Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron of Missions and a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits renowned for his lengthy and great missionary journeys to different parts of the world, especially his works in Asia, in the regions of India and South Asia, then Southeast Asia and the Far East, in Macau, China and Japan. St. Francis Xavier gave inspiration to many others in how he dedicated his life and service to God, in his perseverance to continue the mission despite the challenges and hardships he encountered during his journeys, and his passion and love for his fellow brothers and sisters, in the genuine desire he has to proclaim the Word of God and His Good News to more and more of the people of God all around the world.

St. Francis Xavier was born in what is today Spain as Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in the town of Javier or Xavier which would later on made him known as Francis Xavier as we know him today. He was one of the companions of the Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first members of the Jesuits, considered as one of its founding members. Back then, during the height of the Protestant reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered his companions and other like-minded people to commit themselves to the works of evangelisation and other ministries to spearhead the efforts in countering the terrible effects of the so-called reformation, which splintered the Church in many places into several factions and ‘churches’, and heresies and falsehoods were abound because of errant heretics and preachers.

The Jesuits were founded with the aim to help the Pope and the Church to oppose the tide of heresy and disunity, as well as to reform the Church in the right way. St. Ignatius of Loyola sent out the Jesuits in ministering both to the traditional areas of Christendom like in what is today Germany, the hotbed of the reformation, and also to those mission areas beyond Europe, where European explorers and adventurers made many discoveries of distant lands, all of which had not yet heard the message of God’s truth, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation. St. Francis Xavier was among those entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Good News in the foreign and distant lands, and hence, he went forth, never returning to his homeland ever again.

He followed the long journey to the newly discovered areas, embarking on an extensive missionary journeys in parts of India, where missionaries had already laid some foundations earlier on, as well as areas of Southeast Asia like Malacca and the Spice Islands where he went to several islands and communities, preaching about God and gaining some people who were interested to know more about the Lord and became the first Christian converts in those areas. He did not always have it smooth though, as he did face rejection and hardships along the way, and in a well-known story about him, St. Francis Xavier almost met his end in a terrible storm in the sea, where the boat he was in was battered by waves and the strong wind. He prayed to God and thrust his crucifix into the waves, which then fell into the water and the storm stopped miraculously. A crab later on brought the crucifix back to St. Francis Xavier, who blessed it, and that crab later on always had a cross on its back.

That is just one of the many well-known stories regarding St. Francis Xavier, in his many efforts to serve the Lord through his time and work, in proclaiming the Good News to the furthest ends of the world. He went on to proclaim the Gospels in Japan, and was instrumental in laying the foundations for the later very successful Jesuit mission in Japan, which despite its termination later by the very intense persecutions under the Tokugawa Shogunate, for a period of about fifty years, the Church managed to flourish really well in Japan, with an estimated three hundred thousand Christians during the very height of the mission there, several decades after the passing of St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier himself passed away in Shangchuan Island just on the shores of China as he awaited the opportunity to enter China to begin a mission there. Some of other Jesuits like the famous Matteo Ricci would then continue what St. Francis Xavier had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the lives and works of St. Francis Xavier today, on his Feast day, all of us are called to reflect on our own respective calling and missions as Christians. Each one of us as God’s followers and disciples share the responsibility as the members of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to proclaim the message of God’s truth, His Good News and the Gospels of salvation to all the people whom we encounter in this world. St. Francis Xavier being the Patron of Missions and all missionaries serves as a reminder for all of us that we too share in this same mission and we must not have the misconception and misunderstanding thinking that the responsibility for mission and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ are solely that of missionaries and those ordained ministers alone.

On the contrary, every members of the Church including and even especially the laity have important parts to play in the works and ministries of the Church. If each members of the Church do not do their parts in the mission and works of the Church, or worse still, do things that are contrary to the teachings of the Church and bring scandal upon our faith, then it does not help the works of the Church’s missions in this world and can even jeopardise all the good efforts that had been put in place by the tireless efforts and hard works of all those who have committed themselves to the glory of God. Hence, that is why it is crucial that each and every one of us as Christians have to be genuine and true in our way of life that we have to practice our faith and show it through our every words, actions and deeds, in our every interactions with one another.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves to be a missionary Church, a vibrant and evangelising community of the Lord’s disciples, filled with the love for the Lord and with the passion to serve Him and to follow Him all the days and moments of our lives. Let us all follow the examples and inspiration from the passion and the commitment which St. Francis Xavier had dedicated his life to the service of God and to the proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel of salvation. Let us be exemplary in our way of life so that all those who witness our actions and works may indeed be convinced of God’s truth and His Good News that we and many other missionaries of the Church had proclaimed. If we ourselves have not lived in the way that the Lord had told and taught us to do, how can we then convince others to do the same?

