end times, and also the rise of the antichrists, who were the false prophets and teachers, that misled the people of God to the wrong paths. Back then, there were quite a few of these false leaders and teachers who distorted the teachings of the Lord and His Church for their own benefits and purposes. Those false leaders endangered the unity of the Church and the faithful, causing schisms and heresies to happen, even in the days of the Apostles as St. John himself experienced. In the next few hundred years, more of those heresies and divisions would appear, as people of God chose to embrace falsehoods and lies instead of the truth of God.

This is when as we heard from our Gospel passage today, by the same St. John the Apostle and Evangelist, we are reminded in the midst of this joyful Christmas season of Who it is that we are celebrating about. St. John reminded all of us that it is the Word of God Himself, the Son of God, Incarnate in the flesh that we are all celebrating for, for His coming into this world, appearing before all of us as the Son of Man, the Saviour of all. By His incarnation in the flesh, and by being born of His mother Mary, He has shown us the love of God made manifest and tangible to us. While once mankind can only see and feel the greatness of God from afar, now through Christ, everything had been made real and approachable to us. Through Christ, we have come into the realisation of God’s love made Man, approachable and touchable to us.

It is this truth which those false leaders and prophets, messengers and heretics all tried to subvert and change for their own selfish purposes and desires. Some of them rejecting the Divinity of Christ while others rejected the Humanity of Christ, and others still reject the figure of Christ altogether and instead conflating the Christian faith with other syncretic pagan practices among others. These were what St. John warned the faithful all about, that they should not succumb to the temptations to sin, or to evil, falsehoods and wickedness in any sorts. St. John told all of us that we have to keep adhering to the truth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the manifestation of God’s love Whom we celebrate this Christmas season. As His disciple and follower we have to commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a saint and servant of God whose life and devotion to God hopefully can become a great source of inspiration to follow, as we embark on our own journey of faith in this life. Pope St. Silvester I was one of the early Church fathers and leaders, who reigned during the moment of great change for the Church and the world. He succeeded Pope St. Miltiades whose reign coincided with the Edict of Milan, the Edict of toleration of all Christians and their faith as proclaimed by the Roman Emperors Constantine the Great and Licinius. That declaration and Edict marked the momentous time when Christians were no longer persecuted for their faith as they had been in the past three centuries, with the latest being the particularly vicious persecution under the Emperor Diocletian and his fellow Emperors.

Pope St. Silvester I succeeded Pope St. Miltiades and would go on to reign for a long over twenty years period, ushering a time of great renewal for the Church. He led the Church through both a turbulent and great period, characterised by great many conversions and growth of the Church, but at the same time also plenty of divisions within the Church. He led the Church through a time of great building of churches and institutions, but also a time when many heresies and divisions arose in the Church, and the faithful became increasingly more and more divided by their different priorities and ideals, and especially back then, the heresy of Arianism and Donatism, and also Gnosticism threatened the unity of the Church. To combat these divisions and restore unity of the Church, Pope St. Silvester I together with his brother bishops and with the support of the Emperor Constantine convened the first ever Ecumenical Council of the Church in Nicaea.

Pope St. Silvester I did not attend the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea himself, but sent his delegation with his full authority to the Council, which condemned the various heresies particularly that of Arianism, and upheld the true Christian faith as preserved and handed down from the days of the Apostles and the beginning of the Church. Eventually, the true Christian faith prevailed and the Church continued to flourish despite the many challenges and trials that it faced, also thanks to the firm and faithful leadership of Pope St. Silvester I, who became a source of inspiration to all the bishops all throughout Christendom and facing all sorts of pressures and hardships. And as we discern the life and works of Pope St. Silvester I, whose Pontificate was at the end and boundary between the old order of persecutions and hardships for the Church and a new beginning and renewal through freedom, we too should reflect upon our past year and what we are going to do this upcoming new year.

May the Lord continue to guide and strengthen us in our journey, and may He continue to help us to persevere through the challenges in life and also help us to direct our path to the right way as we continue to proceed to the new year with new hope and new expectations. Let us all look forward to the new year with hope and strive to be ever better Christians, in the spirit of Pope St. Silvester I, whose life is an inspiration to all of us. May God bless us always in all of our efforts and deeds, for His greater glory, and may He bless our year ahead with His most wonderful blessings and grace. Amen.

