Saturday, 24 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, finally, Christmas is almost upon us. After almost a whole month of preparation and waiting in Advent, tomorrow we shall finally come to the great joy and celebration of Christmas, the day when we all rejoice at the birth and the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ into this world. We have spent much of this Advent season preparing and reflecting upon the mysteries of this Nativity of our Lord.

And because tomorrow is the very day that we are going to begin our celebrations of Christmas, it is important that we have to enter it with the right mind and the right prepared state, that we all know firstly what we are celebrating about, who is it that we are celebrating about, and then how we ought to celebrate it with the spirit of being Christians, as disciples and followers of our Lord.

It is indeed easy for us to be distracted by the many forms of persuasions and the temptations of worldliness in the celebrations of Christmas, all the more given the amount of materialism and commercialisation that had surrounded the secularised version of Christmas, to the point that Christ had been forgotten from the very celebration that bore His Name, and instead celebrated worldly forms of happiness and joy.

It is not wrong for us to celebrate Christmas in that manner, as after all it is a season of rejoicing and time to celebrate together with our family and friends, but what is important is that we must not forget the essential meaning and purpose of the celebrations of Christmas, and that is about the Lord Himself, the celebration of He Who has come into the world bearing the salvation of God, so that all may be saved through Him.

And that is the essence of today’s Scripture readings, that God’s love for us was so great and He is ever faithful to His words and promises such that He fulfilled at Christmas, the promises and the covenant He had established with us mankind, with His servant Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and the promise He had made with David the king, His faithful servant that He will bless their descendants forever.

Let us all spend some time to think and reflect upon God’s great love for us, which has been made manifest through Christ especially in this coming season of Christmas. And let us all take note that when the Lord Jesus came the first time, He did not come with pomp and grandeur, although the host of Angels did sing gloriously of His coming witnessed by the shepherds. He came instead very humbly in a mere stable even though He is a King.

This is a reminder to each and every one of us that our Christmas celebrations and joy cannot be exclusive but instead must be inclusive, that means we cannot forget about the many people who want to celebrate Christmas but are unable to do so because of various circumstances. We ought to share our joy with them, and whatever excesses we have, let us all be generous and share them with our brethren in need, so that our joy may be theirs too, and the Lord Who sees what we have done, will reward us for our charity and generosity.

Let us all also spend the time today to pray for our brethren who are persecuted for their faith, and give thanks to God for the graces He has blessed us with, that we may be able to celebrate Christmas with peace and joy. Let us remember our brethren who cannot even celebrate Christmas openly and joyfully or else they would be persecuted and made to suffer. Let us not forget about them as we enter into Christmas.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all prepare ourselves well and help one another that we may celebrate Christmas with each other and share the joy that we experience, knowing that because of the Lord Jesus and His entry into this world, all of us have received that new hope for eternal life and salvation through Him. May the Lord bless us all and keep us in His grace always. Amen.

Saturday, 24 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.”

Saturday, 24 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.

Saturday, 24 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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 whenever 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.”

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today’s Scripture readings speak in unison in honour of the faithful servant and messenger of God, St. John the Baptist, who is the Herald of the Saviour or Messiah, as the one whom God had sent into the world to precede the coming of His Saviour Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist has been prophesied by the prophets of old to be the one who would prepare the way for the Messiah.

He was sent into the world to prepare and to straighten the path for the Lord Jesus, as many had fallen into crooked ways and sins as they were misled by the corruptions of the world, as well as by their wicked and self-serving, corrupt and unjust leaders, the elders and the Pharisees, all those whom God had entrusted with the governance over His people but they had not done what they had been expected to do.

And it was not an easy task, as there were many challenges and difficulties that he had to encounter during his mission. He had to face opposition and stubborn resistance from the Pharisees and the elders, who refused to believe in him and in his message, which called the people of God to repent from their sinful ways. Those elders refused to believe that they were sinners because they thought that their ways were righteous and that they were worthy of God because of all the supposedly pious deeds that they had done.

In their pride, they had brought about their downfall, and also because of their greed for power, privileges and worldly possessions. They were tempted with those things and therefore became resistant towards God and His approach. In the same manner, those in power like the kings and rulers, the Sadducees who consisted of these people, also opposed the Lord and His ways, as He had revealed through St. John the Baptist.

