Saturday, 30 December 2017 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the exhortation by the Apostle St. John in his Epistle, our first reading today, in which he called on all of us to love God and not the things of this world. He mentioned how those who love the things of this world, its glamour, pleasures, joys, in all the temptations and desires, are not doing what God wants from us.

St. John reminds each one of us, that we must not be distracted by all those things, by the temptation of money, the temptation of the pleasures of the flesh, the temptation of glory and human approval, and many others. Yet, many of us have forgotten that the true goal and desire of our lives should indeed be the Lord, Our God. Yes, that is why all of us must be vigilant against the temptations that will come our way.

We should look at our Gospel passage today, which is a continuation of yesterday’s passage, about the time when the Lord Jesus, as a Baby, newly born, was brought by His mother Mary and His foster father St. Joseph to the Temple of Jerusalem to be presented to the Lord, in accordance to the laws of Moses. There were two people whom they encountered that day in the Temple, one was Simeon, who foretold the fate of the Baby as the Saviour of the world, and Anna the prophetess, as told in the Gospel passage today.

Both of them were so joyful because they were able to finally see the Messiah after awaiting Him for a very long time. God has promised them that they would be privileged to be able to lay their eyes on Him, while many other prophets, kings and people have not been given such a privilege. Many of them have long awaited the coming of the Lord’s salvation, and they did not live to see the day of its coming.

How is this significant for us, brothers and sisters? It is exactly the joy which these two faithful servants of God had shown, the exhilaration of welcoming the Lord into their midst, that is sadly absent in many of us. First of all, how many of us have gotten over Christmas and continued in our daily business and usual habits? We have indulged ourselves in merrymaking and partying during Christmas, but do we know what it is that we are celebrating about?

In fact, the Christmas season is still ongoing, for another week or so, until the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord. And Christmas should always be with us, for we rejoice in Christmas because of none other than the wondrous works of Our Lord and Saviour, Who was born into this world and celebrated on Christmas season. Our joy should be like that of Simeon and Anna, who cheered and were jubilant because of the love which God has shown them through the Saviour, Jesus Christ.

Let us all now reflect on each of our own individual lives. How many of us place the Lord at the centre and as the focus of our lives? How many of us prioritise Him over our worldly dealings, ambitions and all other distractions and temptations of this life? And if our response to all of these questions is that we have not been prioritising God over other things, then we have to ask ourselves, what is God really to us?

Is He someone we just turn to and remember when we are in difficulty and in need? Is He someone Whom we just forget and ignore when we have gotten what we need and are distracted by the many worldly concerns? If we think of God in this way, then perhaps we need to reevaluate our opinion of Him, and rediscover Who God truly is.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all commit ourselves anew to the Lord, and seek Him with all of our hearts’ strength, with all of our minds and focus. Let us all rediscover the true joy of our hearts, that is also the true joy of Christmas, none other than the Lord Jesus, Who have chosen to come and dwell with us, that we may come to know Him personally.

May the Lord be with us always, journeying with us, so that eventually we may find our way to Him and His salvation, that we may be reunited with Him and live happily with Him forever after. May God bless us always, and be with all of our endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 30 December 2017 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 36-40

There was also a prophetess named Anna, daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Asher. After leaving her father’s home, she had been seven years with her husband, and since then she had been continually about the Temple, serving God as a widow night and day in fasting and prayer. She was now eighty-four. Coming up at that time, she gave praise to God, and spoke of the Child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.

When the parents had fulfilled all that was required by the law of the Lord, they returned to their town, Nazareth in Galilee. There the Child grew in stature and strength, and was filled with wisdom: the grace of God was upon Him.

Saturday, 30 December 2017 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10

Give to YHVH, you families of nations, give to YHVH glory and strength. Give to YHVH the glory due His Name.

Bring gifts and enter His courts. Worship YHVH with holy celebrations; stand in awe of Him, all the earth.

Say among the nations, “YHVH reigns!” He will judge the peoples with justice.

Saturday, 30 December 2017 : Sixth Day within Octave of Christmas (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 12-17

My dear children, I write this to you : you have already received the forgiveness of your sins, through the Name of Jesus. Fathers, I write this to you : you know Him, Who is from the beginning. Young men, I write this to you : you have overcome the evil one. My dear children, I write to you, because you already know the Father.

Fathers, I write to you, because you know Him, Who is from the beginning. Young men, I write to you, because you are strong, and the Word of God lives in you, who have, indeed, overcome the evil one. Do not love the world, or what is in it. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world – the craving of the flesh, the greed of eyes and people boasting of their superiority – all this, belongs to the world, not to the Father.

The world passes away, with all its craving, but those who do the will of God remain for ever.

Friday, 29 December 2017 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day from the first reading taken from the Epistle of St. John, we listened to the exhortation made by St. John to the people, about the matter of obedience to God’s laws and commandments. All of us must believe in God’s commandments and obey Him if we are to be truly belonging to Him, and if we want to call ourselves as true Christians.

