Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day on the last day before Christmas, the last of the season of Advent, we are yet reminded again of the Lord’s promise that He will be with us and provide for us just as He has promised and reassured His servants in the past, like how He had reassured David, the king of Israel as we heard in our first reading, and how through Zechariah, filled with joy at the birth of his son St. John the Baptist in old age, proclaimed the Lord’s glory and providence.

In our first reading today, we heard the Lord speaking through His prophet Nathan to king David, when the king had already been secure in his reign and the Lord had delivered to him the rule over all the Israelites and over their neighbours, after many wars and conflicts that happened earlier. King David wanted to build a proper House and Temple for the Lord’s presence and worship, as at that time, the Lord was still dwelling in the Ark in the Holy Tent of Meeting. He did not feel quite right that he dwelled in a great palace while the Lord dwelled in a mere tent.

But the Lord had a different idea and He told David that it would be his son, the king Solomon who would build the House and Temple of His presence, and thus was how the famous Temple of Solomon was built all those years ago. The Lord promised and reassured David at that occasion that his reign and throne will be forever secure, and all of these have indeed been fulfilled completely through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Heir of David and Saviour of the world, King of Israel and King of Kings born and celebrated on this Christmas day.

That is why, today, together with Zechariah’s joyful proclamation, as he was filled with the Holy Spirit, of the joy of seeing the Lord’s glory and salvation, we are called to reflect again on the joy of Christmas that we are going to celebrate beginning tonight and throughout the Christmas season. We have been preparing for this throughout this season of Advent, and we should ask ourselves whether we have prepared ourselves properly and well?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Christmas comes amidst a most unusual year and a most unfortunate moment for many of us. This year had been a very challenging one, as many people had suffered and even lost their loved ones to the pandemic, to the racial, social and national instabilities and troubles we have heard and witnessed throughout this year. Many are still suffering and indeed, not in a position to celebrate in any way this Christmas.

This is when our understanding and appreciation of what Christmas is truly about ought to be challenged and changed. Christmas should no longer be about ourselves, about our glamorous and lavish parties and revelries, of large gatherings and gift exchanges, and neither should Christmas be about those gifts and many other things usually associated with Christmas.

Instead of all these, let us all remind ourselves and one another that even in this darkness, all of us should and ought to celebrate Christmas indeed, with all of our hearts and with all of our might. Why is that so? That is because Christmas is the celebration of Hope, the coming of the Light of Christ that will dispel the darkness and the evils in the world, as what we know had happened through His coming into this world two millennia ago.

And then, even more significantly, the Lord promised us too that He will come again, and in Christmas we therefore do not just celebrate the past and historical coming of the Lord, but also the future coming of the Lord in the end of time, when the Lord will gather all of His beloved and faithful ones to Himself, and wipe away all of our tears and sorrows. There shall be no more suffering, pain and darkness, and only the light, hope, peace, joy and the love of God in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we look forward to this blissful time, and we should embody this attitude in our actions and in how we celebrate Christmas. This year, a most difficult year, is coming to an end, and so, let us now renew the hope in one another, by showing the Light of Christmas, the Light of Our Lord and Saviour in the midst of all these darkness, by celebrating Christmas with Christ at its very centre.

May the Lord bless our Christmas celebrations, and may He bless us always, in our every faithful and good endeavours. Let our Christmas be truly joyful and be truly blessed, and may God bless this darkened and sickened world, and may His light dispel all the darkness of our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we heard of the servant of God sent before the coming of the Messiah, that is St. John the Baptist, the one to announce the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, and the one who would prepare the way for Him, as prophesied by the prophets and as promised by God to His people.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Malachi, of the promise of God regarding the sending of the messenger who would come ahead of the Lord Himself to clear the way and prepare the path for His coming, who would be like the prophet Elijah, whose faith had been tested by fire and trials, and whose works would lead many people to the Lord.

The prophet Malachi was one of the last prophets of the Old Testament, and his book is placed at the very last place as the last chapter of the Old Testament, just before the coming of the New Testament, that came through Christ. Therefore, it is significant indeed that Malachi spoke of the coming of the one to prepare the path for the Lord, that clearly referred to St. John the Baptist.

In our Gospel today then we heard of the moment when St. John the Baptist was born, and all of his relatives gathered at his house and wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, as was common during that time. Zechariah had been mute and unable to talk ever since the Angel of God revealed to him that his wife, Elizabeth was about to bear the one whom the prophet Malachi prophesied about, the Herald of the Messiah.

