Monday, 15 August 2022 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate together the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God. The Assumption of Mary refers to the moment when she was taken up body and soul into Heaven, as she came to the end of her existence here in this world, and went to be reunited with her beloved Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. The Church has always held the belief and tradition that Mary, by God’s grace, did not suffer the lasting effect of death, and while she did die, but her Son took her up very soon after into His Presence in Heaven.

According to Apostolic tradition, as Mary loved her Son so much, after having lived several more years past the time of her Son’s Resurrection and Ascension into Heaven, the great love that Mary had for her Son led her to experience death, sharing the same death that her Son experienced for our sake. And when the time came for her to say goodbye to this world, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The belief in the Assumption comes logically as Mary, the Mother of God is the Mother of the Lord and Saviour of the world, Who had triumphed over sin and death, and as our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Corinthians had highlighted to us, Christ, Mary’s Son, has conquered and triumphed over death. Sin and death had both been conquered and crushed by the Lord, through His glorious Resurrection. How can it be that Christ saved the world but did not save His own Mother? Surely because of His great love for her, He would have led her away from death and would not allow her to suffer from it? That He Who raised Lazarus and the daughter of the synagogue official could definitely have raised His own Mother to a new life with Him too?

And not only that, but as Mary herself has borne the Lord and Saviour of the world, as highlighted in St. John’s heavenly vision of the end times in the Book of Revelations, our first reading today, and from the account of St. Luke’s Gospel on the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, Mary as the one who bore the Lord Himself inside her womb was hallowed and full of grace, free from sin throughout her life, right from the moment of her conception. This is the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, which stated that Mary, by the singular grace of God, had been preserved from the taint of original sin, and full of God’s grace, she remained immaculate and pure throughout her life.

That is essential because the Lord’s Presence could have not tolerated the taint of sin, and as He were to spend the time in the womb of Mary, hence, He could not have been borne through a body tainted by sin. And because Mary was without original sin, and also remained pure and full of grace, free from any sin throughout her life, she did not deserve death at all, because death is the natural consequence of sin. Since Mary did not sin, she could not have been made subject to the punishment due to sin, which is death. That is why the Church believes that Mary was taken up body and soul into Heaven, as was right and just for her, and also based on the testimony of the Apostles who witnessed it all.

Then, the Assumption should also not be confused with the Ascension, as the Assumption refers to the moment when Mary was taken up into Heaven by the will of God, by the power of her Son, taking her up body and soul into Heaven to be by His side, while the Ascension refers to the moment when the Lord Himself, the Son of God, by His own power and will, ascended into Heaven to return to His Throne and rightful place. There now the Lord reigns over us, with His mother Mary by His side, and her always interceding and praying for our sake. She has always watched over us all these while, and has always shown concern over us, falling ever so frequently again and again into sin.

Through the Assumption, first of all, we have the assurance that Mary is there in Heaven, by the side of the Lord, her own beloved Son, as our greatest ally and help in the battle against the forces of evil surrounding us and desiring our destruction. Through her constant intercession, Mary helped us all to get closer to God and helped to open the gates of God’s ever generous mercy towards us. She herself has also appeared in many well-known occasions, at Guadalupe, Lourdes, Fatima and elsewhere, calling on all the faithful children of God to turn back towards the Lord and repent from our sins.

Then, Mary’s own faith in the Lord, her commitment and total surrender to God, her willingness to follow the Lord and to obey His will completely in her life, carrying out her calling from the beginning to the end as the Mother of God, caring for her Son and loving Him, following Him even to the foot of the Cross, all these dedication should inspire each one of us in our own faith in God. Through Mary’s examples, we should be inspired to lead an ever worthy life that is full of faith and dedication to Him. We should do our very best to make sure that our every actions, words and deeds, every moments of our lives be worthy of God.

Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 14 August 2022 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this evening we celebrate the Vigil Mass of the glorious Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. In this celebration and occasion, we are all reminded of the moment when Mary, the Blessed Mother of God was taken up body and soul into Heaven, to enjoy forever the glorious inheritance and the honour that she has been worthy of, as the Mother of God and faithful servant of the Lord, full of grace and love for God and for her Son, the Saviour of the world. Her Assumption into Heaven marks the end of her existence in this world as she entered into heavenly glory.

First of all, the Assumption does not equate to the Lord’s own Ascension into Heaven, as this is one of the most commonly misunderstood aspect of the Assumption of Mary. The difference is that while the Lord Jesus ascended into Heaven by His own power and will, being the Almighty God and All-Powerful Divine Word Incarnate, Mary was assumed into Heaven by the will of God, and not by her own will or power. She was taken up or assumed into Heaven rather than ascending on her own volition and power. That is the clear difference between that of the Ascension and the Assumption that we all need to know.

Then, we may ask and wonder what the significance of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God is to us? The Assumption marks the occasion when Mary did not experience the lasting effect of death, but went on to assume her rightful place in Heaven at the side of her Son’s Throne, and she experienced that because she was first of all conceived without the taint of original sin, and according to tradition, remained free from sin throughout her life, and therefore because sin leads to death, and the latter is the consequence and punishment for sin, then sin has no hold or dominion over Mary. This is in conjunction with what we heard in our second reading from the Epistle of St. Paul to the faithful in Corinth.

