Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the tenth day of December for the very first time the Universal Church celebrates together the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, a celebration linked to the holy site of Loreto, which is according to the tradition of the Church and our faith is none other than the sacred dwelling place of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph. This holy place was initially located in Nazareth, the place where Mary and St. Joseph lived.

Throughout the years, the holy house of the Lord remained standing even though other buildings and places were changed or destroyed. When St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who ended persecution against Christians came to the Holy Land as part of her search for the True Cross and the holy relics of the Passion, the holy house of the Lord in Nazareth was discovered, and a Basilica was built over the place of the holy house, which was undisturbed and remained intact.

Through the many centuries afterwards, when many times and moments of turmoil, wars and conflicts caused changes in ownership of the land, and the great Basilica above the holy house were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, miraculously, the holy house itself remained intact and indestructible by any earthly forces, right through to the time of the Crusades, over a thousand years after the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, the holy house disappeared after the last time the Holy Land fell into the hands of the enemies of the Lord.

Then, miraculously, one day, in the small town in Dalmatia in what is now Croatia, the holy house suddenly appeared again and accompanied by a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appeared to the local priest saying that the miraculous appearance of the holy house was by the will of God and how the house was the actual house of the Holy Family of Nazareth. And when under various circumstances, the house was threatened yet again, it moved a few more times until it stayed in Loreto in Italy where it remained until today.

Therefore, there is then until today a great pilgrimage site at Loreto, to the Basilica of the Holy House, within which is that same house that once was the dwelling place of the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother Mary and also His foster father St. Joseph. And the interesting tale behind its miraculous survival after all these years in fact is a testimony and a reminder of how God and His presence endures all the time, regardless of changes in this world.

His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome declared that beginning from this year onwards the celebration of Our Lady of Loreto and its glorious shrine should be celebrated by the Universal Church as a reminder for us all that indeed, especially during this season of Advent when the feast always takes place, it is important for us to return to the roots of our faith, that is within our own family units.

And we should model ourselves and our families after the loving examples of the Holy Family, which is the perfect model for our Christian families to follow, in the love, dedication and faith that each of the members of the Holy Family had shown, in being a good example how we ourselves should build our own families. A good and strong family foundation is essential to the establishment of a strong and living faith, for we must understand and realise that each and every one of our families are the basic and fundamental units of the Church.

In our world today, sadly, there had been much attack to the structure and bonds joining our families together. Many forms of temptations and false ideas had led to the dissolution of many families, as divorces and divisions became prevalent in our families today, which inevitably led to further problems including loss of faith and the weakening of the bonds joining the members of God’s Church together.

All these were the works of the devil and all of his wicked allies who must have worked hard to destroy us all, by striking at our families. Now, let us all look at the Holy Family for inspiration of how we should model our families and also our faith lives together, and let us all ask for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of our God and Our Lady of Loreto that we may be strengthened by her Son, Our Lord in our faith.

May the Lord bless us all and our families, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our commitment and courage to live each and every day with genuine faith and dedication to walk in the path that He has shown us all. May God be with us all and guide us in our journey of faith, and bless our Advent observation and preparation. Amen.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is usually celebrated on the eighth day of December but since yesterday the eighth fell on a Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Advent, this Solemnity is brought to the next day that is today, the ninth of December.

This celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception refers to the time when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne without any trace or corruption of original sin, and does not refer to the moment of her birth, her Nativity which is celebrated exactly nine months from now, on every eighth of September. This Immaculate Conception is a very significant belief of our faith, which was formalised as a Dogma by Blessed Pope Pius IX in the year 1854 in his Papal Bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

Although it has only been formalised as a Dogma relatively recently by the Church but in truth, the Church and the faithful since the earliest times and history of the Church has always believed that Mary, as the Mother of God was free from any taints of sin by the singular grace of God, because of the role that she has been entrusted to by the Lord Himself. Mary has been called and chosen to be the one who was to bear the Messiah in herself.

Through this, we can see essentially what is the significance of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to all of us, as her Immaculate Conception actually underlines the core tenets of our faith, the central focus of our beliefs in God. This is such that if we do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, or worse still, reject this Dogma, then we actually have done nothing less than to reject the basic and most important core beliefs of our faith itself.

