Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today together with the entire Universal Church we rejoice together to celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this day we focus on our belief that Mary, as the Mother of God, was granted that singular grace by God to be conceived without a single taint by sin, and therefore, remained also without sin through her birth and life.

That is why the Church has placed the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary on the eighth day of December, full nine months prior to the Solemnity of her Nativity on the eighth day of September. And these solemnities and feasts highlight to us the incredible life of Mary, the one whom God has chosen to be the Mother of the Lord and Saviour of the world.

And why is this special focus on Mary, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because all of mankind, save for Mary and her Son, Jesus, have been corrupted by sin from the moment of their conception, because of the taint of the original sin of our forefathers, beginning from the time of Adam and Eve, as mentioned in our first reading passage today. Satan tempted Eve and then Adam to disobey God, and through their disobedience sin entered into our midst.

And sin is a great corruption on our whole being, affecting our entire self, from the physical, to the mental and spiritual parts of ourselves. Therefore, if we are corrupted by sin, then, we cannot be with God and be in His presence, for God is all good and perfect, without corruption and without sin. We will be destroyed because of our sins, and unless we purify ourselves, we cannot be with God.

That is why, if we read through the Old Testament, in the Book of Leviticus and in other traditions of Israel, the people of God have to purify themselves first prior to coming to the presence of God. This was also why the Temple of Solomon and the succeeding Temple of Jerusalem has large basins designed for the containing of water for ritual purification for the people and the priests offering the sacrifices.

And in the original Temple of Solomon, and earlier on, the Tent of Meeting, was housed the Ark of the Covenant, within which were the two slabs of stone on which the Ten Commandments were written, the staff of Aaron and the sample of manna, the heavenly bread. All of these were the concrete signs of God’s presence in the midst of His people, as part of the Covenant that God has sealed with His people, thus naming the Ark as the Ark of the Covenant.

The Ark of the Covenant was made from the finest materials, crafted with the finest details from gold, as the most precious vessel for the Lord’s presence, and placed within the holiest part of the Lord’s Temple, the Holy of Holies, veiled and not easily visible to the people from the outside. All of these symbolisms and details served to show the people, how God is all powerful and mighty, and unless we are worthy to be in His presence, we will perish.

And if that Ark of the Covenant, filled with the memorial of God’s Covenant as written in the two slabs of the Ten Commandments and the proof of God’s power in the staff of Aaron and the manna, then how all the more wonderful is the New Ark of the Covenant, which is none other than Mary herself, chosen by God to be the Vessel through which He would send into this world, the fulfilment of His promise of salvation, the New Covenant that He would establish with all of us His people, once and for all.

The choice of a woman to be the bearer of the Saviour of the world has been revealed to the world itself, in fact, ever since the time when man first fell into sin, as mentioned in our first reading today. Although men were punished for their disobedience against God, and thus deserving death and damnation, but God still loved them and wanted them to be saved, for in the end, it was because of Satan’s evil machinations that men fell, and thus, He proclaimed before man and Satan, that while Satan would continue to strike at the sons and daughters of man, but through the Woman, who is to come, Satan’s dominion and reign over man’s fate will come to an end.

That woman is Mary, whom God chose from among all the sons and daughters, descendants of Adam and Eve, all sinners, to be the one who would bear the Messiah. And this is where our faith and belief in the Immaculate Conception of Mary must be linked to what we have just discussed earlier about the corruption of sin, and about the Ark of the Covenant, how holy it was and how precious the materials that were used in its construction.

For God willed that Mary alone out of all those born of man and woman, would not have the taint of sin, which is the corruption of our body, mind, heart and soul. Mary alone would be granted the singular grace of this immaculate nature, coming from the word immaculate that means ‘pure’. Mary was specially designed by God to be pure and perfect in all things, as how He created them at the beginning before sin came into our midst.

Is such a thing possible? Of course, brothers and sisters in Christ, it is definitely possible, for nothing is impossible for God. God is almighty, omnipotent, all-powerful and all-knowing. Surely it is within His power to will a being without sin into creation, and thus, Mary was made, the perfect New Ark for the New Covenant, that is Our Lord, Jesus Christ. Mary is that new vessel through which the One Who would establish and seal the eternal Covenant between us and God would be born.

And the nature of this New Ark, Mary, is indeed marvellous. For unlike the old Ark, crafted by the hands of men out of worldly materials of gold and other precious materials, the New Ark, that is Mary, was made by the hands of God Himself, crafted in His own image and perfection. And therefore, this creation of God far surpassed the creation of man, and indeed, fitting, for this New Covenant is nothing like the old Covenant.