Mary was conceived without original sin as the Church taught through the Dogma of Immaculate Conception, another Marian Dogma besides the Assumption itself. And this has Scriptural basis as we ourselves have heard in our first reading today from the Book of Chronicles, where King David of Israel was welcoming the Ark of the Covenant coming into the city of Jerusalem, to come to dwell with His people after having been placed in the Holy Tent of Meeting for all the years previously. That Ark of the Covenant contained the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the Law of God passed down to Moses, as well as the staff of Aaron and the manna, the bread eaten by the Israelites during their time in the desert.

The Lord’s own Holy Presence descended onto the Ark of the Covenant, and in the Scriptures, in the Book of Exodus and others, it was mentioned how God’s Presence came and sit upon the Cherubim crafted upon the top of the Ark of the Covenant. As such, the Ark of the Covenant itself was crafted using the finest materials of this world, from precious metals and other materials, and God had also blessed and hallowed it. No one could touch the Ark of the Covenant, and even the High Priest could only come into the Holy Presence of God once a year. When a priest accidentally touched the Ark to prevent it from slipping during an earlier, unsuccessful attempt by David to move it to Jerusalem, that priest was immediately struck dead.

Then why is the comparison with the Ark of the Covenant? That is because Mary is the New Ark, of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the New Covenant, she has been hallowed, blessed and prepared by God, unique above all other of His creations, to be the most worthy vessel bearing His Holy Presence. For no taint of sin can come even close to the Sinless One, the Lord, the Divine Word Incarnate, and when He came into this world through His mother Mary, being in her womb for nine months as all other human beings have experienced, the very vessel of His entry into this world ought to be as perfect and immaculate, as Mary herself, the Immaculate Conception.

If the old Ark was so precious and treated so respectfully despite it being made and crafted by the hands of men, then all the more that Mary is hallowed and blessed beyond all, since she was made by God Himself. And when the Archangel Gabriel hailed her as ‘Full of Grace’, this also refers to Mary as being completely free from sin even throughout her life, as for her to be the bearer of the Messiah, the Son of God Himself, she has to be perfect and immaculate. What may seem to be impossible for us, is possible for God, Who willed in singular grace for Mary to be so created and maintained in a state of full of grace.

It means that Mary loved God so much and was always in state of perfection of grace, that she remained faithful completely to God and the taints of sin, of pride and worldly desires, of lust and greed and many other worldly vices had no hold over her. And because of this, as mentioned, Mary did not deserve death and neither should she succumb to it, because it would have been so ironic for the Mother of the Saviour to succumb to death when her own Son had been victorious and triumphant over death. Yet, according to tradition and agreement by Christian scholars, Mary still did die in a way, but how?

That is because, it was explained that Mary, when it was time for her to rejoin her Son in Heaven, having loved Him so much, she could not be separated from Him, and therefore, just as He had endured death temporarily, she also went through it momentarily. Apostolic traditions stated that when the appointed hour came, the Apostles were gathered and asked for Mary’s last blessing, and she entered a sleep of death, and she was placed in the tomb. One tradition stated that because St. Thomas, one of the Apostles could not be there to see Mary one last time, he demanded to see the Mother of God one last time.

When the Apostles and the other assembled disciples opened her tomb, they were all surprised to find that not only that there was no trace of decomposition, but the body of the Blessed Virgin Mother of God herself had disappeared, replaced by a bed of roses. It was evident to all then that because her Son had been triumphant over sin and death, He would not have let her to experience the degradation of death, and took her up into Heaven, body and soul. And that is the story of how the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and its equivalent in the Eastern Churches, the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin came to be.

The Assumption matters to all of us because first of all, now that Mary is in Heaven by her Son’s side, she became our greatest help and intercessor, constantly praying for us, her adopted children, for us all sinners who are still separated from her and her Son. The Assumption gave us the hope that through the Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, we may have the sure way towards the Lord and His salvation, by following Mary and her examples, and through her constant intercessions. She has always showed her maternal care to us, and it has been evident in multiple occasions how she appeared in various instances to different people, calling on us to repent from our sins and to return to God.

Then, not only that, Mary’s Assumption into Heaven also gave us all a glimpse of our own fate in the end, if we choose to remain faithful to God, just as her own Son’s Transfiguration a few days ago had shown us as well. In the end of time, after the Final Judgement, all of us will rise up body and soul to be reunited with God, and to enjoy forever an eternity of true bliss and happiness. However, we have to be faithful to God and to be judged worthy of Him, or else we will end up in the eternity of suffering instead in the eternal damnation. The Lord has given us many opportunities and chances, and He has reached out to us generously with love, so that we may find our way to Him, and His blessed Mother Mary has shown us the most direct and surest path to Him.

May all of us draw ever closer to God, in each and every moments and opportunities available to us. May He empower each one of us to live ever more faithfully and with greater conviction and commitment from now on, following the examples of Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who we remember of today in her glorious Assumption into Heaven. Holy Mary, Mother of God, gloriously assumed and taken up to Heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 15 August 2021 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is truly a special occasion for all of us, as not only that we celebrate the Sunday of the Lord, but by coincidence on this fifteenth day of August, as is every year, we also celebrate the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which marks the moment when Mary, the Holy Mother of God was ‘assumed’ into the glory of Heaven, body and soul, and therefore, in some way, did not suffer fully the embrace of death, by the unique singular grace of God, her Son, Our Lord and Saviour.

This Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the four important Dogmas or core tenets of the faith with regards to Mary, together with the Dogma of the Theotokos or the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the Dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and finally the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an affirmation of the long-held belief of the Church since the earliest times, declared official by Pope Pius XII in the year of Our Lord 1950, in his. ‘Ex Cathedra’ proclamation and the Papal Bull Munificentissimus Deus.

