Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to look upon the healing that God has presented to us, the healing that He has offered us and promised us, if we are faithful to Him and if we look upon Him with faith and hope, entrusting ourselves to His care, love and providence. If we are willing to open ourselves to God’s love and grace, we shall receive His most wonderful love and mercy.

In our first reading today, we have heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah on the reassurance that God gave His people through Isaiah, of a new hope and strength that He gave them, that through His saving grace, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the paralytic and the weak would all run free, and those who were possessed by evil spirits and demons would be purified and liberated from their enslavement by those vile beings.

We heard of all these coming to fruition and fulfilment in Christ, as we heard in our Gospel passage today of the healing of the paralytic man by the Lord Jesus, as with many other examples of miracles and healing powers that the Lord had shown to multitudes of people, just exactly as how the prophet Isaiah had said it. But the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were skeptical and doubted the Lord, refusing to believe in Him as they kept holding onto their pride and hardened their hearts against God’s truth and love manifested through Christ.

The Lord has shown them many wonders and a lot of genuine expressions of God’s love, and yet, some accused Him of blasphemy and colluding with the evil spirits, refusing to acknowledge that He has the authority over those spirits and as the promised Saviour of the world, the Son of God Most High, He has the power to forgive sins and to liberate mankind from their bondage to sins and death. He showed those dissidents, the true power of God and His love by healing the paralytic and restored him to good health.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these readings and reflect on the wonderful love of God, we are all reminded of our own shortcomings and weaknesses, our own predicaments, troubles and indeed, sickness. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? We may be perfectly healthy in body and mind, and yet, because of sin, we are spiritually sick and corrupted.

For sin corrupts our very innermost beings, and sin is truly very wicked and terrible, for while other diseases and conditions have some form of cure or ways to alleviate them, only God alone can forgive us our sins. It is by God’s grace and mercy alone that we are forgiven our sins and all the evils we have committed in our respective lives. We have to trust in His mercy and grace, and embrace His loving grace if we are to be forgiven and healed from this terrible affliction.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself specifically and explicitly mentioned that He, as God, has the power to forgive sins and to heal us all from all of our shortcomings. He can make us all whole again, but are we all willing to embrace His love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness? Let us all consider all these, brothers and sisters in Christ, and if we are still stubborn in our refusal to embrace God’s love and mercy, let us harden our hearts no longer and open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord.

In this season of Advent, we are all called to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, and to prepare ourselves well, especially spiritually that we may celebrate Christmas with true joy and with true appreciation of its importance to us. We have been given this great opportunity for us to rediscover our faith in God, and therefore, we should take this opportunity well, embracing God’s love at all times, and rethinking how we can continue living our lives with faith.

Today, we can also be inspired by St. Ambrose of Milan, a great saint and one of the original Doctors of the Church whose feast day we celebrate. St. Ambrose of Milan was truly a very influential leader of the Church as the Archbishop of Milan, head of one of the largest Christian communities of his time, just as it is still one of the largest today. In addition, his leadership and influence in the contemporary Church at the time, his contributions were truly immense.

St. Ambrose was well-known for being chosen as bishop by acclamation from the community, both the laity and the clergy alike at the time when the community was bitterly divided between the followers of the Arian heresy and those who remained faithful to the true Christian teachings. As both parties bickered especially in the decision of who was to succeed as Bishop of Milan, considering that the previous bishop had been an Arian heretic, the choice fell to St. Ambrose, well-respected by the people as the righteous and just administrator and governor of the region.

St. Ambrose worked hard to root out the corruption of heresy, particularly the Arian heresy aforementioned. In this, he faced a lot of opposition especially from the Arian clergy and also from powerful nobles who were favourable to the Arian cause and were Arian believers themselves. This included the Emperor and his family, where the Empress herself was an ardent believer of the heresy.

St. Ambrose did not let these to hinder his works or discourage him from doing what he had to do in leading his flock to the true faith. St. Ambrose spoke publicly and fearlessly against those who refused to believe in the truth, and even the Empress herself. He had to suffer a lot in the process, threatened and received a lot of trials, but, he remained firm and strong in his conviction and faith.

In later years, when the faithful Emperor Theodosius the Great ruled over the entire Empire, and worked against the Arian heresy, St. Ambrose was also remembered for his courage in standing up to the Emperor, when he was complicit in a massacre that happened in the city of Thessalonica. St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor, and only when the Emperor humbly made a public confession and repentance, that St. Ambrose welcomed him back to the Church with joy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have heard all that St. Ambrose had done, his faith and contributions to the Church. Are we willing and able to follow his examples, in living our faith with genuine devotion, in being righteous and in the courage to remain strong in faith even against oppositions from the world? We have also heard of the power of God’s love and forgiveness, as what happened with the Emperor Theodosius when he committed a grave sin, and through repentance, he was welcomed back to the Church and God’s grace.

Are we willing to repent from our sinful ways, too, brothers and sisters in Christ? We have been given this great opportunity this Advent to seek the Lord and His forgiveness, and to purify ourselves from these corruptions of sin. Let us all make good use of the time and opportunity, and do our very best to serve the Lord faithfully from now on. May the Lord bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us may serve the Lord with ever greater dedication from now on. Amen.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, Jesus was teaching and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

Monday, 7 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard about how God will bless His people who were downtrodden, afflicted, and who had been brought low. God will not abandon His beloved people to the darkness, and He will heal those who have been afflicted and make them whole once again.