That is because the belief of the Immaculate Conception, or Mary conceived without the taint of sin is rooted in the belief that Mary is none other than the new Ark of the Covenant. Why is that so? That is because the Ark of the Covenant was the historical relic and an actual receptacle, a large box made of the most precious materials to contain several objects that represent the Covenant which God has made with His people, the Israelites.

Inside the historical or the old Ark of the Covenant according to the Old Testament was the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. These were the ones that Moses made to replace the ones written by God which had been destroyed when God became angry at His people’s disobedience in worshipping the golden calf idol. It therefore became a symbol of the Covenant of God renewed with His people.

Besides that, there were also a bowl of the manna, the miraculous bread of heaven by which God had fed His people through their forty years journey in the desert, yet another reminder of the Covenant of God, how God has been faithful in taking care of and loving His people all the way even though the people had often disobeyed and walked away from the path of God. And lastly, in the Ark was also the staff of Aaron, the staff used by Moses to perform the many plagues of Egypt and his many other miraculous works, to show the power of God among the people.

The Ark of the Covenant had always been, since the time of its creation, the most hallowed and blessed object in the world. It was made from the most precious materials and God also blessed and hallowed it, for it is on the Ark of the Covenant, placed at the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting, and later on in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, that God and His Holy Presence descended to dwell in the midst of His people.

It was so holy that no one was allowed to touch it, and when one of the priests accidentally touched it when it was about to be moved to Jerusalem during the time of king David, the one who touched it was immediately struck dead. And the Ark was always placed behind a veil, to represent the great holiness of God. No one except the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and even so, he was only allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies only once a year.

We can see just how holy, blessed and hallowed the old and historical Ark had been, which was still a creation of man, no matter how precious and amazing it had been. Then let us imagine just how much more wonderful, amazing and holy the new Ark of the Covenant is, because Mary was made not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. There can be no creation of man, no matter how great can compare with God’s creation.

And while the inside of the old Ark was two slabs of stone, a bowl of manna and the staff of Aaron blessed by God’s presence, but the new Ark contained nothing less than God Himself present in the Flesh, God incarnate, Son of God, Jesus Christ. And that is why, if the people of Israel had treated the old Ark of the Covenant in such a hallowed manner, it is just perfectly logical that Mary would also have been hallowed and blessed by God.

It is as simple as how God Who is perfect and all good can never be paired together with any form of sin. No sin can ever stand in the presence of God. That is why, if He was to be born of a human being, through His incarnation in the Flesh, how can He Himself be borne into this world in a vessel so pure and blessed, free from any corruption, if all men had fallen into sin, are sinners and are tainted by sin? That is why, because of this, God gave Mary the singular grace of being immaculate, pure and free from sin.

This is primarily why we honour Mary, the Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ so much. And that is why so many of us are so devoted to her, because not just that she is the Mother of God, and therefore the one closest to her Son, but even more so, that her own exemplary faith and life, her complete obedience to the will of God as shown in our Gospel passage today, is truly the best example for us all to follow in our own journey of faith.

Her acceptance of the great role as the mother of the Lord and Saviour of all, her humble obedience and readiness to respond to God through the Archangel Gabriel is indeed a very amazing example and inspiration for us all to follow, as it is indeed not easy for any one of us to bear the burden and the crosses that Mary herself had to bear in her own journey, in having to raise Jesus and then to see her own Son being condemned, tortured and died on the Cross before her very own eyes.

Now, all of us then have to realise that each and every one of us are called to follow the example of Mary, in our own journey of faith. Do you remember what I have just said earlier on, that no creation of man can ever compare to the creations of the Lord? Each and every one of us are God’s creations, brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of us are special even more so, because we have been made in the image and likeness of God.

While unlike Mary, we have been tainted by sin, and corrupted by the darkness of our sins and disobedience, but God has always intended for us all to be like that of His mother, in faith and purity, as He made all things to be good and holy. Sin was not God’s creation and was never intended to be part of us or our lives. This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all strive to be holy, just as Our Lord is holy, and resist all the temptations to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we honour Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, for her wonderful faith and life, let us all ourselves devote ourselves anew to God, with a new faith and commitment, to be holy and to sanctify ourselves, by turning away from all of our sins, and by embracing a new life dedicated to serve God and to walk in His path alone. Let us all do our best and help one another in this journey together as one faithful people of God.