Just as the prophet Isaiah also proclaimed in another prophecy, this servant of God, whose name had been known before he was even born, as revealed by the Angel, was to be the one to lead the people of God to their Lord and Saviour. He came into this world, born miraculously of an old couple who had been barren throughout, as the first miracle of God’s approaching salvation, and as proof that God truly loved His people.

The moment that Zechariah wrote down the name that the Angel had revealed to him, and wanted his son to be named John, hence, Zechariah could speak again and praised God for all His wonders. All of the people gathered were astonished and praised God as well for the wonders He had done. And through St. John the Baptist, God would lead many of His people down the path to salvation, as he laboured and called many to repent from their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do all these relate to us then? All of us have heard of God’s salvation and received the Good News, and we have believed in the Lord and all that He had done through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. But have we proclaimed Him in our lives, and truly show that we are Christians not just in name only, but also in deeds and in all of our actions? Have we shown that Christ is truly the centre of our celebrations in Christmas, and not only just that, but also the centre of our whole lives and existences?

Today, as we are just two days away from Christmas, we are all called to look upon our lives and actions, and we should reflect on whether our actions have shown our true Christian faith at all times. We should dedicate our actions to the Lord and strive our best to follow Him and His saints’ examples, especially for today, that of St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius, whose feast day we celebrate.

St. John of Kanty was a Polish saint whose life and work as a priest, philosopher and theologian was truly inspirational as he dedicated much of his life to the Lord, and spent a lot of effort in his numerous academic works and in the advancement of the Christian theology and teachings. But not only that, St. John of Kanty also dedicated much of time caring for the poor and the needy, being especially charitable towards them.

St. John of Kanty was remembered for his outreach and generosity to the poor, and also to the needy students in the university in which he taught as a professor. He was remembered for his almsgiving and his genuine faith and humility. He made pious pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Rome, and some of those pilgrimages were made on foot. His life and work remain an inspiration for many long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples set by St. John of Kanty, and as we approach Christmas, let us all seek to celebrate it wholeheartedly with a new attitude of faith, renewed in love for our God, and dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him so that all who witness us and our actions, as well as our Christ-centric life and celebration of Christmas, may come to believe in Him as well, so that by our lives and actions, even more people can be saved and share in our joy.

Let us all discern on this carefully as we come to the joyful celebration of Christmas, that we may truly celebrate it with true joy and with genuine celebration, so that we may draw ever closer to the Lord and be worthy of Him and the everlasting glory that He has promised us all. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the Lord’s providence and help for us, His strength and love for each and every one of us. We are reminded that the Lord is a loving God and Father Who listens to us and all of our needs. He will not abandon us in our hour of need, and He is always by our side at all times, no matter what happens.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel, regarding how Samuel the great prophet came to be born. His mother Hannah had been without child for many years despite being in a loving marriage to her husband Elkanah. Her husband’s other wife, Penninah often mocked Hannah for her barrenness and often showed off just how many children she had with Hannah.

Hannah came to the Lord in sorrow and frustration because of this, and she prayed to the Lord to help and rescue her from her troubles. The Lord heard her prayers, and He blessed Hannah with a child, who was to be known as Samuel. Hannah had promised that if she had a son, she would dedicate and offer him to the Lord, and thus, in our first reading today, we heard Hannah joyfully coming to the Lord and offered Samuel to be God’s servant.

And thus that was how Samuel, the prophet of God was born and came to be in the service of God. His mother Hannah had more children with her husband, Elkanah, as a sign of God’s love and favour, while Samuel grew up strong in faith under the tutelage of Eli, the Judge and priest of Israel, and eventually became a great prophet and Judge himself, leading the people of Israel just before the days of the kings.

The Lord showed His love and kindness to Hannah, and she rejoiced after the period of her humiliation and suffering. Our Psalm today is the great song of joy that Hannah sang, full of God’s Spirit, declaring the greatness of God and how fortunate all of us have been to be beloved by God. The Lord has not forgotten His people, and the same was then echoed as we heard of the great song of rejoicing that Mary sang in our Gospel today, known as the Magnificat.

Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth at the time, who had been long barren and was unable to conceive a child just like Hannah, but by the Lord’s grace, she came to bear St. John the Baptist, and Mary found that what the Lord had revealed to her through the Archangel Gabriel was indeed true, that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived and had a child in her old age.

