Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Today brethren, as we continue through the Christmas Octave, we celebrate a great feast day, that is the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. The Holy Family symbolises the perfect family, of which we should based our families and indeed our lives on. Our families must be modeled like that of the Holy Family, filled with love, hope, and in total faith and devotion to the Lord our God.

The Holy Family is holy because of Jesus, the Holy One of God is in their midst, but also because the holiness and piety of both Mary and Joseph, who devoted themselves in their own ways, to God, through their lives and their actions, and ultimately through their respective roles in the Holy Family. They were the ones who gave human love, care, and attention to Jesus, who was born into this world, as a weak and fragile Baby, as weak and fragile as we were when we were still infants.

Jesus is the Son, both as the Son of God, the Word of God made incarnate as humankind, made from the divinity and emptied Himself into our humanity, but He is, as mentioned, also the Son of Man, after making Himself to be one of us, sharing in our humanity through Mary, His mother. Jesus is truly the role model for all children, and for all sons and daughters, that they should follow.

Jesus is obedient to His parents, and He listened to them and their words. He obeyed them and was a truly dutiful son. He learnt about this human life and culture of His people from both His father and mother, that is Joseph and Mary. His family showed Him love, affection, and genuine care. He listened to their advices and words, like when Jesus was left behind in the Temple when He was twelve years old. Despite Him wanting to stay behind in the House of His true Father in heaven, He obeyed to their parents and followed them back home to Nazareth.

The family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph might not have been a perfect family from the values and perspectives of our modern world, but they are perfect and they are our role models in family building, because they have love in them. They may not be rich or endowed with wealth, and they did not have a big and marvellous house to live in, but they have love in them. And that is, brethren, what our families should all emulate.

These days, we tend to forget the true values of a family, and instead think and follow in the ways of the world, and of how the world perceives family today. Families are often no longer based on love, and neither did they instill in them the examples and values of the Holy Family, that we had heard today in the first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Sirach, as well as from the letter of St. Paul in the second reading.

People tend to take family lightly and treat it without honour. And this is well-linked to the decline in respect towards marriage and devotion between husbands and their respective wives. Marriage, which forms families, should be based on love and true dedication between the parties involved. Yet, these days, it is quite often that people are not married for love, but instead for lust, for money, and for material benefits rather than true love.

And this can be linked to the continuously increasing rate of divorce between couples, even among those who had just recently married and also among those who had been married for many, many years. In out faith, divorce is sinful before the eyes of God and it is an abhorrence.

Why so? That is because as God had said, that He had made us men and women, that when we join ourselves with one another, and make the solemn vow before God, we are made one by the Lord, and what the Lord had united as one, no one should ever divide. Yet, the reality is that the number of divorces just keep on increasing year after year.

And who is suffering from all these? It is the children, the fruits of the love of marriage. It is the children who suffer when the parents broke their commitment of love and chose to separate the holy bond placed by God between them. They suffer because they can no longer see their parents in their loving unity, and instead what they see is just division and the bitterness between their parents.

This is why it is very, very important for us to consider deeply the true meaning of marriage. We cannot base our marriage on the basis of lust or money, for these are the things that always end up taking advantage of us and destroying relationships more often than they do not. Love is the basis of a happy and loving marriage, as well as that of a happy family. And this is what we should really base our families on, like that of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.

Joseph, as the saying goes, was a much older man compared to Mary, who was then just a young virgin betrothed to Joseph to be her husband. And yet, despite their age difference, both of them truly loved one another. And even though Jesus was not technically his son, because He was conceived by the Holy Spirit as God Incarnate, Joseph still loved and cared for Jesus as if He was his own.

Joseph was a role model to all fathers, in his upright life, that he did not engage in licentious acts or any act of wickedness in opposition to the way of the Lord. Joseph offered protection to both Mary and the Child Jesus, when they were in difficulty, providing support to Mary throughout her pregnancy with Jesus, and then led them to Egypt when he was warned that King Herod wanted Jesus dead.

Joseph worked hard as a carpenter, in order to provide for both Mary and Jesus. Even though he was a poor carpenter, he did not complain. That is why St. Joseph, besides as the foster father of Jesus, is also known to be the patron saint of workers. He also dutifully fulfilled his role as the father figure to Jesus.

And Mary, as we all know, is totally devoted to her Son. She followed Him through many places, and in many important moments of His life. Ever since Jesus was conceived through the Holy Spirit in her womb, to His birth, and through His suffering and path towards Calvary, Mary is always at the side of Jesus, her Son.

Indeed, all these showed how a family should function, that is in togetherness, in unity, and in love. The father loves the mother and the child, the mother loves the father and the child, and the child loves the father and the mother. Everyone in the family should be dedicated to each other and give no way for dissensions or disunity to happen. That is why, from the example of the Holy Family, we too should follow what Jesus and His family had done, and implement it in our own.

And lastly, indeed, our families should be holy, just as the Holy Family is holy. We must base our family in love, as well as in prayer and in faith. Our families cannot be separated from God nor can we build a lasting family without the presence of God in each and every member of the family. The reason why many families did not last is because they never pray together, and they do not even sit down together to talk, or eat together, or do activities together as one family.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we rejoice in the festivities of Christmas, let us also heed of the examples of Christ and His family as we celebrate this feast of the Holy Family. Treasure our families and make sure that we keep faith and love at the centre of our families. Pray together as a family, that is important. Keep God at the centre of our family lives, and be assured that our family lives will be transformed such that we will be truly be grateful.

May the Lord our God, Jesus Christ, bless us that our families too can be like His own family in this world, with His mother Mary and Joseph His foster-father. May the Lord bless our families and let His love be within our families, each and every day of our lives. God be with us all. Amen.

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 2 : 13-15, 19-23

After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : ‘I called My Son out of Egypt.’

After Herod’s death, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and go back to the land of Israel, because those who tried to kill the Child are dead.”

So Joseph got up, took the Child and His mother and went to the land of Israel. But when Joseph heard that Archilaus had succeeded his father Herod as king of Judea, he was afraid to go there. