Sunday, 9 December 2018 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the second one in the season of Advent, we continue to prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration and joy of Christmas. The Scripture passages today all spoke of the coming of a time of grace and happiness, hope and redemption for the people of God, for all those who have kept the faith and remained true to the Lord.

The first reading today was taken from the Book of the prophet Baruch, which speaks of the coming deliverance for Jerusalem, which represent the people of God, Israel, who have been suffering for many years, if we understand the context and history in which all these took place. The glorious kingdom of Israel, of David and Solomon was by the time of the prophet Baruch, a distant memory, and the people of God had been fragmented and scattered, overcame by their enemies and enslaved once again.

The Psalm today spoke of the same deliverance that was to come from God for the people of Israel, the coming deliverance of Zion, that by the power of God a new era would come, where the exile of the people would come to an end, and they would once again be reunited with one another and with God. This was made in the context of the exile of the Israelites after the destruction of their kingdoms, both the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah.

At that time, the people of God who once proudly called themselves the chosen people of God and as the people of David’s kingdom, could no longer looked at themselves with pride, for they have been downtrodden and left to suffer many injustice, indignation, pain and tribulations, all because of their own disobedience against God and His ways. Because of their sins, they have sundered themselves from God’s grace.

But God, as seen through what we have heard, and what He has done for the sake of His people, is a truly patient and loving God, Who does not desire our destruction and damnation. He loved us all very much, and that was why He created us in the first place. If He has not loved us, He would not have created us. It is unfortunate that through our disobedience we have made ourselves to fall into this predicament.

That is why God gave us a way out of this predicament, by the promise and the sending of the Saviour, none other than Jesus Christ our Lord, Whose birth we celebrate every Christmas. But many did not recognise Him or accept Him as their Lord and Saviour. At the time of Jesus, there were many who doubted Him and refused to listen to Him, and instead persecuted and oppressed Him and His disciples.

And that is because the people hardened their hearts and minds, and stubbornly therefore refused to listen to God’s words and truth. That was why they remained in sin and committing more of the deeds that caused them to fall even further away from God. But God did not give up easily, and that was why He sent St. John the Baptist, whose words in the Gospel passage today rang very clearly in our minds, “Prepare the way for the Lord, make His path straight!”

St. John spoke up strongly against the sins of man and called the people to turn away from their sins, repenting sincerely from their erroneous path. And for those who hardened their hearts, like the Pharisees and king Herod, he had harsh words reminding them of the sins in their actions and in their hearts that prevented them from being able to serve the Lord and to follow Him as they should have done.

And that is, brothers and sisters in Christ, unfortunately what many of us today are suffering from as well. Throughout history, and until this very day, many of us, sons and daughters of man, have not been able to resist the many temptations of the world, the temptations of money, of power, of glory and fame, of pleasures of the flesh, immoral behaviour and many other forms of aberrations and wicked deeds that are abhorrent in the sight of God.

It was because of these sins that we have drifted further and further away from God, and unless we make the effort to allow God to forgive us our sins and to change our ways to be more in accordance to His ways and His will, then we are at risk of suffering the fate of eternal damnation, if we are found to be unworthy of God’s eternal glory and grace. And this time of Advent, this season of reorientation of our lives and recollection of our actions, is the best time for us to begin to make a difference.

We should begin by examining once again how we are preparing ourselves for the upcoming celebrations of Christmas. Many of us celebrate Christmas as how the world around us celebrate it, with much revelry and partying, with rejoicing and excesses. We flaunt our wealth and prosperity to one another, by trying to outdo each other in decorating our houses and places, in the lavishness and value of our gifts.

And we often grumble when our Christmas gifts are not up to our expectation, and if our celebrations are not as what we have prepared and expected. We worry a lot about what we are to cook up for our Christmas dinners, lunches and parties, about what we are to wear for the celebrations, and yet, while we worry about all these things, and think about how to outdo one another in our celebrations, do we realise that there are those, even in our midst, who have no means to celebrate Christmas?

There are those who are poor and penniless who cannot even celebrate Christmas, and even more so, they cannot even think of what is to come tomorrow, for they have little to even survive for the day’s meal. And then, there are also those who because of various reasons, especially oppression and persecutions, cannot even celebrate Christmas openly with joy and revelry. They live in constant fear of persecution and even death just for being a believer and follower of Christ.

