Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the lives of two great servants of God of the past, both of whom had dedicated themselves to the Lord all their lives, enduring great trials and challenges in serving the Lord and facing persecutions and oppressions all the while doing God’s works. We should reflect on their lives this Advent that we too may become more faithful by following their examples and faith.

First of all, the prophet Elijah, one of those two great servants of God was mentioned in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Sirach. The prophet Elijah was a great prophet and servant of God sent to the northern kingdom of Israel, to their king and people, to remind them of God and their obligation to serve God and abandon their sinful worship of the pagan gods and idols. Elijah laboured for many years, preaching God’s message and performing miracles among the people and their king who were stubborn in opposing God.

As mentioned in the Book of Sirach, Elijah performed many wonderful deeds, such as bringing God’s retribution in the years of famine and drought that happened during the reign of king Ahab for his wickedness and the Israelites’ constant refusals to follow the Lord, and then the moment when he stood up alone against the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, the Canaanite pagan idol at Mount Carmel. By the power of God, Elijah called down fire from Heaven that showed that God is indeed the true God and Creator of all, and defeating all those priests of Baal before the people of God.

Yet, at that time, just as Elijah performed many wonderful deeds, he also faced a lot of tough experiences as he was often rejected by the king and the people, and had many enemies among them, even though they had witnessed everything that God had performed and done through Elijah. He had to flee into exile and was on the run from the land of Israel because of this, on more than one occasion. He had to work and labour alone amidst the often hostile populace and encountered a lot of challenges along the way.

Elijah was then later on taken up to Heaven in a flaming chariot sent by God, as witnessed by his disciple and successor, the prophet Elisha. All these were mentioned by the prophet Sirach as well. Then, he was again mentioned by the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today, as one of His disciples asked Him regarding the coming of the prophet Elijah, and how he had actually come then. It was believed among the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites, that the prophet Elijah, who was taken up into Heaven and therefore did not die, would come again to proclaim the Messiah or the Saviour of God.

This was a reference to St. John the Baptist, the one who was the Herald of the Messiah, the one who prepared the path for the Lord Jesus as predicted by the prophets. The Lord mentioned how John was the fulfilment of those prophecies, and indeed, his works and ministry had prepared the path for the Lord and His coming into this world. St. John the Baptist had often been compared with the prophet Elijah because both of them had suffered persecutions for their works and both of them lived in a similar manner, travelling in the wilderness, proclaiming repentance and the coming of God’s salvation.

Some said that St. John the Baptist was indeed the same prophet Elijah sent into the world to finish the works that he had once initiated. And others said that St. John the Baptist had the spirit of the prophet Elijah, which was not the same as being the same person, but that both by that extension had the same ministry among the people of God, the same approach and efforts. And regardless which one is the real case, St. John the Baptist and the prophet Elijah both had laboured hard, sweat, blood and endured sufferings for the sake of the glory of God.

Today, we have yet another great servant of God who dedicated his life to Him, and who can also become our role model and inspiration in life. Pope St. Damasus I was the Pope, and therefore leader of the Universal Church during the important years and time of the Church when there were numerous converts and more and more coming to believe in God. At that same time, there were also a lot of divisions and disagreements in the Church, which Pope St. Damasus worked very hard to overcome as the leader of all God’s faithful people.

Pope St. Damasus himself became Pope during a turbulent time of a succession crisis following the death of the previous reigning Pope due to interference from the secular ruling class and nobles of Rome. There was a contested election and two rival Popes were elected, in a heated campaign before Pope St. Damasus eventually prevailed against his rival. This rival himself belonged to the heretical party, the Arians, who had wrecked a lot of damage and divisions in the Church for many decades up to that time.

Pope St. Damasus was instrumental in leading the charge against the heretics and all of their false teachings, devoting much of his time and efforts to overcome the falsehoods spread by those who claimed to teach the truth of God, but in reality were spreading false ideas. He also helped the creation of the Biblical canon especially in the Western, Latin half of the Church by his works with St. Jerome, whom he tasked with the compilation and the proper translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible into Latin, which would become the renowned Latin Vulgate Bible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Pope St. Damasus, his life and works we can see how those who dedicated their lives to serve God often had to face a lot of challenges in their mission, and many had to even face prison, suffering and death, like what the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist endured, the latter which suffered martyrdom at the hands of King Herod, for his courage in defending the truth of God and the sanctity of His teachings and ways. Having heard of these great examples, are we now more encouraged to live our lives faithfully in accordance with God’s truth?

