Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures that first of all showed us the nature of our loving God towards us, from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah showed the prophecy of God’s love for His people, in how He will guide all of them back towards His grace, and will no longer be separated from them.

As we proceed through this season of Advent, approaching the time of Christmas, let us all use the time provided for us in order to reflect on our lives and on our actions. Many of us have fallen away from God’s grace and walked in the path of sin. We have not put God as the focus of our lives, but rather, we become distracted with the many temptations of life.

We have become like lost sheep, scattered and having no idea where to go, just like the people described by Jesus in the Gospel passage today, as ‘sheep who are without a shepherd’. And thus, at that time, because there were so many people who had become wayward in their ways and sinned, they have lost direction in their lives and sought the Lord to bring them back to the way of truth.

The Lord Who loves each and every one of His people had mercy on them, and had pity because He saw those people who would be doomed to damnation should they continue in their present path. Thus, if we read through the Gospels, the Lord spent a lot of time teaching the people and calling them to abandon their old ways of sin and embrace God’s ways.

But at the same time, He also mentioned how the labourers are few while the harvest is plentiful. This means that, while there are indeed vast potential for God’s work and grace to be done among the people, with many souls waiting to be saved, yet there are only few people who are willing to step forward and take up the mantle of the hard work of those who serve the Lord and preach His Good News.

What does all these mean for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that first of all, each and every one of us should do our best to turn towards the Lord, and especially during this season of Advent, we are constantly reminded of the need to prepare ourselves for the eventual coming of the Lord Jesus and also eventually the final Judgment. We should do our best to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, by turning away from sin, resisting the temptations to sin, and by doing what is right in the sight of God.

However, that is not all that God had asked us to do. All of us are also called to heed what the Lord Jesus had mentioned in the Gospel passage, ‘Ask the Master of the harvest to send labourers to gather His harvest,’ and also, ‘Go, instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.’ All of these are set to remind us of the obligations we have as Christians to reach out to those who have not yet known God, or those who have lapsed in their faith.

How do we do that, brethren? We should not think that we need to do many wondrous and ambitious large-scale works. Rather, we should begin from ourselves, from our immediate family, friends and acquaintances. We should role model our faith through our actions and by devoting ourselves to God in everything. We should help the Church in its works of evangelisation, by becoming beacons of light through which many others can see God and His light through us and therefore believe.

We should also heed the examples of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. St. John Diego or also known as St. Juan Diego was a saint who lived a few hundred years ago in Spanish America, at the place where now the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located at. St. John Diego was a native of the land, a convert from his previous pagan faith, who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Guadalupe.

St. John Diego has always been a righteous person, living his life humbly and gracefully. Through him, Our Blessed Mother delivered her messages to the people, calling on them to repent from their sins and wickedness. And when they doubted St. John Diego and his accounts about the apparition, Our Lady showed him a sign through his cloak or ‘tilma’ in the local language.

It was told that Our Lady asked him to gather some flowers at the site of the apparition, and present them to the local bishop. When St. John Diego presented the flowers, which are not local or seasonal to the area, the bishop was amazed as the very likeness of Our Lady herself was imprinted on the cloak of St. John Diego. Many came to believe in this miraculous occasion, and many people repented from their sins and were saved.

The story of St. John Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe should inspire all of us to do what we can in order to be faithful disciples of the Lord, by encouraging one another to live righteously in accordance with God’s ways. Let us all be good messengers of God, delivering the truth of the Lord through our righteous life, that we may convince more and more people, that less and less souls may be lost from God.

Let us be lost sheep no longer and help those who are still lost that they may find their way to the Lord, their Good Shepherd. Let us be His faithful labourers, to help Him gather the rich harvest of this world, that is the salvation of the souls of our fellow brothers and sisters. May God help us in these endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 5a, 6-8

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting, to praise Him! YHVH rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great, and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. YHVH lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Isaiah 30 : 19-21, 23-26

O people of Zion, who dwell in Jerusalem, you will weep no more. When you cry, He will listen; when He hears, He will answer. When the Lord has given you the bread of anguish and the water of distress, He, your Teacher will hide no longer. Your own eyes will see Him, and your ear will listen to His words behind you : “This is the way, walk in it.”

He will then give rain for the seed you sow and make the harvest abundant from the crops you grow. On that day your cattle will graze in wide pastures. Your beasts of burden will eat silage tossed to them with pitchfork and shovel. For on the day of the great slaughter, when fortresses fall, streams of water will flow on every mountain and lofty hill.

The light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun seven times greater, like the light of seven days, when YHVH binds up the wounds of His people and heals the bruises inflicted by His blows.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast day of the Church, celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. This occasion commemorates the moment when Mary was conceived without any trace of original sin of man, and hence the Immaculate Conception, which is a dogma of the Church proclaimed by His Holiness Blessed Pope Pius IX a century and half ago.