May the Lord our most loving God continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may always remain firm in our conviction and dedication, walking ever firmly in the path that He has set before all of us. May God be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to be shining beacons of His light and truth, much as how St. Francis Xavier and the many other, innumerable saints had shown us their faith and light of God’s truth. May God bless our every works and efforts, and help us to persevere ever more faithfully in all the things we do for the greater glory of His Name. May He bless our Advent journey that we will always continue to grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and be prepared and ready to rejoice with Him this upcoming Christmas season. Amen.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : 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.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : 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.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : 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.

Friday, 2 December 2022 : 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 called to remember the love and kindness which God has shown each one of us Christians, and all of His beloved ones, that He came to rescue us from our predicament and fate, leading us into the path towards everlasting life and true joy with Him, a path that He has shown us, as light and hope lighting our way out of the darkness surrounding us in our lives. We are all reminded that it is in God alone that we have our salvation and hope, and it is through Him alone that we shall receive justification and grace, and liberation from the bondage of sin, death and evil which had always hounded us all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of yet another one of God’s reassuring words for His people just as we have heard all throughout this week, reminding them all of everything that God has done for them and then what He will do for all of them, as He gathered them all from being scattered all over, and returned them to their lands, to enjoy once again His favour and grace, His love and providence. Back then, the land of Israel and its people were far off from the once glorious days of their predecessors, of the great kingdom of David and Solomon. They had faced great challenges and trials, difficulties and humiliations, all because of their lack of faith in God and their disobedience and sins against Him. Yet, the Lord continued to show His love towards them and sent them His help and providence, again and again.

Historically, the people of God would be scattered all throughout the world, uprooted from their lands, as consequences for their sins. Yet, the Lord would gather them once again, leading all of them towards Him and returning them back to their lands, as He had done when He moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to allow the people of Israel, who have regretted their sins and the faults of their ancestors, and being repentant of those sins, to return once again to their homeland, the Land promised to their ancestors. What God spoke about in our today’s first reading through the prophet Isaiah to His people was indeed a proclamation of what would happen when He led them all back to their land, an expectation of the happy and glorious days to come, and in fact, also a lead-up to what will one day happen at the end of time, when God finally leads all of us, His beloved ones, back to Him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord healing two blind men who came to Him, begging Him to heal them from their blindness. They asked Him and believed that He could deliver them from their troubles, and indeed, the Lord healed and allowed their eyes to see once again. They were saved from their predicament by the power of God, and became yet another proof of God great power and also love for His beloved people. God brought them out of the darkness and back into the light. God has restored hope to them and made them whole again, and that same thing is what He will also do to all of us, to each and every one of us who have faith in Him and are called to follow Him and to walk in His path. We are God’s people, and He is our Lord and Master.

That is what we really need to reflect on in this season of Advent, recalling the great love, compassion and mercy which Our Lord has shown us and which He has generously given to us. Through Him, all of us have received a new hope and the light that pierced through the darkness of despair and evil that surrounded us. It is Him Whom we are expecting and preparing for this coming Christmas, the source of our rejoicing and celebrations, the source of our strength and life. This Advent is a time for us to contemplate all these and to prepare ourselves so that we may indeed celebrate Christmas with proper understanding and appreciation of everything that God had done for us all, His beloved people. We have to make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves, body, heart, mind and soul, so that our whole being may be ready to welcome the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend the time this Advent to reconnect ourselves with God and to strengthen our relationship and connection with Him, so that we may draw ever closer to Him and become ever more committed to His path. Many of us have not been doing this and many have been spending their Advent and Christmas on the wrong things, both their time and effort, as they were swayed by the worldly ways that Christmas has often been celebrated all around the world. Instead of celebrating and commemorating the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Love of God made Man, and brought into our midst, we have put Him aside and forgotten about Him, which led to us distancing ourselves ever further from Him and His path.

We are all reminded that we are all so blessed that God has willingly shown us His love and compassion, just as the Scripture passages today earlier on had shown us. Therefore, it is only right and just that we should appreciate and reciprocate that love that God has shown us with our own love and devotion towards Him, doing our best to follow Him and His path, doing His will, listening to Him and walking in the path that He has shown us, His commandments and Law, and showing the same love He has shown us, to our fellow brothers and sisters, that through our love, kindness and compassion, more and more people may come to know the love of God and be brought ever closer to Him and to the salvation and eternal life in Him.

May the Lord our most loving and compassionate God continue to help and guide us through this blessed season of Advent so that we may make good use of this time and season of Advent to prepare ourselves to be ever more worthy to celebrate the true joy of Christmas, and be inspirations, role models and examples in how we live out our faith, glorifying God by our lives and showing others what it truly means to be Christians, as our Lord’s followers and disciples. May God bless us all at all times, and may He bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 2 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.

Friday, 2 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!

Friday, 2 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 29 : 17-24

In a very short time, Lebanon will become a fruitful field and the fruitful field will be as a forest. On that day the deaf will hear the words of the book, and out of the dark and obscurity the eyes of the blind will see. The meek will find joy and the poor among men will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.

For the tyrant will be no more and the scoffers gone forever, and all who plan to do evil will be cut down – those who by a word make you guilty, those who for a bribe can lay a snare and send home the just empty-handed.

