Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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 the whole Church celebrates together the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating one of the four great Marian Dogmas of the Church, namely the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, Mary. What does this Immaculate Conception actually mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Quite a few of us still do not have the right understanding of what this celebration and event actually means.

We celebrate this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on the eighth day of December, and it is related to another celebration, exactly nine months later, on the eighth day of September, that is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is where people often confuse between the term ‘nativity’ and ‘conception’. While the former means birth, that is the moment when a baby is born into the world, out of his or her mother’s womb, the latter means the moment when life is conceived, from a father and a mother, in the womb of the mother, which is ideally nine months before the date of birth, as in humans pregnancy lasts for approximately nine months.

Therefore, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary focuses on that very important, unique and pivotal moment when Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, as the child of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. And the word ‘Immaculate’ has the meaning of pure and blameless, referring to the state in which Mary was conceived, free from the taints and corruptions of original sin.

Why is this significant, brothers and sisters in Christ? First, let us all examine what is this original sin that has just been mentioned. For those who are not sure what original sin is all about, it is the original and first sin of our ancestors’ disobedience as elaborated in our first reading today from the Book of Genesis. Surely all of us know the story of how Satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, the first woman and companion of the first man, Adam, to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord had specifically ordered man not to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Satan tempted them with many false promises of power and knowledge, glory and greatness, saying that if man were to eat of the fruits they would be like God and they would not perish unlike what the Lord had said. And through these sweet lies and tempting words, Satan led mankind down the path of disobedience, and through disobedience, sin entered into the hearts, minds and souls of man.

Ever since then, our human nature had been tainted by the corruption of sin, this original sin of Adam and Eve, the disobedience of man against their Creator, Lord and Master. They opened the floodgates that allowed sin to enter into us and enslave us, ruling over us and having dominion over us. And it was also because of sin that we have been cast out of the Gardens of Eden and having to endure suffering in the world, and eventually death.

Thus, through temptation, the first man and woman fell into sin and brought the whole race of mankind into sin and death. This is what original sin is all about. But if we notice, just as the Lord proclaimed the punishment due to sin in our first reading today, He also proclaimed at the same time, what would happen in the far future, that God would save His people and crush Satan who caused man to fall.

He said that while Satan would ‘strike at the heel of man’, meaning that all these while he has been trying hard to destroy us, by means of persuasion, coercion, trickery and temptations, but through the Woman, God will defeat Satan, and the Woman shall crush the head of Satan, a figurative expression of what would come to fulfilment in Mary and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And therefore, yes, Mary is the Woman mentioned by God, as the one through whom God would send His deliverance to His beloved people. Despite all of our sins, God’s love for us still endures, and that is why, He is willing to lift us up from our downfallen state, and He always seeks to be reconciled with us and to forgive us all our many sins. He did it all by sending none other than His own Begotten Son, the Word of God and the Son, into this world.

And the Word was made Flesh, according to the Gospel of St. John, and dwelled among man, and this is our core belief, that God Himself has assumed the body and essence of man, our human nature, that in the person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, exist two distinct yet inseparable natures of divine and human. And as all humans are, He is to be born of a mother, and this mother is none other than Mary.

However, because this Man is not just like any other man but God Himself incarnate in the flesh, there can be no taints or corruption of sin around Him. This can also be alluded commonly in the Ark of the Covenant of the time of the Old Testament and ancient Israel, where the Ark of the Covenant bears the Law of God, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the heavenly manna and the rod of Aaron, as the symbol of God’s presence among His people.

If we refer to the Books of Exodus and other books of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the most precious materials available to man, and it was hallowed and blessed by God, placed in the holiest part of the Tent of Meeting before the Temple of Jerusalem was built, and then in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. When the Ark was transported during the time of king David, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark was struck down, highlighting just how holy and special that Ark was.

And imagine then that there is this New Ark, crafted by the hands of God Himself, a Woman, prepared specially for this very purpose of containing the New Covenant between God and mankind. Christ, through His Passion, suffering and death has established that New Covenant between God and man, and because of that, His mother, Mary in whose womb the Lord dwelled for nine months before His birth at Christmas, is truly the New Ark of the Covenant, far greater than the old Ark of the Covenant.

That is why, coupled with the fact that God cannot coexist with sin and no sin can be in the presence of God, the Lord specifically set Mary aside from among all other sons and daughters of mankind, and by a singular grace, according to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was preserved from original sin, and was conceived without any taints of sin at all, free from that original sin and therefore is ‘Immaculate’ from the moment of her conception, right through her birth, and according to our faith, she remained free from sin and in perfect state of grace throughout her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Mary we have seen the coming of the Saviour, through her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born from her womb, she who is the New Ark of the Covenant, pure and blameless. And she is the terror of Satan and the demons, as through her, the Lord’s promise of Satan’s defeat has come true, crushing the head and pride of this wicked devil. But not only that, brothers and sisters in Christ, but Mary through her faith and complete obedience to God has shown us what we ourselves need to do as Christians in our lives.

Why is that so? That is because we must not forget that we ourselves are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Houses of God’s Holy Presence. We have received the Lord into ourselves, especially through the Eucharist, the Lord in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, His very essence into ourselves. Mary has kept herself faithful and she has devoted herself completely to the Lord, throughout her life, as challenging and difficult it had been for her. If she could do it, then we can do our best to follow in her examples too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate in today’s great celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us all therefore rejoice because God’s salvation has come to us through Mary, our beloved Mother, by her Son Jesus Christ. And through her example as the New Ark of the Covenant, let us all as God’s holy people, also be faithful in our own respective lives, that we show exemplary Christian attitudes and actions at all times, in our world today.

O Most Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, New Ark of the Covenant and the Immaculate Conception, pray for us all your sons and daughters who are sinners, and guide us all to your Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Help us to follow the Lord and remain faithful to Him as you have done. May God bless us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.

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.