Saturday, 2 January 2016 : 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 about the humility of John the Baptist, the holy servant of God, the Herald of His Messiah, Who came into the world in order to save it and all of mankind. John the Baptist came before Jesus in order to prepare His way, and he baptised many people at the Jordan, calling them to repentance and to turn away from their sinful ways.

And even though many people listened to him and hearkened to his call for repentance, and although many people flocked to him and he was truly famous and respected by many, but in numerous occasions, as what we have also heard in the Gospel today, he denied that he was the Messiah, that is he denied that he was the Saviour that was to come into the world as prophesied.

He humbly revealed that he was merely the servant, the voice calling out in the wilderness to call the people of God to prepare themselves for the coming of the Lord and to prepare them to receive His salvation. He refused the temptation to be a great person himself, the temptation of power and worldly glory, and he preferred to remain faithful to the mission which he had come into this world for.

We can relate this to the first reading which we had today, the Epistle which St. John had written to the faithful to remind them to be true to their faith and reject all the falsehoods and lies, and to reject and resist all the false teachings of the false prophets and the antichrists, whose ways are not of the Lord but of the devil, and whose temptations on the faithful could cause these to lose their track on their way towards salvation and fall into damnation instead.

Just as Adam and Eve, these false prophets and antichrists were tempted by the devil with the false promises and the lies of worldly power and glory, if only that they would abandon their God and disobey Him, following rather the path of their own hearts’ desires and wants. And they succumbed to the temptation and followed the devil in his ways, and then they also preached the same falsehoods to mislead many others from among the faithful.

Throughout the ages, we have encountered many of them, the heretics such as Arius, Nestorius, and many others, including that of Martin Luther, Calvin and Zwingli in the more recent time. These people have turned the hearts of many of the faithful into the wrong paths, because instead of adhering to the teachings of the Lord as what had been kept faithfully by the Apostles and the Church fathers, they allowed their own judgments and ideas to supersede the truth.

And now, let us see the examples of the two very important saints whose feast we celebrate today, namely St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen. Both of these saints were widely honoured, especially in the eastern half of Christendom, where they were credited with the defence of the true faith against the dangerous heresies that threatened to divide and tear apart the Church of God.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea who lived and worked at about the same time of his contemporary, St. Gregory Nazianzen or St. Gregory of Nazianzus, who was the Archbishop of the new capital city of the Roman Empire, Constantinople. Both of them worked together in the effort to counter the influence and the false teachings of the heretics such as the Arians and the many other sects which taught teachings contrary to the orthodox and true Church teachings.

Many of the faithful were divided against each other, with those who refused to leave behind the truth of God and join the heresies against those who have given themselves up to the false and twisted teachings. It fell to St. Basil the Great, St. Gregory Nazianzen and their fellow elders of the Church as well as the faithful among the laity to resist the advances of those seeking to destroy the Church and its truth.

It was not an easy journey, as many challenges awaited and faced them. All those who are opposed to the two saints made things difficult for them, the priests and bishops aligned with the heretical teachings constantly challenged them and made things difficult for the faithful people of God. Nevertheless, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen never gave up, and with clarity of Christian teachings and truth in their hands, they worked hard and managed to turn many back to the true path towards the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard the examples of the faithful saints of God, and also that of John the Baptist who faithfully carried out his mission, rejecting the temptation of the evil one and the world, and humbly fulfilling what has been expected of him, let us all also reflect on these and walk in their footsteps, following their examples by doing the same in our own lives.

Let us all reject our human pride and desire for worldly glory, for these are the tools with which the devil will be able to easily manipulate us and tempt us to do what is sinful and wicked. We all have to stay together and to work together to maintain our faith life, and deepen our spiritual connection with the Lord by doing all that God had asked us to do, loving one another and serving each other with love.

Thus, after all that we have done, God Who rewards all who are faithful to Him will bless us and keep us in His grace, and He will not let us to suffer in the hands of the unfaithful, but He shall bless us with ever richer abundance of grace. God bless us all, now and forever. Amen.

Saturday, 2 January 2016 : 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 from 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 2016 : 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 2016 : 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.

Friday, 1 January 2016 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we commemorate the beginning of the new year in the reckoning of our calendar, and as we welcome the very first moments of this year, we also remember, as we have done every year, the Solemnity of Mary, the Mother of God, also known as Theotokos, by the virtue of her being the mother of Jesus Christ our Lord.