Saturday, 31 December 2022 : 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.

Saturday, 31 December 2022 : 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.

Saturday, 31 December 2022 : 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.

Friday, 30 December 2022 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, marking an occasion when we honour the Holy Family of Bethlehem and Nazareth, through which the Saviour has come and entered into our world. Today we celebrate this most wonderful Family, which God had brought and assembled together to be the perfect role model for all of us in how we ourselves should live up our own Christian families to the best of our abilities. The Holy Family inspires each and every one of us that we should live our own Christian living and model our families upon theirs so that we may all draw ever closer to God and be ever more worthy of God and His salvation, as each time passes by. That is why as we continue to progress through this joyful season of Christmas, we are also reminded to remain faithful as Christian families, all dedicated and centred on God.

In our first reading today we heard of the words of the prophet Sirach, in which he highlighted that each of the members of the family ought to do their part and obligations, so that the whole family might exist and work harmoniously together, with the children ought to be caring for their parents and also be obedient to them. However, this does not mean that the parents can then do whatever they wanted to the children. They also have their own responsibilities and duties, as parents of the children, and as well as husband and wife to each other. Every members of the family must also be caring and loving to each other so that the whole family will be united and in harmony. And this is something that our alternative first reading today, also the second reading for those celebrating this Feast as Solemnity, has mentioned as well.

In that passage from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians, the Apostle exhorted to the faithful to do just as the prophet Sirach had mentioned, and added on that each and every members of the faithful must clothe themselves with the virtues of the Lord, with love and kindness, with compassion, humility, meekness and other virtues. If each and every one of us do this, and fill ourselves with those Christian virtues and most importantly love, and also do as the prophet Sirach and St. Paul the Apostle had exhorted all of us to do, in the maintenance of good, harmonious and working relationship within our families, certainly we will be able to maintain good and loving relationship within our families, and help our families to flourish ever further.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard one account from the early life of the Lord Jesus as the King of Judea then, Herod the Great, attempted to kill the Lord to remove Him as a threat to his rule. And we heard how God warned the Holy Family through an Angel who told St. Joseph in a dream to bring both Mary and the Child Jesus away from the land, and escape to the land of Egypt. St. Joseph carried out this mission and instruction most obediently, and cared for both Mary, his wife and his legal child, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Saviour of the world, during the duration of their stay in Egypt, and then beyond after they have returned from Egypt and back to their hometown in Nazareth. And although it was not mentioned or in any detail in the Scriptures, it can be well assumed that St. Joseph carried out his role as the father of the Messiah really well.

Although St. Joseph was not the biological father of the Lord Jesus, being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit without any human intervention, he still cared for his foster Son nonetheless, as much as any biological fathers would have done. He did his duties as a father and a loving husband to his wife Mary, and also living his life and acting virtuously, as we all know and are inspired with by his exemplary actions. We can see how as a parent, there are things that those of us parents have to do in caring for our children and also in being good role models to our families, especially to our children. In this, Mary as a most loving wife and mother has also done most wonderfully, in caring for her newborn Child during those difficult moments and throughout as she continued to care for her Son.

Not only that, but as we all know, Mary continued to carry out her loving care and duty even after the Lord Jesus had grown into His full adulthood and began embarking on His mission, as she often followed Him throughout His missions and works, and most importantly, went to follow Him even all the way to the foot of His Cross. There she witnessed something that no mother would have wanted, to see her own Son dying before her. Yet, she persisted and continued to stay by His side to the end. Finally, then the Lord Himself was also an obedient Child and Son, as He listened to His father and mother, as shown in that one occasion when He was left behind at the Temple in Jerusalem, and wanted to stay there. He followed His parents who showed Him their concern of seeing Him being left behind, and returned with them to Nazareth.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, these days there are many threats facing our families, not least because there are many forces trying to shatter the unity of our families apart. Many families had been broken because each and every one of their members had forgotten what families truly mean and what each one of them should base their families on, and most important of that is love. Love is something often lacking in our families today, just because it is the same thing lacking in our marriages these days. People do not marry because they truly love each other, but because of other reasons and for convenience, and hence, when things fall apart, the whole marriage and family naturally fall apart as well. That is what will happen to many of our Christian families as well, if we do not have the strong foundation of love.

