Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have listened to the words of the Scriptures, reminding us of the calling for each one of us to remain firmly faithful to the path that the Lord has shown before us, for we have been shown the salvation in our Lord, Jesus Christ, the Saviour of all and we have also received the gift of the Holy Spirit and the Wisdom from God. Through all of these we are all called and reminded to walk in the path of God’s Light and resist the temptations of the world that will definitely become great obstacles in our path towards God’s grace and salvation. But if we persevere and remain faithful in Him, God will strengthen us and help us in our journey, and as long as we remain in His grace, we shall be empowered and kept in the path that He has shown us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. John regarding the love of God which had been manifested before all of us in the person of Jesus Christ, the Lord and Saviour of all the whole world. But at the same time, we also heard from the same passage a reminder and warning from the Apostle of those who sought to twist and subvert the message of truth, those false prophets and leaders, who did not remain in God’s path. St. John told all the faithful to keep faithfully the commandments of God, all the Law and the things which they had received from God, that they should remain dedicated to the Lord and everything that He has told them to do. He reminded them that Christ is far greater than everything that those false prophets and leaders had presented to them, the world, the evil one and anything that do not lead to the Holy Presence of God.

St. John told the people of God that they have to be vigilant and only listen to the words snd guidance of the true spirit of God, and not the false spirits and the evils that can mislead them down the wrong paths. The spirit of God shows the path towards the one true Saviour, and the path of righteousness and justice. The Spirit of God will lead the faithful towards Christ, while the false and evil spirits will lead the people towards their downfall and destruction, rejecting the salvation in Christ for false pleasures and joys of the world. Unfortunately, at that time, quite a few among the people of God were tempted away from the path of God’s grace and salvation, and fell into the wrong paths, leading down to damnation. There were indeed a lot of those parties seeking the ruination of the souls of mankind, back then and up till today.

In our Gospel today, we heard of the Lord’s works among His people after the arrest and death of St. John the Baptist, as He went from place to place, in Galilee and other places often considered then as the peripheries of the Jewish community and homeland. He visited those who had been without hope, ostracised and hated by others because of their sickness, their way of life and attitudes, healed them and restored them once again to life. The Lord gave them all the Light of His hope and showed them the path towards His grace and eternal life. He showed the face of God’s love, which became accessible and tangible for us, and the Apostles and many of the disciples who have experienced the same love of God in person, transmitted and passed down this same truth to us through the Church.

And through the Holy Spirit that the Church has been given, coming down upon us all at Pentecost, and passed down to us, through the Sacraments of Baptism and Confirmation, we too have received the same knowledge and Wisdom of God’s love and most wonderful grace. God has shown us His guidance and help throughout our journey of faith in life, and as long as we remain true and faithful to Him, not being easily swayed or tempted by the persuasions and temptations of the world. We shall remain firmly on the path towards His salvation and grace as long as we keep our focus on Him and not be easily distracted by the many false leads and guidance, and resisting the allures of the lies and the false pleasures of the world that the false prophets and messengers brought upon our midst.

Not only that but we also have the inspiration and examples from the saints, our holy predecessors, men and women who had dedicated their lives to the Lord and showed us all the right way going forward. Today, we celebrate the feast of one of those great saints, namely that of St. Raymond of Penyafort or St. Raymond of Penafort. He was a priest and member of the Dominican Order noted for his great holiness and hard work in evangelisation towards those who have veered off from their righteous path, including that of the King of Aragon, James I, to whom he was a confessor of. St. Raymond disapproved of the actions of the king, who kept a mistress and concubine despite being married in the eyes of the Lord and His Church. And when the king persecuted and disagreed with him, and tried to prevent him from leaving the island he was in, he performed a great miracle as he rode on his cloak on the water to reach Barcelona, where the court of the king was at, in the company of his fellow Dominicans.