We cannot consider ourselves to be devoted to God on one hand, and then on the other hand, perform actions and deeds that are contrary to God’s laws and commandments. If we do such a thing, basically what we have done is an utter disgrace and scandal upon our faith, as well as a wicked thing in the eyes of the Lord. St. John himself did not mince his words in the passage today, as he said that those who did not follow God’s laws and yet claim to be His disciple is a liar.

In the Gospel passage today, we then listen to another reading, from an account of the moment when Our Lord Jesus was presented as a Baby eight day after He was born in Bethlehem, at the Temple of Jerusalem, in accordance with the laws which God had revealed to His people through His servant Moses, that all the firstborn sons of Israel ought to be presented and offered to Him to be consecrated to God.

Mary and Joseph obeyed the law faithfully and presented the Baby Jesus as prescribed by the law. There they met Simeon, an old man who was renowned for his faith in God, and who then told Mary about the fate that awaited her as well as her Son Jesus. God told Simeon that he would not die until he gazed his eyes on the Saviour of the world, the Messiah, and so he did. And as we heard in the Gospel today, Simeon revealed a prophecy to Mary.

Simeon told her that the Baby would become a Sign to Israel, and indeed, the Sign of God’s salvation, for it was through Him that mankind has been saved from sin and death, because of the loving and ultimate sacrifice He made on the cross at Calvary. And at the same time, Simeon gave Mary a premonition to Mary, about her own great sorrow because of what was to happen to her Son.

He said to her that a sword would pierce her own heart, which is a figurative and symbolic way of representing the great sorrow which Mary experienced at the moment of the suffering and the crucifixion of her Son, Jesus Christ, as He went through His Passion. And as a loving mother who loved her Son greatly, it must have been very painful for her to witness what was happening to Him on the cross.

And yet, all of us should follow the example of Our Lord Jesus, Mary His mother and Joseph, His foster father, the Holy Family, as we link it back to what we have heard in the first reading today. All of them are the epitome and best examples of faith and obedience to God, as Jesus was obedient to His Father’s will, and obeyed Him even to the point of accepting death on the cross.

For Mary, she obeyed the Lord and followed His will, even though she knew that she would have to go through a lot of difficult hardships and challenges, she had to encounter many obstacles, and she had to see her Son being rejected by the very people He was sent to save. She had to witness Him being persecuted and tortured, and eventually die a most painful death on the cross. Yet, she remained faithful, all the way, and yes, all the way to the foot of the cross.

And Joseph also faithfully devoted himself to protect the Holy Family, bringing the Baby Jesus and Mary to Egypt for exile when king Herod wanted Him dead. He brought them back to Nazareth when it was safe, and helped to bring up Jesus and guide Him during His younger years, as a loving father, even though Jesus was not his biological Son.

We can see the great faith and dedication in the members of the Holy Family. And today, we celebrate yet another saint and servant of God, whose faith and dedication to the Lord led to his brave defense of the faith and holy martyrdom in that same faith, refusing to disobey the Lord and betray Him. He is St. Thomas Becket of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury who lived and reigned as Archbishop approximately eight centuries ago.

St. Thomas Becket was the Chancellor to the King of England, king Henry II. King Henry appointed St. Thomas Becket as Archbishop of Canterbury, as the leader and Primate of All England, hoping that by doing so, he would be able to control the Church in his dominions and bend it to his will, as St. Thomas Becket was his good friend and also his close confidant.

However, St. Thomas Becket had a renewal of heart and he was called by God to a greater purpose. He turned his life around and abandoning all of his former wicked lifestyle, he began to walk faithfully in God’s path from then on. In the end, he had to stand up against the king and his nobles who were increasingly manipulative and hostile to the works of the Church.

St. Thomas Becket refused to give in to the demands of the king, and when a nobleman killed a priest of the Church, St. Thomas Becket excommunicated the nobleman even when the king showed his great displeasure and anger at this action. In the end, the king called for his removal, and some of his noblemen went to St. Thomas Becket in his Cathedral, and murdered him in cold blood.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all those servants of God, the members of the Holy Family, Our Lord Jesus Himself have shown us how we ought to be faithful to God’s laws and commandments, and we must not allow worldly temptations and desires to distract and lead us astray. We should be faithful and be courageous in our faith, and live in accordance with God’s ways from now on, if we have not done so yet.

May the Lord bless all of us and may He strengthen us in our faith, that we may always walk in the footsteps of His faithful servants, and in the path set by His own Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. May God be with us always, now and forever. Amen.

Friday, 29 December 2017 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”

Friday, 29 December 2017 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2a, 2b-3, 5b-6

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name.

Proclaim His salvation day after day. Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds.

YHVH is the One Who made the heavens. Splendour and majesty go before Him; power and glory fill His sanctuary.