Monday, 24 December 2018 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the joy of the expectation of God’s coming glory and salvation for His people, as we are about to celebrate the vigil of Christmas tonight. Today, the Scripture readings help us to reflect on the true joy of Christmas, that is the expectation of the coming of the salvation in our God, Who has come into the world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Heir of David and Messiah or Saviour of all.

In the first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel, we heard of the conversation between the prophet Nathan and king David of Israel, during the latter years of his reign, after God has helped him to defeat all of his enemies and conquered the neighbouring peoples who once were threats to the Israelites. David wondered why he was housed in a magnificent palace, and yet, God’s Ark of the Covenant, remained in a tent, the Holy Tent of Meeting.

So David wanted to build a house for God, a Temple, for the Ark to be placed inside, as the sign of God’s presence among His people. He presented his plans before the prophet Nathan, but God had a different plan in His will, which He revealed through Nathan to David. David would not be the one to build a house for Him, but rather a son of his, who would reign after him, would be the one to build a house for Him.

This seems to be fulfilled by the son of David, king Solomon, who built for God a great Temple, known in history as the Temple of Solomon, built from the finest material and consecrated with a great ceremony, as written in the Book of Kings. The Ark of the Covenant was brought into the Temple, and God’s glory and presence entered into the Temple, filling it, and ever since then, until the destruction of the Temple in the year 586 BC by the Babylonians, God was present among His people Israel.

But the Lord in fact also alluded to the promise which He has made to David, that his house and descendants will reign forever, and his kingdom will never end. This was fulfilled because one of the descendants of David, through Joseph, his direct descendant and heir after many generations, was none other than the promised Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man, Heir of David and his kingdom.

Jesus Himself mentioned before the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, how He would destroy the Temple in three days and then rebuild it again, alluding to Himself as the true Temple of God’s glory and presence. The Pharisees and the teachers of the Law did not understand this, and thought that it would have been impossible for Jesus to tear down the physical Temple of Jerusalem, the second temple built at the site, by the priest and prophet Ezra and later enlarged by king Herod.

The Lord Jesus Himself is the one and only Temple of God, for by His incarnation, He took up for Himself a human existence in the flesh, that in His person, is united two distinct and yet indivisible persona of the divine and the man, His divinity and His humanity, perfectly united in His person, Our Lord Jesus Christ, both Son of God and Son of Man. He is the Heir of David, and as God said to David through Nathan, his heir would be the one to build the Temple for God, and this was fulfilled completely in Christ.

Thus, at that time, king David could only anticipate and look forward for the coming of the Lord, which he could not witness during his own time, and yet, through the Holy Spirit, was told to him. The Messiah, God’s Saviour would be born into his house, among his descendants. And that coming of the Messiah was awaited by all those who have been enthralled by sin, that is all of us mankind.

Then, Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist was the one whom we heard from in the Gospel passage today, in his song, inspired and filled by the Holy Spirit, also known as the Canticle of Zechariah. It was a song expressing a great joy, of knowing that the Messiah Who has been long expected and awaited by God’s people, was finally about to come, and how great Zechariah’s joy, of being able to witness that glorious event, and having his own son as the herald for the coming of the Messiah.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what the Scripture readings today presented us, is the great joy that accompanies our celebration of Christmas, not because of all the parties, shopping and goods, all of the merchandises and Santa Claus, as well as any other secular and materialistic celebrations of Christmas, but instead that hope and light that had come with the coming of Christ into this world, that through Him, all of us who believe in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.

Let us all today, as we finish our preparation to welcome Christ into our midst this Christmas, turn towards God with all of our strength and with all of our hearts and minds focused on Him. Let us celebrate this Christmas with Christ Himself at the centre of our celebrations and as the source of our great joy. Let us all have a meaningful Christmas, knowing that through Him, we can hope again and receive eternal life and glory from Him Who loves us all.

May the Lord bless us and our Christmas joy, and may all of us come to greater realisation of the true meaning and importance of Christmas for each and every one of us. Amen.

Monday, 24 December 2018 : 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.”

Monday, 24 December 2018 : 4th Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

I will sing forever, o YHVH, 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.

Monday, 24 December 2018 : 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 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.”

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : 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 Advent, as we approach the coming of Christmas in just two days’ time, we are all called to put our focus and attention to the purpose and true meaning of Christmas, that is essentially the great and never-ending love that God has for each one of us. Love is the centre theme of Christmas, without which, there would not have been Christmas, and without it, we would have no hope.

The love of God has made possible our salvation, for His love was so great that despite the disobedience that we mankind have committed again and again, our sins and wickedness, God is still willing to forgive us and to welcome us back into His loving embrace, if only that we are willing to be forgiven, and willing to do what is necessary in order to be loved again, by our sincere and genuine repentance.

