Wednesday, 24 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the Eve of Christmas, the day before the big celebration of our Church, commemorating the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ at Bethlehem in Judea, the very moment and a singular very important event in the history of the world when the Lord who is Divine, Almighty and ever powerful, would come into this world, as a Baby, laying down in a manger in a dirty and cramped stable fit only for animals.

Today as we end the season of Advent, the season of preparation for the coming of Christ, the feeling is indeed one of joy and jubilation, as reflected in the Scripture readings today. In the Gospel, Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist gave thanks to God for His providence and love for us, and for granting to him the grace of having John born of his wife, Elizabeth, at their very old age.

In the first reading we heard about king David of Israel who had finished most of his wars and conquests, and peace had settled over all the land, and he wanted to build a proper and worthy House for the Lord. But the Lord refused to allow him to do so, as it would fall to his son, Solomon, who would build the first Temple of God, the dwelling of the Lord among His people.

All of these readings have the same purpose, that is to declare for us the eventual coming of the Lord, who will come to claim all of His beloved ones. Thus while we are today at the very gate of Christmas to celebrate the moment when He came into the world the first time, in the Baby Jesus, this does not mean that we celebrate something that is relevant only in the past, as God will come again at the end of time as He had promised us. He went forward and ascended to heaven in order to prepare the place for us.

At this point, it is fitting for us to realise the true meaning of our celebration of Christmas as well. This love and desire by God to dwell among us and to embrace us as what He had done through Jesus, the Divine incarnate into Man, is well reflected by today’s readings too. It is all about Emmanuel, the name of the Saviour promised through the prophet Elijah. It means God is with us, and this is what we celebrate in Christmas, that is we celebrate God who loves us so much, that He was willing to assume our humanity and to dwell among us.

Christmas is indeed about Christ, as the name suggests, and it is about God’s Love made manifest through Christ. It is because of this same love, that even though we are sinners and have disobeyed God, and thus deserve punishment, condemnation and destruction, but God gave us another chance, and His love us so great that He is willing to forgive us and willing even to dwell among us, to be with us united perfectly in love.

The first reading talked about the House which king David proposed to make for the Lord, as it was not befitting for the Lord, so he thought, to live under a tent. But not even the Temple created by Solomon his son would actually be fit for the Lord, no matter how mighty and glamorous it is, as we can read in its detailed descriptions in the Book of Kings. That is because that Temple and the Temple that was rebuilt and existing during the time of Jesus, were of human origins, made by human hands, but God had designed another Temple, a place truly deserving and worthy of His Real Presence.

And what is this Temple? It is all of us, brethren, every single one of us, mankind whom God had made with His own hands and given even the very image of Himself as our image. We are the Temples of the Lord’s Presence, and the Lord who came into this world and which we celebrate in Christmas, is really about God coming into us and dwelling in us. That is the meaning of Emmanuel, God is with us.

But unfortunately, many of us if not most defiled ourselves with sin, the very reason why we have been separated from God’s love in the first place. Sin and wickedness corrupted us and defiled this Holy Temple that is our body and our beings. Remember that the Scriptures and our Lord exhorted us to keep holy this Temple and not to defile it by fornication, wickedness or any form of sins?

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we embrace Christmas and all of its joys and celebrations, let us not be distracted and lost our true purpose in celebrating this Christmas. Let us commit ourselves to change our sinful ways so that this Temple we have in ourselves will no longer be defiled, but will be worthy of the Lord present in each one of us. Remember that the Eucharist we receive regularly is His Real Presence, and thus He dwells in us even now.

May this Christmas be meaningful to us, so that we may truly be transformed into the loving and faithful children of our Lord, whose birth into this world we celebrate in this occasion. May Almighty God guide us and lead us into His love, and help us to resist all forms of temptations and all the lies of Satan designed to bring us into sin and damnation. Amen.


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Gospel Reading :

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Luke 1 : 67-79

Zechariah, filled with Holy Spirit, sang this canticle, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has come and redeemed His people. In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes.”

“He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant, the oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.”

