Monday, 24 December 2018 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the joy of the expectation of God’s coming glory and salvation for His people, as we are about to celebrate the vigil of Christmas tonight. Today, the Scripture readings help us to reflect on the true joy of Christmas, that is the expectation of the coming of the salvation in our God, Who has come into the world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Heir of David and Messiah or Saviour of all.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the conversation between the prophet Nathan and king David of Israel, during the latter years of his reign, after God has helped him to defeat all of his enemies and conquered the neighbouring peoples who once were threats to the Israelites. David wondered why he was housed in a magnificent palace, and yet, God’s Ark of the Covenant, remained in a tent, the Holy Tent of Meeting.

So David wanted to build a house for God, a Temple, for the Ark to be placed inside, as the sign of God’s presence among His people. He presented his plans before the prophet Nathan, but God had a different plan in His will, which He revealed through Nathan to David. David would not be the one to build a house for Him, but rather a son of his, who would reign after him, would be the one to build a house for Him.

This seems to be fulfilled by the son of David, king Solomon, who built for God a great Temple, known in history as the Temple of Solomon, built from the finest material and consecrated with a great ceremony, as written in the Book of Kings. The Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple, and God’s glory and presence entered into the Temple, filling it, and ever since then, until the destruction of the Temple in the year 586 BC by the Babylonians, God was present among His people Israel.

But the Lord in fact also alluded to the promise which He has made to David, that his house and descendants will reign forever, and his kingdom will never end. This was fulfilled because one of the descendants of David, through Joseph, his direct descendant and heir after many generations, was none other than the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, Heir of David and his kingdom.

Jesus Himself mentioned before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, how He would destroy the Temple in three days and then rebuild it again, alluding to Himself as the true Temple of God’s glory and presence. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did not understand this, and thought that it would have been impossible for Jesus to tear down the physical Temple of Jerusalem, the second temple built at the site, by the priest and prophet Ezra and later enlarged by king Herod.

The Lord Jesus Himself is the one and only Temple of God, for by His incarnation, He took up for Himself a human existence in the flesh, that in His person, is united two distinct and yet indivisible persona of the divine and the man, His divinity and His humanity, perfectly united in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, both Son of God and Son of Man. He is the Heir of David, and as God said to David through Nathan, his heir would be the one to build the Temple for God, and this was fulfilled completely in Christ.

Thus, at that time, king David could only anticipate and look forward for the coming of the Lord, which he could not witness during his own time, and yet, through the Holy Spirit, was told to him. The Messiah, God’s Saviour would be born into his house, among his descendants. And that coming of the Messiah was awaited by all those who have been enthralled by sin, that is all of us mankind.

Then, Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist was the one whom we heard from in the Gospel passage today, in his song, inspired and filled by the Holy Spirit, also known as the Canticle of Zechariah. It was a song expressing a great joy, of knowing that the Messiah Who has been long expected and awaited by God’s people, was finally about to come, and how great Zechariah’s joy, of being able to witness that glorious event, and having his own son as the herald for the coming of the Messiah.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Scripture readings today presented us, is the great joy that accompanies our celebration of Christmas, not because of all the parties, shopping and goods, all of the merchandises and Santa Claus, as well as any other secular and materialistic celebrations of Christmas, but instead that hope and light that had come with the coming of Christ into this world, that through Him, all of us who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Let us all today, as we finish our preparation to welcome Christ into our midst this Christmas, turn towards God with all of our strength and with all of our hearts and minds focused on Him. Let us celebrate this Christmas with Christ Himself at the centre of our celebrations and as the source of our great joy. Let us all have a meaningful Christmas, knowing that through Him, we can hope again and receive eternal life and glory from Him Who loves us all.

May the Lord bless us and our Christmas joy, and may all of us come to greater realisation of the true meaning and importance of Christmas for each and every one of us. Amen.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this fourth and last Sunday of Advent, as we approach the coming of Christmas in just two days’ time, we are all called to put our focus and attention to the purpose and true meaning of Christmas, that is essentially the great and never-ending love that God has for each one of us. Love is the centre theme of Christmas, without which, there would not have been Christmas, and without it, we would have no hope.

