Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are almost at Christmas and our wait for the great celebrations as almost over, and today is the last day of the season of Advent, the time which the Church has especially provided for us all to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas. Now, let us then ask ourselves if we are all truly ready to welcome the Lord and rejoice in Him this Christmas?

Have our Advent activities been fruitful, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we made good use of the time provided for us to have a profound change and preparation in our hearts and minds, in our way of life and in our predisposition to be able to celebrate Christmas worthily, with true joy and with the right focus and intentions? Are we still celebrating Christmas in the wrong way, by forgetting about the One Whom we ought to be celebrating about?

As we recall the Scripture readings we have just heard today, we should inspect ourselves and see how we have progressed through this Advent and in our own journey of faith. Our first reading which was taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel told us about the conversation between king David and his advisor, the prophet Nathan, about his desire to build a great house for the Lord, the idea which would eventually become the great Temple of Jerusalem.

However, God had a different plan, and told king David that it was not His will that the House would be built by him or during his reign as king, as instead, it would be his son, the future king Solomon, who would be the one to build the great house for God. Nonetheless, if we read through the other parts of the history, it was king David who laid much of the foundations of the effort, preparing much goods and materials necessary for the foundation of the Temple.

In this reading alone, there are a few things that we should take note of carefully. First of all, when God spoke to king David that it would be his son who would build the Temple of God, and how God would make the reign of David’s son secure, God was in fact speaking not just of the literal son of David, that is Solomon, but also foreshadowing of the One Who would be the fulfilment of all of God’s many promises, that is Christ, to be born as Heir and Son of David, Who would be the One to build the Eternal dwelling of God among His people.

And how did that happen, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was by His incarnation in the flesh, that the Divine Word and Son of God entered into this world and born as the Son of Man, through Mary, His mother. Through this singular act, of God becoming one of us, He has dwelled in our midst and built His House forever, the foundation of which is His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And just as the first Temple is the place where the people of Israel worshipped God and was the visible symbol of God’s presence among His people, thus the new and everlasting Temple in Christ which Our Lord Himself has built, is the focus and heart of the Church that He has established in this world, and is composed of all of us who believed in the Lord. All of these were made possible because God has loved us so much and endeavoured to do so much for us, that by His entry into this world, that we celebrate in Christmas, all of us have a new hope in Him.

In our Gospel today, we heard of the father of St. John the Baptist, Zechariah, who was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he sang with a great joy, blessing and thanking God for all that He has done for His people, not just that He has blessed him with a son, but even more so that because of that son he had, through the works that the son would accomplish in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, the world would be called towards God’s salvation and love.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, is this the same kind of joy that we have and which we are preparing for this upcoming Christmas? Or is our joy instead one that is empty and self-centred, and not centred and focused on Christ? Because Christmas is just tomorrow, let us ask ourselves, and indeed, remind ourselves, what is the true meaning and joy of Christmas to all of us. We should be joyful as Zechariah had been, with the right intention in heart and mind.

And just as I mentioned earlier, how king David prepared lots of things and materials to build the House of God, let us all the also prepare ourselves to have a wonderful and most meaningful Christmas celebration, not in the festivities and merrymaking, but rather by putting Christ at the very centre and heart of our celebrations, remembering God’s great love for us that made Christmas possible in the first place.

Let us share the joy and love of God in Christmas to everyone, and let us all bear witness to Christ, by doing our best to live as how we should be living as Christians, filled with God’s love and generously sharing this love with one another. And may God be with us always and may He bless our Christmas celebrations beginning tomorrow. Amen.

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 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, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the messenger of God whom He has revealed through His prophets to be the one who would prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah, as we heard from the prophet Malachi in our first reading today, as the prophet spoke of the coming of the messenger who is also the prophet Elijah, to prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah.

It is timely for us today to listen to these readings from the Scripture to remind us of what this person and servant of the Lord had done for our sake, when he did what the Lord had commanded him to do, in all the works he had done, in calling the people to repentance and to turn away from their sins, and instead embracing the truth of God and prepare themselves to welcome the Lord’s Saviour Who was about to come.

And this servant of God was none other than St. John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for Christ, born of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. It was this same Zechariah whom we heard from in our Gospel passage today, singing praises to God, thanking Him for all that He has done for His people, at the time when his son, St. John the Baptist was born. St. John the Baptist was born at the time when Zechariah and Elizabeth were both already very old and past the childbearing age.

At first, when an Angel of God came to Zechariah proclaiming how he and his wife would have a special child even in their old age, as the one whom God has promised to His people for a long time, Zechariah did not believe at first and doubted the Angel, saying that he and his wife could not have a child at such an age. As a result, he was struck dumb and could not speak until everything that the Lord has spoken came true, as Elizabeth became really pregnant and gave birth to St. John the Baptist.

What we have heard today in our Gospel passage was the moment of great joy and wonders that happened to Zechariah, as right after St. John the Baptist was born, Zechariah was freed from his dumbness. Zechariah gave out praise to God, and everything came to be as the Lord willed it. And that child would go on to become a faithful and dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life to the service of God, calling many people to repentance and to turn towards God, baptising them in the Jordan as a symbol of their renewal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then what is the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today? It is that each and every one of us should appreciate first of all just how much God had done for us, in giving us so great a gift of salvation, that through His Son, He has willingly come to dwell in our midst, embracing our humanity to be a Man, through Whom all of us have received the reassurance of new hope and new life in Him, guaranteed by nothing less than His own Blood and life.

