Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the Lord reminding His people to follow His ways, to obey His laws and commandments, and not to be swayed by falsehoods and temptations to sin. The Lord wants us to walk in His path, be righteous in all things and to put our trust in His wisdom, and not in our own biased judgments and wisdom.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the Lord chiding and reminding His people to put their trust in Him and follow Him, rather than persisting in their stubborn attitude and refusal to follow His laws as they had done. This was a reference to how throughout the history of the people of Israel, through the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah right up to the time of Isaiah, had been disobedient many times.

They refused to believe in God and in His prophets, ignoring the reminders given to them on multiple occasions, and the Lord still continued to send reminders after reminders to them, regardless of how they had treated the prophets and messengers sent to them. The same stubbornness can be seen in our Gospel passage today, when we heard of the Lord Jesus and His frustrations at the people who refused to believe in Him or in His herald, St. John the Baptist.

And all of that was because they refused to let go of their ego and trust in their own power, their own intellect and capabilities. They refused to acknowledge that they could be wrong and mistaken, and that was why they judged the Lord and St. John the Baptist by their own flawed ideals and thoughts, wisdom and intellect. They hardened their hearts and minds against the truth that the Lord and His prophet had brought and revealed before them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such is indeed the cause for mankind’s fall into sin and why so many of us have not been walking faithfully in the path that God has shown us. We have been swayed by the many temptations of the world that led us down the wrong path, in disobeying God and focusing on our selfish desires and wants. And this is why in this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on our state and way of life.

We are all called to rethink how we have lived our lives thus far if we have been too focused and engrossed on worldly matters and temptations. Have all these brought true happiness for us? We must remember that all the pleasures of the world are merely temporary and do not provide us lasting happiness. Only in the Lord alone that we can find true joy, by entrusting ourselves in His hands.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by Pope St. Damasus I, in how he dedicated his life to the Lord as a righteous and committed Christian. Pope St. Damasus I lived at the time when the Christian faith were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire and became increasingly adopted by many. However, during that same time, divisions and internal struggles faced the Church and threatened to bring about the downfall of many souls.

Pope St. Damasus I was an Archdeacon of Rome under the reign of Pope Liberius, and he had been quite involved in the governance of the Church since then. And when he was elected as Pope, there was also division and disagreements as an opposing party rejected his election and authority as Pope. He had to contend with those who rejected his authority as Pope and leader of the Church.

Pope St. Damasus I dedicated his life and reign as Pope with great energy, actively resisting the many heresies which at that time threatened to divide the Christian faithful, and he was influential and crucial in his efforts in compiling the Scriptural canon through St. Jerome, who compiled the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Through his many efforts, Pope St. Damasus I helped to steer the Church through difficult times and moments of challenges, and kept the faith in countless souls.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow in the footsteps of someone so faithful like Pope St. Damasus I, dedicating our lives to the Lord rather than for our own selfish purposes, aims and desires? As we remember his faithful dedication to the Lord, we are all called to turn with all of our hearts and minds to God, especially at this time of Advent, reconsidering our path in life.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed zeal and faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, and harden our hearts no more. Let us all be open to welcome the Lord into our hearts, and allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us for the better. May the Lord strengthen us all, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture showing us just how great God’s love is for each and every one of us, that He is willing to do everything in order to be reconciled with us, that we may be saved from the predicaments caused by our sins. He loves each and every single one of us, without exception and without any prejudices. He used a parable to deliver this truth about His love to the people, as we heard in the Gospel passage today.

In that passage, we heard about the parable of the lost sheep, in which He told them a story of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of those sheep strays from the flock. He told them how the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine who are safely together behind, and do all he can in order to track and find the stray sheep, and bring it back to the flock. This is what the Lord exactly used in His own way of reconciling with His people, those represented by the lost sheep.

God went out all of the way just so that He could reclaim us, His lost ones, who have been lost and sundered from Him since the day we first disobeyed Him and chose to follow Satan and his temptations rather than to be faithful and fully in love with Him. Satan is the false shepherd, the wolf is sheep’s clothing that is ever ready to distract us and to lure us away into our downfall, by separating us from our loving shepherd.

And that is exactly how the devil works, brothers and sisters in Christ, by the means of persuasions and false promises of worldly glories, pleasures and other forms of enjoyment of the flesh and the body, or of the mind. He presents to us a path that seems to be easier and less challenging, more profitable and enjoyable for us. And thus, many were tempted to abandon the path of righteousness, and instead embracing the ways of sin.

But God did not give up on us, and instead, as He Himself said, that He is the Good Shepherd, He truly loves us and cares for us, even to the point of doing everything so that we may be saved, even if that requires Him to suffer and to be persecuted for our sins, suffering the blows and punishments that should have been ours. He, our Good Shepherd, stands between us and our destruction, offering up Himself for our sake, that we do not perish.

That was what the Lord has done for us, by what He has done, all that we believe in our faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Whom God has sent into this world in order to be our Saviour. He willingly took up the appearance and substance of Man, to be crucified for us, bearing the cross to Calvary, and by gathering all of our sins to Himself, offering up His own perfect offering of His Body and Blood, He, our Good Shepherd, is gathering all of us, God’s lost sheep, back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father.

Sadly, it was our reluctance and stubbornness, our predisposition and vulnerabilities to sin, that have prevented many of us from taking full advantage of this love which God has shown us. We are like those lost sheep that stubbornly run away from our loving shepherd, and instead, seeking those seemingly more enticing and enjoyable opportunities elsewhere, without knowing that those false leads are efforts by the devil and his forces to prey on us, waiting for our downfall.