Many people witnessed that occasion, the great miracle performed by St. Raymond, and became believers. That also included the king himself, who immediately set himself on the right path, ceasing his previous scandalous and wicked attitudes, and embracing the Lord wholeheartedly from then on. St. Raymond also performed other miracles and wonders, and also committed his work in the field of philosophy and theology, and in the reforms of the Church and other institutions both religious and secular in his role as confessor to the king and in his other responsibilities. St. Raymond of Penyafort always devoted his time and effort to glorify God and spared no expense in doing whatever he could to reach out to more of the people of God, helping to lead them all to the right path towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the good examples set by St. Raymond of Penyafort, in his life and works, in all of the efforts he had done to glorify the Lord and in leading more of his fellow brethren to God’s path and salvation. Let us do our best to follow the Lord and commit ourselves to the same path as well. May the Lord continue to strengthen us in our desire to serve Him and to love Him, and may He empower us all in our journey of faith through life so that we may always remain firmly faithful to Him, guided by the Wisdom of the Holy Spirit and by our firm faith, love and devotion towards God. Amen.

Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 4 : 12-17, 23-25

When Jesus heard that John had been arrested, He withdrew into Galilee. He left Nazareth and went to live in Capernaum, a town by the lake of Galilee, at the border of Zebulun and Naphtali.

In this way the word of the prophet Isaiah was fulfilled : Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, crossed by the Road of the Sea, and you who live beyond the Jordan, Galilee, land of pagans : The people who lived in darkness have seen a great Light; on those who live in the land of the shadow of death, a Light has shone.

From that time on, Jesus began to proclaim His message, “Change your ways : the kingdom of heaven is near.” Jesus went around all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom, and curing all kinds of sickness and disease among the people.

The news about Him spread through the whole of Syria, and the people brought all their sick to Him, and all those who suffered : the possessed, the deranged, the paralysed, and He healed them all. Large crowds followed Him from Galilee and the Ten Cities, from Jerusalem, Judea and from across the Jordan.

Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 2 : 7-8, 10-11

I will proclaim the decree of the Lord. He said to Me : “You are My Son. This day I have begotten You. Ask of Me and I will give You the nations for Your inheritance, the ends of the earth for Your possession.”

Now therefore, learn wisdom, o kings; be warned, o rulers of the earth. Serve the Lord with fear and fall at His feet; lest He be angry and you perish when His anger suddenly flares. Blessed are all who take refuge in Him!

Saturday, 7 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Raymond of Penyafort, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 3 : 22 – 1 John 4 : 6

Then whatever we ask we shall receive, since we keep His commands and do what pleases Him. His command is that we believe in the Name of His Son Jesus Christ and that we love one another, as He has commanded us. Whoever keeps His commands remains in God and God in him. It is by the Spirit God has given us that we know He lives in us.

My beloved, do not trust every inspiration. Test the spirits to see whether they come from God, because many false prophets are now in the world. How will you recognise the Spirit of God? Any spirit recognising Jesus as the Christ Who has taken our flesh is of God. But any spirit that does not recognise Jesus is not from God, it is the spirit of the antichrist. You have heard of his coming and even now he is in the world.

You, my dear children, are of God and you have already overcome these people, because the One Who is in you is more powerful than he who is in the world. They are of the world and the world inspires them and those of the world listen to them. We are of God and those who know God listen to us, but those who are not of God ignore us. This is how we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error as well.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded yet again of the Salvation which God has brought into our midst, through the Incarnation of His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ. By the Incarnation of the Divine Word of God made flesh, and born into this world through His mother Mary, which we are still celebrating as we are still in the midst this Christmas season, we have received the assurance of eternal life and joy if we keep up our faith and trust in Him, Our Lord and Saviour. And we heard from the passages of the Scriptures of the proof of the fulfilment of God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, by the testimony of Blood, Water and Spirit. All of these testimonies pointed out that Jesus Christ is indeed the One sent by God to redeem us all.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle, we heard of the Apostle mentioning those testimonies of Blood, Water and Spirit by which the salvation in Jesus Christ was proven true and legitimate, and has become therefore the source of life and joy for countless people throughout the generations. What does these testimonies refer to? They can refer to many things that have happened throughout the Lord’s earthly ministry and mission that proclaimed Him as the true Messiah and Saviour of all mankind. Blood and water for example came forth from the side of the Lord when a Roman soldier, traditionally known as St. Longinus, pierced His side. The blood and water that came out from the Lord’s side became the source of purification and cleansing of our sins, just as we have been purchased by His Precious Blood and washed clean in this same Blood. St. Longinus himself, as the Scriptures described, became a believer because of this.