And Mary herself as we knew, came to have Child without any human relations, since by the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself came to dwell in her and through her, He would be born into the world, as the Saviour long promised by Himself. All of these and the joy of the Holy Spirit in her made Mary to rejoice such, for all the wonders of God’s love and glory that He has shown to all of His people. It was truly a great and joyful moment, that each and every one of us ought to share as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to understand just how wretched and miserable our existence once had been, as through sin we have been sundered from God’s love and grace. And it was thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved from our predicament and troubles, and the sure path towards eternity of joy and happiness have been shown to us. And this Christmas we celebrate all of these, that God Himself has intervened on our behalf, and did everything in order to save us.

Therefore, let us all prepare ourselves that within the time left for us to get ready for Christmas, we will be able to redirect our focus and attention to the Lord, and thus celebrate the joyful festivities of Christmas in a Christ-centric manner, to rejoice in the love that God has shown us, that He willingly gave Himself to us, dwelling among us and suffering and dying for our sake on the Cross. We rejoice in this ultimate expression of God’s everlasting love, and let us share our joy with one another, always. Amen.

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 4th 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, today all of us are reminded to refocus our attention towards the Lord and the faith that Mary, His beloved Mother has shown. As we draw ever closer to the celebration of Christmas, our attention is brought to Mary’s role in the salvation of the world, by her humble acceptance of the role that was entrusted to her, and her obedience to God’s will.

Mary, the Mother of God, was just a simple and humble woman in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, someone without pedigree and status, without much wealth, and yet, she has been honoured far greater than anyone else, to be the Mother of God and to bear the Saviour of the world in her. Of course, the Lord has prepared herself specifically and preserved her from the state of sin, and by grace therefore made her to be a worthy vessel of the Divine Saviour and as Ark of the New Covenant.

However, it was also her genuine and pure love for God, for her Son, and her obedience in total fullness of grace that kept her as a truly worthy servant of God and also a great role model for all of us as Christians. Her love for God and her faith are things that we should be inspired to follow in our own lives, and we should live our lives just as Mary had lived hers, placing God above all else and as the priority and focus in our lives.

This is a timely reminder for all of us just as we are about to enter into the glorious mystery and joyful celebration of Christmas. Ultimately, Christmas is not about ourselves and all the joyful merrymaking and pleasures that we desire from all the festivities and celebrations. Christmas is about God’s love, reaching out to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, born into the world through Mary, His mother.

We are all called to love God in the same way that God Himself had dedicated Himself to us, cared for us and spent time looking for us and calling on us to repent from our sinful ways. That is indeed the true essence of Christmas for us, the celebration of God’s love in our midst. We rejoice because of the hope that Christ has brought us, the light that He has restored to us amidst the darkness of the world.

We have to appreciate fully just how beloved and fortunate all of us have been, to have God Who truly cares for us and desires for us to be saved and reconciled with Him, that He had done everything for that purpose. We celebrate this love at Christmas, and therefore, we are called to reflect on the way that we celebrate Christmas, not through mindless and meaningless extravagance but through genuine love and devotion to God.

Today, let us all model ourselves on the examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, as well as the other holy men and women, saints and blesseds of the Lord. In particular, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, the great Doctor of the Church and Jesuit priest who was remembered for his great dedication to the Lord, his commitment to many works for the greater glory of God, his patient labours in spreading the Good News and truth of God among the people.

St. Peter Canisius was born in what is today part of the Netherlands, and he joined St. Ignatius of Loyola and other men in the newly founded Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. At that time, at the height of the reformation era in Europe, St. Peter Canisius and his fellow Jesuits were crucial in their role of ministering to the people and bringing back numerous people back to the Church through their efforts.

St. Peter Canisius was especially known for his efforts in evangelisation in the areas now part of Switzerland and Germany, and through his famous Catechism, many people rediscovered the true meaning and importance of the Christian faith, and many returned to the true faith they left behind out of ignorance and misunderstandings of the true Christian teachings.

And lastly, St. Peter Canisius was also known for his devotion to Mary, and his works on Mariology was also quite well remembered. In fact, he is credited with the last part of the prayer ‘Hail Mary’ that every one of us know very well, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’ Through this, all of us are reminded by St. Peter Canisius, of the important role that Mary as the Mother of God has in our salvation, for truly, she is our great helper and intercessor before her Son in heaven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore be inspired to live our lives in the manner that the faithful people of God, as represented by Mary herself and by St. Peter Canisius, had done in their own lives. Let us all make good use of the remaining time of Advent to prepare ourselves well that we may celebrate Christmas well, with proper understanding and appreciation of its importance to us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 20 December 2020 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday marks the Fourth and Last Sunday of Advent which means that we are about to come into the great celebration of Our Lord’s Nativity or birth in Christmas. And this Sunday we focus on the last of the four Advent themes, and this is the theme of ‘Love’. And it is fitting that we focus our attention on this theme of ‘Love’, because ultimately, that is what Christmas is truly all about, the genuine and pure, boundless and great love that God has for each and every one of us.