Let us all seek to glorify the Lord in each and every moments of our lives, that we may indeed be ever faithful in our every actions, words and deeds so that through us, through our contributions no matter how small they may be, we will always bring glory to the Name of the Lord. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

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.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

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.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

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.

Friday, 10 December 2021 : 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 we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, also known as the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto, commemorating the popular pilgrimage site at Loreto in which exists the very house that the Lord Jesus Himself, His mother Mary, St. Joseph, the Holy Family lived in, at the small town of Nazareth in Galilee. On this day we recall the marvellous things that happened to that house and also the lives of those who were once the occupants of that holy House, as we approach the coming of Christmas.

The Holy House of Loreto as it is known today is a most peculiar anomaly and most inexplicable occurrence, as the Holy House, that once was in Galilee in the land of the ancient Israel, came to rest in Italy, in the city of Loreto. A great shrine and Basilica was built around the Holy House, welcoming many pilgrims every year who would like to see the very House in which the Holy Family had once lived in, the House where the Lord Himself grew up as a Child and learnt about many things from St. Joseph and Mary.

The Holy House of Loreto had been analysed and proven to be built with the same style and materials that are consistent with the house built during the time of the Lord Jesus in the region of Nazareth and had been dated from that same time period. Thus, to have such a house present so far away from its original location is nothing short of miraculous. The story goes that the Holy House had existed in Nazareth for long after the Lord’s time in this world, and this house was one of the first churches used by the Apostles themselves, traditionally to celebrate the first Mass after the Resurrection of the Lord by St. Peter himself.

Then, the tradition states that Angels carried the House itself miraculously from its original place to a site in what is today Croatia, to safeguard it from those who sought to destroy it and harm it and its pilgrims. Then, afterwards, it was moved again a few times for similar reason, before it finally rested on the final location where it had remained ever since, at the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto. At every time it was moved, it happened miraculously, and witnesses said that the House was transported by the Angels of God as mentioned.

What is the significance of this celebration today, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Holy House of Loreto itself symbolised the presence of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph in our world, as the physical reminder for us of God’s love and presence in our world today, that He once walked in the flesh, in this world, and inhabited that very same house to which all those pilgrims now regularly flocked to, inspired by the story of its miraculous transmigrations, and by the popularity of the intercessions of Our Lady of Loreto, the Blessed Mother of God and Matron of the Holy Family, our mother.

As we are currently in the middle of this holy and blessed season of Advent, all of us are called to reflect on our lives and how we have responded to God’s love and presence in our lives. God has always been kind to us and He has always generously extended to us His loving forgiveness and compassion. Yet, many of us have forgotten His generosity and love, and failed to recognise His presence in our lives here in this world. We have spurned His love and dedication, and stubbornly continued to live in the state of sin.

Therefore, we are all invited to contemplate the importance and meaning of Christmas, what it means for us and how we are going to celebrate it properly and worthily. Are we going to celebrate it with a lot of pomp and merrymaking and yet lacking in its real essence that is Christ? Are we going to make our Christmas celebration one that is full of revelry and feasts and yet the One for Whom we are actually celebrating is sidelined and forgotten by all? These are the important questions that we have to ask ourselves as we prepare ourselves for the coming celebrations of Christmas.

If Christmas is nothing more than a time to be happy and jolly, without clear and proper understanding of its nature and significance as we should have, then we have had the wrong idea about it and failed to celebrate it meaningfully and worthily. Are we going to continue doing things in the same way, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all pray and discern, remembering the Lord our Saviour and His coming into the world, through the Holy Family that He had been born into, in His Blessed Mother, Our Lady of Loreto and St. Joseph, His foster father.

Let us ask for the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God, Mary, Our Lady of Loreto. Let us ask her to pray for all of us sinners, all who have caused her Son much sorrow and pain. May all of us draw ever closer to the Lord and receive from Him the assurance of eternal life, true joy and everlasting glory, through our repentance and by having our sins forgiven through Him. May God bless us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 10 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

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.”

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.

Friday, 10 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

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.

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

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Friday, 10 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

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.

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

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

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.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Lord in the Scriptures in which we heard of the assurance which He gave to His people that He would always be with them and all of them would be comforted and blessed by God, their humiliations and sufferings would be overcome. This is the message of hope that all of us are being reminded of as we continue to progress through this season of Advent and are by now almost halfway through this season and time of preparation for Christmas.