And we all know how King Herod, the son of Herod the Great lived in an adulterous relationship with Herodias, the wife of his deceased brother Philip, an unlawful and sinful relationship. St. John the Baptist did not fear for his life or for his safety, and he openly rebuked the king for his sins. And when that resulted in his arrest, he did not fear, but constantly continued to rebuke the king for his sinful ways and in the end, met his end in martyrdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John the Baptist is a role model for all of us Christians, for he is someone who has lived obediently in accordance with the will of God, and he obeyed His will even though it might mean suffering and troubles for himself. He did not allow the temptation of fear and selfishness to distract him from following through with the mission which had been entrusted to him, and indeed thanks to his works, many had been reconciled with God and received justification because of their faith and repentance.

All of us should emulate the examples of St. John the Baptist in our own lives. And we should also heed the examples of another saint, namely St. John of Kanty whose feast we are celebrating today. St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius was a Polish priest and theologian who was renowned for his bright intellect and mind, as well as his numerous works in teaching the faith through his many writings, works and compilations.

And at the same time, he was well known for his great charity and love for the poor, the sick and the dying. He gave generously to them, both in terms of his time, his love and aid, and he inspired many others to do the same. He should also become our inspiration for this Christmas season, in how we ought to spend our time meaningfully and with due consideration for our fellow brothers and sisters, especially those who are in need.

Let us all not forget about the poor, the weak and all those who suffer even as we rejoice in this coming Christmas season. There are many who are unable to rejoice because of their circumstances, because they were lacking in what they even need in order to survive their daily lives. Let us share our joy with them and help them, as St. John of Kanty himself had once done, and be open to the Lord’s will and obey Him as St. John the Baptist had been, and not harden our hearts as the Pharisees and the elders had done.

May the Lord bless us all and help us in all of our endeavours, so that the true joy of Christmas may be ours, and that we may also share it with our brethren who are in need of assistance and help. May the Lord be with us all and be with them too, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.

Friday, 23 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.

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.

Thursday, 22 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we are approaching Christmas in just a few days, we are reminded again of the greatness of God which He had shown in many occasions, and also through what we heard today in our Scripture passages, from the prophet Samuel, who was born as a great grace of God to his parents, especially to his mother Hannah, who had been barren for many years without any child.

And in the Gospel today we heard about Mary, the mother of our Lord and God Jesus Christ, the one whom God had chosen to be the one bearing the Saviour of the world, the Messiah. She was just a humble young maiden from an insignificant and small village of Galilee called Nazareth, but it was out of this seemingly very unimportant and unimposing location that God had fulfilled His promise to us all mankind, and brought forth His might into the world.

And that is the essence of Christmas, so simple and clear, and yet at the same time, it is awe-inspiring and great. Christmas is about the Lord and about His love for us all. It is simply that, nothing more and nothing less, and yet for many of us we are making it a lot more complicated and we often ignored the real intention and purpose of why we even celebrate Christmas in the first place.

We are often so busy and preoccupied with our preparations for the celebrations, worrying about what to wear and what to decorate for our homes, and what to cook for the Christmas meals and whatever else there is to be worried about, to the point that we have overlooked the true meaning and purpose of Christmas itself, that is about Christ our Lord! How can we all forget Him on His own birthday? And yet that is exactly what many of us had done.

We party with each other, enjoying ourselves as much as we can, and we enjoy the time with our relatives and friends, exchanging gifts with one another, and even comparing the gifts we receive, but we forget about the One with Whom we should rejoice together, because without Him there can be no rejoicing, hope and happiness in this time of Christmas.

God has loved us so much that He has sent us and given us His Son to be our Deliverer and to bring us from the brink of destruction. We should have perished because of our sins and because of the wickedness we have committed, but the Lord is willing to grant us another chance through the gift of His Son. And that gift is the ultimate and best gift of all surpassing any other things we can receive through this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, when we are too busy discussing and preparing for the gifts to be given and also what we will receive, we forget about the greatest gift of all in this Christmas season, that is the Lord Himself. Without Him all the other gifts are meaningless, and there is no point to our Christmas rejoicing without our acknowledgement and understanding that because of Him, we may have peace, joy and true satisfaction.

Let us reflect on this, brethren, and think about what we can do to make our Christmas joy and celebrations more appropriate and meaningful. We should refocus ourselves, our lives and our joy on Christ, for it is thanks to Him and His love for us, that He has willingly come down on us into this world, so that we may all be saved. May the Lord bless us always, and may He bring us ever closer to Him, that we may find salvation and succour in Him. Amen.

Thursday, 22 December 2016 : 4th Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/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.