The love of God has made possible our salvation, for His love was so great that despite the disobedience that we mankind have committed again and again, our sins and wickedness, God is still willing to forgive us and to welcome us back into His loving embrace, if only that we are willing to be forgiven, and willing to do what is necessary in order to be loved again, by our sincere and genuine repentance.

God created each and every one of us because He loved us, and He wants to share that love in Him with us, so that all of us may forever enjoy the fullness of His love. That is why, we were never intended to suffer or perish in this world, but the fact that suffering exists, is because of our own refusal to listen to God and to obey Him. We have willingly chosen to follow Satan and his lies, rather than to trust in the love that God has shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all like children who have gone wayward and become lost from the loving embrace of our father, that is God, Who is ever patient and ever loving towards us, despite our rebelliousness. And God, knowing that the consequences of sin, is of eternal separation between Him and us, our suffering and damnation in hell, He wants to save us all, and that was why, He gave us the perfect gift of His love this Christmas.

The cure for disobedience is perfect obedience, and that was why, He gave us His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Divine Word, Who willingly took up our human existence, and become one like us, and by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived in the womb of His mother, Mary, and was born into this world. His birth, which we celebrate as Christmas, marked the dawn and the coming of a new era of hope.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in every ages and throughout time, we have seen many men and women, who desired to be like God and to be gods. That, was exactly how we mankind first fell, because of our pride and greed, which Satan manipulated and made use of, tempting our ancestors with the temptation of knowledge and power, to become like God and to disobey God and instead following their own desires.

We have seen people who wanted to accumulate for them more power and glory, and in their actions, in the feeding of their personal desires, they caused the pain and sufferings of others. That is how sin continues to reign over us, as there is often no real love in us, but selfishness, greed and pride in our hearts that prevented us from being able to know and understand the pure love that is God’s love.

But this is where Christ came into our midst, bearing the fullness of God’s love, and the truth about His love for each and every one of us. His love for God, His Father and His complete obedience to His will, became for us the source of our salvation. He, Who is both fully God and fully Man, willingly took up our sins and the punishments due for those sins, as He was condemned to death for us, and bore the cross of our sins to His death.

And unlike the offerings of animals in the burnt offerings prescribed by the laws of Moses and Israel, for the temporary atonement for the sins of man, the offering that Christ offered willingly, His own Self, in the Flesh and Blood, the perfect sacrifice in atonement for all of our sins. He is our Eternal High Priest, Whose amazing and unfathomable love for us, has brought about our reconciliation with God.

Unlike those men I mentioned earlier, who aspired to be lords and kings, and even gods, desiring power and glory for themselves, here, we have the Almighty, All-Powerful and glorious God, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, Who willingly emptied Himself of all His glory and majesty, taking up our humble human existence, born in the poorest conditions available, in a place not even fit for human residence, and suffered death in the most humiliating way possible, all just that through His loving sacrifice, He can save us from our fated destruction due to sin.

And so, today, we should reflect deeper on just how great and amazing God’s love for us is. He has done everything for our sake, and He has loved us all so selflessly, even to the point of suffering all things and the worst of humiliations so that He can save us. But sadly, many of us have not realised or even ignored this love which God has shown us. We hardened our hearts and minds, and refused to accept God’s generous love and mercy.

We do not have to go far to see how this unfolds. We see how many of our Christmas celebrations, parties and revelries have little mention or even none of Christ in them. Many of us have followed the secular way of how Christmas has been celebrated, with plenty of merrymaking, but yet, Christ is not present in them all. Christ has been sidelined in our Christmas joy and celebrations, and as a result, instead of celebrating the true joy of Christmas, we are actually succumbing to the pride and desires in our hearts and minds.