First of all, the Assumption is not equivalent to the Ascension of the Lord, as how some had misunderstood, thinking that we believe in Mary’s ‘Ascension’ into heaven. The Ascension of the Lord refers to how the Lord Jesus ascended by His own power and might, to sit on His Throne in Heaven, returning from where He had come from, and to prepare the place for us all, the faithful people of God. Meanwhile, the Assumption refers to the moment when Mary, by the grace and the power of God, was taken up into Heaven, not on her own accord.

There lies the difference between Our Lord’s Ascension and His mother’s Assumption, a difference that seems to be minute and yet, very important, lest we misunderstand them and like for some, causing them to have the wrong impression and idea about the true Christian faith, especially among some of our separated brethren, who held wrong ideas and false perception of what the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the same manner, all of us also must know what the Assumption is all about and how significant it is to our faith. Many among us Christians are still having misconceptions about our own faith, having misunderstandings and doing the wrong practices, and showing the wrong identity of the faith, with regards to our devotion to Mary and the other saints. That is why we have to understand clearly what the Assumption is all about, that we may indeed become genuine witnesses of our faith to many others.

Mary has been chosen by God to be the special Vessel and to be the New Ark, of the New Covenant between God and all of us. As such, she has been given the special grace of being conceived without the taint of original sin, which we celebrate as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, as the pure and immaculate Vessel, conceived and then born without sin or any subjugation to it, free from its influences unlike that of any other human beings, save that of her own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Therefore, having been so prepared to be the New Ark of the New Covenant, far better than the old Ark, which was sacrosanct and holy, therefore, Mary, who bore in her womb, the Lord and Saviour Himself, ought not to have been subjected to the punishment and suffering of death. Why is that so? That is because death is the punishment and consequence of sin, and if Mary had not been tainted or corrupted by sin, then death has no hold over her at all.

Yet, with regards to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known in the Eastern Church traditions as the Dormition of the Theotokos, there are two main schools of thoughts regarding what actually happened at the moment of the Assumption. One stated that since Mary as the one who had been free from the taint of sin and as the Mother of the Saviour of all, then she must have completely been free from death, and therefore, was raised up into heavenly glory, in body and soul, that she entered Heaven and is no longer in the world.

Then, another school of thought stated that Mary did go through death, just like any others, because she shared in her Son’s Passion and death, and she died just as her Son also died, but not because of a punishment for her own sins. Therefore, that death was merely symbolic and in the end, whether she died or went into the sleep of death as per the Eastern tradition of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Mary went body and soul up into Heaven. Hence, regardless whether she actually died, went through death or any experience of death, Mary is now in Heaven, and that is what truly matters.

Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this crucial for us? How is it important for us to appreciate this celebration of the Assumption of Mary, the Blessed ever-Virgin Mother of God? Mary’s Assumption into Heaven first of all is an assurance for us that we have someone who is always ever constantly praying for us, and who intercedes for us directly beside the Throne of her Son. For Mary is indeed the greatest of all the saints, and the one closest to Our Lord Himself, as is she not His mother? Just like the occasion of the miracle of the wedding at Cana, even the Lord would still listen to the words of His loving mother.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, for in the Assumption of Mary, we also see the promise of new life and existence that we ourselves are going to experience in the time to come, as we will also be raised to Heaven, body and soul, at the end of time, when the final judgment comes, and our souls shall be reunited fully with our bodies, glorified, purified and blessed, that we may enjoy forever, with Mary, and with all the saints, the glory and true joy of Heaven with God forevermore.

Through the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, all of us are called to examine our own lives, and how we have lived them thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God in all things? Or have we instead allowed the temptations and the allures of worldly pleasures to distract us and mislead us down the wrong path? These are just some of things and questions that we should consider carefully, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, being reminded that if we sin, and do not repent from those sins, then death is the consequence, and there can be nothing worse than to be judged to eternal death and suffering.

Let us all therefore aspire to reject the path of sinfulness and evil, rejecting wickedness and disobedient attitudes in life. Instead, let us all look upon Mary, our loving mother and inspiration, that we may be more like her in faith, dedication and love for God, and be righteous in all of our dealings and actions. We are all called to be role models ourselves, and to be faithful and good witnesses of our Christian beliefs and faith in the midst of our respective communities.

Are we willing and able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is something that each and every one of us are certainly capable of doing, but more often than not we did not do so because we spent more time on worldly pursuits and in satisfying our personal desires, that we could not even spare a thought or effort to commit ourselves sincerely and with conviction. Hence, this Sunday, as we celebrate this great occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us all remind ourselves to be ever more committed to the Lord, and to do our very best to follow the Lord and to serve Him, and to live faithfully in accordance to His will from now on.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us throughout this journey of life, and may His blessed mother, Mary, who has been assumed, body and soul, into the glory of Heaven, continue to intercede for us sinners, and be our constant source of strength and inspiration in how we live our lives as Christians from now on. Holy Mary, Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Saturday, 15 August 2020 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering the moment when Mary, the Mother of God at the end of her earthly existence, was brought up body and soul into the glory of heaven, what is known as the ‘Assumption’ of Mary. This day we celebrate the moment when Mary enter the heavenly glory prepared for her by her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Pope Pius XII declared the Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the year of Our Lord 1950, just 70 years ago, but this did not mean that the Assumption of Mary is a new concept of our faith. Rather, it is a formal declaration that this important tenet of our faith is truly and undeniably part of our Christian deposit of faith, which our brethren in the Eastern Church also celebrate as the Feast of the Dormition of the Theotokos, essentially the same in concept and purpose.