We know that the prophet Isaiah lived during turbulent times in the history of the people of God, at the time when the northern kingdom of Israel had just been subjugated and conquered by the Assyrians, and many of its people brought into exile in distant and foreign lands. The same fate would eventually also come to the southern kingdom of Judah, where the people there too would be carted off into exile by their Babylonian conquerors.

Lest these people forgot about their Lord or thought that they had been abandoned and forgotten by their God, the prophet Isaiah reminded them that God Who is ever loving and Who always loves us will always care for them and His beloved ones throughout the ages, and He will succour and bless them accordingly. He shall not allow us who are faithful to be overlooked and forgotten.

And in the Gospel today, we witnessed the perfect manifestation of God’s love which He had spoken and which He had revealed through the prophets. In Jesus Christ, the Son of God, He showed Himself in the fullness of His love, that by healing of the paralytic man, He showed His might and authority, in absolving His beloved ones from their afflictions, both of the body and of the spirit.

For as we witnessed in that Gospel passage, we saw how God made it clear to the dissident Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, who refused to listen to the Lord and to His truth, that in Him alone lies the healing and the salvation, and in Him alone lies the authority to forgive sins, that is none other than the disease and affliction of our souls.

And through Jesus, the paralytic could walk again, the blind could see again, the deaf could hear again, the mute could speak again, and most importantly, the sinners were forgiven of their sins and made pure and clean once again. We have to realise that out of all those afflictions, none of those that afflict the body is lasting and can bring us eternal harm, except that of sin.

Did we know that sin is a disease and an affliction upon us? It is a disease that slowly corrupts and destroys our souls, our minds, our hearts and eventually our bodies and our whole beings as well. And ever since mankind first disobeyed the Lord, the sin of disobedience entered into our hearts, and we have sinned ever since, whether be it small or significant sins.

What we have to understand is that in God we can find the healing and the redemption from all of our sins, the healing that will make us whole again and remove from us the taint of darkness that had kept us separated from God. But in order to do this, we have to really commit ourselves to Him, and we have to strive and persevere to lead a worthy life from now on, sinning no more, but devoting ourselves fully to the way of the Lord.

Today, we commemorate the feast of St. Ambrose, one of the great fathers of the Church, one of the original Doctors of the Church, an important pillar of the Church especially in those areas which were then under the Western Roman Empire. He was the longtime Bishop of Milan, a very devout and courageous servant of God, who did not even fear the secular authorities and the forces of the world as he went about carrying out his mission.

St. Ambrose was once a secular official, a governor of the region which now encompasses the city of Milan and the surrounding areas, until at that time, the Arian and heretical bishop of Milan died, and a successor was required. As both the heretics and the faithful factions of the Church were unable to find a consensus on the candidate suitable, the choice fell to St. Ambrose who was acclaimed by the faithful as the new Bishop of Milan.

St. Ambrose immediately cast himself into the role he had been appointed to, and he championed the cause of the orthodox teachings of the Church, banishing and casting out all of the heretics from the governance and guidance in the Church, and imploring them to repent and to change their ways, and eventually many did repent and be forgiven of their trespasses in espousing heresy against God and His Church.

He even went up against the Empress Justina, who was known to be a follower of the Arian heresy, and implored her to change her ways, and when she refused and tried to depose St. Ambrose, St. Ambrose publicly chastised her in front of the faithful, and he persevered in maintaining the truth in God’s Church. And on another occasion, when the Roman Emperor Theodosius erred by instigating a great massacre of peoples in the city of Thessalonica, St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor and would not allow him to receive the Sacraments until he publicly repented for his sins and made a public confession.

In this, as we see the examples of St. Ambrose, we see how God showed His mercy to us through His many good servants, the prophets, the Apostles, the disciples of Christ, our bishops and priests. To the latter, God had, through His Apostles, gave the power and the authority to forgive sins, that through them and their works, they might absolve a people still living in sin and darkness.

But forgiveness does not come without repentance, and this is a fact that we must always remember. We cannot expect the forgiveness for our sins if we do not commit ourselves to change our ways and to devote ourselves to the Lord. The paralytic man was healed, and many other people Jesus had healed, was healed because they desired to be healed and they wanted to make that commitment to not sin anymore and to lead a good life from then on.

Therefore, during this season of Advent, let it be a time for us all to change ourselves, to be a better person, sinning no more but from now on be a faithful and committed disciple and follower of our God. Let us use this time of preparation, to prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas with true joy and devotion, that we will always put Christ at the centre of everything, at the centre of our focus and celebrations. God be with us all, now and forever. Amen.

Monday, 7 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, Jesus was teaching, and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick.

Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat. They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus.

When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.” At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?”

But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk?’ Now you shall know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 7 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints – lest they come back to their folly. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met, righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth, while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 7 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Concerned with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water.

In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes. There will be a highway which will be called the Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there mor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there.

For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.