For we celebrate in Christmas, the birth of the Saviour of the world, the manifestation of God’s eternal and perfect love, in the Flesh, that the Lord willingly embraced and took upon our humanity, by the indwelling and incarnation of His divinity, the Son and Divine Word, as Man, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and thus, the Holy One of God was conceived in the womb of Mary, Son of God and Son of Man in One.

This is the culmination and fulfilment of all that God had long promised His people and all of His servants, just as we heard from the Scripture readings today. In our first reading today, we heard God speaking to king David of Israel through the prophet Nathan, when the king wanted to build a great House for God. That House would eventually be built by David’s son, king Solomon, as the famed Temple of Solomon, the place of the great worship of God.

God told David that it would be his own son that would build the House for His Name and dwelling, and while He has blessed David and made his reign and rule strong, he would also bless his son and descendants, and promised David that his house will last forever. While this was indeed a direct reference to how God would bless Solomon and his descendants, but in truth, it was also a hidden prefigurement of Christ and His coming.

King Solomon and the descendants of David did not remain completely faithful to God, and many among them led the people into sin and wickedness, and thus, the kingdom of Israel and Judah met its end at the hands of the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively. It seemed that the promises of God had come to naught, but in truth, just as the Israelites believed it, the Lord would fulfil His promises yet, by sending them the Messiah Who was to be born of the House of David.

However, what they did not know was that, this Messiah is also none other than the Son of God just as much as He is the Son and Heir of David, the One Who would occupy the Throne of David and therefore, fulfil God’s promises. As the Eternal God Himself has now descended into this world and become King for His own people, His kingdom shall last forever, and all those who follow Him, will receive from Him the eternal life and glory promised to them.

This is what the Archangel Gabriel himself revealed to Mary as we listened to in our Gospel passage today, at the Annunciation, when the Lord through Gabriel finally announced the coming of His salvation, long awaited and expected by His people. This is the true proof and manifestation of God’s eternal love and His enduring compassionate care for each and every one of us, all children and descendants of Adam who had strayed from His path, that God has always loved us all and wanted us to return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

It is God’s pure love that we remember today, as we focus on the ‘Love’ as the most important aspect of our Advent preparation. Without Love, then Christmas would not have happened, and without Love, there would not have been salvation for all of us. God would not have forgiven and saved us, or spared us from the fate that awaits us due to our rebelliousness and sins. Through our disobedience and rebellion, we have fallen into sin, and because of our sins, we should have fallen into damnation and eternal suffering in hell.

But the Lord loves each one of us dearly, and He does not want us to suffer that fate. He could have easily destroyed us for our rebellion and disobedience, but He clearly did not do so. When He sent Adam and Eve away from the Gardens of Eden, He did so to let us all know that what we have done were not correct and right, and we have to suffer the consequences of our sins. Yet, as a loving Father, He did not leave us all alone. He still cared for us and wanted us all to be reconciled to Him.

It was this love that allowed Him to be so patient with us and to reach out to us with such great affection, despite the attitudes which many of us had shown Him, our ingratitude, our lack of faith and stubbornness, our constant embracing of sin and evil. He sent us His own Beloved Son, Who entered into the world and dwelled among us so that all of us may know of His love, that is not just something that is distant and imaginary, but as something that is real and genuine, and brings us hope and light even in the deepest of darkness, love that is sincere and selfless, perfect and compassionate.

I invite all of us now to reflect on the Lord our God and Saviour, Whose coming into this world we are going to celebrate in Christmas that is about to come. I want us all to reflect on the great love that God has shown us, the reason why He restored the joy and light to our lives. And we do not have to look far, brothers and sisters in Christ. Turn our gaze towards the crucifix, and we shall see there, the same Christ, the Baby born and celebrated at Christmas, hung on the Cross for the salvation of the world.

That is a further proof of God’s love, that not only just that He willingly took up our form, existence and humanity, born as a little Child in Bethlehem, but that same Jesus Christ, willingly took upon Himself our sins and the many punishments due to our sins and our rebellions, and bore all these upon His shoulders, bleeding and bruised for our many trespasses. But He bore all these willingly out of love for us, that we may not perish but live through Him.

By His suffering and death on the Cross, and by sharing in our humanity, Christ Our Lord has made us to share in His death, and then leading us through His Resurrection, He leads us into a new life and existence of grace, one that is not subject and bonded to sin and death, showing us the path forward to an eternity of true joy, happiness and glory with Him.