Therefore YHVH, Abraham’s Redeemer, speaks concerning the people of Jacob : No longer will Jacob be ashamed; no longer will his face grow pale. When he sees the work of My hands, his children again in his midst, they will sanctify My Name, they will sanctify the Holy One of Jacob, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit will understand; those who murmur will learn.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 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 reminded that the Lord our God is our Rock and Foundation, and in Him alone we will find a firm and steady support for ourselves, regardless of whatever trials, hardships and struggles we may encounter throughout life. The Lord alone is the source of our true strength and without Him we shall have nothing and our existence has no meaning at all. Yet, many of us still chose to build our lives upon unstable and shaky foundations, based on worldly things, resources and matters, and not on the Lord and His providence. We have often left the Lord out of our lives and put Him aside when in truth He should have been at the very centre of our lives.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Isaiah regarding what He will do to them, in providing for them, protecting them and leading them into glory, rescuing them from their troubles and their enemies. They shall once again see happiness and true joy through God’s providence and love. Back then, during the time of the ministry and work of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God left in the land of Judah, the southern half of the once united kingdom of Israel, were facing great trials and challenges, as their enemies rose up all around them, threatening them and drowning them by their great power. Yet, the Lord reassured them that if they remained firm in their faith in Him and trusted in Him, God will always be by their side and they will be saved in the end.

At that time, the kingdom of Israel, the northern domain of the people of God, north of Judah had just recently been destroyed by the conquering and rampaging Assyrians who crushed the entire kingdom of Israel, subjugating its people to humiliation and exile, bringing many of them to the distant lands away from their homeland. Their constant refusal to listen to the Lord, their sins and wickedness had brought about that consequence, as they were all humbled from their haughty attitude against the Lord’s faithful, His many prophets and messengers whom they had persecuted and rejected. However, it did not mean that God did not love His people or forsake them. He still loved them, but those wayward ones indeed had to face their consequences first, and know that what they had suffered, came because of their own actions and choices.

Then, the Assyrians also came up against Judah after they had crushed the Israelites. King Sennacherib of Assyria brought a massive and powerful army against the kingdom of Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem itself. Conventionally, by the wisdom and understanding of the world, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were doomed, and they should have shared the fate of their northern brethren. Yet, while Sennacherib uttered blasphemies and nasty words against God and His people, the people of Judah, who had been faithful to the Lord by the leadership of their king Hezekiah, remained firm in their faith and were not swayed by the persuasions, coercions, threats or ridicule by the king of Assyria. The Lord did not abandon His people and He stood by them, exactly just as what we have heard in our first reading today.

That is because while Sennacherib boasted in the greatness of his worldly power, the might of his army and his vast armaments, the Lord reminded him and humbled him, telling him just how futile his boasting and how fleeting his power and glory actually were. The Lord sent His mighty Angels to stand guard over His City, and He sent them to crush the armies of the Assyrians, where the whole vast multitudes of Sennacherib’s army was destroyed, and the king of Assyria had to return back to his lands in shame. According to the Scriptures and historical evidence, he was assassinated by his own sons soon after, marking the most ignominious end for this king who had boasted against God and uttered blasphemy against Him. Meanwhile, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were saved and triumphant, under the power of their Lord and true King, God Himself.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard then of the Lord’s parable of the houses, in which He highlighted two houses built upon two different foundations, one of insecure and shaky sand, and the other of solid and firm rocky foundation. In that parable, the Lord Jesus highlighted how all those who had no real and genuine faith in Him are like those who built their houses upon the unsteady foundation of sand, and gave examples of those who called on Him and claimed to know Him, and yet in their hearts and minds, they had no place for God and God is not at the centre or the focus of their hearts and minds. The Lord reminded us all therefore that if we are truly to call ourselves as Christians, then we must indeed have genuine faith in Him, and we cannot merely be faithful on the outside, but is empty of faith inside.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter and progress through this season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, let us all therefore reflect on our faith and life, whether we have indeed been true believers of Christ and His truth, and whether we have made Him the firm foundation of our lives, or whether we have chosen to make other worldly things and matters as the foundations of our lives instead of God. We do not have to go and look far beyond what we can see in how many people celebrate Christmas. Christmas has become so secularised and focused on many worldly forms of pleasures and joys that we end up losing sight of what Christmas is all about, and what we are in fact celebrating. We must not forget that the Lord Jesus is truly the reason why we rejoice as we prepare for the glorious celebrations of Christmas.

That is why, let us all purify our hearts and minds, and clear our thoughts and discern carefully our way of living, and our preparations for Christmas in particular so that we may indeed be worthy to celebrate it with proper disposition, understanding and faith. Let us all lead by example through our lives so that we may help others to see the truth of God, and anchor our lives firmly on Him, our Rock and our Strength, our Foundation and our Salvation. May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He empower us all to remain faithful and committed in our Christian living, now and always, evermore. May all of us have a truly blessed and fruitful Advent. Amen.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 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!”