Tuesday, 29 December 2015 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we heard about the Lord Jesus Who was presented at the Temple of God at the time when He was just eight days old, as He was the Firstborn Son of Mary, which according to the Law and the commandments of God, all the firstborn sons of Israel and his descendants should be presented to the Lord after their birth as a sign of the renewed covenant between God and His people.

This can be linked to what had happened in the past during the time of Abraham, when God made a covenant with him, and established the promise which He had vowed to Abraham, the faithful servant of God, that He would make him and his descendants to be a great nation. But one day, God asked Abraham to bring the son God had promised him, Isaac, to a mountain and sacrifice him as an offering to Him.

We can just imagine what kind of thoughts and emotions that ran through Abraham’s mind at that time. Imagine that the Lord had given you such a great promise, and then suddenly it seemed as if He wanted to take that promise away from him by taking the one whom he had been expecting for a long time, that is a son to be his heir and to be the predecessor of the great nation promised to him.

Yet, if we see how Abraham reacted to the Lord’s request, we can immediately see how he was thoroughly committed to God and obeyed Him without question. He was ready to give up his son to the Lord, as his attitude was likely to be such as, whatever God has given me, God may take again from me. Yes, this is because He is the Lord and Master of all, and it is certainly within His power and authority to decide on the fate of all things.

And therefore, just as Abraham had been willing to give even his own beloved son, the promised son that would be his seed and a great nation, therefore, in this Christmas season, God also would not hold back Himself from giving His own Beloved Son, the Firstborn of all things, not created but Who was with Him since before the beginning of time.

Yes, God gave us none other than His own Beloved Son, the Divine Word of God Who was made Man, one of the Holy Trinity and inseparable part of the Lord, Who came down as a humble Man in Jesus, born of a carpenter and a young virgin, and consecrated to God as all other firstborns of Israel were, so that through Him, this world and all of God’s people might be saved.

This is the essence of Christmas, its true meaning, and which all of us should understand, that the love that God has for all of us is so great, His dedication and commitment to us is so great that He is willing to do all these just so that we may be reunited with Him in perfect love. This is the commitment that God has given to His part of the covenant that He had established with us. But a covenant is a two-way process, and thus we too need to give our part to the covenant.

How do we do this, brethren? Perhaps we should look at the examples of the saint whose life is a good barometer and example to follow in this regard, namely St. Thomas Becket, or St. Thomas of Canterbury, the Archbishop of Canterbury and therefore the Primate of England who lived and worked at about eight hundred years ago, at the time of the Medieval age Europe.

St. Thomas Becket was once the Chancellor of the Realm, the highest political office equivalent to that of today’s Prime Minister and also a good friend of the king of England at that time, king Henry. For a long time, St. Thomas Becket lived a life of privilege, of honour and worldly glory, with all the things that were made available to him because of his esteemed position.

All this changed when the king appointed him as the Archbishop of Canterbury, the highest position in the Church within the realm of the English king, with jurisdiction over the other English bishops, priests and also all of the laity. Such an esteemed position was bestowed on St. Thomas Becket by the king with the hope that he would be able to rein the Church that the king will gain better cooperation from a Church controlled by his own confidant.

Yet, St. Thomas Becket received the revelation of the Faith as he embarked on his new duty, and he wholeheartedly devoted himself to the mission he had been entrusted with. He took his new position of responsibility very seriously, and instead of championing the cause of the king as the king had intended when he appointed St. Thomas Becket as the Primate of England, the fact was completely contrary to the desires of the king.

He opposed the king and the nobles in many occasions, defending the rights of the Church and the faith, and also chastised certain nobles for their wicked ways and called for their repentance. Not even opposition and threats from the nobles and all those who had been negatively affected by St. Thomas Becket’s works could stop him from devoting himself completely to God’s works.

In the end, the nobles with the complicity from the king murdered him in a cold-blooded assassination when St. Thomas Becket celebrated the Mass in his own chapel. The assassination was immediately condemned by the Church and by the people, and those involved had to undergo painful penitential efforts before they were allowed to return to the Church, and St. Thomas Becket was universally recognised as a saint for his hard works and efforts.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us should be inspired by his examples, and we should redouble our efforts and commit ourselves anew to the Lord. May all of us be able to give ourselves more and more to God our Lord and Father, and may He bless us and keep us always in His love. God bless us all. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 December 2015 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

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

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord.

So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law. Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

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

Tuesday, 29 December 2015 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, 29 December 2015 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 3-11

How can we know that we know Him? If we fulfil His commands. If you say, “I know Him,” but do not fulfil His commands, you are a liar and the truth is not in you. But if you keep His word, God’s love is made complete in you. This is how we know that we are in Him : he who claims to live in Him must live as He lived.

My dear friends, I am not writing you a new commandment, but reminding you of an old one, one you had from the beginning. This old commandment is the word you have heard. But, in a way, I give it as a new commandment that is true in Him and in you, because the darkness is passing away and the true Light already shines.