When St. Longinus pierced the Lord’s side, it was an action designed by professional soldiers and executioners to check if the criminal being sentenced to death had died or not. The spear pierced the Lord’s Heart through His side, and when blood and water came out, it is a proof that the person had died. Therefore through this testimony of Blood and water, we have seen that Christ truly died on the Cross, and His sacrifice had been perfectly and completely offered and given to God for our salvation. He truly died on the Cross and His sacrifice was not just symbolic or an illusion as some others had believed. This testimony proved to all of us that Christ is truly the Suffering Servant Whom God would send to His people to redeem them, by His sufferings and death, as spoken by the prophet Isaiah.

The testimony of Blood is also referred to in a way in one our two possible choices for the Gospel passages today, which detailed the full genealogy of the Lord Jesus from the time of Adam, through Abraham and then David, as the descendant of Man, from the very first one who fell into sin, that is Adam, and then to the one with whom God had made His first Covenant, that is Abraham, and finally to the one whom God had made to be King over all of Israel, and promised that his house and reign will last forever. Through this descent of bloodline from Adam, passing through both St. Joseph and Mary, as according to tradition, Mary herself was also born through the house of David, hence, God proved His promises to all of us, through His Incarnation and birth as the Son and Heir of David, and the Saviour of all mankind.

Lastly, through the testimonies provided at the moment when St. John the Baptist baptised the Lord Jesus at the River Jordan, which is contained in the other possible Gospel passage for today, we heard of the words of the Lord Himself affirming that Jesus is truly the Son of God, the One sent into this world to save it, and the Holy Spirit descended like a Dove to rest on the Head of the Lord, revealing to St. John and anyone who witnessed the occasion, that the Lord Jesus was not just merely an ordinary Man, but He is the Lord God Himself, the Divine Word Incarnate, affirmed by the Father from Heaven through His voice, and also by the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God that descended upon Him, the Son of God born to be the Saviour of all. Through all these testimonies presented to us, we should indeed have firm faith that Jesus Christ is Our Lord and Saviour.

Unfortunately, in our world today, many of us, even amongst Christians, we all tend to carry on with our lives without regards for the Lord, and many of us sidelined Him, ignored Him and refused to walk in His path. Even in our Christmas celebrations and festivities, we have been so distracted by worldly matters and pleasures that we ended up forgetting Him in our Christmas joy and celebrations. And now that to much of the world, the time of Christmas has passed, Christ has been forgotten and sidelined even more. Yet, we must not forget that Christmas is still ongoing and we are still well within the Christmas season. As Christians, how does that translate in our lives? How does that show in our actions and way of celebrating Christmas?

That is why we should refocus our attention on the Lord and reorientate ourselves and our lives upon Him as the centre and focus of our lives and existence. In our current celebrations of the remaining time and season of Christmas, let us all return to the roots of the joy of this Christmas season. Let us all hence turn towards God with renewed faith and commitment from now on that we may indeed grow ever closer to Him and that we may redirect and realign our lives that we may truly be devoted Christians, in all things and in loving God and our fellow brothers and sisters. Because Christ has shown us all God’s most generous love, let us all show love in our every actions, works and deeds as well, in every opportunities provided to us.

May the Lord, our most loving and compassionate God, Who has sent us Christ to be our Saviour and Redeemer, continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life. May He bless us in our every good works and endeavours, for His greater glory and for the salvation of many more souls in this world. May all of us be good role models and examples to each other, in being best examples of faith and commitment to God, at all times. Amen.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 1 : 7-11

John preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

At that time Jesus came from Nazareth, a town of Galilee, and was baptised by John in the Jordan. And the moment He came up out of the water, heaven opened up before Him, and He saw the Spirit coming down on Him like a dove. And these words were heard from heaven, “You are My Son, the Beloved, the One I have chosen.”