Mary, Holy Mother of God, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 8 December 2019 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday we celebrate the Second Sunday in the season of Advent, and as we continue to progress through this special and blessed time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas, we continue our Advent journey and this Sunday we focus on Peace, as the second in the four theme set for each of the Sundays of Advent. Peace is also a reference to Our Lord and Saviour’s title as the Prince of Peace, as it was prophesied that His coming would bring about true peace into this world.

And that is what has also been alluded to in our Scripture passages today, especially in our first reading today which was taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. In that portion of the Book, the prophet Isaiah was speaking of the prophecies of the time of the coming of the Saviour or God’s Messiah, of the coming of the time of peace so wonderful and great that even ferocious animals would come and sit together with their prey in harmony.

This message of peace must have been truly satisfactory and pleasing to the people of Isaiah’s time, considering that at that time, as it was often in the past, mankind have often been involved in conflicts and wars, and many had to suffer because of those conflicts, losing family members and loved ones, losing their properties, houses and possessions, being looted and having to see their cities, towns and villages destroyed.

All these had been how the world went by since the beginning of time, as the powerful and mighty preyed on the weak, and how the rich and influential ones manipulated and exploited the poor ones. Suffering, pain and sorrow that were created can indeed be traced to how we mankind abused the free will that God has bestowed on us, as we chose to act in ways that seek our own satisfaction and happiness, to fulfil our needs and desires and if need be, over the suffering of others.

That is why peace has often eluded many of us all these time because we are by our nature selfish, because of our disobedience and sins, the corruption of sin which led us to think about ourselves first and not about what others think or need. That was how wars had been fought over resources, prestige, glory, and the many other worldly things we often seek in life. When peoples and nations, their leaders and all those involved in the conflicts seek to gain things for themselves and not minding the needs and happiness of others, that is why people suffer and peace is broken.

If we look at our world today, peace is more elusive than ever, as there are more and more parties in conflict and fighting against each others, groups being set against each other and divided against themselves. Governments and kingdoms are set against one another, setting up groups and alliances working to thwart their opponents and their goals. We also see how civil wars and conflicts arise from time to time, again and again, and even many instances when governments are brought down by divisions and wrecked by infighting.

And all these while, the Prince of Peace, Our Lord Jesus Christ has been present in this world ever since He came to our midst over two millennia ago, in the small town of Bethlehem, when He came proclaiming the coming of the Lord’s true peace. Yet, if we realise, that He has often been ignored by mankind, rejected and unwanted, as the world continued on with mankind’s relentless pursuits of maintaining their selfish desires and wants. He has spoken the truth to us, and yet, He was silenced, put to suffer and die on the Cross by those who hated and opposed Him.

That was what the many prophets and messengers of God had also suffered from, and in the Gospel passage today, we also heard how the one who was the Herald of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist, also suffered from the same rejection and oppression the Lord has suffered. Many prophets of the Lord had suffered and had to endure scorn and ridicule just because they stood by the missions which God has entrusted to them.

We heard how despite all the works that this faithful servant of God had done, his courageous faith and effort in calling many people to repent from their sins and wickedness, the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law still opposed the saint and made it hard for him, doubting him and refusing to believe in the words he had spoken, and even doubting him and the authenticity of what he had done and spoken before the people.

That is exactly why the Lord was unable to make any progress with those who still attached themselves to worldly thoughts and desires, those who allowed their selfishness and pride, their greed and their attachments to the world to close their hearts and minds against the Lord’s truth and love. And that was how the true peace of God remain elusive for many of us, as it had been for millennia, as most of us did not truly welcome the Prince of Peace into our lives and into our hearts.

In our second reading today, St. Paul wrote to the Church in Rome and spoke of the peace of Christ and how the coming of the Lord into the world has brought forth the dawn of a new era of peace. And St. Paul also exhorted the faithful there to welcome one another and to make peace with each other, just as the Lord Jesus has brought the peace of God into the midst of the people He has touched, and thereafter passed on that same peace to those whom He has commissioned and called.

In Rome at that time, which was the cosmopolitan and populous capital of the mighty and expansive Roman Empire, there were numerous peoples of different origins and backgrounds, of different cultures and traditions, as besides the Romans who were the lords of the land, there were also Greeks, Syrians, Jewish populations, Gauls, Germans, the peoples of the Northern African regions, Thracians, Dacians, Berbers, Arabs, Persians and even many others, of many different nations and languages.