If you claim to be in the light but hate your brother, you are still in darkness. If you love your brothers and sisters, you remain in the light and nothing in you will make you fall. But if you hate your brother you are in the dark and walk in darkness without knowing where you go, for the darkness has blinded you.

Friday, 4 December 2015 : 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’s Scripture readings told us about the merits of keeping up faith in the Lord, and the importance of keeping hope in Him Who cares for us and Who blesses us all daily with life and all its goodness. It is a reminder that we do not live alone or suffer in this life alone in this world, but rather we have our Lord Who is constantly with us, guiding us and protecting us.

God never failed His people and He had never, and will never ever break the promises He had made. He had promised to bring us all mankind into His salvation, and that is precisely what He will do. He always fulfil whatever He had promised, and He will always love us all, no matter how sinful and wicked we were. Yet, it was always us mankind who have disappointed Him, rejecting the love which He had shown us, and spurning His care and compassion for us.

Let us just ask ourselves, to look into our own lives and how we have acted in this life. How often is it that we put God aside and forget about Him in the pursuit of our own selfish goals and desires? It is in our nature to be focused only on ourselves and ignore all other things. And we do not remember God until the time when we actually ‘need’ Him.

Yes, do we remember God in our good times? Maybe sometimes we do, but do we give Him thanks for every blessings He had granted us? Or did we just take all of His kindness for granted? This is the tendency that all of us have, that we tend to gloat and be proud of our own achievements, and glorify ourselves in front of others, praising our deeds and greatness, but not giving due thanks to God for all the things which He had blessed us with.

First of all, are we thankful of this life which God had granted us? Have we shown gratitude for every breath we take, the allowance we have been given by the Lord to live in this world and to enjoy all the good things we have and possess? All the graces and blessings of this world have been made available to us, and yet, many of us were not thankful, and instead we demand more, and we even become angry at God for not listening to our wants and wishes.

This is why it is important for us to understand in this season of Advent, the importance of rediscovering our true focus in the Lord. It is important for us to prepare ourselves thoroughly to be able to welcome our Lord’s coming properly and with piety, as we go on to celebrate Christmas in the coming few weeks’ time. Otherwise, our Christmas celebration will become empty and meaningless, and our joy will become illusory and merely satisfying the desires of our flesh rather than truly bringing us true joy in Christ our Lord.

Let us in all this, heed the examples and the life of St. John Damascene, or St. John of Damascus, whose feast we are celebrating today. St. John Damascene was a devoted monk and priest of the Lord in what is now Syria, hailing from Damascus, which would become his appellation in the years to come. He was committed to the Lord and showed his great faith by commissioning numerous writings and works that helped to prevent the faithful from following erroneous teachings and heresies.

St. John of Damascus also stood up for his faith against heretics and all those seeking to destroy the Church, including the infidels which by that time had conquered the lands where St. John lived. More and more persecutions and harsh treatment against the faithful ensued, but St. John Damascene remained as a bright light amidst all the darkness, and his works became an inspiration to many of the faithful, both those who were around him and those further beyond, including us all living today.

Through St. John of Damascus, God showed us that to become one of His disciples and faithful ones, we cannot just live in accordance to our wishes and satisfying our own desires. There will be times when we will be challenged to stand up for our faith and to defend it before others who seek to destroy the Faith and persecute the faithful.

In that case, will we be able to put forth our strength and our commitment to the Lord as St. John Damascene had done? St. John had put his trust in the Lord, and even though he often encountered difficult times, but the strength which he drew from the Lord allowed him to persevere on and to keep on trying to help the cause of the Lord, and show God’s love and truth to more and more people.

Therefore, now the challenge comes to us, as the present day disciples of our Lord. Are we able to commit ourselves to the Lord and to recognise all the good things that God had done for us, His people? God had protected St. John of Damascus, and all of His other faithful ones, and blessed them in various ways. Even though they were in trouble and in difficulties, but God did not leave them alone.

God will bless us and strengthen us at all times, and when challenges come our way, He will help us and protect us. Now we must understand His love and seek to be able to show our gratitude to Him Who had given so much for us. Let us all draw closer to our God, and as we go on through this season of Advent, let us all prepare ourselves mentally, spiritually and physically so that all of our beings may be able to celebrate with true joy the celebration of Christmas. God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2015 : 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 official’s house, 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.

Friday, 4 December 2015 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Psalm 26 : 1, 4, 13-14

The Lord is my Light and my Salvation – whom shall I fear? The Lord is the Rampart of my life; I will not be afraid.

One thing I ask of the Lord, one thing I seek – that I may dwell in His house all the days of my life, to gaze at His jewel and to visit His sanctuary.

I hope, I am sure, that I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Trust in the Lord, be strong and courageous. Yes, put your hope in the Lord!