Many of us are too busy with those temptations and allures of worldliness, that we fail to notice God’s love for us, and we continue to dwell in our state of sin, which unless we repent from it, we are at risk of falling into eternal damnation and separation from God, when even all of our regrets will have no use at all. This is not what God wants to happen to us, and certainly, He wants as many of us to be rescued and to be recovered from our lost state.

That is why, it is important that today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, roughly halfway towards Christmas as of now, we need to recalibrate our lives and reflect on our actions and deeds in life thus far. We are called to find the true meaning of our Christmas celebrations, that we may be able to enrich our own lives, with genuine faith and understanding of God’s love. Do we truly know what Christmas is about?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas is in fact the moment when the tangible reunion between God and man is made possible, through the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born on Christmas day in the manger, the One Who would save all of us by His death on the cross. It is a time of joy, not because of all the parties and merry-making, all the merchandises and shopping we can enjoy, but instead, because in Christ, we have seen the hope and fulfilment of our salvation.

Today, let us all discern on our lives and how we can live it better to be more in accordance to God’s ways. Let us all see God’s great love for us, and find that courage and desire to love Him, and to be reconciled with Him. Today, as we also celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope and a devout servant of God, who contributed greatly to the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, by his tireless efforts to combat heresy and by giving his support to the Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome, let us ask for his intercession, that we may find the humility and the desire to love God, to return to Him, our loving Father and Good Shepherd.

May the Lord Who loves us so dearly continue to love us and to reach out to us, just as we also make the conscious effort to seek Him out, to realise how much He has loved us and given Himself for us on the cross. Let us turn away from sin, sin no more, and become devoted children of God, our loving Father, from now on. May this blessed season of Advent be a time for us to rediscover our love for God. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-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.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from the Scripture passages, relating to us about the healing that came from God. The prophet Isaiah in his book wrote about the coming of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness upon His people, shown with miraculous signs such as the opening of the eyes of the blind, loosening of the tongues of the dumb, healing of those who has paralysis and also possession by evil spirits.

All these healings have also been done by some of the prophets of old, but those are healing of the physical body. What the prophet Isaiah prophesied came about in its complete fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, Who in the Gospel passage today healed the paralytic man, despite the opposition from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

Those people were furious at Jesus because He healed the man who had paralysis by saying that ‘Your sins are forgiven’. In fact, Jesus was healing the man in body and in spirit, as He has the just right to do so. They alleged that only God could forgive sins, and by uttering such words, Jesus had blasphemed against God, but that was because they refused to believe that Jesus is indeed God, the Son of God.

This reading has a particular significance for us as Christians, as all of us know that the celebration of Christmas, for which we are preparing this Advent season, is centred on the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, we believe that God Himself has entered into this world, descending from heaven, and through Mary, His mother, He took up the flesh and appearance of Man.

Hence, we believe in Jesus, Our Lord, Who is both fully divine and fully human, through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and His nativity or birth through Mary into the world. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, has two natures, human and divine, but which at the same time, perfectly united in the one person, Jesus Christ Himself.

Thus, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and God, as our faith describes, then we should believe that He is capable to heal our sins, as sin is indeed a disease that afflicts us, corrupting our inmost selves, from the depths of our souls, to our hearts and minds, and of course, our bodies as well. Sin is the very reason for our separation from the fullness of God’s grace and love since our corrupted beings cannot bear to be in the presence of God.

But God is ever loving and merciful towards us. He has always loved us from the very beginning, even though we have often rejected His love and abandoned His laws and precepts. He is willing to forgive us our sins, and He indeed wants to heal us from our afflictions, as He has demonstrated through the many healing miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry, and which is continued by His disciples and the Church He established.

However, the question is, do we want to be healed? Do we want to be forgiven from our sins? God is always forgiving and He will constantly forgive without cease as long as we are willing to be forgiven. Yet, forgiveness cannot be complete without genuine repentance, as in order for us to be completely forgiven, we also need to be truly sorry for our sins and mistakes, and commit ourselves to a new life without sin.

Do we remember what the Lord Jesus did with the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? We know how the story goes, and the woman was spared stoning because no one was willing to admit that they themselves had no sin on their own, and thus worthy to cast the first stone. But we often forget that Jesus told the woman, that while He does not judge her at that moment, she should sin no more.

Therefore, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, let us all reflect on our lives, and on the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, for whom the Lord has come, and indeed has suffered and died for, on the cross. Whenever we look at the Lord Jesus at the crucifix, let us remember this immense love and mercy He has shown us by laying down His own life that each and every one of us may be healed and absolved from our sins.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope who lived in the first millennium after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope St. Damasus was renowned for his great piety and exemplary life. He helped to guide his flock to be faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties that were facing the Church and the faithful at the time. His holiness and many good works for the sake of the Church has saved many souls who repented from their sins and turned themselves back to the Lord.

Therefore, we should be inspired by his examples, as well as the many other inspiring lives by the other holy saints of God. Many of those saints were themselves great sinners, but they allowed the Lord to transform their lives, and their lives were forever changed, from a life of sin and darkness into a life filled with God’s grace. Let us therefore, pledge ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve Him, to love Him and to help one another to reach out to Him.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us to be able to live faithfully in accordance with His ways. May we draw ever closer to Him, that in the end, we may be worthy of Him and will stand to receive the eternal glory He has promised to all of His faithful ones. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, Jesus was teaching, and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once, the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”