Many of these people did not exist peacefully with each other, and it did not help that many among the non-Roman populations, especially in the city of Rome, were slaves. And the Romans were the largest landowners and also slave owners. Even among the Romans themselves there were often wide disparity in the wealth and property they owned, and all these divisions and categorisations among the peoples often led to conflict and unhappiness.

And the Christian faith interestingly managed to bridge these differences even in the earliest days of the Church. St. Paul was in fact exhorting and reminding the faithful to put aside their differences, whatever past animosities and unhappiness they might have had towards each other previously and instead focus themselves on peace, and to live with one another harmoniously, bonded together by a new bond of love born from God. This is how God’s coming into the world has therefore transformed His people, from people divided by many differences and identities, into a united people by faith.

Division and conflict is typical of mankind corrupted and afflicted by sin, but as God entered into our lives and touched us, peace also entered into our midst. The question now is, are we allowing God to enter into our lives and transform us with His love, peace and goodness? Are we open in our minds and hearts to embrace the peace of God in our lives? The fact and reality is that as long as we remain attached to our many worldly desires, remaining selfish and self-centred, proud and egoistic, it will be difficult for us to find true peace in our lives.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Christmas we are all challenged to return to the true essence of Christmas, and that is welcoming Christ, our Lord and Saviour into our lives, so that we may truly live in harmony, peace and love with one another. This is what Christmas is all about, and what we should prepare ourselves for in this blessed season and time of Advent.

Instead of focusing on excessive festivities and parties, merrymaking and joy without truly understanding why we celebrate Christmas in the first place, let us all bring our joy and celebrations by first of all, making peace with all those whom we have probably been angry with, feuding with all these while. Let us all learn to forgive one another, just as the Lord Himself has forgiven us all first from our sins. This is how we bring peace into our lives, and only with peace then we can truly celebrate Christmas in its fullness.

Let us all be peacemakers and strive to live in harmony and unity with one another. Let us all strive to die to our pride and to remove from us the traces of ego and selfishness, and instead allow God to enter into our lives and transform us, so that through all of us and our good works, peace and harmony will reign once again in our world wrecked by wars and conflicts. Let us all bring the Peace of Christmas to everyone, beginning from ourselves and our own families, and then to our communities and then to all the peoples of this world.

May the Lord, Our Prince of Peace give us His peace, that we may come to celebrate this Christmas joyfully as one people, no longer bickering and fighting over trivial matters of the world. Let us all be genuinely concerned of one another and show genuine love in our actions and interactions with each other. May God bless us always as we continue through this blessed season of Advent and guide us in our journey of faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Friday, 6 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture and progress through the season of Advent, we are again constantly being reminded of God and His loving presence in our lives, how He is with us and providing us help for what we need, and how He promised all of His people that the time of His salvation will come, the time when all those who are faithful to Him will be gathered to God’s loving embrace.

In our first reading today, we heard of how the promise of God’s salvation to His people was being revealed as He spoke in the prophecy He relayed through Isaiah, His prophet. We heard of how the prophet Isaiah described clearly the coming of the time when the people of Israel will no longer be ashamed or suffer, those who are righteous will no longer be oppressed, and they will see the salvation of God.

The Lord will also heal His people from their afflictions and sickness, their pains and troubles, and give them the new strength and life in Him, blessing them abundantly as He has always done. It has all been fulfilled then through the Messiah or Saviour, Who is none other than Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. In our Gospel passage today we heard how He healed all the multitudes of the sick who were brought to Him and how He cast out demons from them and blessed all of them.

We heard how He also opened the eyes of the blind, among many others, feats that are impossible for human beings, and only serve to show us all how truly Jesus is the Messiah of God, His own beloved Son sent into the world to save us all, His beloved ones. God showed forth His love and just how wonderful and patient that love has been through Christ, the fullness of God’s love manifested in our world. And through the Lord Jesus, God’s truth and love have been propagated through His disciples.

And we celebrate the memory of one of those who succeeded the Apostles and carried forth the loving examples of God’s love to us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra, a holy bishop who lived and ministered to his faithful flock in Myra in what is now Anatolia or Asian part of Turkey in the early century of the Church around the time of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea in the early fourth century.