God sent us all of His prophets and messengers, right up to St. John the Baptist, all with the intention to remind us and to help us to find our way to Him, that we may be touched in our hearts and minds, that we may be able to see the love that He has showered us with, and which He has generously given to us in Christ, His Son, which we celebrate with much joy in Christmas, celebrating the moment when His love has manifested in our midst in the flesh.

And because of this, then we are also then called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist and innumerable other followers and disciples of the Lord who have dedicated their lives and all for the sake of the Lord, especially today that of St. John of Kanty, as his feast day is celebrated on this day. St. John of Kanty was also known by his Latinised name of St. John Cantius, a great and renowned philosopher and teacher of the faith from what is now Poland.

St. John Cantius was remembered for his great contributions in the area of Catholic education and philosophy, being not just a priest but also a great Professor of theology at the famous University of Krakow. He was a brilliant and intelligent man, just as he was also pious and faithful in all of his deeds. St. John Cantius however had to go through trials and difficulties, facing false accusations and lies from his fellow academics and forced out of his teaching role in the university, and sent instead to a parish.

St. John Cantius was fearful and worried of the challenges he had to face in the parish that was beset with difficult tasks, and yet, he gave it his all and dedicated himself completely to fulfil the missions entrusted to him and did his best for the sake of his many parishioners, who eventually grew to love him and were touched by his holiness and tireless efforts to reach out and minister to them. Eventually he could return to his teaching role at the university and continued to dedicate himself to his last days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John Cantius was a great and intelligent man, and yet at the same time, he was filled with love for God, as well as great humility and also generosity and love for his fellow men. His great qualities and personal holiness should indeed become our inspiration and strength, our beacon of light and hope, that we should follow in our own journey of faith in our lives. Are we able to walk the path that St. John Cantius had walked on, brothers and sisters in Christ?

As Christmas is truly already upon us, just two days from now, let us all ask ourselves if we have made use of this season of Advent meaningfully to prepare us to celebrate worthily and meaningfully the upcoming joy of Christmas? If we have not done so, then perhaps we may want to recall again what the faithful servants of the Lord, St. John the Baptist and St. John Cantius had done, and remember that as God’s faithful people, all of us are called to be witnesses for Him in our world, and what better way to do so than to be exemplary in our Christmas celebrations, truly focused and centred on God?

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now, beginning from our upcoming celebrations of Christmas, that we should out God once again at the centre of our lives, our existences, our families and communities. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all in our journey of faith and Christmas preparations. Amen.

Sunday, 22 December 2019 : 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 the season of Advent, we focus on the last of the four themes that we are focusing on this Advent, namely hope, peace, joy and love. And this Sunday therefore, we focus on the theme of love in preparation of Christmas. As we all know, love is the most important of all Christian virtues, and is in fact the very reason why we have Christmas in the first place.

For without love, there would not have been Christmas and all of its celebrations and joy. In turn, there would not have been peace on earth, or a new hope for all of us mankind, and joy would have been dimmed and out of reach for us, because God’s love has not manifested among us. But thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, the love of God has been manifested in none other than His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ.

This has been clearly stated to us, in what the Lord Jesus told Nicodemus the Pharisee in one of the most well-known phrase in the entire Scriptures, from the Gospel of St. John, chapter 3, ‘For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only beloved Son, so that all who believe in Him may not perish, but have eternal life.’ And this is in essence, what Christmas and all of its joy is all about, a celebration of God’s ultimate love for us.

That is why, after reflecting in the past three Sundays on the aspects of hope, peace and joy that Christmas has brought us and which we will celebrate again very soon, it is timely that on this last Sunday of Advent before the time of Christmas that we look into the very core of the Christmas celebration itself, the love of God made Man, the love of God coming to dwell among us in Christ.

And this is what the Scripture passages today have delivered to us, in the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation, beginning from the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah, in which the prophet Isaiah prophesied of the coming of the Messiah, clearly speaking of how the Messiah would come, through the sign of the Virgin bearing a Child, the One through Whom God would dwell among His people, ‘Emmanuel’, meaning ‘God is with us’.

At the time of the prophet Isaiah and afterwards, as the people awaited for the coming of the Messiah, the true meaning of those words in the prophecy of Isaiah was not fully understood, and it was only then, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Nazareth, upon a young woman and virgin betrothed to the local carpenter, Mary, the one who was destined to be the Mother of God and Saviour, that the fullness of God’s intentions was made bare to all.

The Archangel Gabriel was very clear, and he said that through the will of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary herself would bear the Son of God in her, God Himself incarnate in the flesh, just as St. Paul mentioned in the very beginning of his Epistle to the Romans, as a core tenet and belief of our Christian faith, that God became flesh, assuming the full nature of our humanity and become both Son of Man, as well as Son of God.

This was what the Angel of God reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he hesitated to take Mary as his wife because she bad become pregnant before their marriage and before it was to be consummated. The Angel also made a link and reference to what the prophet Isaiah had prophesied earlier, a prophecy clearly well known to St. Joseph and all the Israelites, which right there and then was coming to its fulfilment.

And it was God’s love that made all these possible, as all of us must remember that even though we are looking forward to the coming of Christmas, but we must also not forget why Christmas exists in the first place. Christmas exists because of Easter, and all that is related to the Easter celebrations, namely the Lord’s Passion, His suffering, death on the Cross and finally, His glorious Resurrection.