We spent so much time trying to outdo one another in our Christmas parties, decorations and other celebrations, and yet, we forget that Christ is the One Who should be the focus and the centre of our joyous celebrations, and nothing else. And this is how Satan is trying very hard to distract us and to prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord, placing obstacles, temptations and barriers on our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have discussed just how great God’s love is for us, and yet, many of us have not reciprocated that love, and we have not appreciated the vastness of God’s magnanimity, His merciful heart and compassionate love, ever ready to welcome us back to Himself, should we desire to be forgiven and to be reconciled. But sin has always been in the way, and the more we turn ourselves to the many temptations of the world, especially the secular celebrations of Christmas, the further we may fall away from God.

This time of Christmas, let us all have a change of attitude, in our hearts and in our minds. Let us all turn towards God with a new commitment to love Him and to serve Him. Let us remember just how much He loved us, that He willingly emptied Himself of His glory, born as a simple Man, in a poor family, and later on, to be rejected and crucified for our sake. As St. John wrote in his Gospel, the Lord’s own words, “that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that all who believed in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the true essence and the true joy of Christmas, that we should realise and know from now on. Instead of worrying about the celebrations, about what we are to wear or about how we are to enjoy ourselves this Christmas, how about we reflect instead on the love of God, and then, show that same love in our actions? There are many people out there, our brethren, who are not able to celebrate Christmas for various reasons.

And even in our midst, surely there are those who are poor and needy, who cannot even worry about all the revelries and parties, for they struggle to make their own ends meet, each and every single day of their lives. We are called to be generous in sharing our joy and love, imitating the examples of none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who shared His vast and unfathomable love with us, by His incarnation and willing entry into this world, to be with us and to save us.

Therefore, let us all celebrate a more meaningful Christmas this year, and from now on, no longer selfishly focusing on ourselves and our greed, or all the materialistic and hedonistic ways of the world, but instead, live up the true spirit of Christmas, that is selfless and unconditional love, which God has first shown us, and which now we ought to show in our own lives. May God bless us all, and may He bless our Christmas joy, that we may celebrate it meaningfully, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages which told us of the joy which came for two women mentioned in the Bible, one from the Old Testament, while the other one was from the time of the New Testament. The first one was Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, while the second one was none other than Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Hannah was once a barren woman who was unable to conceive a child with her husband, while the other wife of her husband was able to conceive many children. Hannah was desperate because, we have to understand that in the customs and traditions of the ancient people of Israel, children are blessings from God, and the absence of children and a woman’s barrenness were considered signs that someone did not have God’s blessings or were cursed.

Hannah prayed before God and asked for His favour, and God listened to her prayers, and before long, she conceived a son, Samuel, and promised to consecrate him to God’s service, as we heard in today’s first reading, at the time when Hannah consecrated her son to God, to the service of God at His Temple. And later on, God would bless Hannah with even more children, as the sign of the end of her period of mourning and sorrow, and sign of God’s love and blessing for His faithful ones.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the great joy that Mary expressed through her song of praise, the Magnificat, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in her. Her joy was because of what she has herself witnessed, in the same miraculous deed that God has done among His people, when her cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, having been barren for so many years, suddenly conceived by the will and power of God, as He revealed to them by His Angel.

And even more so, the baby conceived within Elizabeth and Mary each, would become the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation for all of His people. St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, was the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, or God’s Saviour, by calling on the people to repent from their sins and be baptised as a sign of their readiness to welcome God Who was coming into their midst.

And of course, Mary bore within her, by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Word of God, the Son of God Who took upon Himself the form and fullness of humanity, the One promised for all the ages past, and the hope for humanity’s salvation and liberation from sin. Mary therefore, essentially expressed the great joy that came upwelling from humanity’s desire to be reconciled with God and to see the hope of God.

We have heard today, all the great deeds that God has done for His people throughout the ages past, and there were many other wonderful deeds He has done, for our sake. Yet, we should realise that in many occasions, God has often been overlooked, and especially what should have been the great celebration of joy in the thanksgiving for God’s love, in Christmas, have frequently been overtaken by commercial and selfish desires, as well as by human greed.