There is no question that God loves us all very much, that He has willingly done all of these for us, and in how He had been very patient with us and making His intention clear to us in wanting us to repent and turn away from our sins, and embrace His salvation. But the question now is, do we love Him then just as much as He has loved us?Have we ever appreciated just how beloved and fortunate we are because of God’s love?

As we are about to enter into the joyous celebrations of Christmas, those questions must be in our minds and hearts, that we may reflect on and reevaluate the way we perceive and look at Christmas. If Christmas is just another merry-making time and an occasion for us to celebrate with lavish parties and revelries, then we are not celebrating Christmas in the right way.

And if we are trying to outdo one another and are too focused on the material aspects of Christmas and its celebrations, then we are not celebrating Christmas in the right way either. Our celebration of Christmas must of course first and foremost be centred on Christ, on the love that God has shown to each and every one of us, even to the worst of sinners, that He clearly wants to embrace us and be reconciled with us, and love us fully as He has always intended.

This is what we really need to consider as we spend this Sunday focusing on this theme of ‘Love’. Not the love of ourselves but the love of God, and how much we love God and also our fellow neighbours, our brothers and sisters all around us. That is the true essence of Christmas, the fulfilment and manifestation of God’s love in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. And we rejoice with Him because through Him we have been saved!

Now, what can we do then in order to make our Christmas celebrations more meaningful? We should share God’s love with one another, especially through this difficult year and through all that many had suffered earlier on this year, and many yet still suffer this very moment and will endure more hardships in the next few months to come. We must be the bearers of God’s hope and peace, His joy and love to one another, particularly those who have none or little of these.

That is how we should celebrate Christmas as Christians, that we rejoice not for ourselves, but for the whole community, together with God. In that way then we will fully be able to appreciate how important Christmas is to us, and how the love of God allowed us all to cheer up, be happy and hopeful once again, because we know that in Christ, and through Him, the Lord Who is always ever faithful has fulfilled His promises to us, and by His love, we shall enjoy forever His eternal glory.

Let us all renew our faith in the Lord and strengthen our love for Him. And if we have not done so, from now on, let us live our lives differently, by focusing on the Lord rather than on ourselves, and be filled with true Christian love, for each and every one of our fellow brethren. Let us all be faithful bearers of God’s love, and through that bring hope, peace and joy in our community, wherever we are. May God bless us all and guide us all to a most wonderful, blessed, fruitful and loving Christmas celebration to come. Amen.

Saturday, 19 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we heard from the Scriptures we heard of the parallel stories of two of God’s trusted servants, namely that of Samson, the famous Judge of Israel, as well as that of St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah. Both of them were born of a woman who had not been able to conceive children, and then miraculously, they were able to conceive by God’s grace.

And God spoke to both of their parents, through His Angel, by which He revealed how those sons of theirs would become great servants dedicated to Him. They were not to touch alcoholic and strong drinks, and they were to live in the wilderness, as those who have taken the vow of obedience to God, called Nazirites. And thus, the Lord sent His servants into the world at the time when they needed help and guidance.

Samson was sent to the people of God when they were oppressed and suffered under the tyranny of the Philistines, who had overcome them and ruled over them with their mighty power. At that time, the Lord had repeatedly sent Judges, one after another to help His people as they were facing difficulties, trials and challenges from various oppressors and their neighbours because they had not obeyed the Lord and lived in sin.

We saw how the Lord repeatedly showed His care and concern for His people, that He did not want any of them to perish and suffer, and despite their sins and wickedness, He still loved them and wanted them to repent from their sins, and thus, sent to them those whom He had appointed as Judges, as those who were supposed to lead and guide the people to the right path.

Thus, Samson came at the time when the people were groaning and suffering under the heavy hand of the Philistines, and in time, as he grew in age and strength, he led the Israelites in overcoming the Philistines, their oppressors, and crushed them with the might of God on their side. Of course, as we all knew, Samson himself was tempted when the Philistines sent Delilah, a beautiful woman to lead Samson astray, but in the end, although by trickery they managed to blind and subdue Samson, but Samson did one last great act, in crushing many Philistines to death with him, as Samson dedicated his whole life to God.

In this manner, we can see that Samson was in fact the spiritual predecessor of St. John the Baptist. Just as Samson was sent to the Israelites to lead them in their struggle against the Philistines, thus St. John the Baptist was sent to guide the people of God in their long struggle against the tyranny of sin and death by calling them to repentance and to turn wholeheartedly towards God.