St. Nicholas was also in fact the origin of the now ubiquitous Santa Claus, which arguably had become much, much more famous than his original namesake. Many did not even know of who St. Nicholas of Myra was, or what his life and works had been like, as they were much more aware of Santa Claus, the modern day, sort of secularised and fictional depiction of St. Nicholas, an old man who is generous in giving, delivering gifts to the children and families on the eve of Christmas.

This came forth from the actions of St. Nicholas of Myra, who was remembered for his actions in giving to the children of his flock, caring especially for the poor and the unloved ones. St. Nicholas of Myra however, was also a fierce and courageous defender of the faith, a fact that even many among those who knew St. Nicholas of Myra did not really know. It was told that St. Nicholas punched the heretic Arius in the face when the latter spoke of his heretical thoughts and teachings so blatantly at the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea.

The love which St. Nicholas had shown, which inspired the modern story and representation of Santa Claus is a reminder to all of us that as the disciples and followers of the Lord, we must always show love, care and concern in our lives and therefore bring forth the wonderful love that God has brought to us, to our own fellow brothers and sisters. But then, his courageous and fierce defence of his faith is also then a reminder for us to anchor ourselves in the Lord.

This means that, for every actions we do and for every words we utter and for every interactions we make to one another, we are all called to centre ourselves on God and put Him at the centre focus of our whole lives and existences. We are all called to give our very best to love the Lord and to dedicate ourselves to Him, as after all, through what we have heard in today’s Scripture passages, God has loved us all so wonderfully in the first place.

Let us all pray that we can thus be strengthened in our faith and in our conviction and desire to love God from now on with all of our heart and with all of our strength. Let us all also then show the same love to our fellow brethren without fail as well, showing genuine and tender love in everything we say and do, at all times, following the good examples set by St. Nicholas of Myra and the many other saints whose lives have inspired us. Amen.

Thursday, 5 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminder through the readings from the Scripture that we have heard, to put our trust and faith in the Lord and to build our lives upon the strong foundation of our faith in Him. And especially during this blessed and holy season and time of Advent, all of us should refocus and redirect our lives and attention on the Lord, away from all sorts of distractions in life.

In the Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord reminding us of this through His teachings using the parable of the foundations, in which He used the comparisons between two houses built on two different foundations to drive His point to us. One of the foundations was that of sand, while the other foundation was of solid rock. The house that was built on sand did not last and was destroyed easily while the one built on rock remained firm.

This is a metaphor used to compare our dependence on either God or on the things of this world, with rock referring to the solid foundation of our faith founded upon the Lord and His Church, and the foundation of sand referring to the dependance on worldly things like money, status, fame, glory, pleasures of life among many others. To put our trust in the Lord is logically and truthfully therefore is the better choice.

However, this is where the parable also reminds us all that to be a disciple and follower of the Lord will not be something that is easy or trivial, but instead, we must be prepared and expect hardships, challenges and difficulties along our journey of faith and life. This is just how building a firm and solid foundation of rock is much more difficult, time consuming and challenging than building the foundation made of sand. This means that to be a disciple of Christ, it is likely that we will need to put in a lot more than if we just follow the ways of this world.

And exactly because of that, this season of Advent we are called to reflect on our lives and our actions thus far, how we have lived this life all these while. Have we led a life that is in accordance to the will of God or have we instead lived lives the way we want it to be, as how the world has often showed and taught us? Have we expected that the life of our Christian discipleship must be an easy one and therefore been idle in living our lives faithfully thus far?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today, we are getting even more and more challenges in life, and it is getting ever more challenging to be faithful to the truth of the Gospel of Christ. There are many temptations present in this world and in this life which often swayed many among us away from the path that the Lord has led us into, and instead, many among us are tempted to follow the path of ambition, desire and selfishness, the path that many of us are well aware and accustomed to.

Now, all of us are challenged to be true disciples of the Lord, not just in name but also in the fullness of our faith. We are all called to put our faith and trust in the Lord even though the path forward if we choose to walk down this path may indeed be quite more difficult than otherwise. But the Lord also assured us at the same time that all those who put their faith in Him, even though their lives and path may be difficult, but they can indeed be assured of a strong and truly firm support and foundation in the Lord.

Let us all make use of this opportunity that the Lord has provided for us, during this blessed season of Advent, that we may indeed turn to the Lord with a new faith and with a new conviction to live our lives following the path that the Lord has shown us from now on. May the Lord be with us always, and may He strengthen us in our resolve to follow the path He has shown us. Amen.