When we talk of the Assumption or the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sometimes we confuse it with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. The difference between the two is such that while the Lord ascended into Heaven by His own power, will and might, Mary is assumed into Heaven, by the will and power of God, and not by her own power, will or might. She received this great grace by virtue of her motherhood of the Lord, her being the Mother of God Most High, the Son of God and Saviour of all.

For the Lord Jesus is the conqueror of sin and death, by His suffering and death on the cross, in which He offered Himself as the perfect and loving sacrifice in atonement for our sins and faults. He triumphed over death through His Resurrection, showing that death, which is the consequence of sin, has no more power over us as long as we put our trust in God as Our Lord and Saviour. He has showed us the path forward beyond death and into a new life of eternal glory prepared for us.

And because of this, as I mentioned earlier, according to the traditions of the Church from the earliest history and beginning of the Church, Christians have always believed that Mary, the Mother of God, did not suffer death unlike all of us, as after all, how can the Mother of the One Who conquered death and triumphed over it by His resurrection be herself subjected to the same death? This is also linked to the strong belief in Mary’s Immaculate and sinless state, as from the earliest days of the Church, it has also been a belief of the Church that Mary was conceived without sin, the Immaculate Conception, and remained free from sin afterwards.

Mary was unique and special, by the singular grace of God because she was to be the new and infinitely better Ark of the Covenant. And just as the original Ark was crafted from the finest and most precious of earthly materials, thus, the New Ark, of the New Covenant was to be far exceeding the old Ark, by the pure and sinless state of this perfect New Ark, crafted not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. Thus, that is why later on the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and in turn the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary came to be formalised by the Church.

The Assumption is a logical outcome of the belief in the Immaculate Conception, again because death is the consequence for sin, and although every man has to suffer death because we have sinned, no matter how small our sins are, but Mary, having been conceived without sin, was never tainted or corrupted by sin at all, and therefore, logically death did not just have any power over her, but she should not suffer death because she never sinned in the first place.

There are two major schools of thought on what exactly happened in the Assumption of Mary into heaven, both with Mary ending up in the glory of Heaven, by the side of her Son, interceding for us as she is still doing to this day. One is that Mary did die, because she shared in the death of her Son, and not death because of the punishment or consequence for her sins, which did not exist. She loved her Son so much that she shared in her Son’s death, but her body did not rot or perish. Rather, she was put to sleep and then, body and soul, assumed into Heaven.

Another school of thought is that, Mary was directly assumed into Heaven, body and soul, without even passing through any form of death at all. But regardless of how exactly the Assumption of Mary happened, the fact is that Mary is now up there in Heaven, having been assumed body and soul, and reigning with her Son as the Queen Mother of Heaven, seated by her Son’s side as His confident and beloved Mother, and as our greatest intercessor.

Through Mary, His mother, the Lord wants to show us and affirm to us that faith in Him will only lead to an eternal glory and a new and eternal life, one that is free from the taints and shackles of sin and death. And through the Assumption, the Lord wants to show us the foretaste of heavenly glory for us, as it is told that in the end of days, all of us will be raised from death, and in body and soul, joining God in the eternity of glory, while those who reject God and His mercy, will be thrown, body and soul into eternal darkness and suffering.

Mary is the shining beacon of hope reminding us all what will happen to those who are virtuous and faithful, as Mary did not just merit this great honour because she is the Mother of God and conceived without sin, but because throughout life she remained free from sin, and completely dedicated to God because of the love she has for Him, obeying His Law, and later on, giving herself completely and committed herself to loving her Son, following Him all the way to the foot of the cross.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? As I said earlier, God has shown us the sure promise of eternal life, a new life and existence no longer darkened by sin and suffering, filled with true and everlasting joy. However, all of these will only come to be when we follow the Lord and commit ourselves to Him wholeheartedly the way Mary has done in her own life. We can certainly do this if we strive and try our best, but the important question is, are we willing to do it?

Especially more than ever, during these difficult days and times, when the whole world is facing so many great challenges and trials, so many people were without hope and light in their lives, the Assumption of Mary is the beacon of hope that after everything that happened, we must not give in to those fears and uncertainties, but all the more we must trust in God and have faith in Him, looking at our blessed Mother, Mary for inspiration and example.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we mark this great and wonderful celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, let us all reinspect our lives and look deep into ourselves, into our every actions and how we have lived our faith life all these while. Let us all look forward with hope to our own future entry into the eternal life of glory with God, by taking the concrete steps to live righteously with faith in God just as Mary had done in her own life.

May the Lord be with us and guide us, and through Mary, His mother’s constant intercession and help, more and more of us, the children of mankind, may come closer to God and receive the love and grace of God, and come closer to achieving the desired reconciliation and reunion with God, by which we will forever enjoy the fullness of God’s love. O Mary, Holy Mother of God, assumed in glory, body and soul into Heaven, pray for all of us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Friday, 14 August 2020 : Vigil Mass of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, tonight we celebrate the Vigil of the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, remembering the moment when Mary, the Mother of God at the end of her earthly existence, was brought up body and soul into the glory of heaven, what is known as the ‘Assumption’ of Mary. Tonight we celebrate the moment when Mary enter the heavenly glory prepared for her by her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

When we talk of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, sometimes we confuse it with the Ascension of the Lord Jesus. The difference between the two is such that while the Lord ascended into Heaven by His own power, will and might, Mary is assumed into Heaven, by the will and power of God, and not by her own power, will or might. She received this great grace by virtue of her motherhood of the Lord, her being the Mother of God Most High, the Son of God and Saviour of all.

