Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the site of Guadalupe in what is today part of Mexico. Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most popular Marian devotions in the world and she is also the Patroness of the Americas, and is also among one of the oldest approved Marian apparitions, from long before the other ones at Lourdes and Fatima.

About five centuries ago, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, one of the pious native converts to Christianity, whose feast day we have just celebrated three days ago, saw the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the site of the Tepeyac hill where the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe now stands. St. John Diego was a simple but pious peasant to whom Our Lady appeared to, revealing herself to be none other than the Mother of God.

Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared a few times to St. John Diego, asking for a church to be built at the site of her apparition in her honour. And most well known is the miracle of the tilma or cloak or mantle, which belonged to St. John Diego and on which was imprinted the image of Our Lady herself, not drawn by any human hands but miraculously appearing on the cloak after she told St. John Diego to gather rare flowers at the place she pointed out, as a sign to the local bishop.

This very mantle is still kept in the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the centre of the very popular devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe as mentioned. Certainly many lost souls had been found due to her intercession, and many others had had their faith strengthened throughout the past few centuries, and it was indeed no coincidence that she chose to appear there at the time when the Christian faith has just recently then arrived to the Americas.

All in all, today we rejoice because of the great love which our mother
Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe has for all of us, her beloved children. That she has chosen to appear multiple times throughout history and in various occasions, especially after periods of great conflicts and upheavals pointed out to the fact that she truly loves each one of us dearly, and wants us all to find our way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to look at our loving mother, appreciating the genuine care and compassion that she has shown us. And through her, we shall find our way towards the Lord, to His salvation, grace and eternal life. Are we willing to follow the example of our blessed mother, in her commitment and faith in God, as well as in her righteous and pious life?

We are all called to reexamine our way of life throughout this Advent season that we may rediscover the true meaning of Christmas that we are all going to celebrate in just two more weeks from now, as well as the true meaning of our Christian faith. This is the perfect opportunity and time for us to rediscover our love for the Lord and to remove from ourselves all the unhealthy attachments to sin and worldly temptations.

Let us all heed our loving mother’s call, that all of us may embrace her with love and find our way to the Lord’s salvation and grace through the path that our mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe has shown us, that we may join the many others who had followed her and devoted herself to her, and through her to her Son. Let us all seek the Lord our God and have a conversion of heart and mind in this blessed season of Advent. May all of us draw ever closer to Our Lord and Saviour, and may His mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, always intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!”

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man, Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more.

The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone. YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up.

YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Sirach 48 : 1-4, 9-11

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10c

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.” But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.”

Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel, for God-is-with-us.”

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the Lord reminding His people to follow His ways, to obey His laws and commandments, and not to be swayed by falsehoods and temptations to sin. The Lord wants us to walk in His path, be righteous in all things and to put our trust in His wisdom, and not in our own biased judgments and wisdom.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the Lord chiding and reminding His people to put their trust in Him and follow Him, rather than persisting in their stubborn attitude and refusal to follow His laws as they had done. This was a reference to how throughout the history of the people of Israel, through the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah right up to the time of Isaiah, had been disobedient many times.

They refused to believe in God and in His prophets, ignoring the reminders given to them on multiple occasions, and the Lord still continued to send reminders after reminders to them, regardless of how they had treated the prophets and messengers sent to them. The same stubbornness can be seen in our Gospel passage today, when we heard of the Lord Jesus and His frustrations at the people who refused to believe in Him or in His herald, St. John the Baptist.

And all of that was because they refused to let go of their ego and trust in their own power, their own intellect and capabilities. They refused to acknowledge that they could be wrong and mistaken, and that was why they judged the Lord and St. John the Baptist by their own flawed ideals and thoughts, wisdom and intellect. They hardened their hearts and minds against the truth that the Lord and His prophet had brought and revealed before them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such is indeed the cause for mankind’s fall into sin and why so many of us have not been walking faithfully in the path that God has shown us. We have been swayed by the many temptations of the world that led us down the wrong path, in disobeying God and focusing on our selfish desires and wants. And this is why in this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on our state and way of life.

We are all called to rethink how we have lived our lives thus far if we have been too focused and engrossed on worldly matters and temptations. Have all these brought true happiness for us? We must remember that all the pleasures of the world are merely temporary and do not provide us lasting happiness. Only in the Lord alone that we can find true joy, by entrusting ourselves in His hands.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by Pope St. Damasus I, in how he dedicated his life to the Lord as a righteous and committed Christian. Pope St. Damasus I lived at the time when the Christian faith were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire and became increasingly adopted by many. However, during that same time, divisions and internal struggles faced the Church and threatened to bring about the downfall of many souls.

