Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto or Our Lady of Loreto. The history of this devotion to Mary, the Mother of God as Our Lady of Loreto had a long history and is tied to the miraculous preservation and appearance of the Holy House of Nazareth in that place, where now the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto now stands.

The tradition states that this very House enshrined at the centre of the Basilica is none other than the very house where the Lord and His Holy Family, St. Joseph, His foster-father and Mary, His mother had lived in, at the village of Nazareth. How is it then that this house ended up in Loreto in Italy? First of all, well-attested by Apostolic tradition is that this house was converted into a church by St. Peter and the other Apostles.

Hence, within the house there is the ‘Altar of the Apostles’, built none other by St. Peter and the other Apostles themselves. It was told that a Basilica was built at the site of the house after the Roman Empire adopted the Christian faith, and worship had continued at the site throughout the succeeding centuries afterwards. However, it came to be that the house was under threat of destruction from unbelievers at the end of the age of the Crusades.

Therefore, in a miraculous occasion, the Holy House of Nazareth was lifted up by Angels of God to a site in what is now Croatia, which was verified by several checks by the contemporary people, in both the new and the previous sites. After a few further translations, the house eventually settled at its current site, over seven hundred years ago. A great Basilica and shrine was soon built over the house, and eventually took shape of the current shrine.

The shrine and devotion to the Blessed Mother of Loreto as the Matron and Patroness of the Holy Family of Nazareth steadily grew and gained Papal patronage, as successive Popes devoted themselves to the shrine of Loreto. Miracles were also attributed to the holy shrine, and prayers made were effective. Litany of Loreto is a famous litany that is recited by many Christians around the world asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Loreto.

Today as we celebrate in this Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, the Blessed Mary Mother of God, we are all brought in deeper into the mystery of the Advent season, preparing ourselves in our hearts, minds and in our beings for the celebration of Christmas. Through this celebration as well as through the readings of the passages of the Scriptures, we are all brought to centre our focus on the Lord and His salvation, which had come into this world through the obedience of Mary.

We are all called to model ourselves after the Holy Family of Nazareth in our celebrations, in our way of life, and in everything we do. We see the obedience of Jesus to their parents, St. Joseph’s righteousness and obedience to God’s laws and commandments, his hardworking attitude, and of course, Mary’s love for her family, her obedience to God and her commitment to the mission that has been entrusted to her.

Therefore, all of us are reminded that we cannot forget our fundamental roles as Christians in our respective communities, to be exemplary in our Christian way of life, imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth. And let us all devote ourselves to Our Lady of Loreto, imitating her examples and faith, that we may also be faithful in all things, and be obedient and righteous just as she had been obedient and righteous.

May the Lord, through His loving Mother, the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, be with us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us will grow ever stronger in faith and devotion, and grow to live a more faithful Christian and Christ-centric life from now on. Let us all make best use of this blessed season of Advent, and redirect our attention and focus in life towards the Lord, the reason of our joy in Christmas. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Matthew 11 : 11-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you this : no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.”

“Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy : all the prophets and the Law. And if you believe Me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

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.

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Psalm 144 : 1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab

I will extol You, my God and King; I will praise Your Name forever. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom; and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign, and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures, from generation to generation.

Alternative Psalm (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Isaiah 41 : 13-20

For I, YHVH, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you : “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your Redeemer, says YHVH, the Holy One of Israel, your Helper.

I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth : you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in YHVH and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, YHVH, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine – that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of YHVH has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Alternative reading (Mass of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today on the tenth day of December for the very first time the Universal Church celebrates together the feast of Our Lady of Loreto, a celebration linked to the holy site of Loreto, which is according to the tradition of the Church and our faith is none other than the sacred dwelling place of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and St. Joseph. This holy place was initially located in Nazareth, the place where Mary and St. Joseph lived.

Throughout the years, the holy house of the Lord remained standing even though other buildings and places were changed or destroyed. When St. Helena, the mother of Emperor Constantine the Great who ended persecution against Christians came to the Holy Land as part of her search for the True Cross and the holy relics of the Passion, the holy house of the Lord in Nazareth was discovered, and a Basilica was built over the place of the holy house, which was undisturbed and remained intact.

Through the many centuries afterwards, when many times and moments of turmoil, wars and conflicts caused changes in ownership of the land, and the great Basilica above the holy house were repeatedly destroyed and rebuilt, miraculously, the holy house itself remained intact and indestructible by any earthly forces, right through to the time of the Crusades, over a thousand years after the death of Our Lord Jesus Christ. At that time, the holy house disappeared after the last time the Holy Land fell into the hands of the enemies of the Lord.

Then, miraculously, one day, in the small town in Dalmatia in what is now Croatia, the holy house suddenly appeared again and accompanied by a vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who appeared to the local priest saying that the miraculous appearance of the holy house was by the will of God and how the house was the actual house of the Holy Family of Nazareth. And when under various circumstances, the house was threatened yet again, it moved a few more times until it stayed in Loreto in Italy where it remained until today.

Therefore, there is then until today a great pilgrimage site at Loreto, to the Basilica of the Holy House, within which is that same house that once was the dwelling place of the Holy Family of Our Lord Jesus Christ, His mother Mary and also His foster father St. Joseph. And the interesting tale behind its miraculous survival after all these years in fact is a testimony and a reminder of how God and His presence endures all the time, regardless of changes in this world.

His Holiness Pope Francis, the Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff and Bishop of Rome declared that beginning from this year onwards the celebration of Our Lady of Loreto and its glorious shrine should be celebrated by the Universal Church as a reminder for us all that indeed, especially during this season of Advent when the feast always takes place, it is important for us to return to the roots of our faith, that is within our own family units.

And we should model ourselves and our families after the loving examples of the Holy Family, which is the perfect model for our Christian families to follow, in the love, dedication and faith that each of the members of the Holy Family had shown, in being a good example how we ourselves should build our own families. A good and strong family foundation is essential to the establishment of a strong and living faith, for we must understand and realise that each and every one of our families are the basic and fundamental units of the Church.

In our world today, sadly, there had been much attack to the structure and bonds joining our families together. Many forms of temptations and false ideas had led to the dissolution of many families, as divorces and divisions became prevalent in our families today, which inevitably led to further problems including loss of faith and the weakening of the bonds joining the members of God’s Church together.

All these were the works of the devil and all of his wicked allies who must have worked hard to destroy us all, by striking at our families. Now, let us all look at the Holy Family for inspiration of how we should model our families and also our faith lives together, and let us all ask for the intercession of Mary, the Mother of our God and Our Lady of Loreto that we may be strengthened by her Son, Our Lord in our faith.

May the Lord bless us all and our families, and may He strengthen each and every one of us in our commitment and courage to live each and every day with genuine faith and dedication to walk in the path that He has shown us all. May God be with us all and guide us in our journey of faith, and bless our Advent observation and preparation. Amen.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

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, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12, 13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name; proclaim His salvation, day after day.

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

Alternative Psalm (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Tuesday, 10 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Loreto (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Loreto)

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Loreto)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : The Virgin is with Child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”