The Church through its sacred tradition and teachings show that God has given a special privilege to Mary, in that she had been set aside from the rest of mankind, descendants of Adam and Eve. Unlike all men and women since the time of Adam and Eve, Mary was conceived free from the taint of original sin, the mark of disobedience which all mankind have received, from the time when our first forefathers disobeyed God and sinned.

In our first reading today, that was why we heard about the time when Adam and Eve sinned, because they disobeyed God and chose rather to follow the lies and sweet words of Satan, who persuaded them to eat from the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that they might become like God. Instead, they received rebuke and condemnation from God, and the truth about the lies of Satan was exposed. Ever since then, mankind had been tainted by the sin of their disobedience, and had to wander and suffer on earth.

That is also why, because of our sins, all of us mankind also faces death at the end of our earthly lives. All of us are to experience death as the just consequence for our sins, because sin has corrupted us, our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our souls, our whole and entire being, and as such, we are not worthy to be with God, as He Who is perfectly good, cannot tolerate sin to be in His presence. But this does not mean that God does not love us, or that He has abandoned or rejected us. Instead, God still loves us as He has always had.

Otherwise, God could have just destroyed us with the mere thoughts of His mind. He did not do so. He allowed us to endure the suffering for our sins and disobedience, but at the same time, He has also prepared the ultimate salvation for all of us, His beloved people, right from the time that we first fell into sin. In our first reading from the Book of Genesis today, God Himself prophesied that while there would be conflict between the descendants of man with the forces of Satan, but God will triumph in the end.

God promised that His salvation will come, and indeed as He mentioned, the Woman will crush the serpent under her feet, a prophecy about the time of salvation to come for mankind. And through the prophet Isaiah, again God made His intention clear, promising the salvation of the world, the Saviour, born of a Virgin, which surely we all know, have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, born of His mother, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary.

In the Gospel today, the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth, bearing the Good News of God’s salvation, which He would fulfil through her. He revealed to her through the Archangel, of the plan of salvation He Himself has long put in place, that the Son of God, the Divine Word of God Himself would come into the world, taking up upon Himself the human flesh, and born of a Woman, Mary herself, which became a reality through her humble obedience to the will of God.

And now, let us link all these back to the reason for our celebration today, that is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why is it that Mary is so special? That is because God has prepared her to be part of His plan for the salvation of His people, as she was to be the one who would bear the Messiah, Lord and Saviour of the world inside her, as the Archangel Gabriel mentioned, ‘the Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and the Son born of you will be called the Son of God.’

For this special role, God is certainly able to give an exception to Mary among all mankind, that for her alone, she was conceived, and born of her parents without the taints of the original sin of man. And this special grace is related to the role she played in our salvation, as the one who bore God within herself. In order to understand this better, we must know that Mary is the New Ark, bearing the New Covenant of God.

The old Ark of the Covenant was built by Moses from precious metals and materials, and adorned to be worthy of bearing the Law of God and His Covenant, and the Ark came to represent God’s presence among His people, so much so that it is hallowed and no one may touch it without dropping dead, as what happened in one occasion when a priest touched the Ark by accident, and he was struck down.

That is why the Ark had to be carried on two poles born by four people. And if this old Ark is made by the hands of man, carved and designed by man, and bearing within it, two slabs of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, and was considered so holy and precious, then all the more that the New Ark bearing the New Covenant must be hallowed, pure and holy.

Thus, God has prepared Mary, who is to be the mother of God, and made her holy and pure, clean from any taint of the original sins of man. And this New Ark is all the more precious, far surpassing the old Ark, because Mary, as all men and women are, she was crafted and designed by the Lord Our God. And she bore within her womb for nine months, none other than the Lord Himself, Master of all the universe, Who has willingly come down upon us in human flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God.

That is why today the whole universal Church rejoice together celebrating this wonderful mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for through Mary, the final defeat of the devil and his forces have been made a reality, as the promises God has made about our salvation has been fulfilled in their entirety. And even more so, in Mary, the devil has encountered a great enemy, who is always thwarting his plans all the time.

That is because Mary is also the greatest of all the saints of God, and she is the one ever closest to her Son in heaven. She is, as the Queen Mother of heaven, a close advisor to her Son, and she is always active trying to help the people of God to return to Him. She appeared several times to us, in various places and ways, appealing to us mankind to repent from our sins.

Through her example of obedience and commitment to fulfil God’s will, walking faithfully in His ways throughout her whole life, Mary has become a great example for each and every one of us, on how we should behave and act in this life, in obedience to God. Ultimately, through our renewed obedience, and by believing in the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved and redeemed from our past sins.

Let us today therefore, by following the examples of Mary, mother of God, conceived without sin, dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord. Let us abandon our sinful ways and put our trust in God from now on, striving to live worthily in accordance with God’s words. May the Lord be with us all, and may our mother Mary intercede for us sinners, that we may find our way towards God and His salvation. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.