Pope St. Damasus I was an Archdeacon of Rome under the reign of Pope Liberius, and he had been quite involved in the governance of the Church since then. And when he was elected as Pope, there was also division and disagreements as an opposing party rejected his election and authority as Pope. He had to contend with those who rejected his authority as Pope and leader of the Church.

Pope St. Damasus I dedicated his life and reign as Pope with great energy, actively resisting the many heresies which at that time threatened to divide the Christian faithful, and he was influential and crucial in his efforts in compiling the Scriptural canon through St. Jerome, who compiled the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Through his many efforts, Pope St. Damasus I helped to steer the Church through difficult times and moments of challenges, and kept the faith in countless souls.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow in the footsteps of someone so faithful like Pope St. Damasus I, dedicating our lives to the Lord rather than for our own selfish purposes, aims and desires? As we remember his faithful dedication to the Lord, we are all called to turn with all of our hearts and minds to God, especially at this time of Advent, reconsidering our path in life.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed zeal and faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, and harden our hearts no more. Let us all be open to welcome the Lord into our hearts, and allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us for the better. May the Lord strengthen us all, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto or Our Lady of Loreto. The history of this devotion to Mary, the Mother of God as Our Lady of Loreto had a long history and is tied to the miraculous preservation and appearance of the Holy House of Nazareth in that place, where now the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto now stands.

The tradition states that this very House enshrined at the centre of the Basilica is none other than the very house where the Lord and His Holy Family, St. Joseph, His foster-father and Mary, His mother had lived in, at the village of Nazareth. How is it then that this house ended up in Loreto in Italy? First of all, well-attested by Apostolic tradition is that this house was converted into a church by St. Peter and the other Apostles.

Hence, within the house there is the ‘Altar of the Apostles’, built none other by St. Peter and the other Apostles themselves. It was told that a Basilica was built at the site of the house after the Roman Empire adopted the Christian faith, and worship had continued at the site throughout the succeeding centuries afterwards. However, it came to be that the house was under threat of destruction from unbelievers at the end of the age of the Crusades.

Therefore, in a miraculous occasion, the Holy House of Nazareth was lifted up by Angels of God to a site in what is now Croatia, which was verified by several checks by the contemporary people, in both the new and the previous sites. After a few further translations, the house eventually settled at its current site, over seven hundred years ago. A great Basilica and shrine was soon built over the house, and eventually took shape of the current shrine.

The shrine and devotion to the Blessed Mother of Loreto as the Matron and Patroness of the Holy Family of Nazareth steadily grew and gained Papal patronage, as successive Popes devoted themselves to the shrine of Loreto. Miracles were also attributed to the holy shrine, and prayers made were effective. Litany of Loreto is a famous litany that is recited by many Christians around the world asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Loreto.

Today as we celebrate in this Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, the Blessed Mary Mother of God, we are all brought in deeper into the mystery of the Advent season, preparing ourselves in our hearts, minds and in our beings for the celebration of Christmas. Through this celebration as well as through the readings of the passages of the Scriptures, we are all brought to centre our focus on the Lord and His salvation, which had come into this world through the obedience of Mary.

We are all called to model ourselves after the Holy Family of Nazareth in our celebrations, in our way of life, and in everything we do. We see the obedience of Jesus to their parents, St. Joseph’s righteousness and obedience to God’s laws and commandments, his hardworking attitude, and of course, Mary’s love for her family, her obedience to God and her commitment to the mission that has been entrusted to her.

Therefore, all of us are reminded that we cannot forget our fundamental roles as Christians in our respective communities, to be exemplary in our Christian way of life, imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth. And let us all devote ourselves to Our Lady of Loreto, imitating her examples and faith, that we may also be faithful in all things, and be obedient and righteous just as she had been obedient and righteous.

May the Lord, through His loving Mother, the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, be with us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us will grow ever stronger in faith and devotion, and grow to live a more faithful Christian and Christ-centric life from now on. Let us all make best use of this blessed season of Advent, and redirect our attention and focus in life towards the Lord, the reason of our joy in Christmas. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Matthew 11 : 11-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you this : no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.”

“Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy : all the prophets and the Law. And if you believe Me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.