It was Easter that made Christmas fully meaningful and it is by understanding fully the grand scheme of God’s plan of our salvation that we can better appreciate why Christmas is so important to all of us. It is not just merely another holiday or moment to celebrate, to exchange gifts or to expect good things from one another. It is not just a time for us to have parties or good food and drink, or to shop and buy the latest apparels and paraphernalia.

Sadly, this is what many of us believe, and what many of us embrace as we think of Christmas as merely just another good time and time to relax and enjoy ourselves, forgetting the very reason why Christmas exists and why we even should be joyful in the first place. We have relegated the Lord to the least important place in our preparations and celebrations, and we have overlooked Him in Christmas.

Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that Christ has given everything to all of us, as He did not even hold back giving us the ultimate gift of all, that is the gift of His very own life, when He suffered and died on the Cross, willingly enduring all those pains and sufferings, bearing our sins and the consequences for our sins, so that all of us may live and not perish, as He Himself said to Nicodemus.

And it was because of all these that we can truly rejoice in Christmas! Indeed, if not for all that Christ has gone through for our sake, there would indeed be no reason to celebrate, because by our sins and wickedness, we would have been condemned to utter annihilation and destruction, eternal suffering and pain. Instead, Christ took all the pain and suffering to Himself, and through Himself, He offered us all the Way to eternal joy and life.

If the world had forgotten the reason for Christmas and the true joy and meaning, then should it not then be a challenge for us all as Christians to remind the world? What do I mean by this, brothers and sisters in Christ? I mean that we should show it in how we ourselves celebrate Christmas and prepare ourselves for the Christmas joy to come. It is how we then remind everyone Who it is we are truly celebrating about.

It does not mean that we should then reject everything that the world has celebrated about Christmas, but rather, we should celebrate in that manner in moderation, not to give in to excesses in all the consumeristic attitudes that are always prevalent during this season and time of the year. We should instead focus our celebrations on Christ, and the best way for us to do that, is to follow the example of Our Lord.

If God has loved us with so much love, and therefore brought us new hope, peace and joy through Christmas, then should we not then show the same love to one another? This is what in essence we need to do in our Christmas celebrations, brothers and sisters in Christ. We must celebrate the love, not the gifts; rejoice with our brothers and sisters, and not with all the glamour and bling of the occasion; love and forgive one another for anything that we have caused hurt to each other instead of being jealous or trying to outmatch each other in how we celebrate; reach out and share our joy and love rather than selfishly keeping all the joy to ourselves.

This is easier said than done, brothers and sisters in Christ, but we must not then make it as an excuse then to be idle and to continue our lukewarm attitude towards Christmas. Let us all instead be beacons of light showing the path to one another, guiding each other and inspiring our fellow brethren to celebrate Christmas more meaningfully by turning ourselves once again to God’s love in Christ as the one and true focus of our Christmas festivities and celebrations.

May God continue to love us all as He has always done, and bless us all in our good endeavours, and may He help us all to prepare ourselves heart, mind and soul for the coming joy of Christmas that we may celebrate it well, and not to forget to share the love and joy we have with one another, especially with those who had no chance to celebrate. May God bless our Advent preparations for Christmas. Amen.

Saturday, 21 December 2019 : 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 celebrate the feast of one of the holy Doctors of the Church, who was also a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits, and also a great priest and champion of the Counter Reformation efforts of the Church. St. Peter Canisius is truly a great inspiration and role model that many of us Christians can look upon as we ourselves progress in our own respective journeys of faith.

St. Peter Canisius lived at the time when the Church and Christendom were at a crossroads, at a time of great challenges and trials for the Church and the faithful, when many of the faithful began to walk away from the true faith at the time of the Protestant reformation, when many different alternative thoughts and teachings brought segments of the faithful to splinter away from the Holy Mother Church.

It was there then that St. Peter Canisius, as one of the earliest members of the Society of Jesus founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola, was instrumental in the efforts to counter the divisions within the Church, in what was called the Counter Reformation. St. Peter Canisius was one among the Jesuits tasked with the works of re-evangelisation of traditional lands of Christendom such as in what is now Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the Nordic countries among others.

St. Peter Canisius was remembered particularly not just for the zeal with which he carried out his mission, but also the love and gentleness with which he performed his works and ministries among the people of God, even in difficult and challenging times. He advocated clarity in doctrine and preaching and discouraged attacks and insults against the Protestant populations, arguing that such methods made the spiritually sick and needy to become incurable.

Instead, spearheading the efforts of the Counter-Reformation and the gradual implementation of the reforms of the Ecumenical Council of Trent which rooted out many of the ills and corruptions then affecting the Church, St. Peter Canisius contributed immensely to the efforts of the Counter-Reformation by his courageous efforts and tireless devotion to serve the Lord by his outreach to those who have separated themselves from the Church, focusing on clarifying the confusion within the Church and explaining more clearly the truth of the Church.

To that extent, St. Peter Canisius wrote and authored the three volumes of what would be known as the Catechisms in the Latin and German language, the language of those who have been most affected by the reformation. This was one of his most renowned contributions to the Church, which was part of the reason why he was canonised as a saint and made as one of the Doctors of the Church in the year 1925 by Pope Pius XI. His contributions in leading the Counter-Reformation in Germany, reclaiming many areas to the Church was also a contributing factor.

And not just that, as St. Peter Canisius was also renowned for his deep devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, and his contributions to the area of Mariology which helped to deepen the then developing spiritual devotion to Mary, in which again he is remembered for his lasting contribution of adding the final part of the Ave Maria or the Hail Mary prayer with the final prayer and petition of ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen’.