And just as Samson came not long before the time of king David, the just and righteous king and servant of God, who led Israel to great glory and final triumph against the Philistines, thus, St. John the Baptist led us all towards the Lord Jesus Christ, the King of Kings and Saviour of the whole world, Whose birth we rejoice and celebrate in this upcoming Christmas day and season.

That is why, through what we have heard in our Scripture readings today, we are all called to turn towards the Lord and refocus our attention towards Him with all of our hearts. If we do not do so, then our celebration of Christmas is nothing less than empty and meaningless, with just merrymaking and celebrations, but without the right focus and purpose.

All of us should model ourselves on the faith and dedication that both Samson and St. John the Baptist had shown to the Lord. Samson as mentioned, died with many Philistines at the end of his life, while St. John the Baptist remained steadfast in his mission to the very end, not fearing even the king Herod, and consequently was imprisoned, and by the plotting of Herodias, was martyred in prison.

Let us all therefore purify ourselves as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas, purifying our thoughts and our hearts, and rededicating our words and actions, our very being to serve the Lord at all times. Let us no longer tarry and wait, but do whatever we can, and make use of this blessed time of Advent to respond to God’s call with genuine and renewed faith.

May the Lord bless us and guide us in our journey, and may He help us and strengthen us that we may persevere in faith just as Samson and St. John the Baptist had done so. May God be with us always. Amen.

Friday, 18 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, in our Scripture readings today as we are getting closer to the celebration of Christmas, we are being reminded of the Lord’s promise of salvation, and how He would lead His people with love once again just as He has once saved them with great might. We heard of the promise of liberation and rescue that the Lord has given His people through the prophet Jeremiah, and its fulfilment in our Gospel today, as the Lord proclaimed the Good News of His salvation through His Angel, Gabriel.

The prophet Jeremiah spoke of the Lord Who would once again save His people from their predicament and sufferings, from their humiliations and downfall, and He would raise them up once again, bless them and lead them down the right path. This promise was indeed significant because at that time, the people of God had been scattered, and many of them had been exiled from their lands, first for most of the ten northern tribes by the Assyrians, and then many among the people of Judah when the Babylonians came and carried out many of the prominent members of the community into exile.

At that time, the people’s morale had been at an all-time low, as they had fallen deep into darkness and despair. They had disobeyed the Lord and refused to believe in Him and in the prophets that had been sent to them to call them to repent. And thus the Lord spoke to them yet again through Jeremiah, reminding them that He would save them all still, despite their disobedience, for ultimately, we all must realise that God truly loves each and every one of us, His beloved people.

Jeremiah was persecuted and opposed because of all that he spoke of, of the ruin of Jerusalem and Judah because of the people’s sins, and everything came to be true, as the Babylonians came and destroyed Jerusalem, its Temple and the whole kingdom of Judah, and led the rest of the people into exile just as the Lord had spoken and revealed through the prophets earlier on. And then, as He has promised, He brought them all back to their lands once again, rescuing them and leading them back to their homeland, and allowing them to regain their honour.

But that did not actually mark the end of what God had revealed through Jeremiah. Instead, it was just a preliminary action and precursor to what He would then do, not just to save the people of Israel, but even more importantly, He would save all of mankind, all the children of Adam and Eve, all those who had been beloved by Him. Just as He has liberated the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and just as He has liberated their descendants from the slavery in Babylon, thus God wanted to liberate all of His beloved children.

Thus, through Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Whose coming was proclaimed in our Gospel today by the Archangel Gabriel to Joseph, the descendant of David, all of us have been saved and have seen the salvation of God. The Lord through His Angel has reassured St. Joseph when he found out that Mary, his fiancee had been with a Child before their marriage, that he had nothing to fear and that all that happened was because of the fulfilment of His promises to save His people through the Son to be born of Mary.

And that Son is the reason why we celebrate joyfully in Christmas. We rejoice together because Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, the Son of God Most High has come into the world and manifested God’s great love and wonders, and thanks to Him, we can hope and be glad and joyful once again. Once we have to endure the humiliation and the horrible consequences and effects for our sins, but through Christ, we have a real solution and way out of the darkness and into the light.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having seen the Lord’s salvation and His genuine love for us in Christ, His beloved Son, what are we then going to do in order to prepare ourselves well for the proper and appropriate celebration of Christmas? Are we going to just continue to celebrate it like just every other year, and like how the world often observe and celebrate it? Or are we going to elevate our celebration by rejoicing in the true joy of Christmas that we find in Christ alone?