Alternative reading

Luke 3 : 23-38

When Jesus made His appearance, He had reached the age of thirty years. He was known as the Son of Joseph, whose father and forefathers were : Heli, Matthat, Levi, Melchi, Jannai, Joseph, Matthathias, Amos, Nahum, Esli, Naggai, Maath, Mattathias, Semein, Josech, Joda, Joanan, Rhesa, Zerubbabel, Shealtiel, Neri, Melchi, Addi, Cosam, Elmadam, Er, Joshua, Eliezer, Jorim, Matthat, Levi, Simeon, Judah, Joseph, Jonam, Eliakim, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahson, Amminadab, Adnim, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Serug, Reu, Peleg, Eber, Shelah, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Methuselah, Enoch, Jared, Malaleel, Cainan, Enos, Seth and Adam – who was from God.

Alternative reading (shorter version)

Luke 3 : 23, 31-34, 36, 38

When Jesus made His appearance, He had reached the age of thirty years. He was known as the Son of Joseph, whose father and forefathers were : Heli, Melea, Menna, Mattatha, Nathan, David, Jesse, Obed, Boaz, Salmon, Nahson, Amminadab, Adnim, Arni, Hezron, Perez, Judah, Jacob, Isaac, Abraham, Terah, Nahor, Cainan, Arphaxad, Shem, Noah, Lamech, Enos, Seth and Adam – who was from God.

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 147 : 12-13, 14-15, 19-20

Exalt YHVH, o Jerusalem; praise your God, o Zion! For He strengthens the bars of your gates and blesses your children within you.

He grants peace on your borders and feeds you with the finest grain. He sends His command to the earth and swiftly runs His word.

It is He, Who tells Jacob His words; His laws and decrees, to Israel. This, He has not done for other nations, so His laws remain unknown to them. Alleluia!

Friday, 6 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 5 : 5-13

Who has overcome the world? The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus Christ was acknowledged through water, but also through Blood. Not only water but water and Blood. And the Spirit, too, witnesses to Him for the Spirit is truth.

There are then three testimonies : the Spirit, the water and the Blood, and these three witnesses agree. If we accept human testimony, with greater reason must we accept that of God, given in favour of His Son. If you believe in the Son of God, you have God’s testimony in you.

But those who do not believe make God a liar, since they do not believe His words when He witnesses to His Son. What has God said? That He has granted us eternal life and this life is in His Son. The one who has the Son has life, the one who do not have the Son of God do not have life.

I write you, then, all these things that you may know that you have eternal life, all you who believe in the Name of the Son of God.

Thursday, 5 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to keep in mind that as the followers and disciples of the Lord, we must always be righteous and just, loving and compassionate just as Our Lord Himself has shown and taught us all how we ought to love, loving both God and one another with genuine and tender love. We have to be filled with love because to be Christians is indeed to love, both of God and one another, just as much as we love ourselves. Without love we cannot truly call ourselves as Christians, or as disciples and followers of the Lord, because the Lord’s actions, everything that He has done for us, all of them were done because of His ever enduring and great love for each one of us.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Epistle of St. John the Apostle to the faithful people of God in which the Apostle exhorted and reminded all the people of God of their obligation to love and to practice love in their lives, so that they can indeed show that they belong to Christ, and are worthy to call themselves as Christians. If Christians do not practice love and instead cause hurt and harm to each other, then they are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers. St. John told the people of God not to follow the example of Cain who killed his brother out of jealousy, as a reminder that as Christians, all of us are brothers and sisters to one another, and we cannot look upon others with hatred or mischief in our hearts and minds, or else, we cannot call ourselves as Christians or followers and disciples of Christ.