For the Lord Jesus is the conqueror of sin and death, by His suffering and death on the cross, in which He offered Himself as the perfect and loving sacrifice in atonement for our sins and faults. He triumphed over death through His Resurrection, showing that death, which is the consequence of sin, has no more power over us as long as we put our trust in God as Our Lord and Saviour. He has showed us the path forward beyond death and into a new life of eternal glory prepared for us.

And because of this, according to the traditions of the Church from the earliest history and beginning of the Church, Christians have always believed that Mary, the Mother of God, did not suffer death unlike all of us, as after all, how can the Mother of the One Who conquered death and triumphed over it by His resurrection be herself subjected to the same death? This is also linked to the strong belief in Mary’s Immaculate and sinless state, as from the earliest days of the Church, it has also been a belief of the Church that Mary was conceived without sin, the Immaculate Conception, and remained free from sin afterwards.

Mary was unique and special, by the singular grace of God because she was to be the new and infinitely better Ark of the Covenant. And just as the original Ark was crafted from the finest and most precious of earthly materials, thus, the New Ark, of the New Covenant was to be far exceeding the old Ark, by the pure and sinless state of this perfect New Ark, crafted not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. Thus, that is why later on the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, and in turn the Dogma of the Assumption of Mary came to be formalised by the Church.

The Assumption is a logical outcome of the belief in the Immaculate Conception, again because death is the consequence for sin, and although every man has to suffer death because we have sinned, no matter how small our sins are, but Mary, having been conceived without sin, was never tainted or corrupted by sin at all, and therefore, logically death did not just have any power over her, but she should not suffer death because she never sinned in the first place.

There are two major schools of thought on what exactly happened in the Assumption of Mary into heaven, both with Mary ending up in the glory of Heaven, by the side of her Son, interceding for us as she is still doing to this day. One is that Mary did die, because she shared in the death of her Son, and not death because of the punishment or consequence for her sins, which did not exist. She loved her Son so much that she shared in her Son’s death, but her body did not rot or perish. Rather, she was put to sleep and then, body and soul, assumed into Heaven.

Another school of thought is that, Mary was directly assumed into Heaven, body and soul, without even passing through any form of death at all. But regardless of how exactly the Assumption of Mary happened, the fact is that Mary is now up there in Heaven, having been assumed body and soul, and reigning with her Son as the Queen Mother of Heaven, seated by her Son’s side as His confident and beloved Mother, and as our greatest intercessor.

Through Mary, His mother, the Lord wants to show us and affirm to us that faith in Him will only lead to an eternal glory and a new and eternal life, one that is free from the taints and shackles of sin and death. And through the Assumption, the Lord wants to show us the foretaste of heavenly glory for us, as it is told that in the end of days, all of us will be raised from death, and in body and soul, joining God in the eternity of glory, while those who reject God and His mercy, will be thrown, body and soul into eternal darkness and suffering.

Mary is the shining beacon of hope reminding us all what will happen to those who are virtuous and faithful, as Mary did not just merit this great honour because she is the Mother of God and conceived without sin, but because throughout life she remained free from sin, and completely dedicated to God because of the love she has for Him, obeying His Law, and later on, giving herself completely and committed herself to loving her Son, following Him all the way to the foot of the cross.

How about us, brothers and sisters in Christ? As I said earlier, God has shown us the sure promise of eternal life, a new life and existence no longer darkened by sin and suffering, filled with true and everlasting joy. However, all of these will only come to be when we follow the Lord and commit ourselves to Him wholeheartedly the way Mary has done in her own life. We can certainly do this if we strive and try our best, but the important question is, are we willing to do it?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we mark the Vigil beginning this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, let us all reinspect our lives and look deep into ourselves, into our every actions and how we have lived our faith life all these while. Let us all look forward with hope to our own future entry into the eternal life of glory with God, by taking the concrete steps to live righteously with faith in God just as Mary had done in her own life.

May the Lord be with us and guide us, and through Mary, His mother’s constant intercession and help, more and more of us, the children of mankind, may come closer to God and receive the love and grace of God, and come closer to achieving the desired reconciliation and reunion with God, by which we will forever enjoy the fullness of God’s love. O Mary, Holy Mother of God, assumed in glory, body and soul into Heaven, pray for all of us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, 15 August 2019 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together as a whole universal Church, the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Most holy Mother of God. On this day we commemorate the moment when Mary was raised to the glory of heaven, in body and soul, by the grace of her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. This Solemnity of the Assumption has its parallel in our Eastern Christian brethren in the Feast of the Dormition of the Blessed Virgin.

This Assumption of Mary into heaven refers therefore to the taking up of Mary, God’s own beloved mother, into heaven directly in the whole of her being, body and soul. There are those who according to the various traditions ascribed Mary having gone to ‘sleep’ and was reunited with her Son in the heavenly glory He has prepared for her, and also those who ascribed her disappearing from this world for she has been taken up body and soul into heaven.