“And you, my child, shall be called prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, and to enable His people to know of their salvation, when He comes to forgive their sins. This is the work of the mercy of our God, who comes from on high as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”


Homily and Reflection :

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Psalm 88 : 2-3, 4-5, 27 and 29

I will sing forever, o Lord, of Your love and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

You said, “I have made a covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish His descendants forever; I build His throne for all generations.”

He will call on me, ‘You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.’ I will keep My covenant firm forever, and My love for him will endure.


Homily and Reflection :

Wednesday, 24 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

2 Samuel 7 : 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When the king had settled in his palace and YHVH had rid him of all his surrounding enemies, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I live in a house of cedar but the Ark of God is housed in a tent.” Nathan replied, “Do as it seems fit to you for YHVH is with you.”

But that very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : Are you able to build a house for Me to live in? I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you.”

“Now I will make your name great as the name of the great ones on earth. I will provide a place for My people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked men oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over My people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. YHVH also tells you that He will build you a house.”

“When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you and I will make his reign secure. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son. Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”


Homily and Reflection :

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear yet another repetition of the readings on St. John the Baptist and the sending of the messenger who would be the one to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord. This is a theme often repeated throughout the Advent season, as the very nature of this season is of preparation for the Advent, or the Coming of the Christ our Lord.

This coming of Christ into the world is often associated by all of us with the celebration of Christmas, when we commemorate the birth of the Baby Jesus, Word of God (Logos), Divine incarnate into Flesh. That was His first coming, yes. The first time when God extended His love into the world, to fulfill completely and perfectly the plan for our salvation and deliverance which He had planned since the beginning of time.

But the Lord also said and promised that, while then He departed the world and ascended into heaven after His death and resurrection, He promised that He would come at the very end of time and ages, as the Great Judge of all the living and the dead, precisely just as we believe in our Faith and which we profess in our solemn Creed. Therefore, what we have to realise is that we do not just celebrate what had happened in the past, but also with joy and expectation, we wait for the coming of Christ as He had promised.

We do not just rejoice and be happy in this celebration of Christmas. Yes, we should all be joyful for Christ our Lord Himself had decided to come Himself into this world so that through Him a new hope for all of us might arise. But at the same time, on all of us had been charged the same responsibility as had been given to St. John the Baptist, that is to prepare the way for the Lord when He comes.

The Lord had planned for the salvation of His people, who had sinned and disobeyed Him, falling into sin. But as long as the people remained attached to sin and unable to detach themselves from such sins, then it is difficult for them to change their ways and for them to heed the call of the Lord when He came. From time to time, God sent them His servants, the prophets and messengers to remind them. But whenever these passed away, they returned back their previous ways of sin.

Hence, in order to prepare the way for the coming of the Saviour, and to make the best out of it, God had sent forth His messenger, John, who was sent to the people and as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, he would chastise the people of God and called them to repentance. For it is in repentance from their sins that they would be able to discard the veil of sin and allow the Word of God to come into their lives and transform them.

But this does not end there, brothers and sisters in Christ, for sin remains at large in the world, and many remained under its thrall and influence. If this continues, many would be under the threat of eternal damnation. That is why, today, as we approach Christmas, we have to also realise that there are new John the Baptists required in our world today. And who else would do that besides us?

Jesus our Lord taught His disciples to take up their cross and follow Him. This cross is the commandment, which Christ had entrusted His disciples with, and therefore it has also been entrusted to us. This is to call and bring all peoples of all nations to the Lord, baptising them with the Holy Spirit. We who have been made the children of God has thus this duty to spread the Good News to others, by our words and actions, calling them to repentance as St. John the Baptist once did.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of Kanty, also known as St. John Cantius, a Polish priest and saint who was renowned for his great piety and his great dedication to the advancement of Catholic education. St. John of Kanty established Catholic educational institutes and universities, and helped define many aspects of Catholic teachings and made his own ample contributions.

St. John of Kanty was also renowned as a very charitable and pious person, who often donated to the poor and helped to care for those whom he met on the road. He also was well-known for his extensive pilgrimages, even on foot, at one time to the Threshold of the Apostles, to Rome the Eternal City of the saints. St. John of Kanty had many contributions, and through his examples and works, countless peoples were inspired and turned to the faith and were saved.