And today, all of us are called to think of all these brethren of ours, even as we also need to reevaluate our lives and beginning from understanding better what Christmas and its significance is for our lives. Christmas is all about Christ and His saving love and grace for each and every one of us. God loves each and every one of us that He is willing to give everything, even His own Son, to suffer and die for our sake, by bearing the cross of our sins.

And if God has loved us so much, then now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called then to love Him back with the same effort and sincerity. We are called to serve Him and to be as what He wants us to be, righteous and just in His presence. Thus, we should shun all forms of sin and disobedience that we have done so far in life, all the worldly excesses and resist the temptations to sin further.

We should also reflect and show the same love to our brethren, especially those who are poor and weak, those who are oppressed and in grief and sorrow. This is the true spirit of Christmas, that we, as God’s children, can show the same love that God, Our loving Father has shown us. And also, for all those who have done fault to us and hurt us, let us also forgive them their mistakes and sins against us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore, today, as we continue this Advent journey, let us first and foremost realise our sinfulness, and ask God to heal us and to forgive us from those sins and faults. Let us all draw ever closer to God and find our way to serve Him and to commit ourselves, through our love and generosity to our fellow brethren, by our way of life, upholding at all times the tenets of our faith in all of our daily actions and deeds. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 9 December 2018 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 3 : 1-6

It was the fifteenth year of the rule of the Emperor Tiberius : Pontius Pilatus was governor of Judea; Herod ruled over Galilee, his brother Philip ruled over the country of Iturea and Trachonitis: and Lysanias ruled over Abilene. Annas and Caiaphas were the High Priests at the time when the word of God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the desert.

John proclaimed a baptism, for repentant people to obtain forgiveness of sins; and he went through the whole country bordering the Jordan River. It was just as is written in the book of the prophet Isaiah : Listen to this voice crying out in the desert, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make His path straight! The valleys will be filled and the mountains and hills made low. Everything crooked will be made straight and the rough paths smooth; and every human being will see the salvation of God!’

Sunday, 9 December 2018 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Philippians 1 : 4-6, 8-11

And when I pray for you, I pray with joy. I cannot forget all of you shared with me in the service of the Gospel, from the first day, until now. Since God began such a good work, in you, I am certain, that He will complete it in the day of Christ Jesus.

God knows, that I love you dearly, with the love of Christ Jesus, and in my prayers, I ask that your love may lead you, each day, to a deeper knowledge and clearer discernment, that you may have good criteria for everything. So you may be pure of heart, and come, blameless, to the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of holiness, that comes through Christ Jesus, for the glory and praise of God.

Sunday, 9 December 2018 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 125 : 1-2ab, 2cd-3, 4-5, 6

When YHVH brought the exiles back to Zion, we were like those moving in a dream. Then, our mouths were filled with laughter, and our tongues with songs of joy.

Among the nations it was said, “YHVH has done great things for them.” YHVH had done great things for us, and we were glad indeed.

Bring back our exiles, o YHVH, like fresh streams in the desert. Those who sow in tears will reap with songs and shouts of joy.

They went forth weeping, bearing the seeds for sowing, they will come home with joyful shouts, bringing their harvested sheaves.

Sunday, 9 December 2018 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Baruch 5 : 1-9

Jerusalem, put off your garment of mourning and unhappiness, put on the splendour and glory of God forever. Wrap yourself in the mantle of holiness that comes from God, put on your head the crown of glory of the Eternal One. For God will show your splendour to every being under heaven. He will call your name forever, “peace in justice” and “glory in the fear of the Lord.”

Rise up, Jerusalem, stand on the heights. Look towards the east and see your children gathered together from the setting of the sun to its rising, by the voice of the Holy One, rejoicing because God has remembered them. They left you on foot, taken away by the enemy. God will lead them back, carried gloriously like royal princes.

For God has resolved to bring low every high mountain and the everlasting hills, to fill up the valleys and level out the ground, in order that Israel may walk in safety under the glory of God. Even the forests and the fragrant trees will give shade to Israel at God’s command. For God will lead Israel with joy by the light of His glory, escorting them with His mercy and justice.