For in Jesus Christ, the New Covenant, God Himself came down in the flesh through Mary, His mother. Through Mary, God became incarnate into Man, assuming His human nature, which was then united but remained distinct from His divine nature, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man, Son of Mary. Just as the Spirit of God hovered over the old Ark of the Covenant and the whole Temple of Jerusalem built by King Solomon at its consecration, the Holy Spirit came down on Mary and by the will of God, the Saviour, the Divine Word Incarnate was conceived in Mary’s womb.

Thus, after going through all these, surely we can see why God made Mary to be perfect and blameless, without a single taint of sin. Just as God is all good and perfect, and sin has no place before Him, then the Vessel that bears Him, for nine months in the womb, must also be blameless and perfect, free from any taints, including that of sin. That is why, God made Mary to be special, and affirmed by the Archangel Gabriel, who greeted her with the greeting, “Hail Mary, full of grace”.

Of course, this does not make Mary to be divine or a goddess, unlike what some would accuse the Church and us of doing. There has been plenty of misunderstandings and misrepresentations on the Marian Dogmas of the Immaculate Conception, of the Perpetual Virginity and the Assumption, in which certain people had this misconception that we worship Mary like as if she is a goddess. This is not true, and which all of us as Christians must be very clear about.

Mary is still an ordinary human being like us, but at the same time also special, because of the role for which God has prepared her to be. But we also venerate her and love her so much, because after all, she is none other and nothing less than the Mother of Our God Himself, and if we profess to believe in Jesus Christ, love Him and wanting to devote ourselves to Him, how can we then not love His mother, Mary, whom He Himself loved very much?

Today, as all of us rejoice together in this great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, all of us are called to spend some time to reflect on our own lives, on our own actions in life, on whatever we have done to others, on every words and deeds we have given and shown. Are we able to call ourselves good disciples and followers of our God? Or are there many areas in which we can improve ourselves, in growing deeper in our relationship with God, and in turning away from our sins?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we need to imitate the examples of Mary, who is not just conceived and born, and lived without the taint of sin by the grace of God, but even more importantly, whose life is an inspiration to all of us. She suffered a lot in her life, and as a poor woman from Nazareth, surely she encountered many challenges throughout her life. Yet, she remained good in her faith in God, and remained committed to God, obeying His will and whatever He has planned for us through her.

Are we able to dedicate ourselves to the Lord in the same way as Mary had done? Are we able to say ‘yes’ to the Lord’s call and allow Him to do His wonders through us, just as Mary responded to the Good News proclaimed by the Archangel Gabriel with perfect humility and obedience, with her own words, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me according to His will”?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through this season of Advent, let us spend more time in prayer and in trying to deepen our relationship with God. Let us ask the Lord to reveal in our hearts and minds, in the silence of our prayers, what His will is for each and every one of us. May the Lord continue to watch over us and draw us closer to Him, and may His blessed mother Mary, the Immaculate Conception, continue to intercede for us, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

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

YHVH 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 YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Saturday, 8 December 2018 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Thursday, 8 December 2016 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate together a great feast day of the Church, the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ. On this occasion, first of all, we have to understand what is it that we are celebrating about, and that is the moment when Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Anne, her mother, not her birth, but the moment of her conception, and she was conceived without any taint of original sin, and hence the term Immaculate.

And this fact has a special significance for all of us Christians, because although all of us are sinners, having inherited the sins of our forefathers and ancestors, who disobeyed the Lord and therefore sinned and then had to endure death and end of their earthly life, the sole exception have been made for Mary, the mother of our Lord Jesus Christ, who due to her special role in our salvation has been set aside by God to be immaculate, pure and free from any taints of sin.

Why is this so? That is because, as she was about to bear the Lord and Master of the Universe Himself within her, He Who is perfectly good and without evil Himself, thus, it is not appropriate for Him to be carried through a vessel tainted by sin and wickedness. This is related to what we heard in the Old Testament about the Ark of the Covenant, which God instructed Moses to make, in order to contain the two slabs of stone on which the Ten Commandment was written, as a sign of God’s covenant with His people Israel.

Mary is the Ark of the New Covenant which God has established with His people anew through His Son, Jesus Christ, Mediator of the New Covenant between God and mankind. And just as God has hallowed the old Ark of the Covenant, thus He has also hallowed the new Ark, that is Mary. She bore the Lord and Saviour of the world for nine months, and through her, the Divine Word was incarnate and made flesh through the power of the Holy Spirit, becoming Man.

