Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He 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.”

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Peter 3 : 8-14

Do not forget, beloved, that with the Lord, one day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years is like one day. The Lord does not delay in fulfilling His promise, though some speak of delay; rather, He gives you time, because He does not want anyone to perish, but that all may come to conversion.

The Day of the Lord is to come like a thief. Then, the heavens will dissolve with a great noise; the elements will melt away by fire, and the earth, with all that is on it, will be burnt up. Since all things are to vanish, how holy and religious your way of life must be, as you wait for the day of God, and long for its coming, when the heavens will dissolve in fire, and the elements melt away in the heat.

We wait for a new heaven and a new earth, in which justice reigns, according to God’s promise. Therefore, beloved, as you wait in expectation of this, strive, that God may find you rooted in peace, without blemish or fault.

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 40 : 1-5, 9-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Saturday, 5 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all constantly being reminded again and again of the Lord’s love and kindness, His care and compassion towards us. As we journey through this season of Advent, we are all being called to redirect our focus and attention all towards the Lord and to reorientate our lives such that we live it with greater awareness of God’s presence in our lives and of what we need to do as Christians in our daily living.

In our first reading today, a continuation of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah as we have listened throughout most of this week, again we heard of the Lord’s many promises that He would bring His people out of their misery and suffering, their humiliation and terrible state. He would liberate them and bless them wonderfully once again, where they shall enjoy the bountiful fruits of God’s love in its fullness forevermore.

These promises and prophecies were significant as by the time of the prophet Isaiah and the prophecies he spoke of, the people of God, both in the northern kingdom of Israel and in the southern kingdom of Judah had endured centuries of troubles, conflict, humiliation and challenges. Not long before the prophet Isaiah’s time, the northern kingdom of Israel was thoroughly destroyed after having been attacked and degraded many times in the previous decades. The Assyrians who conquered the land destroyed the cities and brought most of the people off into exile in far-off lands.

Meanwhile, in the southern kingdom of Judah itself which had been gradually weakened over the previous centuries, the nation itself had been weakening further and been humiliated. At that same time, probably around the time when Isaiah spoke of his prophecy, the Babylonians had just laid waste to the lands of Judah and came to besiege Jerusalem, uttering insults on God and the king of Judah. Judah and Jerusalem came close to be conquered and destroyed just as the northern kingdom had suffered just decades before.

But that was where God revealed His great might and His enduring love for His people. Despite their sins and disobedience, their refusal to obey the Lord’s will and commandments, God still loved His people nonetheless. That was why He intervened and crushed the armies of the Babylonians and made them and their king to leave and return back to their homes in shame. And thus, the prophecies of Isaiah were indeed a further reinforcement and reminder to the people of God that the Lord was with them and was always by their side.

We heard also in our Gospel passage today of the Lord Jesus and His works among the people, how He took pity on His people, loving them and caring for their sick, healing many among them miraculously, and many of those who once had no hope and despaired, were restored through the hands of God. And He also sent out His disciples and followers to go before Him and to proclaim the Good News of God’s salvation, with the same power of healing and exorcism of demons and evil spirits among others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard all of these from the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded how this Advent we are expecting the Lord’s coming with joy, remembering firstly what He had done when He first came in the flesh, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. But even more so, we also wait in expectation of His second coming, when He shall fulfil all of His promises perfectly and completely, fulfilling completely the prophecies of Isaiah and the other prophets, the ushering of the time of eternal grace and joy for all the faithful ones of God.

In the meantime, we are all called to make ourselves holy and just, righteous and worthy of God through our actions, as well as through our strong relationship with God. That is why this season of Advent is a good time to remind us of our calling and obligations as Christians, that is to dedicate ourselves and our lives to God to the best of our abilities. Are we able and willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all look forward with anticipation and hope towards the Lord and all the true joy and the eternal life which He has promised us all His faithful ones. Let us all do our very best to remain faithful to Him, and prepare ourselves wholly to be able to celebrate the joy of Christmas with Christ, Our Lord, at the centre and as the sole focus of our joy and celebrations. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He strengthen us in our faith. Amen.

Saturday, 5 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 5a, 6-8

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Saturday, 5 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting, to praise Him! YHVH rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great, and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. YHVH lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Saturday, 5 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, He will listen; when He hears, He will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, He, your Teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see Him, and your ear will listen to His words behind you : “This is the way, walk in it.”

He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when YHVH binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruises inflicted by His blows.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that God will be our Redeemer and He will liberate us from all of our trials and troubles. He is our Hope and the Light that will lead us the way out from the darkness. The Lord is what we should be focusing on, and we should dedicate ourselves to Him just as He has dedicated Himself to us and loved us so much, all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, of the prophecy about the Lord’s salvation, the coming of the time of His glorious days when He will bring forth all that He has promised to us, His beloved people. In that prophecy, the Lord promised that He will lead His people from their predicament, from their fallen state and from their wretched existence.

