(Special) Sunday, 23 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are celebrating the feast of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the relative of our Lord Jesus Christ by virtue of his mother, Elizabeth, being the cousin of Mary, the mother of our Lord. St. John the Baptist is known for his role in preparing the way for Christ, straightening the path for His arrival into this world, preceding the Lord Himself by a few months. He baptised peoples and asked them to repent from their sins, so that they would not fall into damnation, and be open for Christ when He came.

St. John the Baptist is a great saint, brothers and sisters, and he is considered by many to be one of the prophets reborn once again, particularly that of Elijah, sent by the Lord for the sake of Christ, as His messenger, and as His herald, proclaiming His arrival into the world. The events surrounding his birth is not ordinary either, because he was born out of an aging parent, an aging mother who could no longer conceive, but because of the power of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, conceived, and brought John into this world.

Like the passage in the first reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah, the words themselves spoke about St. John the Baptist and his life, in that he had been chosen by the Lord since his conception, and before he was even born, as the angel told Zechariah, John’s father in the Temple of Jerusalem. He had been chosen from among many, to be the messenger of the Lord’s message and words, and to prepare the way for the Word Himself, Christ, our Saviour, who is also the Word of God.

Being chosen by the Lord, St. John the Baptist did not shy away in fear, but instead fully embraced the tasks that had been entrusted on him, and passionately went into his ministry, preaching to the people of God and repeatedly asking them to repent and return to the Lord who loves them. He worked tirelessly throughout his ministry in this world, and he did not show any fear even to the corrupt authority, the way he chastised King Herod for his improper relationship with the brother of his wife, Herodias.

He did not fear death while doing so, and faced death willingly when he was beheaded by the order of King Herod. In his humility he told his own disciples to follow Christ, and proclaimed to them the Messiah, with his words, “Behold the Lamb of God!”, and many who followed John then followed Christ in turn. He did not seek human glory and praise, and in his humility, told his disciples that while Christ increase, he must decrease.

He recognised his own human weakness and accepted the will of God without hesitation. He followed the Lord and obeyed His will. St. John the Baptist is indeed an example for all of us, how to be the true disciples of the Lord. When we are called by the Lord to be His servants, we must not give in to fear and doubt, but place all of our trust in the Lord, just the way that St. John had done, that we can truly give our all in the work for the sake of the Lord, and for the sake of God’s people, that is all mankind.

We should not give in to doubt as Zechariah, John’s father had done. It may be understandable because it may seem impossible for humans that an elderly woman should be able to bear a child. But to God, nothing is impossible. Therefore, brothers and sisters, we who have received the Good News of Christ, let us be renewed by the Holy Spirit of the Lord, and let us be courageous and passionate in spreading the Good News and salvation of the Lord, inspired by the example of St. John the Baptist.

Remember that God chose us and not we chose Him. He called us from the many, to be His disciples, and those of us who had accepted Him as their Lord and Saviour, gained salvation and life eternal. May God remain with us, bless us, and strengthen us in our task, that is to bring the Word of God to many in this world. St. John the Baptist, pray for us too. Amen.

(Special) Sunday, 23 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Luke 1 : 5-17

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife, also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense.

On seeing the angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him. But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth.

“This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink, but he will be filled with Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb. Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He himself will open the way to the Lord with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children, and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

(Special) Sunday, 23 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

1 Peter 1 : 8-12

You have not seen Him and yet you love Him; even without seeing Him, you believe in Him and experience a heavenly joy beyond all words, for you are reaching the goal of your faith : the salvation of your souls.

This was the salvation for which the prophets so eagerly looked when, in days past, they foretold the favour of God with regard to you. But they could only investigate when the Spirit of Christ present within them pointed out the time and the circumstances of this – the sufferings of Christ and the glories which would follow.

It was revealed to them that they were working not for themselves but for you. Thus, in these days, after the Holy Spirit has been sent from heaven, the Gospel’s preachers have taught you these mysteries which even the angels long to see.

(Special) Sunday, 23 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Psalm 70 : 1-2, 3-4a, 5-6ab, 15ab and 17

In You, o Lord, I seek refuge; let me not be disgraced. In Your justice help me and deliver me, turn Your ear to me and save me!

Be my rock of refuge, a stronghold to give me safety, for You are my rock and my fortress. Rescue me, o my God.

For You, o Lord, have been my hope, my trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

My lips will proclaim Your intervention and tell of Your salvation all day. You have taught me from my youth and until now I proclaim Your marvels.

(Special) Sunday, 23 June 2013 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Jeremiah 1 : 4-10

A word of YHVH came to me, “Even before I formed you in the womb I have known you; even before you were born I had set you apart, and appointed you a prophet to the nations!”