As we quickly approach the time of Christmas and the ending of our Advent season, we really should ask ourselves, again and again in order to remind us, what is the true meaning of Christmas for each and every one of us? Is it for us to enjoy the festivities, eat rich and plentiful of food and beverages, or to wear glamorous costumes and dresses? Or is it for us to know better and appreciate better just how great God’s love is for us?

That is why it is important that we get our focus on the Christmas joy and celebrations right, or else, we may end up missing the point about Christmas altogether. Christmas is about the joyful celebration of God’s generous and never-ending love, that He gave everything for us, by granting us the perfect and new hope in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom our salvation was assured, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today spend time to reflect on our lives and on what we have done so far in order to prepare ourselves for Christmas. If we have not done our preparation right until now, there is still time for us to go through a profound change in attitude and way of how we live our lives and how we will celebrate the true joy of Christmas from now on.

Let us turn towards God with a new heart, filled with love for Him, and dedicate ourselves, day after day, in celebration of His eternal love for each and every one of us. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, continue to love us, and bless us, every days and every moments of our life. Amen.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the prophecy on the coming of the Messiah, which was first revealed through the prophet Isaiah, in our first reading today as he spoke to the king Ahaz of Judah. In the face of the king’s false humility before God, in refusing to ask for God’s signs despite his life and actions being filled with sin and disobedience against God, Isaiah prophesied the coming of God’s great sign.

And that prophecy was fulfilled completed in the Good News that the Archangel Gabriel brought to Mary, the young virgin woman of a small village of Nazareth in Galilee, who was to be the mother and bearer of the world’s salvation. That was exactly what the prophet Isaiah told to king Ahaz, that the Woman will give birth to a child, and that child will be named Emmanuel or Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’. And Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God Most High.

The essence of today’s Scripture readings is therefore about God fulfilling His prophecy and promises, despite of mankind’s refusal to believe and their stubbornness in sinning and rebellion against Him. God showed His faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established for us, His beloved people. He loves each and every one of us, and that is why, He wants to be with us, and He wants us not to be lost from Him, but be reconciled and be reunited with Him.

And to that extent, He promised that salvation will come, and that Saviour indeed has come, through Mary, the Virgin who was promised by the prophet Isaiah, as the one who would bear the Messiah. Mary accepted the role she has been prepared for, and despite her initial discomfort of hearing such a surprise news from the Archangel, she surrendered herself completely to the will of God, and allowed God to work His wonders in this world through her.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have forgotten what Christmas and its significance truly is for us. We celebrated it wrongly and focused on the wrong things during our Christmas joy and celebrations. We spent a lot on gifts, new clothes, parties and lavish food and drinks, and yet, in all of our Christmas celebrations, there was barely any space for the One for Whom we ought to be rejoicing for.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ is often not the focus and centre of our celebrations in Christmas, despite the very fact that Christmas is the day when Christ was born into this world. Let us imagine how wrong and inappropriate it is for a great celebration to be made for someone’s birthday, and yet, at the celebrations and parties, the birthday person was forgotten and ignored?

That is exactly what we have often done with Christ, Our Lord, Who has loved us so much that He was willing to come down to us, embracing our humanity, and being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He became the hope for all mankind. His suffering and death on the cross became for us, the source of eternal life and salvation from death and hell. He has given everything for us, for our lives and for our safety, but have we given ours to Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we draw closer to Christmas, let us always ask ourselves what we can do more in order to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, and how we can be better Christians, in loving God in the same way as He Himself has loved us so dearly. Let us all turn ourselves to God, and devote ourselves, following the example of none other than Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who devoted her life so thoroughly to God, and allowing God to do everything through her.