Even today, what he has done is still a great inspiration for all of us. Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we follow in his footsteps? If we do things as St. John of Kanty had done, be assured that many people who see how we speak, how we act and how we conduct ourselves will come to believe in the Lord. Therefore, as this Advent is ending and as we pass on to Christmas, let us all make a new resolution, to be there for our brethren in need, and bring the Light of Christ to them, that they may be saved. God bless us all. Amen.


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Tuesday, 23 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her.

When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” And they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him.

Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.


Homily and Reflection :

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

The ways of the Lord are love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and precepts. The Lord gives advice to those who revere Him and makes His covenant known to them.


Homily and Reflection :

Tuesday, 23 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

YHVH said, “I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.”

Homily and Reflection :

Monday, 22 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear of two joyful and very grateful women, for what God had done unto them, as a sign of God’s faithfulness and grace to all those who had placed their complete trust in Him. The first woman is Hannah, the second wife of Eliakim and the mother of Samuel, the prophet of God and Judge over Israel. The second woman is none other than Mary, the mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Both of them had been granted great graces by the Lord, and even more so for the second one, that is Mary. Hannah prayed before God with her whole heart and attention at the House of God as she was unable to have a child with her husband, and although he loved her more than Peninah, the other wife, but the latter bore him ten children while Hannah had none.

Peninah often ridiculed her and made fun of her because of her barrenness and inability to bear children. Distraught over this and deeply troubled, she had nowhere else to turn but to turn to the Lord, who succoured her and rescued her from her troubles. She was given her first son, Samuel, whom she dedicated and consecrated to the Lord to be His servant forever.

Hannah sought the Lord for help and she was truly sincere. And the Lord heard her and answered her prayers. This emotion of joy and happiness of having herself heard by the Lord is reflected in the Song of Hannah, which tone is similar to what Mary in the Gospel today sang, the song known as the Magnificat, a great expression of joy and praise to God, as reflected by the words of that beautiful hymn to the Lord.

In that, Mary thanked God for what He had done for those who trust in Him. It is not so much that God would punish those who are rich, privileged or with power. God does not discriminate between His people by their background, possessions or other attributes. All are equal before God, equally loved and with equal opportunities at receiving His bountiful mercy.

The key learning point from the Scripture Readings today is that God rewards those who are faithful to Him, and those who put their trust completely to Him. He rewards not those who boast of themselves, but instead He blesses those who boast of the Lord and His love. Indeed, what Mary did was truly boasting in the Lord, announcing before all the whole world, and we still continue to echo this song regularly in our prayers and devotions, in our observation of the daily Divine Office, that the Lord has done great things for His servants who entrust themselves to Him.

In our world today it is difficult for us to put our trust in the Lord, for it is often that we put our trust in ourselves first. We rely on things of this world first, on our own power and abilities before we put our trust in God. The tendency is for us to follow our heart’s desire rather than to listen to the Lord. Temptation of Satan in this world is truly plentiful, and he never runs out of tactics to trap us and bring about our downfall.

This coming Christmas is both therefore a challenge and opportunity for all of us. It is a challenge for us to break free of our mindset and enslavement to our desires and greed, and it is thus also an opportunity, for us to seek the Lord anew and rediscover our faith in God, through sincere and genuine celebration of this feast of Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, how committed is the Lord in His desire to help us all, that He extends Himself as the perfect Gift for mankind, the gift of everlasting and true Love. The blessings which Mary sung about has been given to all of us freely without charge, as long as we believe and put our trust in Him. Yet it is also a challenge for us all, as it is not easy for us to break free from our dependence on this world and its various things.

Temptations will be aplenty, brethren, and it is now up to us to challenge ourselves as we approach Christmas. Let us ask ourselves, are we ready to welcome the Lord into our midst? Have our words, actions and deeds truly represent our nature as the children of God? Thus, from now on, let us all put our trust in God, commit ourselves to change our ways in accordance to what God had taught us. Be prepared and let us welcome the coming of Christ into our midst in this commemoration of Christmas with open minds, heart and soul. God bless us all. Amen.


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Monday, 22 December 2014 : Fourth Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple or Violet

Luke 1 : 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour! He has looked upon His servant in her lowliness, and people forever will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name! From age to age His mercy extends to those who live in His presence.”

“He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.”

“He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.


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