Let us all prepare ourselves well for the joyful celebration of Christmas that our joy may truly be complete and full in Christ. Let us all share this same joy with one another, especially with our less fortunate brethren, all those who have suffered and been sorrowful, and strengthen them with the love and hope of Christ. Let us all be the bearers of the true Light of Christmas in our society, through our every faithful actions and deeds. Amen.

Thursday, 17 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we come within just about a week before Christmas, we come into a more intense time of preparation in this last part of the Advent season, getting ourselves ready to enter into the glorious mystery of the Lord’s Incarnation and Nativity at Christmas, as well as the wonderful joy that we are experiencing in that joyful season to come.

In our first reading today we heard of the prophecy spoken by none other than Jacob, or Israel as he was known in his later years, when he gathered all of his sons and their own families, and said his parting words as he was about to die. He blessed all of his children, some more than others, and from among all of the children of Israel, Judah stood out the most as the one who received a very favourable blessing.

This shows that even then, the Lord had revealed through His Spirit, dwelling in Jacob, of what He was going to do for the people of Israel and for the world. And all that Jacob had said to his children, especially to Judah, would come true as the kingship over all Israel was given to David, of the tribe of Judah, who became the rightful king and God’s chosen one, and God promised that David’s house will rule over Israel forever, a promise that echoed what Jacob had said to Judah many centuries before.

And then, just as we have heard in our Gospel passage today, from the beginning of the Gospel of St. Matthew, the genealogy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all, descended from Adam, the first man, from Abraham, God’s faithful servant, and from Israel and his son Judah, as prophesied and mentioned earlier. He was then also descended from king David, as David’s true heir as King.

He is the King of all Israel, the King of the whole Universe and all things, Who reigns over the throne of His forefather David, and through Him, all of the whole world has seen God’s salvation. The Lord has fulfilled everything that He had promised to His people through Jesus, Whose coming and birth into this world we are celebrating this Christmas. And now, during this time and season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on all these, and on whether we have appreciated what the Lord had done for all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has shown His enduring love and compassionate care for each and every one of us through His Son, fulfilling everything that He has promised us all from the beginning. And even when we had not been faithful, rebellious and delinquent, the Lord remained faithful to the Covenant that He had made with all of us.

This is why, we are all called to turn away from our many sins, from our unfaithful attitudes, from all the distractions and temptations that had led us away from the Lord and from His path. We are all called to purify our hearts, minds and our whole being, to reorientate our whole lives that we focus ourselves and our attention once again towards the Lord. This is our calling as Christians and we should heed this call, especially as we approach ever closer to Christmas.

Are we ready to celebrate Christmas with true and genuine faith, and with clear and complete understanding, appreciation and knowledge of what the Lord had done for us out of love? If we are not yet ready to do so, then what are we waiting for? The Lord is stirring us up and calls on us to respond to His call, right this very moment now. Let us all respond positively and enthusiastically to this call, brothers and sisters in Christ.

May the Lord, our Saviour and our loving God, continue to watch over us and guide us in our journey of faith. May He, through this blessed time and opportunity of Advent, touch us and our hearts, that we may be willing to listen to Him, and welcome His salvation into our midst. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 16 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture we are reminded again of the salvation of God that He has revealed and given to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. As we approach ever closer to the time of Christmas, we are called to reflect on whether we have appreciated the true significance of what we are going to celebrate, and whether we understand just how fortunate we are, to have been so much beloved by God.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God was reminding His people through Isaiah of Who He was, and how He cared for and loved His people at all times, giving them His love and providence, and how He will lead His people to salvation and into a new life of grace, through His own might and power. He will save them and bless them once again, and He will always be faithful to His words, and they should not believe otherwise.

Once again, all of these, just as the other prophecies and promises that we have heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah for most of this Advent season are reminding us of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, His beloved people, whom He loves with all of His heart. And He has sent us all His deliverance and His salvation in none other than Jesus, Our Lord and Saviour. His coming at Christmas is the proof and manifestation of all that God has promised us from the beginning.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of several disciples of St. John the Baptist who came to the Lord asking Him with the question from St. John himself on whether the Lord was the Messiah and Saviour that the world and all had been waiting for, or whether he ought to wait for yet another one. And the Lord told St. John’s disciples that all that He had done, the miracles and wonders that He performed, all had proclaimed the fulfilment of the Lord’s prophecies and promises, and no further explanation or proof is required.

As you can see from the Gospel today, even someone like St. John the Baptist could have his doubts, and contextually, that was because at that time, there had been plenty of false Messiahs that arose and led the people into rebellion and various uprisings against the Romans, and they all failed, since they were all false and not the true Saviour. Although St. John the Baptist had indeed seen the signs when he baptised the Lord, and he recognised Him as the Lamb of God, the Saviour, but he did still have some doubts.