Let our lives be like Mary, in our love for God and in our obedience to Him. Let our response to His call be like Mary’s, that we are faithful servants of His, and His will be done for us, and not our own. Let us follow the example of the obedience of Christ, Whose obedience to His Father’s will, allowed Him to fulfil the work of salvation He completed on the cross. May our upcoming Christmas celebration be truly meaningful and fruitful, following the example of Mary in our own lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about two great servants of God, whose life and events surrounding his life are related or are parallel to one another. In the first reading today from the Book of Judges, we heard of the amazing birth of a son to a couple who had not been able to have any children, because the wife was barren for many years. This son was Samson, one of the famous Judges or leaders of the people of Israel after Moses and before the days of the kings.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, we heard of the account of the miraculous conception and birth of another servant of God, St. John the Baptist, to his father and mother, who had also not been able to conceive any child previously because Elizabeth, his mother was barren. St. John the Baptist would go on to become the Herald of the Messiah, the one who called the people to repentance and baptism, in order to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming.

In both instances, both servants of God were born to two sets of parents, each of whom had not been able to have any child. But God proved that everything was possible for Him, and in fact, there was also another servant of God, namely Samuel, the one who anointed kings Saul and David of Israel, who was also born from a barren mother. In all of those instances, the child miraculously conceived and born, were given to the Lord to a life of commitment, consecrated to God’s cause.

Each one of them was called by the Lord to different missions, but eventually, all of them were for the good of the people of the Lord, with Samson’s role being crucial at the time when the people of Israel were oppressed by the Philistines, liberating them from the tyranny of their oppressors with his mighty strength, while St. John the Baptist came just before the coming of the Messiah, preparing the way for the coming of the Lord, by calling the people to repent from their sins, and therefore, opening their hearts and minds to God Who was about to come to them.

If we read on about their lives and ministry among God’s people, we will notice that even though they have been blessed with power and wisdom by God, but it was not that their lives or ministries became any easier. On the contrary, they encountered great challenges and difficulties, temptations and persecutions. For Samson, he was tempted by a woman whom the Philistines asked to help for defeating him by cutting off his hair and thus remove his enormous strength. Meanwhile, for St. John the Baptist, he was opposed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and also by the king, and he also doubted for a while in his mission.

But in the end, both of them remained true to their mission, and paid with their lives, their commitment to follow God to the very end. Samson, having been betrayed by Delilah, blinded and bereft of his strength, prayed to God for one final strength to defeat his enemies, the Philistines. He pulled off the pillars of the place where many Philistines gathered to mock him, and the whole place collapsed, killing numerous people among the unbelievers.

Meanwhile, St. John the Baptist was arrested by king Herod after he accused him of adultery with his brother’s wife, Herodias. St. John the Baptist remained firm in his conviction despite being imprisoned, and Herodias plotted to have him killed, by tricking Herod, and successfully managed to get the head of St. John the Baptist, when Herod made vows before his guests and officials that he could not undo.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why is it that we listened to the story of these two servants of God today? That is because, as Christmas is quickly approaching now, we are all called to reflect on our own lives, on our actions and deeds in life, and on how we have lived our lives so far. Have we been faithful to God all these times? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be taken over by the many temptations of this world?

We are called to a life that is attuned to the Lord’s will and follow the good examples set by the two holy servants of God whose life we have heard about. This is our calling for this Christmas, to appreciate better God’s love for each and every one of us, which is so great, that He was willing to provide everything to reconcile us back to Himself, and liberate us from the tyranny of our sins.

If God has loved us so much, then it is only right that we also love Him equally, and devote ourselves to Him from the depth of our hearts. Let us turn our minds and hearts to Him, and let us be more willing to listen to God speaking in our hearts, deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, and by loving one another as He has commanded us to do. Let this Christmas be the moment of a profound change in our lives, that we may be converted from sin to righteousness, and be forgiven from our sins snd faults.

May the Lord continue to guide us, and may He bless us in all of our good endeavours and works. May He bless us in our preparation for Christmas in this blessed season of Advent. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse on the coming of the hope for the people of God, in the Messiah promised by the Lord, which is the core of our Christmas joy and celebrations. We heard from the prophet Jeremiah the prophecy of the coming of the Saviour, a King of the line of David, Who would be the One to save His people, reunite and gather them back from the many places where they had been exiled to.