But the key message and consideration in this great celebration of the Solemnity of the Assumption is the fact that Mary has been saved from death, unlike other men and women, all of us who have to face death at the appointed time, time which we will never know, a time of God’s choosing and will, the moment when we end our worldly existence and move on into the life that is to come and give an account of our life before God.

And death, as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in Corinth, is the sting of sin. It means that because of sin, which is itself caused by disobedience against the will of God and against His laws and commandments, have caused us to suffer the consequence that is death, the ending of our mortal and worldly existence in this world. That is just also because life is a gift from God to us, and sin makes us to be separated from God.

Thus, because of our sins, death is a natural consequence of our disobedience against God, and hence all of us are mortal, will eventually face death in the face. However, what if someone is so virtuous and great, and so pure and immaculate so as to be worthy of God and to escape death altogether? Is that possible, brothers and sisters in Christ? The Scripture provides us with an answer, in several individuals known to have been brought up to God without going through death.

First of all from the Book of Genesis we have Enoch, one of the early descendants of Adam who was described as a very virtuous and righteous person who is a friend of God, and after spending three hundred and sixty-five years in this world, was taken up to God’s side, and no longer walked on earth among men. And then we also heard of the prophet Elijah whom God took up into heaven on a flaming chariot in the Book of Kings.

And last and greatest of all, was Mary herself, who by Apostolic tradition of the Church, passed into the realm of eternal glory in the same manner, for among all men and women, surpassing all others, save that of her Son alone, she has been prepared and made worthy to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world and the Master of all the universe in her. And that is why Mary was assumed into heaven and celebrated today in this most Solemn feast of the Assumption.

For we heard in the Scripture reading for the Vigil Mass of the Assumption that the Ark of the Covenant was brought into the city of Jerusalem led by king David, the king of Israel. The Ark of the Covenant is the holiest object and the centre focus of all the whole nation of Israel, because in the Ark of the Covenant was contained the two tablets of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the rod of Aaron used by Moses during the Exodus and the manna, bread from heaven that God has given to His people during that time.

And God’s presence came down frequently on the Ark of the Covenant as mentioned in the Book of Exodus and the subsequent books mentioning about the moments when the Israelites journeyed through the desert on their way to the Promised Land. The Ark of the Covenant occupied the centre place in the entire community at the centre of the Holy Tent of Meeting, as the symbolic representation of God being present in the midst of His people.

That was why the Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, from gold and most precious wood and best of earthly matters available, to be the throne of God Himself on earth among His people. And in one incident just before the Ark was brought into the city of Jerusalem, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark during its transfer was struck dead because of the misdeed. All of these served to show just how sacred and great that Ark of the Covenant, the throne of God’s Holy Presence is.

Now, then, let us all compare that old Ark of the Covenant, made by human hands using the best materials that the world can provide, and containing the old Covenant and Law of God as revealed through Moses, with the New Covenant that Christ has brought with Himself into this world, the fullness of the truth of God as He Himself revealed, the fulfilment of the Law and the prophecies of the Lord.

And Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant just as Jesus Christ her Son, our Lord is the New Covenant between us and God. That is why the Church from the time of the Apostles has held and taught the core belief that Mary has always been pure and free from the state of original sin, by the grace of God. She is called the Immaculate Conception because she alone has received the grace to be free entirely from the corruption of sin, and she remained pure throughout her life.

As mentioned earlier, God has made her to be special because she is truly the New Ark of the Covenant which far surpassed the old Ark of the Covenant. Through her, the Lord and Saviour of this world Himself came into this world, Who spent nine months in her womb. If the old Ark contained the tablets of stone of the Law and the bread of manna, then in Mary, the New Ark of the Covenant, was the Law Himself, the complete fullness of the Law and the Bread of Life.

As such, Mary has to be pure and spotless, without the corruption of sin and immaculate, to be the bearer of God Himself in her. For Jesus Christ her Son is not just the Son of Man, but also the Son of God, having in Him the two natures of God and Man. If the old Ark of the Covenant was so sacred, then Mary must indeed be special and sacred as well. And thus, it has implication in what we are celebrating today, the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary.

That is because at the start of today’s discourse, we mention about death being the sting of sin, meaning that it is because of sin that we have to endure and experience death. But then, Mary is immaculate and free from the taint of original sin, as the Mother of God and the Ark of the New Covenant. How can she then suffer the consequence for sin when she herself was free from the taint of sin throughout her life?

And how can the mother of the Saviour of the world, Who came into this world to deliver us all from the tyranny of sin and death be subjected to the same suffering and the pain of death that her own Son has conquered and triumphed against by His victory on the Cross and His glorious Resurrection from the dead? That is why, we all believe firmly and fervently that Mary truly has been granted the grace by God to pass over death itself and hence was assumed body and soul directly into heaven without experiencing death.

Today, all of us ought to look upon Mary, and see in her the perfect example of who we all as Christians should be in our own lives. Mary has been the faithful servant all her life, not just because she has been set aside by God to be pure and immaculate, free from sin, but even throughout her life, she has loved the Lord so much, and loved her Son with all of her strength, that she continued to live in a state of grace throughout to the moment of the end of her earthly presence at the Assumption.

We see in Mary a reflection of our own glorified persons, as the sure promise of the Lord to us when we are faithful to Him that He will do with us as what He has done with His mother. He has promised us all that all of us who are faithful and worthy will be with Him for eternity, to enjoy forever the true happiness and joy in His presence, and Mary is showing us the way forward to reach this state of grace with her Son.