But today, we are not just commemorating the fact that Mary has been conceived without sin and set apart by God to be the Ark and Bearer of His salvation into the world. Rather, we also celebrate the fact that Mary is the new Eve, just as Christ is the new Adam and the new Man through Whom the Lord righted all the wrongs and mistakes of the past, and redeemed us all mankind.

In the first reading, from the Book of Genesis, we heard about the moment of mankind’s fall into sin, because Adam and Eve were tricked by the devil who disguised himself as a serpent, and persuaded them to eat the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. Both of them were also created by God perfect and good, without the taint of sin, but they fell into temptation, and therefore became marred and corrupted by sin.

Thus, that is why Mary’s role in our salvation became even more important, considering that she had surely been tempted in every way we mankind had been tempted and persuaded by the devil. As a human being, she was also vulnerable to the same weaknesses which we have and which are part of our very being. Yet, we can see clearly the contrast between Eve and her disobedience against God, and Mary and her obedience to the Lord’s will in the Gospel today.

St. Paul pointed this out in his first Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Corinth, where he compared Christ with Adam, and as the old and first Adam had sinned and disobeyed God, bringing sin into the whole race of mankind, to all of us, thus through the perfect obedience of Christ, all of mankind have been redeemed and forgiven their sins and iniquities. And thus, in the same manner, while through one woman, Eve, all have received sin through disobedience, thus through another woman, whom God had promised, Mary, all have received the salvation of God.

While Eve disobeyed the Lord and followed her curiosity and greed for knowledge and power, Mary showed her obedience to the Lord, by her profession of faith in God’s will and her complete surrender to it. She did have her doubts and uncertainties, as it was unheard ever before, that a woman should bear a Son without a husband, but certainly, after God reassured her through the Archangel Gabriel, she put her full trust and faith in God and His plan.

And Mary did not just keep her faith and devotion until she gave birth to Jesus, her Son. She had been devoted to the Lord since when she was born and when she was young, but she carried on her devotion throughout her life, throughout the life of Jesus, bringing her up with her husband, St. Joseph with commitment and with the true love of a mother for her son.

It was under the loving and tender care of Mary that Jesus grew up as a Man, and it was under her supervision that He grew strong in the sight of God and men alike, ready for the mission which had been entrusted to Him. They often say, that behind every successful man is a committed and good woman, their wives, but I would say that, even more importantly, behind every successful individual is a loving and dedicated mother.

Therefore, Mary and her steady commitment to the very important role she had been placed in, is an inspiration to each and every one of us Christians, in how we ourselves should live our lives, with faith and commitment to the Lord. She is the greatest among all the saints and all the children of God, being closest to the Lord Himself, for she is at His side as His mother.

Our world today, and many of us are troubled with the problem of the lack of faith, dedication and commitment to the ways of our Lord. We face many temptations, persuasions and even coercions to abandon the ways of our God and instead follow the seemingly better and more convenient ways of this world. And therefore, many of us followed the path of our ancestors, diverging and pulling away from the path which God has shown us, and instead, following our own paths.

This season of Advent, and particularly on this day of the special Solemnity celebrated in the memory of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we should spend time to prepare ourselves for the celebration of Christmas, by reflecting on our own lives. Have we been faithful as Mary, the mother of our Lord and God had been faithful? Or have we instead chosen the path of Eve, that is to sin and to disobey the Lord for the pursuits of earthly and worldly glory and goodness?

Through Mary, God had brought into this world His new Covenant with each and every one of us, and through her also, He brought into this world a new hope through her own actions and devout ways, showing us all how we ought to be faithful in all the days of our lives. We should also be faithful as Mary has been faithful, and if we wonder why, that is because by the outpouring of His own Body and Blood, our Lord had dwelled inside each and every one of us who have received Him in the Eucharist.

Therefore, we too are like the Ark of the Covenant of God, and if we bear the Lord inside each one of us, as St. Paul had said, that we are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, then we should do our best and behave in all of our actions and deeds, so that we will not falter into sin and corruption, or else the Lord’s wrath will be upon us. We must keep ourselves free from sin and fornication as much as possible.

Let us all pray to the Lord, asking Him to help us and to give us courage to live our lives faithfully and with commitment, that we will not falter despite the challenges and difficulties we encounter in this life. May the Lord bless us all and keep us all in His grace, and may through the intercession of His Blessed Mother Mary, all of us will draw ever closer to Him and receive from Him one day, the blessed fruits of our faith. Amen.

Thursday, 8 December 2016 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White
Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.