Today’s celebration is very important for us and for our faith, for in it lies the very basic tenet of our Faith, which even many people over the ages tried to rebuke and disprove in their wrong thoughts and heretical teachings. Chief of all these is Arius, the one who started the heresy of Arianism. In this heresy, those who adhere to its false teachings contended that Jesus was not God, but only mere Man.

For them, the nature of Jesus is as a created being, no different from that of all the other creatures. They did not see Jesus as the Son of God, and therefore much less, as the Divine Word incarnate into Flesh. They refused to believe that He is God, from the beginning until the end and unto all ages. They thought in their feeble minds, that it is impossible for God to bear a Son in Jesus.

And therefore the Church, having recognised the falsehoods of Arius and his followers, a confusion set by the devil himself, set on its way to counter and to fight back this false teaching and vicious heresy. As a result, during the very first Ecumenical Council convened in Nicaea in the year 325 AD, the nature of Christ as the Son of God was established and finalised, and all those who refused to believe in this truth, were cast out as heretics.

And by that virtue, in the later Ecumenical Council, namely the Ecumenical Council held at Ephesus in the year 431 AD proclaimed Mary as the Theotokos, as the Mother of God (Theos). Previously there were also many who believed that Mary is the mother of Jesus, the Man, and as the mother of Christ but no more. There were also those who believed that because Christ is the Lord, both Man and God at the same time, even though Mary His mother was a human being, but by the virtue of being the mother of Jesus Christ, she is also the Mother of God.

This fact cannot be separated from the earlier part of the struggle between the Arians and the faithful Christians, on the nature of our Lord Jesus Christ, whether He is just a Man, or whether He is both God and Man at the same time. If Jesus is just a mere Man, as the Arians had believed, then Mary is no more than just a mother of a great Man and nothing else.

Yet, we all believe in the Motherhood of God, in Mary as the Theotokos, because her Son Jesus is not just a Man, but also God at the same time. He is both fully God and fully Man at the same time, and the two natures, God and Man, while distinct, cannot be separated from each other and they are bound together in perfect hypostatical union in Christ, in perfect love.

This is why I said that this belief in Mary as the Mother of God is central to our faith, and without which I can say that our hold onto our faith is tenuous and weak. And it is also important to take note that this does not make Mary into a deity or a goddess herself. Rather, if we compare it to an earthly analogy, in a kingdom, a king’s mother is honoured even though she does not rule the kingdom as the mother of the king.

Similarly therefore, as God is the King of kings and the Ruler of all the universe, it is by the virtue of His great Kingship that His earthly mother is also honoured in the same way. This is why Mary as the Mother of God had such a special position in our faith and for all of us too. Why is this so? We have to look no further than the Sacred Scriptures in the Gospels themselves.

Firstly, all of us have been entrusted by our Lord to her, just as He entrusted her to all of us. When Jesus was crucified and about to die, He spoke to both His mother Mary and John His beloved disciple, and He entrusted Mary His mother to him, while at the same time He also entrusted him to His mother. In this manner, He had also entrusted all of us to her care, and He entrusted His own mother to be our intercessor and helper.

In the wedding at Cana, where Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine, a miracle we all surely are familiar with, it was because of Mary’s urging and pleas that eventually Jesus allowed Himself to perform His first miracle despite His unwillingness and earlier rejection to help the wedding couple in distress. Mary never gave up in trying to help them, as she knew that the couple was in great trouble if they were to gain no help.

In the same way therefore, Mary is the one who can also help us on our way to the Lord, and whenever we are lost and in trouble, it is to her that we can also turn in order to help ourselves to escape from our predicament. It was said that the best way to reach out to our Lord Jesus is through His mother Mary, and indeed this is true. For Mary, being the closest to the throne of her Son, lies the closest to Him and her prayers are the ones that her own Son will not overlook.

Today, we also celebrate the World Day of Prayer of Peace, as we embark on this new year, let us all pray for world peace, that mankind will no longer seek to destroy and bring pain and suffering to one another, but instead live in harmony and true peace with each other. Let us all ask for the intercession of our Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, that these prayers we make will come to the ears of our Lord, and may He bless us with His peace.

O Lord Jesus, listen to us Your children and Your people, and let us all live in peace, love and harmony, and through Your blessed Mother Mary, who prays for our sake without cease, let peace reign on earth forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 1 January 2016 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed : He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Friday, 1 January 2016 : Solemnity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, Theotokos, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : Abba! that is, Father!

You yourselves are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.