Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the works of the Lord, in ministering to us, His beloved ones, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as in our Gospel passage today. We heard of all the tangible works that the Lord had done in our midst, as Our Lord and Saviour, showing the genuine love of God to each and every one of us.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today clearly and plainly described the works that the Lord had done, in coming down upon us and in taking up our human nature. By His sharing with us in His humanity, in the real and tangible existence in flesh and blood, the Lord has gathered us all in and embraced us with love, and led us into the new path towards His salvation.

He came to heal us from our sins, from all the afflictions that had been affecting us, all these while. In the Gospel today we heard how the Lord had laboured to touch all those who had been afflicted with various diseases and conditions, and possessed by evil spirits. The Lord healed them all and showed His love for them generously, but He did not stay on in just one place.

When His disciples asked Him why He disappeared as many more were waiting on Him, He told the disciples that He was also needed elsewhere, as there were still many others who had not yet heard of the truth and seen the love that He was to bring unto their midst. Thus, the Lord continued to show the love and mercy of God to all of us, the children of God, wherever He could, and sent His disciples before Him to help in His works.

But, His ultimate design came to be revealed in what He had willingly accepted at the end of His ministry in this world, as He accepted the burden of the Cross, as our High Priest and Mediator with God, as described and explained by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today. As our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ became the Mediator between us and God, His heavenly Father, being the Bridge between us and Him.

While the priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices of animals and their spilt blood upon the Altar, the Lord offered nothing less than Himself, as He is indeed both the High Priest as well as the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, though sinless and without fault, willingly shouldered upon Himself the whole burden and weight of our multitudes of sins and faults. He offered for our sake the perfect sacrifice worthy of the forgiveness of our sins.

The Lord accepted this burden and role out of His amazing love for us, in enduring all the sufferings, humiliation and trials for our sake. He has humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory and majesty to bring us back to Himself, to embrace us and to love us all once again as He had always intended to. Due to sin, we have been separated from the love of God, and we should have suffered death and destruction. Yet, it was by God’s grace that we have been spared such a fate.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all know of just how great the Lord has loved us, all these while, then let us all appreciate and love the Lord with all of our strength. And perhaps we should be inspired by the examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose feast day we celebrate today, and whose contributions and great commitment to the Lord and the Church we ought to remember this day.

St. Hilary of Poitiers was one of the most renowned early Church fathers and leader as the Bishop of Poitiers and defender of the true faith amidst the many challenges, heresies and divisions facing the Church during his time. At that time, there were numerous heresies misleading the faithful with false teachings, particularly that of the Arian heresy, which was widespread and supported even by powerful members of the community.

St. Hilary of Poitiers himself was not born as a Christian, but turned to the faith together with his family after he began delving into the study of the Christian Scriptures, their texts and faith. And the people saw the greatness and piety in St. Hilary of Poitiers, who was so well-respected by the faithful that they all unanimously elected him as their bishop, as the Bishop of Poitiers.

At that time, the Arian heresy was spreading rapidly, and as the heretics attempted to overcome the Church and even persecute the believers of the true faith, St. Hilary of Poitiers dedicated himself to struggle against the efforts of the Arians, and laboured hard in order to regain the faithful from the clutches of the false teachers and leaders. He encountered plenty of challenges and difficulties, having to endure even exile for his steadfastness in opposing the heresies and falsehoods.

But through his tireless efforts, his many writings and contributions, eventually, not only that St. Hilary of Poitiers managed to return to his See, but together with many others who upheld the true, orthodox Christian faith, he also began to stem the tide of heresy and lies that eventually saw the triumph of the true and orthodox Christian faith as upheld by the Ecumenical Councils and passed down authentically from the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have heard of the commitment and the efforts put by St. Hilary of Poitiers, who dedicated himself to the service of God with all of his strength. Having known of God’s love ourselves, can we follow in St. Hilary’s footsteps, brothers and sisters? Let us all seek to serve the Lord and glorify His Name at every possible opportunities, from now on. May God bless us and be our Guide in our journey towards Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 29-39

At that time, on leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits : the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but He did not let them speak, for they knew Who He was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for Him; and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for You.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.”

So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; He also cast out demons.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 104 : 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9

Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known His works among the nations. Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.

Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Hebrews 2 : 14-18

And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus, likewise, had to share this nature. This is why His death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime, because of the fear of death.

Jesus came, to take by the hand, not the Angels but the human race. So, He had to be like His brothers and sisters, in every respect, in order to be the High Priest, faithful to God and merciful to them, a Priest, able to ask pardon, and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are tested.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to proclaim the truth of God and to hold fast to the same truth that the Lord has passed down onto us through His Church. We should not be easily swayed by the temptations and the lies of Satan, and all that he has used in trying to lead us astray down the wrong path.

In our first reading today we heard from the Epistle of the Apostle St. John on the matter of the presence of antichrists, false prophets and the false leaders and teachers of the faithful who had and would, and indeed, in the future to come, will misguide the people of God into the path of ruin and sin against God. St. John reminded all the faithful to keep and to stay steadfast to what they had received from the very beginning.

He reminded us all of everything that the Lord had done for our sake, all that He had committed to us, by giving us His Son for our salvation and liberation from the bondage and enslavement to sin, as well as the tyranny of death. Through His Incarnation and birth into this world, and then by the truth and the salvation He brought to us by His sacrifice on the Cross, the Lord has saved us all, and this is what we all believe in as Christians.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the faithful servant of God and the Herald of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist, who was calling the people to repent from their sinful ways, and who was baptising them with water in the River Jordan just before the Lord Himself was to begin His own ministry. He was confronted by many of the chief priests, Pharisees and all those who refused to believe in him and his works.

And we heard how St. John the Baptist courageously answered them all for their doubts and queries, and speaking of God’s works done through him. And when he was asked if he was the Messiah that was promised by God, St. John the Baptist resolutely and humbly spoke that he was not the One, and that he was not even worthy to untie the strip of His sandals. This was truly a great statement of faith and also a profound display of true humility that all of us Christians should be inspired by.

We have to contrast this to the behaviour of the many false teachers and leaders who had appeared and led the people astray throughout the history of the Church and man, those who claimed that they were the Messiah and profess to have the better knowledge of the truth when what they had were in fact falsehoods, utter nonsense and even came from the devil himself. They acted with pride and greed, selfishly focusing on themselves and their desires rather than serving God.

That is why today we should look upon the examples set by St. John the Baptist, as well as the many other devout and holy servants of God, particularly St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, whose feast day we celebrate today. And quite fittingly, these two saints worked hard against the falsehoods of the heretics and all those who had led the people astray from God.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, while St. Gregory Nazianzen, also known as St. Gregory of Nazianzus was the Archbishop of Constantinople, contemporaries who were the courageous and important leaders of the Church in the struggle against the heresies prevalent at that time, particularly the heresy of Arianism that bitterly divided many of the members of the faithful, clergy and the laity alike, and which was supported by powerful members of the nobles and the government.

St. Basil the Great rallied hard against the Arians and their teachings, resolutely refusing to let their perversion of the true faith to continue, rejecting their false ideas that the Lord Jesus as the Son was not equal to the Father, and that He was created rather than Co-Eternal with Him. He also worked hard against other heresies like Apollinarism that conflicted the understanding of the nature of Christ.

St. Gregory Nazianzen similarly also worked hard in combatting the same heresies in his See of Constantinople and beyond, and helped to strengthen the theological discourse and teachings of the true faith together with St. Basil and other holy fathers of the Church. They laboured hard against those false prophets and leaders, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles, continued to strengthen the foundations of the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received the same truth of God through the Church, and we are all therefore called to continue the good works that were started by those holy fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen in particular. Let us all do our very best, in whatever capacity we have, to devote and dedicate our time and effort, in our daily lives in whatever little ways and things we do, to glorify God and to proclaim the truth of God in our communities, and lead more souls to the truth.

May God bless us all in our good endeavours and efforts, and may Holy Fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen always intercede for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!”

Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?” John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 22-28

Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is an antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. The one who denies the Son is without the Father, and those who acknowledge the Son also have the Father.

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you, too, will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise He Himself gave us : eternal life.

I write this to you thinking of those who try to lead you astray. You received from Him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in Him, and keep what He has taught you.

And now, my children, live in Him, so that when He appears in His glory, we may be confident and not ashamed before Him when He comes.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 17-26

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

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

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

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