God created each and every one of us because He loved us, and He wants to share that love in Him with us, so that all of us may forever enjoy the fullness of His love. That is why, we were never intended to suffer or perish in this world, but the fact that suffering exists, is because of our own refusal to listen to God and to obey Him. We have willingly chosen to follow Satan and his lies, rather than to trust in the love that God has shown us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all like children who have gone wayward and become lost from the loving embrace of our father, that is God, Who is ever patient and ever loving towards us, despite our rebelliousness. And God, knowing that the consequences of sin, is of eternal separation between Him and us, our suffering and damnation in hell, He wants to save us all, and that was why, He gave us the perfect gift of His love this Christmas.

The cure for disobedience is perfect obedience, and that was why, He gave us His only Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the Divine Word, Who willingly took up our human existence, and become one like us, and by the will of the Father and the power of the Holy Spirit, was conceived in the womb of His mother, Mary, and was born into this world. His birth, which we celebrate as Christmas, marked the dawn and the coming of a new era of hope.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in every ages and throughout time, we have seen many men and women, who desired to be like God and to be gods. That, was exactly how we mankind first fell, because of our pride and greed, which Satan manipulated and made use of, tempting our ancestors with the temptation of knowledge and power, to become like God and to disobey God and instead following their own desires.

We have seen people who wanted to accumulate for them more power and glory, and in their actions, in the feeding of their personal desires, they caused the pain and sufferings of others. That is how sin continues to reign over us, as there is often no real love in us, but selfishness, greed and pride in our hearts that prevented us from being able to know and understand the pure love that is God’s love.

But this is where Christ came into our midst, bearing the fullness of God’s love, and the truth about His love for each and every one of us. His love for God, His Father and His complete obedience to His will, became for us the source of our salvation. He, Who is both fully God and fully Man, willingly took up our sins and the punishments due for those sins, as He was condemned to death for us, and bore the cross of our sins to His death.

And unlike the offerings of animals in the burnt offerings prescribed by the laws of Moses and Israel, for the temporary atonement for the sins of man, the offering that Christ offered willingly, His own Self, in the Flesh and Blood, the perfect sacrifice in atonement for all of our sins. He is our Eternal High Priest, Whose amazing and unfathomable love for us, has brought about our reconciliation with God.

Unlike those men I mentioned earlier, who aspired to be lords and kings, and even gods, desiring power and glory for themselves, here, we have the Almighty, All-Powerful and glorious God, King of all kings and Lord of all lords, Who willingly emptied Himself of all His glory and majesty, taking up our humble human existence, born in the poorest conditions available, in a place not even fit for human residence, and suffered death in the most humiliating way possible, all just that through His loving sacrifice, He can save us from our fated destruction due to sin.

And so, today, we should reflect deeper on just how great and amazing God’s love for us is. He has done everything for our sake, and He has loved us all so selflessly, even to the point of suffering all things and the worst of humiliations so that He can save us. But sadly, many of us have not realised or even ignored this love which God has shown us. We hardened our hearts and minds, and refused to accept God’s generous love and mercy.

We do not have to go far to see how this unfolds. We see how many of our Christmas celebrations, parties and revelries have little mention or even none of Christ in them. Many of us have followed the secular way of how Christmas has been celebrated, with plenty of merrymaking, but yet, Christ is not present in them all. Christ has been sidelined in our Christmas joy and celebrations, and as a result, instead of celebrating the true joy of Christmas, we are actually succumbing to the pride and desires in our hearts and minds.

We spent so much time trying to outdo one another in our Christmas parties, decorations and other celebrations, and yet, we forget that Christ is the One Who should be the focus and the centre of our joyous celebrations, and nothing else. And this is how Satan is trying very hard to distract us and to prevent us from finding our way towards the Lord, placing obstacles, temptations and barriers on our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have discussed just how great God’s love is for us, and yet, many of us have not reciprocated that love, and we have not appreciated the vastness of God’s magnanimity, His merciful heart and compassionate love, ever ready to welcome us back to Himself, should we desire to be forgiven and to be reconciled. But sin has always been in the way, and the more we turn ourselves to the many temptations of the world, especially the secular celebrations of Christmas, the further we may fall away from God.

This time of Christmas, let us all have a change of attitude, in our hearts and in our minds. Let us all turn towards God with a new commitment to love Him and to serve Him. Let us remember just how much He loved us, that He willingly emptied Himself of His glory, born as a simple Man, in a poor family, and later on, to be rejected and crucified for our sake. As St. John wrote in his Gospel, the Lord’s own words, “that God so loved the world that He sent His only begotten Son, that all who believed in Him will not perish, but have eternal life.”