And she is constantly helping us in reaching out to her Son, by her constant prayers and intercessions for our sake. Now that she is in the glory of heaven by the side of her Son’s Throne, Mary is truly the greatest of all saints, the one who is nearest to Our Lord and Saviour, being concerned all the time for us. For we must not forget that from His Cross, Our Lord has symbolically entrusted Mary to be our mother too through His Apostle St. John, and also vice versa, all of us as her children.

Let us all therefore pray together, brothers and sisters in Christ, and ask Mary, the glorious Mother of God assumed into heaven, to intercede for our sake always before her Son’s Throne, that we may always be persistent and courageous in living our lives with faith. Let us all also follow the examples of Mary’s obedience and faith in God, and be ever closer to her Son through her. May all of us be filled with God’s grace and be worthy of His inheritance. Amen.

Sunday, 16 August 2015 : Twentieth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Stephen of Hungary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about Wisdom, how it calls upon the foolish and the unenlightened, so that they may abandon their foolishness and embrace true wisdom and understanding. And what is this Wisdom about? It is the wisdom which can come from God alone, the understanding of all things and whatever happens around us, and not the false wisdom of men, or the false wisdom of the world.

If we read the exhortation by St. Paul in his letter to the faithful and the Church in Ephesus, then we would realise what is the distinguishing factor between the wisdom and ways of the Lord, and ways and the wisdom of this world, of mankind. The wisdom of God is far better than the wisdom of men, and the ways of the Lord are far beyond what men know in what they do.

But we are often too proud of what we know to let go of our own selfishness and pride, pride in the wisdom which we thought would lead us to greatness, to fame, to affluence and to might. And yet, these lead us only into destruction and annihilation in the end. For we have gained knowledge and wisdom through disobedience and sin, by our ancestors who wrongly ate of the fruits of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Satan tempted us to find a shortcut in life, by tempting them with knowledge and power. He tempted them by saying that if they follow what he said, then they would become like God. And in their foolishness, they believed in Satan and forgot or placed aside the restriction and prohibition which God had put in place, ate from the tree of knowledge of good and evil, and once they found out what happened, they were ashamed and they felt guilty.

In the Gospel today, we heard about how the Jews doubted about what Jesus said about Himself, and they refused to believe that He could give His flesh for them to eat, and His blood for them to drink. To them, to have such a notion or idea was totally repulsive, and they could not comprehend what He meant when He said those words.

As a result, they abandoned Him, and many of the disciples of Jesus rejected and renounced Him after they heard this truth from Him. They might have thought of Him as a crazy Man who ranted on something that is both impossible and repulsive, but they did not know or understand, that it was their human wisdom and presumptive behaviour that had prevented them from seeing the truth in Christ.

It was also the same with the people of Nazareth, who had rejected Jesus when He came and proclaimed Himself before them, telling them who He was and what He was about to do in their midst. They did not believe in Him because they thought that they knew who He was, namely the humble Son of a mere village carpenter. They thought that it was impossible for a carpenter’s Son, and Jesus was likely a carpenter Himself, such a menial and thankless job to be able to bring about such things as Jesus Himself proclaimed.

In their hearts, they were blinded by hubris and pride, thinking of themselves as better than others. It is in our human nature to be competitive and critical of others, as our ego and pride often fill us up to the extent that we are unable to think with good reason, and then we commit things that are wicked in the sight of the Lord, and made a fool of ourselves, piling up one sin after another.

Today we are all reminded that we are mere mortals, and our knowledge of things in this world is not perfect and neither it is comprehensive. Our knowledge is flawed and imperfect, and what we know is often marred and corrupted by our desires, by the lies of Satan and the temptations he had given us through this world, and our pride and arrogance also often became our undoing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, shall we learn to be humble and to accept our weaknesses as a reality? Shall we all acknowledge how we can often be wrong in our own human wisdom and intellect, and how we can commit mistakes and faults if we depend only on our own power and intellect. And this include doubting the Lord who is Himself truly and really present in the Most Holy Eucharist.

There had been many people who doubted this, and they like the Jews did not and refused to believe that Jesus had given Himself, in the form of bread and wine transformed completely in matter and reality to be the Body and Blood of our Lord and Saviour. It was by this giving of the Body and Blood, willingly shed and given, that we have received a new hope from the Lord, the hope of a new and everlasting life, freed from sin and all of its snares, and where the true wisdom is revealed to us.

It may seem to be impossible for us that this happens, but we have to remember that nothing is truly impossible for our Lord, as everything that seem impossible for us, is possible for God. Remember that His ways are far beyond our worldly ways, and His wisdom is far greater than our human wisdom and intellect. It is therefore naive for us to think that we can try to explain what happened with our mere human wisdom and intellect alone, if we do not have the wisdom which our Lord had given to us.

Therefore, let us all today commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and throw far, far away hubris, pride and haughtiness from our hearts and minds, and humble ourselves before the Lord, He who knows everything, and everything inside our hearts and minds as well. Let us not put our trust in our own strength but give it all to the Lord our God, whose wisdom shall guide our path to righteousness.

May Almighty God, Holy Wisdom and the Truth, the Way and the Life be our guide always, and may He awaken in all of us the strong desire to love Him and to follow Him, walking in His ways and remain righteous and true to the end. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 15 August 2015 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, we celebrate a great feast of the Church. It is a special solemnity in honour of the Assumption of the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is none other than the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Assumption refers to the moment when Mary did not suffer earthly and bodily death, but was lifted up by the power of God, or assumed, into heaven, body and soul altogether.