I said, “Ah, Lord YHVH! I do not know how to speak; I am still young!” But YHVH replied, “Do not say; ‘I am still young,’ for now you will go whatever be the mission I am entrusting to you, and you will speak of whatever I command you to say. Do not be afraid of them, for I will be with you to protect you – it is YHVH who speaks!”

Then YHVH stretched out His hand and touched my mouth and said to me, “Now I have put My words in your mouth. See! Today I give you authority over nations and over kingdoms to uproot and to pull down, to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.”

Sunday, 23 June 2013 : 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Scripture Reflection)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listen to the word of the Gospel, in which Jesus asked His disciples about His true identity. And we heard how Peter, the leader of the disciples, proclaimed the truth about Jesus, that He is indeed the Messiah sent by the Lord for the salvation of this world. The truth however, is not known to many, as the people, in their ignorance, thought Him merely just as another prophet sent by God, or a holy men. There were even those like the Pharisees, the elders, and the chief priests who rejected Him outright and saw Him as a rival to their teaching authority.

Christ our Lord is indeed the Messiah, and He is also the Son of God, one of the Holy Trinity, and therefore, is the Supreme King of all Creation, of all the Universe. He is the most powerful being in all creation, and yet, He lowered Himself by descending from His glory in heaven, to be like us, to be born of a humble virgin, in a stable. A king, yet born in a stable. That is also why Christ, though He is a king, He did not flaunt His power or authority, but remain humble through His service to others, to His disciples, and most importantly to the people who needed His help and mercy.

That was also why He strictly ordered the disciples not to tell anyone on the truth that Peter has shared with all of them, that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and God Himself. That is because, the mission of Jesus was not to be glorified in this life on earth and become like a king, but indeed, to suffer, through rejection, pain, and even more suffering, so that He could fulfill the mission that was entrusted to Him by His coming into this world, that is to save all mankind from their fate of death, through His own death, and the shedding of His blood.

Too long mankind had waded in the depths of darkness, in the depth of evil without the light of God, ever since creation, when they rebelled against the love of God by choosing to follow the words of Satan instead of the will of God. Although mankind seemingly prosper with wealth and affluence that they gained from their ownership of this world, but the pleasures of the flesh and the body cannot satisfy what mankind truly wants. They were hungry and thirsty, for the one thing that could solve all of their desire, that is the love of God.

God loves us, and that is why He wants to save us, save us from death that is our fate and punishment because of our forefathers’ rebellion against Him, and by our constantly sinful ways and evil doings in this world, that brought ever greater evil stain on our own souls. He came down into this world to show His ultimate love for us, to be one of us, save without sin. He lived among us, and we knew Him as Jesus Christ, and the people of Israel at that time too recognised Him through the great many miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry.

His death is the last piece of the plan of salvation that God had crafted ever since mankind left His embrace that day long ago in the Garden of Eden. The death of Christ and the shedding of the blood of the Lamb of God unites us to Christ, because He then became for us, the unending stream of the fountain of life, which water nourishes and satiates all kinds of thirst. His Blood cleanses and purifies us from our sins. If we accept Him and believe in Him as our Lord and our Saviour, just as Peter had done, He would be with us, and we would be with Him.

That is because upon accepting our Lord Jesus Christ, we become His, and He becomes ours. Through our unity with the Lord, we are made whole again, and we are once again worthy of our God and our Creator. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, profess our faith in the Lord, just as Peter had done, but do not just stop there, but go further and make our faith truly alive, by practicing it through our love and our service to our neighbours in need, just as Christ had done during His ministry in this world.

Let us never be separated again from our Lord and our God, and let us be transformed by His love, that we will emerge from the depths of darkness we were in, and become truly the children of light. God be with us all, forever and ever. Amen.

Sunday, 23 June 2013 : 12th Sunday of Ordinary Time (Gospel Reading)

Luke 9 : 18-24

One day, when Jesus was praying alone, not far from His disciples, He asked them, “What do people say about Me?” And they answered, “Some say that You are John the Baptist; others say that You are Elijah, and still others that You are one of the prophets of old, risen from the dead.”

Again Jesus asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered, “The Messiah of God.” Then Jesus spoke to them, giving them strict orders not to tell this to anyone. And He added, “The Son of Man must suffer many things. He will be rejected by the elders and chief priests and teachers of the Law, and be put to death. Then after three days He will be raised to life.”

Jesus also said to all the people, “If you wish to be a follower of Mine, deny yourself and take up your cross each day, and follow Me! For if you choose to save your life, you will lose it; but if you lose your life for My sake, you will save it.”