Why is that so? That is because the Lord Himself has shown us the perfect and pure love that He has always had for us. By His coming into this world He has shown us the love of God manifested through Himself, His actions and works in our midst. He touched us and healed us, as He has shown us by His healing of all those who were sick and brought to Him, and even those who died, He had raised from the dead. Through the most generous and enduring love of God, Christ has also shown us the most perfect and ultimate love as He bore His Cross, taking up all of our sins and wickedness, our faults and troubles, all upon His own shoulders, and bore it all up to Calvary. He chose to suffer and die for us to show us that we are truly beloved by God, from the very beginning, and that love endures even through our many sins and wickedness.

Through His obedience to His heavenly Father, Christ showed all of us how we can and should love our God, with all of our hearts and might, with all of our capacities and strength. And then by His love for each one of us that He has shown from His Cross, the perfect love which surpasses even the power of sin and death. He has shown us just how love can conquer the separation caused by our disobedience, and the Incarnation of the Lord made all of these possible, as He offered Himself as the perfect offering and sacrifice of love, to administer upon us God’s healing and grace, His forgiveness and love, in atonement for our many and innumerable sins. Through His obedience and love for His people, all of us, God had delivered unto us this perfect gift of love, as examples for us to follow.

As Christians, we have to believe in the Lord and all that He has shown and taught us, much as how in the Gospel passage today we heard the Lord convincing Nathanael, one of his Apostles whom He called from among the people. Nathanael was also often known as Bartholomew, one of the Twelve, who was a learned man and an intellectual, who knew the Prophets and the Law well. Initially he was skeptical about the Lord, as he thought that the Messiah could not have come from Nazareth, but he was convinced by the Lord, His wisdom, sincerity and love, to follow Him and become one of His devoted disciples. How about us then, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we going to follow the Lord in the same way as well? Or are we going to continue walking down the path of ignorance and separation from the Lord?

If we want to walk faithfully in the path that the Lord has provided for us, then we have to follow His good examples, and also all those who have walked in His path, like that of the Apostles, the innumerable saints and martyrs of the Church. All of them share the same trait that each one of them loved the Lord and placed Him at the centre and as the focus of their lives and existence. Hence we too should put the Lord first and foremost in our lives and strive to fill ourselves with the same love that God has given us, in both loving Him and loving our fellow brothers and sisters all around us in this world. That is what the Lord has told us to do, that is to love one another just as we love ourselves, and to show that genuine love and care, even for those who do not love us back.

Are we able to do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? Can we carry out our lives with love and do whatever we can to love God and to love our neighbours, our fellow men and women with great sincerity and generosity? Let us all discern our path forward in life with the attention to love and to immerse ourselves in the path of God’s love and grace from now on. Let us distance ourselves from all sorts of things and temptations that often mislead us down the wrong path in life, and strive to resist those temptations, and all the pressures for us to love ourselves and be selfish over our calling to love God first and foremost in our lives, and also to love our fellow brothers and sisters, at all possible opportunities.

May the Lord our God continue to guide us with His love and kindness, and keep on blessing us and helping us to get ever closer to Him, with each and every passing days. May He continue to love us and to strengthen us in our journey of life, that we may persevere and grow ever more resilient and more courageous in standing up for our faith in our every moments of life. May God bless our every efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 5 January 2023 : Weekday of Christmas Time (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 43-51

The next day, Jesus decided to set off for Galilee. He found Philip and said to him, “Follow Me.” Philip was from Bethsaida, the town of Andrew and Peter. Philip found Nathanael and said to him, “We have found the One that Moses wrote about in the Law, and the prophets as well; He is Jesus, Son of Joseph, from Nazareth.”

Nathanael replied, “Can anything good come from Nazareth?” Philip said to him, “Come and see.” When Jesus saw Nathanael coming, He said of him, “Here comes an Israelite, a true one; there is nothing false in him.” Nathanael asked Him, “How do You know me?” And Jesus said to him, “Before Philip called you, you were under the fig tree, and I saw you.”

Nathanael answered, “Master, You are the Son of God! You are the King of Israel!” But Jesus replied, “You believe because I said, ‘I saw you under the fig tree.’ But you will see greater things than that. Truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened, and the Angels of God ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.”