As we can see, the inspiring examples of St. Peter Canisius in everything he has contributed to the Church and his important role in the renewal of faith especially among those who have lapsed in their ways, should be important reminder for us all as well, in how we ourselves should rediscover our faith in God and deepen our relationship with Him, especially through a deeper relationship with His mother Mary, to whom St. Peter Canisius and many of our holy predecessors had deep devotion for.

As we approach the moment of Christmas in just a few days’ time, it is perhaps timely that today’s commemoration of the memory of the glorious St. Peter Canisius reminds us of the need for us to be reconnected with God, and how as Christians all of us have that obligation and calling to be witnesses for Christ within our own communities, friends and families.

Just as how it was during the time of St. Peter Canisius, when many had fallen away from the faith, there are also today many people who had lapsed from their faith and became wayward in their lives. Have we become like one of them, when we allowed our faith to become lukewarm? We have lost the faith if we have allowed ourselves to treat our faith as merely just a formality, and especially, if Christmas has no further meaning to us than just another holiday.

If this is the case, then there is a need for us to reexamine our lives and reconnect ourselves to God. We need to seek the Lord again with a new love and zeal just as how we heard from our first reading today in the Book of Song of Songs, like that of a lover seeking his or her long lost lover. And once we have regained that connection with God, then our challenge is such that, we need to follow in the footsteps of St. Peter Canisius, and bring others back into the faith just as we have done.

And how do we do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Not through confrontation or by being condescending as what St. Peter Canisius had said, that if we do so, we will end up making those who have rejected God to close themselves against Him even more. Instead, we should be role models of our faith, just as St. Peter Canisius has been a great role model for us. Live our lives full of faith, and practice what we believe in our actions, words and deeds, and in time, all those who see us, hear us and meet us will be touched by our faith.

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts then, and endeavour to love Him more as we are about to celebrate the glorious celebration of Christmas in just a few days’ time. We should not allow Christmas to be just another holiday or festivity, but instead, let us all immerse ourselves in the true meaning and joy of Christmas in our Lord’s coming, and share the love which He has shown us to one another. May God be with us all and with our blessed Christmas preparations. Amen.

Friday, 20 December 2019 : 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 reminding us all of the wonderful gift of God this Christmas, which is a reminder of just how loving God has been and how wonderful His love that He sent us His own Son as our Saviour and the One to deliver us all from our fated destruction. The Lord gave us all the ultimate and best gift of all, that by His coming into this world we may have hope and joy once again.

In our first reading today, we heard of the encounter between the prophet Isaiah and king Ahaz of Judah in which the prophet Isaiah asked the king to ask for a sign from God, as Ahaz was not a firm believer in God, leading a life of sin and disobedience against God. But Ahaz demurred and refused to ask for a sign from God, which in fact was not due to his humility by rather because he did not have enough faith in God.

The prophet Isaiah then proclaimed the famous prophecy declaring how the Messiah would come through a woman, and this Saviour would be known as Emmanuel, or ‘God is with us’, a prophecy of what God would do for the sake of His people, as fulfilled finally in our Gospel passage today, in the accounts of the Annunciation, when the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary proclaiming that she would be the very woman whom the prophet Isaiah had spoken about.

Mary heard how she would become the Mother of God, as the Child she was to bear in her would be known as the Son of God Most High, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all. This was how God fulfilled the prophecy of the Emmanuel, for God has Himself come down to dwell in our midst, in the flesh by His divine incarnation, through Mary, His mother, that He became Son of God and Son of Man alike, two natures, fully divine and fully human each, perfectly united in the person of Jesus Christ, the Saviour.

Mary obeyed the Lord and allowed Him to fulfil His promised works through her, and for nine months thus she bore within her the Saviour of the world. If we contrast this with what we heard in our first reading today, in the lack of faith shown by King Ahaz of Judah, we can see how Mary on the other hand had such a great faith in God that she responded so wholeheartedly in accepting God’s will for her.

This is a reminder to all of us as Christians, how we all need to follow the example of Mary in her faith in our own lives. Mary is our role model in how she dedicated herself and her entire life to the purposes of God, showing us all what it truly means for us to be Christians. Are we able to walk the path that Mary has walked as we journey along in faith with God? And especially since Christmas is rapidly approaching us, we need to ask ourselves, how have we prepared ourselves to celebrate it?

Are we going to be like Ahaz in our attitude, in lacking the faith and in immersing ourselves in worldly pleasures and revelries commonly associated with Christmas? We can see just how prevalent excessive consumerism and materialism are in our Christmas celebrations, where everyone’s concerns are about satisfying themselves and their desires, their wants for more glamour and seeking more glory for themselves.

Ironically, the One Whom we ought to be celebrating has been forgotten and sidelined, the Child promised by God through His prophets including that of Isaiah as mentioned in our first reading today, conceived and born through Mary, His mother. This is why many of us have fallen deeper and deeper into sin, and further and further away from God and His path, precisely because God is no longer at the centre of our lives and existence.

If God is not within our hearts or if we have sidelined Him for other, worldly pursuits in life, then are we not just like Ahaz, who preferred to remain as he was, seeking worldly justification and not following the path of the Lord, leading his people into sin? We should instead be inspired by Mary, the Mother of God as I have just mentioned earlier, in her good examples of faith and dedication.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now that Christmas is just less than a week away, are we able to say ‘yes’ to the Lord calling on us to be faithful to Him and to follow Him on the path that He will show us? Are we able to centre ourselves and our existence once again upon Him, entrusting ourselves to His providence and love? Let us all spend some time from now until Christmas, to prepare ourselves well so that we may indeed worthily celebrate Christmas with true meaning, intention and purpose.

