Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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 we heard the Scripture readings which at the same time inspired us with the faith and dedication of St. John the Baptist while also warning us of the false leaders and antichrists who will try to mislead the faithful into the path of sin and darkness, away from God’s salvation. Hence, today we are presented with the contrasts between those who truly are faithful to God and those who served the devil.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the words of St. John the Baptist that he spoke towards the priests and the Levites, likely the members of the Pharisees that would later oppose the Lord Jesus and His works, as these people also doubted the authority and veracity of St. John the Baptist, questioning him on the validity and the source of his teachings and works among the people as he baptised many people at the Jordan.

They asked if he had the authority to do what he has been doing and wondering if he was the Messiah that God has promised to His people. St. John the Baptist clearly told those who asked him that he was not the Messiah and that he was just the one who was sent into this world to prepare the way for the Messiah of God. Had anyone else been asked of this at that time, more likely than not they would have claimed that they were the Messiah promised by God.

As historical evidence had it, and which was recorded even in the Acts of the Apostles, there had been people at that time who claimed that they were the Messiah, gathered a following, large at times, and quite a few rebelled against the Romans and the authorities, only for them all to vanish when their leaders were arrested and condemned to death. Their supposed missions and Messiah title did not last because indeed they were not the Messiah.

St. John had the means to do the same, and he had a large following of people who themselves thought that he was the Messiah promised by God. They came to him and thronged to him because they believed in his words and sought reconciliation with God through baptism. St. John the Baptist’s great charisma and faith could have easily made him the cherished Messiah of the Israelites as other false Messiahs had done before him.

But that was not what St. John the Baptist had chosen to do, as he remained faithful completely to the task that he had been entrusted with, and he clearly stated publicly that he was not the Messiah, but only the one sent to precede the coming of the one and true Messiah, Jesus Christ. He proclaimed this before the priests and Levites sent to question him, and he also did the same before his disciples. And when the Lord Jesus came to him for His baptism, St. John the Baptist proclaimed Him as the Lamb of God and thus the Messiah to his own disciples.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to look upon the good examples set by St. John the Baptist who placed himself completely in the hands of God, entrusting his whole self to the Lord’s providence and giving his whole life to God without regards for his own pride, ego and desire. This is contrasted to the attitudes of many among the Pharisees, the false Messiahs and the leaders who led the people astray.

And today, we have yet two more great examples of faith we can be inspired with, in St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, as we celebrate their feast day today. Both of these saints also had to contend with the heretics and their powerful influence at their time, at a time when those false teachings and ideas threatened not only to destroy the unity of the Church, but also the salvation of many souls and the survival of the Church and faith itself.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, who was the contemporary of St. Gregory Nazianzen, who was the Archbishop of Constantinople. They were strongly opposed to the erroneous and yet popular Arian heresy, as championed by the heretic priest Arius, who claimed that Jesus Christ was not the equal of the Father and that He was created by the Father rather than being co-eternal and co-existing with the Father from before the beginning of time as we believe in our Christian faith.

Arius was a very charismatic man, much like that of St. John the Baptist, but he chose to champion a view divergent and different from the Christian truth, and got a large following especially in the eastern parts of the Roman Empire and among the Germanic peoples beyond the boundaries of the Empire. The Arian heresy affected quite a large portion of the faithful and in fact many bishops took the side of Arius until the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea finally condemned the teachings of Arius as being heretical.

Nonetheless, the Arian heresy still remained for many decades and centuries after the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and it was the vigorous efforts and works of both St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen in opposing this heresy among some other heresies like Apollinarianism and more, that the true Catholic and orthodox faith survived and many among the faithful who had been ensnared by the false teachings returned to the true faith.

In the course of their efforts, they encountered many trials and difficulties, oppositions from clergy and bishops who were favourable to the Arian heresy in particular, and even the hierarchy of the Imperial government and the Emperors themselves who were Arian in their profession of faith. Yet, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen persevered in their faith and in their efforts, and their extensive writings on the truth of the Christian faith made them to be recognised as two of the original Doctors of the Church together with St. Ambrose of Milan and St. Augustine of Hippo.

All of them served the Lord and put Him first and foremost in their lives. Are we able to do the same with our own lives, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we able to be faithful as St. John the Baptist, St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen and all of our holy predecessors have shown us? This is the challenge that we have been given as we continue to live our lives and as we embark through the journey in this new year.