When each and every members of the family begin to indulge in selfishness, in greed and desire, that is when the unity and harmony in our families disappear. However, we must also remember that there must be faith in our families too, that each and every members of our families ought to have faith in the Lord, and then enthrone Him in the midst of our every families, in our every hearts. If we put the Lord at the centre of our families, and then most importantly, pray together as a family, and spend time together as a family, all believing in the Lord, then all of us will most likely be able to sustain our families despite the many challenges and opposition that we may face in our journey as families of this world, and as families of our respective Christian communities and societies.

Let us all therefore look upon the good examples set by the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph, and make them the examples and inspirations for our own families. May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our lives within our families, that we may remain harmonious and united despite the challenges we may face, and that as a family, each and every one of us may be growing ever deeper in faith and appreciation of the Lord and the love that He Himself has shown us. May our families be blessed and be strong bastions of Christian faith and love, and as the foundations of the Church, may all of our Christian families be ever strong beacons of God’s light, hope and love. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 30 December 2022 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 13-15, 19-23

After the wise men had left, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where He stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : I called My Son out of Egypt.

After Herod’s death, an Angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the Child are dead.” So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother and went to the land of Israel.

But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. Joseph was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee. There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way, what was said by the prophets was fulfilled : He shall be called a Nazorean.

Friday, 30 December 2022 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Blessed are you who fear the Lord and walk in His ways. You will eat the fruit of your toil; you will be blessed and favoured.

Your wife, like a vine, will bear fruits in your home; your children, like olive shoots will stand around your table.

Such are the blessings bestowed upon the man who fears the Lord. May the Lord bless you from Zion. May you see Jerusalem prosperous all the days of your life.

Friday, 30 December 2022 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 3 : 3-7, 14-17a (Greek Septuagint – Sirach 3 : 2-6, 12-14)

For the Lord established that children should respect their father; He confirmed the right of the mother over her children. Whoever honours his father atones for his sins; he who gives glory to his mother prepares a treasure for himself.

Whoever honours his father will receive joy from his own children and will be heard when he prays. Whoever glorifies his father will have a long life. Whoever obeys the Lord gives comfort to his mother.

My child, take care of your father in his old age, do not cause him sorrow as long as he lives. Even if he has lost his mind, have patience; do not be disrespectful to him while you are in full health. For kindness done to one’s father will never be forgotten, it will serve as reparation for your sins.

Alternative reading

Colossians 3 : 12-21

Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of Him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful. Let the Word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom. With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise.

And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him. Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that pleases the Lord. Parents, do not be too demanding of your children, lest they become discouraged.

Thursday, 29 December 2022 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (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 all reminded of the reason again why we celebrate in this Christmas season, of why we gather together to rejoice in the coming of the Lord, the Saviour of the whole world. God has come into this world to gather each and every one of us, so that we may come to reconciliation and reunification with Him, and receive from Him the assurance of everlasting life and glory. The Lord has come down upon us and appeared before us so that we may come to experience His love, His kindness and compassion in its fullness. We are reminded that the salvation has come to us through the Son of God born into this world and celebrated at Christmas, as we are doing now.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the time when the Child Jesus was brought to the Temple of Jerusalem, to be presented and offered to God just as the Law dictated it. Both St. Joseph and Mary brought Him to the Temple, and there, the man of God called Simeon came to them and beheld the One Whom he has been told to await, and the One Whose coming he would witness before he passed on from this world. Simeon told both St. Joseph and Mary about what the Child would do as He would grow and eventually become a Sign for all the people of God, the Sign and fulfilment of everything which God had promised to all of us mankind. Through Christ, the Child presented and offered to God at the Temple that time, God would liberate all of us mankind, His beloved ones from the bondage to sin, evil and death.

Then in our first reading today, we heard of the words of St. John the Apostle in his Epistle as he told the faithful people of God regarding what they are all called to do as Christians, in doing the will of God and in obeying His Law and commandments. The Lord has come into our midst bearing His light and love, revealing unto us His great compassion, in Christ, His only begotten and beloved Son. And it is by this action that the Lord revealed to us what it truly means for us to be His followers, and that, as St. John himself wrote in his Epistle, is that ‘we all ought to live our lives just as He has lived His life, full of obedience to the Lord and full of righteousness, love and commitment to the path that God has shown to each and every one of us. By becoming one like us, in assuming our human flesh and existence, Christ has led us by His hands, to enter into this new existence in God.