Our first reading today taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah was a reminder for the faithful people of God in the kingdom of Judah, the place in which Isaiah did his works and ministry. God reminded His people that He would not forsake or abandon them, and still loved them all despite everything wicked and terrible that they had done unto Him, in their disobedience and rebelliousness, in their sinful actions and lives. At that time, the people of God had long lapsed away from the faith, although from time to time, they repented and returned to the Lord.

The people of God had suffered many setbacks, hurdles and challenges from the defeats they experienced at the hands of their neighbours and enemies. They had been brought low and made to submit before those who had defeated them and crushed them. This was because they had little faith in God, and they had chosen to abandon Him and ignore His truth, laws and teachings, and preferred to follow their own paths and sought help from the pagan idols and other earthly source of consolation instead of trusting and depending on God.

But God was still patient and loving towards them, no matter what. The fact that He still sent them His messengers and prophets, and cared for them from time to time was a sign of just how devoted God has been towards the Covenant that He had made and renewed with us. The Lord has always tried to reach out to us, and yet many of us deliberately ignored Him and turned away from Him, not listening to His calls and disregarding His efforts to love us and to care for us, and we have spurned and rejected His love and mercy that we have been given so generously.

Yet, God still sent us His servants, and as we heard in our Gospel passage today, He sent John, namely St. John the Baptist as His Herald to proclaim His coming into this world and to prepare the path for Him. He revealed to all of us the truth about God’s love for us when He Himself appeared in our human form and existence, and despite all of our infidelities and our sinfulness, He still lovingly picked up His Cross, embraced us and forgave us our sins. And He did so by suffering for our sake, enduring the pain and sorrow of the Cross, that is the punishments for our sins.

As we progress through this season of Advent, indeed all of us are constantly reminded again and again that God has always loved us and He has given us this assurance of His love through Christ, Whose coming into this world we commemorate and celebrate this Christmas. This season of Advent we are invited to spend the time to reflect on this truth about God’s love for us, and we are also called to reflect on how each and every one of us have responded to His love, mercy and generous compassion.

Today, all of us should look upon the example of our holy predecessor, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, also known as St. Juan Diego in how we can live our lives as Christians more genuinely and wholeheartedly. St. John Diego was also the one who received the vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, in her apparition in Guadalupe in what is today Mexico, now very popularly known as Our Lady of Guadalupe. St. John Diego was a truly humble and devout man who committed himself to God and to His Blessed Mother, and we can follow his examples.

St. John Diego was a convert Native American who was known as a devout and good person, to whom one day the Blessed Virgin Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe chose to appear to, at the Hill of Tepeyac, where now the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe stands. As a religious neophyte then, he passed by the site and saw the Blessed Lady of Guadalupe revealing her identity and asking him to let the local bishop know about it and to build a chapel there dedicated in her honour. At first, the local priest did not believe St. John Diego, and he was asked to return to the apparition to ask more info and asking for a sign.

After a few apparitions, as he was delayed by his uncle’s sickness and embarrassed of having been delayed and late to meet the Blessed Virgin, he tried to go by another way, only for her to appear before him again and chiding him, why he did not put his trust and recourse in her, saying in the now famous words, ‘Am I not here, I who am your mother?’ This is recalling how the Lord Himself had entrusted us to His mother Mary from His Cross, and at that time, His mother Mary came to us through the apparition to St. John Diego to call us to be reconciled and reunited with Him, through the conversion of many souls.

Then, St. John Diego was told to gather the flowers gathered there, which miraculously appeared even while they were not in season, and then using his cloak, to bring them to the local bishop to fulfil the request the latter made for a heavenly sign for the truth about the Apparition. No sooner that St. John Diego revealed the flowers before the bishop that his tilma or cloak amazed everyone including the bishop, as an image not drawn by human hands were imprinted, bearing the image of the very same Lady of Guadalupe, the Blessed Mother of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the life and faith of St. John Diego, his encounter with the Blessed Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe and the message of that encounter are reminders for all of us to refocus our attention and our lives back towards God. God’s love had been so evident throughout our lives, and He has even sent His own Mother too to remind us of His love. Through Our Lady of Guadalupe, many were converted and touched by the Lord, saved and brought into God’s embrace.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we still going to be stubborn like many of our predecessors in refusing to believe in God’s love and in ignoring Him and His constant loving call towards us? Are we going to continue to refuse to acknowledge His generous love and compassion that He has kindly extended to us? Let us make good use of this season and time of Advent to discern these carefully and see how we can prepare ourselves better so that we may truly come to understand God and His love, and be willing and worthy to welcome Him truly into our hearts and beings as we celebrate Christmas in the coming days. May God bless us all and may He strengthen each one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 9 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

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!”