Thursday, 24 December 2015 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, the season of Advent ends today as tomorrow we joyfully celebrate the great solemnity of our Lord’s Nativity, Christmas, the birth of our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, into this world, the Lord and the Divine Master of all, Who assumed the humble flesh of ours, and became a Man like ourselves. This is the essence of Christmas, and this is what we celebrate together.

And appropriately, the readings from the Sacred Scriptures today in the first reading from the Second Book of the prophet Samuel spoke about the king of Israel, David, the faithful servant of God, who wanted to build a house for the Lord, as he thought that it was improper for him to dwell in a majestic palace made from cedar and gold, while the Lord Who was present in the Ark of the Covenant remained under a Tent, the Holy Tent of Meeting.

And it was told how God refused David’s offer to build a house for Him, and He told him how his son, Solomon would be the one to build the magnificent House, the Temple of God in Jerusalem. And we know how that great Temple was built with the best quality wood and stones, with abundance of gold and silver, and such a great gathering of worldly precious goods that may have never been surpassed ever since.

Such was indeed the attempt of men to glorify God from time immemorial, as both kings David and Solomon tried their best to glorify God in the best way they could give and provide, by honouring Him with the best sacrifices and with thrones and dwellings made from gold, silver and many precious stones, so that all who gaze upon that great House of God would be awed and would bow down before the one and only True God.

And how is this relevant for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? What is its relevance to our celebration of Christmas? That is because that magnificent Temple of Solomon was destroyed and razed to the ground by the Babylonians. Nothing was left of that Temple, and the Ark of the Covenant too disappeared without a trace, likely destroyed in the midst of the carnage as well.

That catastrophic event marked the symbolic rupture in the Covenant which God had established with His people, because that people refused to listen to Him and obey His commandments, and instead, they followed their own rebellious paths, and they served and worshipped pagan gods and idols. They were unfaithful to their part of the Covenant and consequently they suffered the consequences of having broken the covenant of the Lord.

Then, even though the Temple of Jerusalem was rebuilt and made even greater in size and majesty by the king Herod the Great during the time of Jesus, but the Lord Himself revealed through Jesus Christ that He had transcended the physical Temple where the people worshipped and offered sacrifices, for He no longer just spiritually dwelled among His people, but in the very matter of the world, in His own Flesh and Blood, in Christ, He dwelled and is now still dwelling among all of us His people.

Yes, just as on one occasion Jesus spoke of how He would tear down the Temple of God and rebuild it in just three days, when the people and the Pharisees misunderstood Him thinking that He referred to that magnificent stone edifice that is the Temple built after the return of the Israelites from exile and then enlarged by king Herod. Instead, He was referring to Himself, to His own Body.

Christ is the very Presence of God, for He Himself is God, the Divine Word incarnate into the flesh, that by assuming our form, He made Himself real and tangible to us all, and dwells completely among us in physical form and in spirit. And this happened from that moment of His conception and then birth into this world, which is Christmas! God Who was once invisible to us have made Himself visible and tangible, that we all would know that He is with us as He has always been ever since the beginning.

And He did not just stop at that, for He Himself came into this world in order to save us all, and He did just that by raising Himself up as the Lamb of the perfect offering and sacrifice in atonement for all of our sins and rebelliousness against God. And He gave us His own Body and His own Precious Blood, so that all of us who share in His Body and Blood, that is the Eucharist we receive worthily, will also share in the eternal life He has promised us.

Yes, this is because God Himself dwells within each and every one of us. Just as St. Paul rightly put it, when he said of each one of us as the Temples of God’s Most Holy Presence, the Temples of His Holy Spirit, for God Himself is within us, as we share His Precious Body and Blood, and as we too have received the Holy Spirit that He had sent to all who believe in Him and remain faithful to Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us reflect on all this, as we approach the day of Christmas tomorrow. Let us know and understand, and realise that Christmas is not just a joyous celebration of our Lord’s coming and birth into the world, but it should also be a moment when we give thanks to God and strive to do our best in order to make ourselves ever worthy to be the dwellings of our Lord Most High.