We are reminded that as Christ Himself has shown us, the love of God had been revealed and taught to us, that we too may know how to love Him and that we may also be filled with the same love that He has shown us. And that is also exactly what the Law and the commandments of the Lord is all about. As the Lord Jesus told His disciples in another occasion, the Law of God can be summarised in two parts, as ‘Love the Lord your God with all of your hearts, with all of your strength and abilities’ and also ‘Love one another, your fellow brothers and sisters in the same way, just as much as you love yourself.’ The Love of God has been manifested to us, and He has shown us His most generous love in the incarnation of His Son, by sending us the best of all gifts, because through Christ, He has willed to reach out to us and lift us up out of our dark fate of destruction because of our sins.

Because of that, all of us should heed what the Lord had told us to do, to be genuine, faithful and loving Christians, and as we celebrate this joyful season of Christmas, we are constantly being reminded of how God’s love had been manifested before us in Jesus Christ, His Son, born into this world and walking in our midst, extending to us the most generous offer of salvation and eternal life, if we truly can believe in Him and follow Him. We should thus follow Him wholeheartedly in our way of life and not be easily tempted by the many temptations of worldly pleasures and other things that often led man into their downfall because they could not resist the temptation of power and glory. And we also have the saints to help lead us down the right path, in showing us what is meant for us to be Christians.

Today, we remember one of those saints for his obedience to the Lord, to His commandments and Law, against the forces of the world that rallied up against him and the Church. St. Thomas Becket was the Archbishop of Canterbury living and ministering to the people of God more than eight centuries ago, during the High Middle Ages England, and as the Archbishop of Canterbury was the most important member of the clergy in all of England, the spiritual leader of all the faithful in that kingdom. He was once an English nobleman who was a close confidant and friend of the King of England, King Henry II. The King appointed his good friend as his Chancellor, and therefore becoming a powerful right hand man of the King, managing many of his court affairs and finances among others.

Then, King Henry II tried to gain more influence and control over the Church, which at that time often acted independently of the King and his court, and therefore, when vacancy occurred to the position of the Archbishop of Canterbury, the King nominated St. Thomas Becket to the position, thinking that by having his friend in that role, he could control the Church and its finances and other institutions better. St. Thomas Becket also remained as the King’s Chancellor while he was concurrently the Archbishop of Canterbury. St. Thomas Becket however went through a thorough change of heart as he went through the ordinations that made him deacon, priest and finally bishop, and was anointed and enthroned as the Archbishop of Canterbury and thus Primate of England.

St. Thomas Becket began to act independently of the King and refusing his efforts and desires to bring the Church under the realm’s control, and insisted on maintaining the independence of the Church and its institutions from any royal or secular influences and control. This then earned St. Thomas Becket the King’s ire and anger, as the King grew more and more restless and disappointed as his efforts were thwarted and resisted again and again, even after he managed to pressure St. Thomas Becket into exile more than once. Nonetheless, St. Thomas Becket continued his resistance against the King’s efforts, excommunicating one of the nobles who abused his authority and who was supported by the King. This continued struggle between King and his Archbishop went on for quite a few years.

And after this long and protracted period of disagreement and conflict, it was there then that the King made a comment in a feast in which he lamented his powerlessness against this man of God and asked if anyone could get rid of him. This was taken as a royal order by four knights who were present there, who then went to find St. Thomas Becket. St. Thomas Becket was martyred when those knights struck at him with their swords at his own Cathedral just as he was doing his prayers. The murder of St. Thomas Becket shocked the whole entire Christendom, and the story of the courage and perseverance showed by St. Thomas Becket very soon inspired many others, and many more even right down to this day, of a man of God who chose to obey the Lord and walk down His path of righteousness rather than to follow the path of worldliness and sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as St. Thomas Becket himself has shown us, let us therefore remember to walk the path that the Lord has shown us, the path of His love and the path of righteousness, loving God and loving our fellow brethren as generously as we can, rather than indulging in our own desire for power and glory as King Henry II and many other men and women of the world had done in the past, which led them to commit great sins and wickedness. Let us all distance ourselves from all those temptations and strive to do in whatever way we can to seek the Lord with a renewed heart full of love and faith in Him. May we all draw ever closer to God through our faithful Christmas celebrations, and through the inspirations from the saints, especially from St. Thomas Becket. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 29 December 2022 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”