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is the true essence and the true joy of Christmas, that we should realise and know from now on. Instead of worrying about the celebrations, about what we are to wear or about how we are to enjoy ourselves this Christmas, how about we reflect instead on the love of God, and then, show that same love in our actions? There are many people out there, our brethren, who are not able to celebrate Christmas for various reasons.

And even in our midst, surely there are those who are poor and needy, who cannot even worry about all the revelries and parties, for they struggle to make their own ends meet, each and every single day of their lives. We are called to be generous in sharing our joy and love, imitating the examples of none other than the Lord Jesus Himself, Who shared His vast and unfathomable love with us, by His incarnation and willing entry into this world, to be with us and to save us.

Therefore, let us all celebrate a more meaningful Christmas this year, and from now on, no longer selfishly focusing on ourselves and our greed, or all the materialistic and hedonistic ways of the world, but instead, live up the true spirit of Christmas, that is selfless and unconditional love, which God has first shown us, and which now we ought to show in our own lives. May God bless us all, and may He bless our Christmas joy, that we may celebrate it meaningfully, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hebrews 10 : 5-10

This is why, on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First he says : Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then he says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified, once, and for all, by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Sunday, 23 December 2018 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Micah 5 : 1-4a

But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah; from you shall I raise the One Who is to rule over Israel. For He comes forth from of old, from the ancient times.

YHVH, therefore, will abandon Israel until such time as she, who is to give birth, has given birth. Then the rest of His deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He will stand, and shepherd His flock with the strength of YHVH, in the glorious Name of YHVH, His God.

They will live safely, while He wins renown to the ends of the earth. He shall be peace.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 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 Scripture passages which told us of the joy which came for two women mentioned in the Bible, one from the Old Testament, while the other one was from the time of the New Testament. The first one was Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, while the second one was none other than Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Hannah was once a barren woman who was unable to conceive a child with her husband, while the other wife of her husband was able to conceive many children. Hannah was desperate because, we have to understand that in the customs and traditions of the ancient people of Israel, children are blessings from God, and the absence of children and a woman’s barrenness were considered signs that someone did not have God’s blessings or were cursed.

Hannah prayed before God and asked for His favour, and God listened to her prayers, and before long, she conceived a son, Samuel, and promised to consecrate him to God’s service, as we heard in today’s first reading, at the time when Hannah consecrated her son to God, to the service of God at His Temple. And later on, God would bless Hannah with even more children, as the sign of the end of her period of mourning and sorrow, and sign of God’s love and blessing for His faithful ones.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the great joy that Mary expressed through her song of praise, the Magnificat, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in her. Her joy was because of what she has herself witnessed, in the same miraculous deed that God has done among His people, when her cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, having been barren for so many years, suddenly conceived by the will and power of God, as He revealed to them by His Angel.

And even more so, the baby conceived within Elizabeth and Mary each, would become the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation for all of His people. St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, was the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, or God’s Saviour, by calling on the people to repent from their sins and be baptised as a sign of their readiness to welcome God Who was coming into their midst.

And of course, Mary bore within her, by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Word of God, the Son of God Who took upon Himself the form and fullness of humanity, the One promised for all the ages past, and the hope for humanity’s salvation and liberation from sin. Mary therefore, essentially expressed the great joy that came upwelling from humanity’s desire to be reconciled with God and to see the hope of God.

We have heard today, all the great deeds that God has done for His people throughout the ages past, and there were many other wonderful deeds He has done, for our sake. Yet, we should realise that in many occasions, God has often been overlooked, and especially what should have been the great celebration of joy in the thanksgiving for God’s love, in Christmas, have frequently been overtaken by commercial and selfish desires, as well as by human greed.

As we quickly approach the time of Christmas and the ending of our Advent season, we really should ask ourselves, again and again in order to remind us, what is the true meaning of Christmas for each and every one of us? Is it for us to enjoy the festivities, eat rich and plentiful of food and beverages, or to wear glamorous costumes and dresses? Or is it for us to know better and appreciate better just how great God’s love is for us?

That is why it is important that we get our focus on the Christmas joy and celebrations right, or else, we may end up missing the point about Christmas altogether. Christmas is about the joyful celebration of God’s generous and never-ending love, that He gave everything for us, by granting us the perfect and new hope in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom our salvation was assured, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today spend time to reflect on our lives and on what we have done so far in order to prepare ourselves for Christmas. If we have not done our preparation right until now, there is still time for us to go through a profound change in attitude and way of how we live our lives and how we will celebrate the true joy of Christmas from now on.

Let us turn towards God with a new heart, filled with love for Him, and dedicate ourselves, day after day, in celebration of His eternal love for each and every one of us. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, continue to love us, and bless us, every days and every moments of our life. Amen.