If someone as dedicated and faithful as St. John the Baptist had doubt in the Lord, then all the more all of us here, who can also be filled with doubt and be swayed away from the Lord. If we do not hold firm in our faith in God, we will end up losing our faith as well as our way. That is why today, we are all reminded of the salvation and grace that God has given to us and which He has repeatedly reassured to us.

As we come ever closer to Christmas, are we ready to welcome the Lord into our hearts, into our minds and into our whole beings? Have we been welcoming to Him, and putting Him as our true Lord and Master, as the Lord and Master of all of our whole existence? If we have not done so, it is perhaps that we have allowed our fears and doubts to distract and mislead us all these while.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore use this opportunity that we have received from the Lord, to open our hearts, minds and our whole beings to the Lord, and return our focus on Him, and renew the faith that we have in Him so that our faith will not be just an empty and meaningless faith, but one that is filled with true zeal and fervour. Let us all make good use of this blessed time of Advent to rededicate ourselves to God.

May the Lord be with us and may He strengthen us in our faith, that despite all the challenges and trials, as well as the many temptations of the world, we will always stay firm in our commitment to be the followers of the Lord, all the time. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 December 2020 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, all of us are reminded that as Christians, we have the obligation to listen to the words of the Lord, our Father and Creator, our Lord and Master, and follow Him in the examples and the truth that He had revealed to us and taught us. This is our calling as Christians, and through this time and season of Advent, we are once again reminded of this calling and obligation.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Zephaniah, we heard the words of the Lord speaking of the coming of the days when Israel and all the other nations will no longer be sinful and be wicked, but will follow the Lord and obey His laws and listen to His will. The prophet spoke of the time to come when all the nations will come bearing gifts and homage to the Lord, and the descendants of Israel would no longer be disobedient and sinful.

The prophet Zephaniah lived and ministered to the people of God in the kingdom of Judah during the time and reign of the king Josiah of Judah, near the end of the era of the kingdom, and not long before the time when the Babylonians would come and destroy both Judah and Jerusalem, and exile most of its people. He ministered to the people during a pivotal moment of the people of God’s livelihood

At the time of king Josiah, there had been a temporary rejuvenation of the worship of the Lord among the people, led by king Josiah himself who courageously and enthusiastically purged the worship of the pagan idols and gods, destroyed the altars of those idols and removing the corruption of the pagan worship from the lands of Israel. Unfortunately, this period of renaissance and reform did not last long, and after king Josiah’s premature death in the Battle of Megiddo, the people reverted back to their sinful ways.

The Lord therefore reminds us through these Scripture readings that we are all called to remove from ourselves the corruption of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of greed and all the other obstacles that had prevented us from finding our way to the Lord through faith. He wants us to open our hearts and minds to Him, that we may listen to us and do what His will has led us to and guided us to. As what we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord through His parable of the two sons wants to remind us to be obedient to Him, and not just to pay Him lip service and empty faith.

The Lord wants us to know that to be obedient to Him is far more important than all the sacrifices and offerings that the people offered Him at the Temple, and to follow His ways is much better than to be a hypocrite who says one thing and profess to believe and yet, acting in a totally different manner. And this is especially true considering that at the time of the Lord’s ministry and the early Church, many among the Jewish authorities refused to believe in the Lord and continued to walk down their flawed path and hold on to their beliefs.

All these happened while many among the Gentiles, especially among the Greeks, who were drawn towards the Lord, and welcomed the Lord’s disciples into their midst. And despite persecutions and challenges that faced the Church during those years, the Church kept on growing and became stronger, as more and more people came to believe in God and many responded to the Lord’s call from among the nations.

The Lord has brought His light to the nations, and many people had seen this light and been called to be saved. But how are we responding to God’s call in our lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to be like the son in the Gospel parable, who said that he would obey and in the end never carried out or obeyed his father’s will? Or will we be the one who wants to do the father’s will?

All of us have been given the choice to walk down either the path of obedience and faith, or the path of wickedness, individualism and separation from God. All of us have been called to choose our path going forward in life, and thus, let us all discern carefully our choice and let us all rediscover that genuine faith that each and every one of us ought to have in the Lord.

May the Lord be our guide and our source of strength, and may He bless us through our respective journeys in life, especially as we journey through this blessed season of Advent. May our Advent journey be fruitful and be filled with our sincere love and devotion towards the Lord. May God bless us always, in each and every moments of our lives, and in our every good endeavours. Amen.