In order to understand better how significant the words of the prophet Jeremiah were, we must know the context in which the prophet spoke to the people of God, at that time when the last kingdom of the Israelites was on the verge of collapse and destruction. For the prophet Jeremiah was active during the last years of the kingdom of Judah, the southern half of the ancient kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon. At that time, the northern kingdom, also called Israel, had been destroyed decades earlier by the Assyrians.

The people of the northern kingdom has been brought into exile by the Assyrians, their lands taken over by pagans and foreigners brought in to replace the Israelites exiled to the faraway lands of Mesopotamia and beyond. And then, at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Babylonians were rising in power, and were threatening the people of Judah. They had lived at the mercy of their neighbours, and having seen the fate of their northern brethren, they too, would have feared destruction of their kingdom and exile from their homeland.

Unfortunately, the same fate would befall the people of Judah, because they and their king refused to believe in God and refused to listen to the word of God as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. The kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the city of Jerusalem together with its Holy Temple was destroyed. The people of Judah was brought into exile in Babylon just like their northern brethren.

Thus, if we read through the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we can see how all these have been predicted and prophesied by the prophet, and how much of his prophecy is about the upcoming doom for Judah and its people because of their sins. However, as the segment of the book that became our first reading passage today showed us, God also showed His love and faithfulness to His people, by revealing through Jeremiah, the salvation and liberation that He would bring them.

God had loved His people many times, and again, and again, He rescued them from their troubles and difficulties, beginning with the Israelites, the people God first chose, by liberating them from their slavery in Egypt, by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. And then, after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem mentioned earlier, God would move the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to free the people of God and allow them to return to their homeland.

But God’s people were still then not free, as in the end, in all we have discussed earlier today, we have seen how the disobedience of man have caused our own downfall, because disobedience against God breeds sin, and sin leads to death and damnation in hell, unless we are freed from this slavery to sin and the tyranny of death. And it is God alone Who can free us from sin and death. He alone can forgive us our sins.

That is why, He fulfilled all of His promises and renewed the Covenant He made with us all, through the coming of His Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son He sent into the world, the Divine Word Incarnate, to be born of the family of St. Joseph, the heir of David. St. Joseph was a direct descendant and likely the direct heir of David, as the rightful successor of the last king of Judah.

And even though the Lord Jesus was not born from St. Joseph, but directly by the power of the Holy Spirit, but as the legal father according to the law of the Israelites, Jesus was the legal Son of St. Joseph, and thus, fulfilling God’s promise to His people, He is the Son and Heir of David promised as the King Who was to come. Jesus is the King Who was promised, and the King Who would gather all of the people of God, every single children of Adam, to be reunited with God.

It is this joy in the fulfilment of the promises God had made, the perfect sign of His love for us, His faithfulness to the Covenant He made with us, that is the true meaning of our Christmas joy. This is why we rejoice this Christmas, and not because it is a good holiday season, or a time for shopping or revelries and festivities, but because Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has come into this world, and will come again, to gather us all, to be worthy to enter into the eternal glory and joy in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready then to celebrate Christmas? It is just a week away from the date of Christmas, and if we are not yet ready to do so, then we should do all that we can to prepare ourselves. And preparing ourselves does not mean doing all the Christmas decorations and preparing for the parties we are going to have, but rather, preparing ourselves spiritually and in our whole being, that we are properly attuned to the true spirit of Christmas.

Let us all go to confession when we are still able to, to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming in joy. Let us be reconciled with God, and therefore, we will be able to welcome the Lord with the fullness of joy, no longer burdened by sin. And let us all heed the past precedents and examples, of the downfall of Judah and its people, to rectify our own way of life, and turn ourselves from sin, devoting ourselves to God from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our way and bless us, now and forevermore. May God be with us, and may He bless us in our preparations for the true joy of Christmas in Him. Amen.