This is a great occasion, which the Church and faithful had believed in for quite some time, even since the days of the early Church, when the tradition of the Apostles and the Church passed down through the ages told us about how the Blessed Virgin Mary spent the rest of her earthly life after the death and resurrection of Jesus her Son, and how she was assumed into heaven at the end of her worldly existence.

This belief in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is presented richly in the Scripture readings which we heard during the Vigil Mass and the Mass of the Day of this special solemnity. We heard a lot about the Ark of the Covenant, crafted at the time of Moses from precious ornaments and materials, in order to contain the Law of God, the two stones containing the Ten Commandments God had given to His people.

And how is it relevant to today’s celebrations and festivities? This is because while the old Ark of the Covenant has been lost, especially at the time when the First Temple of God built by Solomon was destroyed by the Babylonians during the fall of Jerusalem about five hundred and eighty-six years before the birth of Christ, we now have a new and everlasting Ark of the Covenant, that is no longer something perishable and destroyable by fire and by human means.

The old Ark of the Covenant contained the two stones of the Law of God, the Ten Commandments which represents the Law. And besides the two stones, it also contained the manna, the bread which kept the people of Israel alive during their time in the desert where there is no life, for over forty years during the entirety of their journey. And then last of all, it also contained the staff of Aaron, the staff of priesthood and authority as given by God.

Do you know that Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, our God, is the new Ark of the Covenant? We may not be able to notice this, but let me elaborate in a while. She is the new Ark of the Covenant, because firstly, she contained all of the same things that the old Ark had contained, but all were even far better than the original Ark.

For she bore within her, in her womb, the Lord God Himself, Jesus Christ, who is the Bread of Life, the High Priest and the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets of God. In Jesus all the things that were stored in the first Ark of the Covenant, were also present. And through this comparison, we can already see what the purpose of Jesus and His coming into the world were.

He came to bring life and care to His people, by shedding for them His own Body and Blood, offering it as a perfect offering and sacrifice to the Lord, as the atonement for all of our sins, as the High Priest for all of us mankind, and by doing this, He fulfilled perfectly what the Law had said, and which the Prophets had prophesied about. And He made a new Covenant with all of mankind, a new Covenant sealed with His own Blood.

And He came into this world, in a vessel great and far purer than any vessel that this earth could have given Him. For while the original Ark of the Covenant was made with pure gold and precious goods of the earth, the new Ark of the Covenant, that is Mary, the bearer of the new Covenant made in Jesus Christ, is pure, immaculate, both body and soul, free from the taint of sin, as God had intended her to be, and in her life, her actions were flawless.

This is why, as the mother of our Lord, the Master and Lord of all life, and One who has conquered death, Mary did not suffer death nor the consequences of sin, which had brought death upon all mankind. And it is therefore fitting for the mother of the Master of Life, the new Ark of the Covenant, to be spared from death which all of us mortals have to endure, as the consequence of our sins. This is firstly because she has no sin to begin with, set aside from the rest of mankind as the bearer of the Lord.

And then, as the mother of God, it is completely comprehensible that the Lord would not let death to claim her, for He Himself had conquered death. Thus, this is why, we believe in the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, as the symbol of triumph against death, as God Himself had prophesied at the beginning of time, when men first fall into sin.

The woman would crush the head of the serpent, and this is the triumph that man would bring to Satan and his forces, who have hounded us and endangered us for so long. This is the triumph against evil that God had promised us. Through Mary, we saw a great light and had hope once again. A world in darkness, a future of hopelessness, because of Mary who bear the new Covenant, the Promise of the Lord, had crushed forever our oppressor.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, however, one thing that we have to take note today is that all of us too, are in fact the Ark of the Covenant. Why is this so? That is because we have received the Lord into ourselves too! We who have received Him in the Eucharist, have the Lord Himself dwell inside us, because the bread we eat is His real Body, and the wine we drink, is the very Blood of our Lord Himself.

What is important for us to take note is that we have to be aware that just as the Ark of the Covenant was prepared with the best materials possible, and the new Ark, Mary, who bore our Lord in her womb, was prepared immaculate, holy and perfect, we too have to do the same with our own Ark, which is our body, our heart and our soul. Otherwise, truly we have sinned and blasphemed against our Lord.

Remember that St. Paul reminded us in his letter to the Church and the faithful in Corinth that we are all the Temple of the Holy Spirit? That mean we have been made the Temple of the Holy Presence of God Himself. And if we defile the sacredness and the sanctity of this Temple, then truly, we would make ourselves unworthy of our Lord and condemn ourselves to the eternity of suffering in hell.

Therefore, today, all of us ought to leave the Mass knowing that we all have been challenged, so that we can take note of our own words, actions and deeds, so that in all things we do and say, we can try to achieve and maintain the sanctity of our lives, our body, heart and soul. This is what we need to do, and what we can do, in order to keep ourselves worthy of our Lord, who does not tolerate sin, and yet He gives us chance after chance, for He is loving and merciful.

May Almighty God, and His mother, the Blessed Virgin assumed into heaven, body and soul, continue to be with us, and help to guide us, that we may find our way to Him, and so that we can keep ourselves holy and worthy, so that at the end of the day, we will be worthy of the eternal inheritance promised to us, God bless us all. Amen.