May God be with us in this journey of faith, and may He bless us all in our good endeavours and works, and may He provide us with the courage and strength to walk faithfully ever in His presence, and help us in our moments of weakness and struggles in life, that we will always be firm in our conviction to love Him at all times. Amen.

Thursday, 19 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we progress closer through the last one week just before Christmas, we are being reminded yet again of the great works and wonders of God’s salvation as we heard in our Scripture passages of the stories of two of His great servants whom He has sent into this world to bring forth the salvation and the good promises that He has given them.

In our first reading today from the Book of Judges we heard the story of the Judge Samson, the one who was renowned for his great and mighty strength, that God sent to His people when they were oppressed and overcome by the strength of the Philistines. Samson was sent to free the people of Israel from the tyranny of the Philistines, and by his great might, he led the Israelites to great triumphs against the forces of the Philistines.

Meanwhile in our Gospel passage we heard of the coming of St. John the Baptist, another great servant of God whom He sent just ahead of the coming of His Saviour or Messiah, His own Son Whom He sent into the world in order to be the Saviour of all. St. John the Baptist also had a very important role, as he prepared the hearts and minds of many to welcome the Lord into their midst, calling them to repentance.

Both Samson the Judge and also St. John the Baptist were those who have been dedicated to God and offered as what was called the Nazirites, those who lived solely for the purpose of obeying God and His commands, dedicating their lives to God. That was why St. John the Baptist and Samson both kept their hair long and lived in the wild, as what the Nazirites commonly did, not touching any alcoholic beverages and devoting themselves to God.

Through these two faithful servants of God all of us are again reminded of the One Whom we truly celebrate about this Christmas, that is our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ and not the false celebrations of merrymaking, excessive partying and revelries, or of expensive and glamorous Christmas gifts and celebrations, Santa Claus and all forms of the over-hyped secular celebrations of Christmas that are often plenty all around us this time of the year.

The two servants of God, Samson and St. John the Baptist also remind us that being disciples of the Lord is not an easy task, as both of them suffered and died a holy defender of faith each. Samson was tricked by a woman sent by the Philistines to tempt him and in the end, he was captured, blinded and humiliated by the Philistines. But Samson remained faithful and he prayed to God to give him one last burst of strength to defeat the enemies, and he brought down the whole place with him and many hundreds of the enemies of the Lord.

The faith of St. John the Baptist was also exemplary, as he spoke firmly and courageously against the wickedness of the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and also against the adulterous behaviour of king Herod of Galilee, which ended up with him being imprisoned. Eventually, by the wicked act and will of Herodias, the woman whom king Herod was in adultery with, St. John the Baptist was beheaded in prison, remaining faithful to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we recall the good and faithful lives of the judge Samson and also St. John the Baptist, how are we doing with our own lives as God’s followers and servants? The two holy predecessors of ours have dedicated their lives to God, even through trials and difficulties to the very end. Are we able to dedicate ourselves to God in the same way that they had done with their lives?

We are all called to centre our lives, all of our efforts and works on God from now on. And let us begin by remembering the focus of our upcoming Christmas celebrations. If we have been too engrossed in our preparations for all the merrymaking and joyful celebrations, then let us all put Christ in the middle of all of our joys, so that our happiness and joyful celebrations is not for our sake alone, but rather to rejoice because God has loved us all so much that He has given us His Son, to be our Lord and Saviour.

May God bless us all now and always, and may He guide us in our journey of faith, that we may faithfully walk in His path, inspired by the examples set by His servants, Samson and St. John the Baptist. May God be with us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 18 December 2019 : 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 the coming of the Lord’s salvation and the hope which all of us have received in sharing that joy the Lord has promised to His people. We heard first of all from our first reading, how the prophet Jeremiah spoke of the time of the coming of God’s day of salvation when He would send to His people the Saviour and Deliverer.

And if we understand the context and condition upon which the words and prophecy of Jeremiah was delivered, we will appreciate even better and more of how significant this promise of the Lord was to the people to whom Jeremiah had delivered the words of the Lord. At that time, when the prophet Jeremiah performed his ministry, the southern kingdom of Judah was in its very last throes of its existence.

The great empire of Babylonia was threatening the existence of Judah, having destroyed the earlier empire of Assyria who had in turn destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel over a century prior and brought most of the northern tribes of Israel into exile in far-off lands. Babylonia had conquered Assyria and all other smaller nations, and it was just some time before it would crush Judah and conquer Jerusalem.

Yet, despite all their troubles and trials, caused by their disobedience against God, the people of Judah still continued to sin and disobey God, and they did not put their trust in Him. They mocked and rejected Jeremiah, and made him to suffer if we read on through the rest of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah. Nonetheless, as we heard from what the prophet spoke of in today’s first reading, God still loved His people despite all that they have done.

He was still faithful to the Covenant that He has made with them and with their ancestors, a Covenant that He constantly renewed again and again, as the prophet Jeremiah mentioned how God saved His people during the time of their Exodus from Egypt, when by His great power and through the Ten Plagues and other miracles, God brought His entire people Israel out of their slavery in Egypt under the Pharaohs.