Hence, with all these prophecies, from Isaiah and the other prophets, the people of Israel, who had faced lots of trials and tribulations, challenges and troubles, they truly looked forward to the coming of the salvation of God, in the Messiah or Saviour that the Lord had promised to them. They have all suffered and endured much humiliation because of their own sins and disobedience, and therefore, they yearned and longed for that liberation.

This then relates to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the account of the Lord’s healing of the two blind men whom He encountered during His ministry. Those two blind men sought for the Lord and begged Him to heal them from their blindness. To be blind is truly a very terrible experience, and imagine that now we are able to look at all the wonders of the world, and not to be able to see all of that, is truly horrible.

And the Lord asked them, whether they believed in Him and in what He could do for them. Through their faith, and their commitment to their belief in Him, the Lord healed them from their blindness, opened their eyes and restored their ability to see once again. Therefore, they have been freed from their physical darkness, allowing them to see the light and the world again. Imagine someone who have suffered for so long in the darkness, without hope and without light, now finally able to see again, there must be such a great joy in them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go through this season of Advent, we look forward to the great celebrations and joy that will come in Christmas, as an important reminder of why we ought to celebrate joyfully because in Christ, we have seen the Hope and the Salvation promised to all of us, all these that had been prophesied by the prophets and which the Lord Himself had revealed to us. He has shown His love in person, by reaching out tot us, touching us and healing us from all of our predicaments.

Just all those blind men suffering from their blindness, we all too are suffering from the affliction of our sins. Even though we may be perfectly healthy in our body and physique, but our souls are still afflicted and corrupted by sin, which is a disease that afflict us, strike at us, and unless we rid ourselves of these afflictions, they will drag us down the path to damnation. Fortunately for us, the Lord loves each and every one of us, and is willing to forgive us our sins and heal us from our afflictions.

The question is then, are we willing to embrace the Lord’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Or do we prefer instead to continue living in the darkness and sin? The Lord wants to forgive us our sins, but do we want to be forgiven? Let us see the examples of those two blind men. They were healed because they believed in the Lord and had faith in Him, and they wanted to be healed. Unless we are willing to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, there can be no forgiveness, as we must accept the forgiveness and act in repentance of our past sins to be fully forgiven.

This season of Advent through the Scripture readings we are all constantly being reminded to love God because of the love that He Himself had shown to us all these while. We are all called to redirect our focus and attention on Him, and prepare ourselves so that we may truly celebrate Christmas with full appreciation of its importance. Let us fill ourselves with the joy of expectation of the Lord’s coming, remembering first of all His coming in the past, the coming of His salvation, and also then His promise of return at the end of time, when He will lead us all His faithful into His eternal kingdom.

How do we make best use of this season of Advent? It is by deepening our spirituality and our relationship with God. We can look upon the examples of the saints, all those holy men and women who had gone before us, and by whose lives God had been glorified. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of one of those holy saints of God, namely St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. He was a truly devout and faithful servant of God, whose lives and actions were truly exemplary and should serve as inspirations for all of us to follow.

St. John of Damascus lived in Syria which was why he was often called after the city of Damascus where he lived for most of his life. At that time, as a Christian living in Syria under the rule of non-Christians, St. John of Damascus was born into a family of Christian courtiers of the rulers of the Umayyad Caliphate, which capital was in Damascus. He was a renowned polymath and philosopher with wide range of knowledge in various topics.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great intellect and service to the Caliph in Damascus, and he was also known for his great faith and wisdom, as a priest and monk in a monastery in that area. After leaving the public service, he dedicated himself to a life of prayer and devotion, and his many writings on the matters of the faith were very influential in his defence of the true faith especially at that time against the false heresy of iconoclasm, supported by the Roman Emperor himself and his nobles.

St. John of Damascus wrote fervently and courageously even against those who opposed the true faith, not fearing for himself. He did what he could to prevent more and more souls from falling into the wrong paths, and he dedicated the latter half of his life doing that and leading a prayerful and pious life as a priest and monk. His contributions to the Church were enormous, and he continued to inspire many people long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly as he and the multitudes of other saints had done? Let us all ponder on these questions and ask ourselves, what are we going to do especially during this blessed season of Advent in order to prepare ourselves well for the coming of Christmas.

Are we going to continue living just as per usual? Celebrating Christmas just as usual, in the same manner as how others have celebrated it all around the world? Or are we going to have a profound change in how we live our lives, and re-centre our whole existence around God, the true Light and Hope of Christmas? Our true Joy and the source of our Salvation? Let us all seek the Lord this Advent with renewed vigour and strength, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Matthew 9 : 27-31

At that time, as Jesus moved on from the place where He resurrected the daughter of the official, two blind men followed Him, shouting, “Son of David, help us!” When He was about to enter the house, the blind men caught up with Him, and Jesus said to them, “Do you believe that I am able to do what you want?” They answered, “Yes, Sir!”

Then Jesus touched their eyes and said, “As you have believed, so let it be.” And their eyes were opened. Then Jesus gave them a stern warning, “Be careful that no one knows about this.” But as soon as they went away, they spread the news about Him through the whole area.