May the Lord continue to guide us through life and may He strengthen us always each and every moments of our lives that we may grow ever stronger in faith and that we may always seek the truth of God in all things, and not to allow our pride, ego and desire to overcome us. May the Lord bless each and every one of us, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 2 January 2020 : 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.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, we are all reminded both of God’s enduring love for each and every one of us, as well as how at the same time each and every one of us also have the mission and responsibility to fulfil what God has entrusted to us. All of us as Christians have received God’s salvation through Jesus Christ, His Son, and through the Apostles, have been commissioned to go forth to the nations to spread the Good News and to baptise all in the Name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus spoke to His disciples about how the harvests of the Lord were already abundant and yet, there were not enough workers in the field of the Lord that were available to gather the harvest. This was actually a reference to how the world, mankind of many nations especially the Israelites have been prepared for a long time by the Lord through the prophets and messengers that God has sent to them.

Those faithful servants of the Lord had delivered the messages and the truths from God that they have been entrusted with, and therefore the seeds of faith had been sowed in the people of God of various races, backgrounds and origins. However, the fullness of the truth had not been revealed to them all, and the people only had part of the knowledge of the truth. It was not until the coming of the Messiah that the fullness of truth was revealed to God’s people.

The Lord Jesus, the Saviour of the world Who came as the Lord Himself has promised was born of the House of David and from among the children of Abraham to fulfil what God has promised through His prophets and messengers, and to fulfil what the Lord has made in the Covenant between Him and His people Israel. But through this also, God wanted us all to know that His salvation, love and grace is not just reserved to the Israelites but to every children of mankind.

Yet, as mentioned, there is a lack of workers to gather the rich harvest of the Lord, as the Lord’s rich harvest is available and yet the willingness of those whom God has called to be the ones to bear the works of God has been lacking. God has called and chosen from among the people all those whom He has deemed to be worthy to serve Him and to be His witnesses among the nations. They were His Apostles and the disciples, through whom God called even more from among the nations to be His people.

The Lord reveals His truth to all of us, the truth about His love and His salvation, how He wants all of His people to be saved from certain destruction because of their sins and disobedience. He showed us all the way of the truth, to guide the wayward children of God back to their Father and Creator. This is not an easy task, as the Apostles and their successors had shown us through their lives and works. Throughout the centuries and the long history of the Church, we have seen so many of God’s faithful servants suffering and being rejected by those to whom they had laboured to bring the words and truth of God to.

Yet, they all persevered and worked even harder to complete the missions that God has entrusted to them. The Apostles and their successors and many among our holy predecessors, the many saints and martyrs of the Church responded positively to God’s call to service and allowed God to work through them. And today we honour the memory of St. Ambrose, the renowned Bishop of Milan and a truly prominent Church father and leader of the Church of his contemporary time.

St. Ambrose was once the governor and ruler of the northern Italian provinces of the Roman Empire and was a well-respected and liked leader, who helped to settle issues among the people and had many other accomplishments that made it such that when there was a bitter conflict in the succession to the position of the Bishop of Milan between the Orthodox and Arian parties of the Church, the whole assembly of the faithful agreed by acclamation to choose St. Ambrose as the Bishop of Milan even though he was then still a layman.

Thenceforth, St. Ambrose dedicated his life to the new calling as the shepherd of the faithful in Milan and as one of the most influential Church leaders of his time. St. Ambrose had Emperors of the Roman Empire under his care, especially the then young Emperor, against especially the Arians who wanted to subvert the faithful and the Church to their false and heretical teachings. St. Ambrose stood by his faith and was fearless in his faith and dedication to God.

It was told even that St. Ambrose excommunicated Emperor Theodosius the Great, the last great Emperor of the united Roman Empire, for his premeditated role in the massacre of the city of Thessalonica. Such was the courage and strength of St. Ambrose that the Emperor had to succumb and to agree to a public penance and profession of faith before the assembly of the faithful before he was allowed to return to the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard of the examples set by St. Ambrose, a holy and faithful servant of God, shall we ourselves also follow in his footsteps and serve the Lord faithfully in the same way? Shall we also respond positively and dedicatedly to the call of the Lord to follow Him with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now on?

May the Lord give us all the strength to follow Him in the path that He has shown us all, and let us all do our very best, giving our wholehearted effort, focus and attention to serve the Lord at all times for His greater glory. Let us all strive to be true Christians in everything we say and do so that through us, God may be glorified and that He may be present in the hearts and minds of many more of those whom God had called to be His beloved people. Amen.

Saturday, 7 December 2019 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 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.”