And Jeremiah mentioned how God would no longer be remembered as the One Who saved His people from the Egyptians and their slavery, for He would save them yet once again, out of their then present predicament and problems, mentioning how God would remember His people and bring them back into the lands that once belonged to their ancestors, mentioning the northern kingdom of Israel in that same prophecy.

This was a prophecy of what was to come, that although Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed because the people continued to sin and lead wicked lives in opposition to God, but God would still lead them to freedom as He has once done before because truly, He loved them all very much. And that promise and prophecy would indeed come to fulfilment many decades later, when King Cyrus of Persia freed the descendants of Israel and allowed them to return to their homeland.

And now, all of us have known how God had yet done another even more wonderful act in saving His people, and this time it is not just the children of Israel that God has saved, but indeed, all of mankind, for God has extended His salvation to all the peoples, of all the nations and of all the races, through none other than His own beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ Whom He had sent into this world to be our Saviour.

It was what the Lord reiterated to St. Joseph in our Gospel passage today, when he was reluctant to take Mary to be his wife when he heard that Mary somehow had become pregnant with a Son. The Lord reassured St. Joseph that Mary was pregnant with the Child Who was to become the Saviour of all, God’s own Son Whom He had sent into this world to be the One by Whose hands, not just the sons and daughters of Israel, but all the children of mankind would be saved.

Thus, the Lord would then be known not just as God Who saved the Israelites from their slavery in Egypt, and neither would He be known as the One Who freed the Israelites from the exile in Babylon, but forevermore, by His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross, He would be known as the Ever Loving God, full of compassion and love for His children and all of us, His beloved people, that He was willing to endure the full burden of the Cross for the sake of our salvation.

It is indeed timely that we are all reminded of all these wonderful loving acts of God just within a week from Christmas, so that each and every one of us may remember what is all of our Christmas preparations and celebrations are for, and how we should put the Lord, Our Saviour at the very centre and focus of all of our wonderful joy and festivities this Christmas. If we have not done that yet, it is not yet too late for us to reorientate ourselves now.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as today’s Scripture passages have reminded us all of how loving and compassionate God has been to us, that in Christmas He has given us all the wonderful and most perfect gift of Our Saviour, Jesus Christ, let us all dedicate ourselves to God and His love for us, and make our upcoming Christmas celebration truly meaningful. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 17 December 2019 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we begin entering the seven days period leading to Christmas, with the special liturgical readings from the Scripture that are meant to direct our attention to the One Whom we are celebrating in Christmas. It began therefore with the account from the Book of Genesis in our first reading today of Jacob blessing his sons, with a special blessing to Judah, through whom eventually the Messiah would come into this world.

And in the Gospel passage today we heard from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. Matthew on the long genealogy of Our Lord Jesus Christ, all the way from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, linked to what we heard from the Book of Genesis, as the Lord descended through Judah, and then to David, the famous King of Israel, through whom God also promised to make the house of David to last forever and to reign as king for eternity.

All these are leading to the coming of Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the whole world which had been long prophesied and promised. Everything was fulfilled when Christ was born in Bethlehem as prophesied, more than two millennia ago, in a poor and dirty stable, born as the King of Kings and the King of Israel, the Heir of David and the Saviour of all. And this is the essence of true Christmas joy and what we are celebrating, Christ as the focal point of all our celebrations and festivities.

How are we then, brothers and sisters in Christ, as Christians, spend our time preparing ourselves for Christmas and its festive season, given that it is now just about one week away? Are we going to do what the rest of the world have been doing all these while, by spending our time shopping and buying the latest Christmas merchandises and goods, by busying ourselves in getting gifts for the celebrations or worrying about what decorations we are going to put up?

We can see just what kind of enormous marketing and advertising going on every year for the Christmas season, endlessly promoting more and more of the secular Christmas cultures and celebrations, all the paraphernalia on Santa Claus, all the Christmas traditions and folklore customs, the fairies and elves, and all sort of things not founded on the true meaning and intention of Christmas.

It is not that we cannot celebrate Christmas as how the world celebrates it. Indeed, if we can spread the joy of Christmas and even spread the true meaning of Christmas by sharing in the joy of this period, then perhaps that will make our Christmas celebrations even more meaningful and wonderful, not just for ourselves but also for others, even for those who do not belong to the Church.

The issue here is that we should not allow ourselves to be swallowed up by the excessive consumerism and materialism that are behind the secular celebrations and festivities surrounding the worldly Christmas. We should not be affected or swayed by the temptations to seek more pleasures and happiness for ourselves, by vying for the best Christmas gifts or celebrations, and most importantly, as we have discussed earlier, our celebration must be centred on Christ.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we quickly approach the time of Christmas this year, are we able to challenge ourselves that we may celebrate Christmas this year with full understanding of its true purpose and intention, its meaning and truth? Are we able to celebrate Christmas with newfound love for God and dedicate ourselves to Him anew beginning from now if we have not done so?

And now, let our Christmas joy be complete, as we turn ourselves away from the meaninglessness and futility of the worldly pursuits of glory, happiness and satisfaction in all the sorts of things that the world has always promoted, and instead, let us all turn towards the Lord with all of our heart and love Him from now on with all of our strength. May God be with us all and guide us through this journey of faith, that from now on, Christmas will truly be a blessed celebration of God’s love for us. Amen.

Monday, 16 December 2019 : 3rd 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 many wonderful blessings and works which God has bestowed and done among His people all throughout time, just as we heard the story from the Book of Numbers in which we listened to the story of the prophet and holy man of God named Balaam, who was hired by one of the enemies of Israel during their Exodus and journey from Egypt to the Promised Land of Canaan.