May God continue to bless us all in everything and in all of our endeavours, so that we may grow ever stronger in our love and dedication for Him. May He continue to guide us on our path, and may this Christmas be a moment for us to understand even deeper how much God has loved us that He was willing to suffer for us and to be one like us, and to be united with us by the giving of His own Precious Body and Blood for our salvation. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Thursday, 24 December 2015 : 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.”

Thursday, 24 December 2015 : 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.

Thursday, 24 December 2015 : 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?”

“This is what YHVH of host says : 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.”

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, as we are approaching Christmas in two days’ time, we heard about St. John the Baptist, whose role was truly great but many of us did not realise how crucial he was to the plan of salvation. Indeed his role was less than that of our Lord Himself, the Saviour, and that of His blessed mother Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. Yet, through the acts of this faithful, holy and devoted servant of God, the world which had for long lost its hope, heard the beautiful news of the coming of God’s salvation.

For John the Baptist was what God had promised to His people through the prophets, as He spoke of him to the prophet Isaiah as a voice proclaiming in the wilderness of the coming of God’s kingdom and His salvation, and as the messenger which God had promised who would make straight His paths when He came into this world, as the one who would initiate the beginnings of God’s work of mercy in this world.

And even though his role as the Herald of the Messiah and the King of the Universe was truly great, prestigious and incomparable in some way, but he remained humble and committed to his mission as a servant, and he refused to give in to human pride and desire, as whenever people asked him whether he was the Messiah, he rejected it and said that he was not the Messiah, but the one who would precede Him and who would proclaim Him to the world when He revealed Himself.

And in another occasion, St. John the Baptist also humbly proclaiming that he was not even worthy to untie the straps of the sandals of the Lord, and how when his disciples complained about the growing popularity of Jesus, he proclaimed openly that while He increased in might, power and popularity, he as the servant who had done what he had been tasked to do, should decrease and become less important.

From this we can learn very important lesson about ourselves, as St. John Baptist had shown us the way of the servant of God, faithful, committed and devoted to the truth that God had brought into this world. This Christmas and all of its celebrations is not about us, and it is not about how much wealth, glamour and bling that we can showcase to one another, and not about the rich foods and drinks, and all the other worldly things that we share with one another. It is truly about the Lord.

Yes, it is rather about the joy that our Lord had brought into the world, to all of us, because we who were once destined to be damned and destroyed, to suffer forever the torment and the torture of our eternal soul in hell because of our disobedience and our sins against Him, had been given a new hope of salvation and a new life which He promised to all of those who are willing to change themselves and follow Him.

Let us today, as we reflect on the examples of humility and obedience of St. John the Baptist, also reflect on what St. John of Kanty, a priest and saint whose feast we celebrate today, in what he has done in his own earthly life. St. John of Kanty was a Polish priest known also as St. John Cantius, who was renowned for his dedication and commitment to the Lord, and how he served and helped the poor around him by his many works and his charities.

He was thoroughly dedicated to the advancement of the knowledge of the divine truth, and by his long years of studies and by the many works and many manuscripts that he had written, he had inspired many people to live their lives faithfully to the Lord and to accept the fullness of truth as espoused by the Church and its teachings.

The same thing St. John Baptist had also done as what St. John of Kanty had done in his life, in proclaiming the truth of the Lord, as He was coming into the world in Jesus Christ, and thus these two devoted servants of the Lord preached the true joy of Christmas that is to come, that is our Lord, our True and only Joy. And in doing so, they remained humble and unassuming, fulfilling what had been tasked to them to do, and not taking credit upon themselves.

This is what all of us Christians should do as well, and in how we celebrate the feast of Christmas, let us all share the joy that can be found in our Lord Jesus Christ with all the peoples, especially to all those who are still living in ignorance against Him and those who have yet to hear of the Good News of His salvation. Let us all through our words, actions and deeds be the bearers of the Lord’s salvation to all of His peoples.

May Almighty God bless us all, and may He strengthen our faith always, so that this Christmas will be ever more meaningful to us, and that we may be able to celebrate it with full and complete understanding of its importance, and what it means to us and to our brethren, especially to those who did not yet know Christ our Saviour. May God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 : 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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2015 : 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.