Balaam was hired to curse the Israelites and to give their enemies an edge over them, but as we heard in our first reading passage today, instead of cursing the people of Israel, Balaam blessed them and prayed over them for good bounty and prosperity to the dismay of the enemy of Israel, as God had spoken and delivered His will through him and Balaam obeyed God’s will to the end.

It was a wonderful providence and reassurance from God, how He will always be faithful to His Covenant, that even curses intended for His people turned into blessings. And Balaam also in fact prophesied of the coming of the Star of Jacob, as a prophecy of the coming of the Messiah to come, even though it was still a long time away by then. This Star coming forth from Jacob, referred to a vision of the Almighty, was none other than Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

It was indeed fitting that as we come gradually closer to the celebration of Christmas within just slightly more than a week from now, we are reminded yet again of the One Whom we are celebrating for in this Christmas. Not the glamour and festivities, not the merrymaking and gifts, but rather, for the love and compassion of God, by which He gave us a new Hope through the giving of His own beloved Son, to be our Saviour.

That is the true meaning and purpose of Christmas, the joy that we celebrate for the coming of the glorious Saviour through Whom we have been saved and brought out from the darkness of sin into a new life filled with the grace of God. However, it is sad to note how many among us mankind, even among us Christians who have not understood or realised this truth, and treat Christmas as merely just another holiday or time to party and be merry.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Temple authorities, the chief priests and the elders, the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees all rallied against the Lord, with the context of His earlier action in driving all the cheating and greedy merchants and money changers out of the courtyards of the Temple, questioning Him on whose authority that the Lord had acted in that way, for they saw in Him a threat to their own power and authority.

At that time, the priests and elders of the Temple benefitted from the presence of the merchants and money changers, as probably they gained from the rental fees and other costs incurred for those merchants to use the Temple courtyard, and they also provided the necessary means for the worship at the Temple by selling the animal sacrifices for the Temple worship. However, those merchants likely profited immensely from such endeavours, overcharging the pilgrims and worshippers for their products and services.

And the Temple authorities also benefitted in the same manner, and when the Lord acted justly in driving out all those who brought corruption and the defilement of sin into the holy House of the Lord, they became angry because they saw not the Lord acting as how He and everyone who had faith in God should have acted, but rather, they saw the loss of their income and their many other worldly concerns.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this then related to us? It is in fact exactly what often happen to us in our own lives. Too many times we often sidelined the Lord in our lives, preferring to put our priorities to gain things and benefits for ourselves, in our pursuits for power, glory, wealth and all the other things that we seek in this world that made us to forget about God. We ended up living for the world and forgot about the love which God has lavished upon us, all these while.

Through today’s Scripture readings, through Balaam’s blessings of Israel and the rejection of Jesus by the Temple authorities, we are all called to remember God’s love and blessings for us, in each and every moments of our lives. God has loved us so much and yet we often disappointed Him by our refusal to detach ourselves from our ego and many desires in life, in our repeated fall into sin and living in a state of sin all these while.

But God is ever loving and ever merciful, brothers and sisters in Christ, and this time of Advent is truly the best time for us to take a stock of our lives, to reevaluate our direction and current heading in life. Let us all make a new commitment from now on, that we will try our best to live our lives with ever greater faith, each and every days of our lives, and draw ever nearer to God and His love through our every living actions.

May the Lord bless our journey of faith this Advent, that we may indeed make the best use of these few remaining days left in this time of sacred preparation that we may prepare ourselves well, not just for the coming of Christmas, but also for our conversion to be better and true disciples of the Lord in all things. May God be with us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 15 December 2019 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the third one in the season of Advent, you may have noticed a difference in the vestments of the priests and the celebrants of the Mass as we use the rose colour instead of violet, the decorations of the Church and the music, because on this day we celebrate what is known as Gaudete Sunday, which came from the Introit of today’s liturgical celebrations, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’, with the word ‘Gaudete’ meaning rejoice.

That is why on this particular Sunday of Advent, we focus on the theme of ‘Joy’, after we have focused on ‘Hope’ on the first Sunday of Advent, and ‘Peace’ on the second Sunday. On this day, we have some sort of reprieve from the relatively sombre and penitential nature of Advent, and assume temporarily the more joyous and festive atmosphere, not because it is already the time to embrace the fullness of the joy of Christmas, but rather because we look forward to that ‘Joy’ in Christmas that we rejoice today.

On this day, this Gaudete Sunday we are all reminded what the true meaning and joy of Christmas are all about. That is because many of us have forgotten what the true joy and meaning of Christmas is, and have become swallowed by the way the world perceives Christmas, the celebrations and festivities we often see all around us especially throughout this month and holiday season, which is focused not on the true joy of Christmas but instead on false, worldly joys.

This is why the world has often led us astray and distracted us from finding the true joy of Christmas. What is this true joy of Christmas, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is Christ Himself, our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all and the One after Whom Christmas was named. It is indeed such an irony that most of us treated Christmas as just another festivity and another holiday, forgetting the very One we should be celebrating about.

That is why it is indeed timely that we are reminded of Who we are celebrating for this coming Christmas, so that we may no longer forget about Him and may have the right direction and way of celebrating Christmas with true joy and happiness, not the glamour and pleasures of the holiday spirit and celebrations of Christmas all around us, not all the gifts we receive and all the food we are going to feast in, but rather in welcoming the Lord, our Saviour into our midst.

All of us rejoice because in Christmas lies the fulfilment of our long wait and desire for salvation and reconciliation with God. As our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah stated, the coming of the Lord and His salvation would indeed be a joyful one, a time when God would heal His people and reach out to them, when He would bring them true freedom and happiness by revealing His way and His truth to all of them, that is all of us mankind.

The Lord has always been faithful to His people and to all the promises that He has made with them. At the time of the prophet Isaiah, the people of Israel had indeed suffered, humiliated and beaten by their enemies, and the entirety of the northern kingdom had been destroyed by the Assyrians and the inhabitants of the northern lands had been brought into exile in far-off lands. Therefore the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah must have indeed brought great relief to the people of Judah, the southern kingdom, as a reassurance of God’s providence and love.

And this was reaffirmed in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord Jesus quoted that very same prophecy of the prophet Isaiah as a word of confirmation to St. John the Baptist, the one sent to herald the coming of the Messiah, that He, Jesus, was indeed the One and only Messiah of God, promised to all of mankind, through all the miracles and wonderful things He had done. All these fulfilled what God had spoken in the past, and for this all of us ought to rejoice.

But at the same time, this happiness and joy must be tempered with patience as St. James wrote in his Epistle, which is mentioned in our second reading today. St. James spoke of how the Lord is indeed coming, and we must be patient to wait for His coming, the time when He will fulfil completely all that He has promised to us. What St. James spoke about was the promise which Christ had made as He ascended to heaven, that He will come again at the end of time, to gather all of His faithful flock to Himself.

That is why we have in fact two joyful celebrations in this upcoming Christmas, the first one of which all of us must have known, in celebrating the historical birth of Our Lord and Saviour in Bethlehem, the moment two millennia ago when Jesus was born of His mother Mary in the poor and dirty stable just outside the town of Bethlehem as prophesied by the prophets. But then, at the same time, we also then rejoice because of the expectation of His second coming, which will come at the time that only God knows.

All of us rejoice because of this hope, and today, as we focus on this aspect of joy on Gaudete Sunday, we are also asked to reflect on how patient we have been as the disciples and followers of Christ all these while. Have we followed the Lord patiently, knowing that He has loved us all so much and blessed us all these while? Many of us are often too impatient and expect immediate satisfaction, happiness and joy.

That is exactly why many of us fell into the many temptations of the world, and why many of us have forgotten about the true joy of Christmas in Christ. We seek the instant joy and pleasure in our lives, which the world readily provided for us, in the many amenities and comforts we enjoy throughout life, in the many perks and things that we have all around us, in our often consumeristic and materialistic lifestyle.

On the contrary, if we want to be true and faithful Christians, we must then be ready to deny ourselves and all of these pleasures, the attachment to the many tempting things found in this world. We must be ready to suffer and face ridicule, rejection and difficulties, as what the Scripture readings today had alluded, as St. James wrote of the suffering of the prophets and all those who had come earlier on bearing God’s truth.

St. John the Baptist himself had to endure and suffer in prison, as what we heard today from the Gospel passage, how he sent message to the Lord Jesus from prison. As dedicated and committed St. John the Baptist was, he was still human, and he must have also felt some despair and the pain and bitterness of suffering in prison, and that was why he asked, if the Lord Jesus he believed to be the Messiah was truly the One he and all the others had waited for.

Similarly therefore, all of us will also likely face challenges and trials somewhere in our journey of faith, in varying degrees and difficulties. But we must not give up our faith and resolution to follow through this journey of faith, just as the prophets of old remained true to their mission and calling, despite the people’s opposition and challenges, and just as how St. John the Baptist remained firm and faithful until he was martyred.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why as we celebrate this Gaudete Sunday today, while we rejoice at the expectation of the coming of Christ and the joy of Christmas, but we must also learn to be patient and to endure the trials and challenges we may face in this world with patience and faith, and not to seek or yearn for instant joy or gratification without having to endure the pains and crosses of life.

After all, the Lord has called us to follow Him and to carry our own crosses and walk in His path. Yes, we will find true joy and happiness in God, but it does not mean then that our life at present in this world will be free of sorrow and sufferings, because as long as sin exists in this world, and as long as mankind continue to walk in sin and in disobedience against God, abusing the freedom He has given us, in living our lives wickedly and in succumbing to our many desires, to our greed and ego, there will always be troubles, trials and sufferings to endure in this life.

This is where then we need to realise that, out of all these challenges, difficulties, trials and darkness in life in this world, there can be no true way out besides that of following the Lord and through His saving grace, by which He will bestow on us true joy and freedom from all the chains and trials that we are facing and will be facing in life. It is in Christ, our Lord and Saviour, Whom we celebrate this coming Christmas, that we have our hope and our salvation, the one and only source of Joy for us.

And last of all, as we look forward to the true joy of Christmas, let us also endeavour to remember our fellow brothers and sisters and share our joys and blessings to one another this coming Christmas. Let our festivities and celebrations be done with the right intentions and purpose, and not be selfish in keeping all the happiness and joy just for ourselves and leaving others to suffer while we rejoice. Let us remember that there are those in our midst, sometimes even within our families and friends, who are not able to celebrate Christmas with joy for various reasons.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all bear witness to Christ through our Christmas preparations this Advent, and by celebrating Christmas this year and from now on with the right focus and intentions in mind, that Christ is always and will be the centre and focus of our Christmas joy and celebration, because it is by His coming into this world, that joy has been given to us all once again. May the Lord bless us all and be with us through this journey through the remaining days of Advent. Amen.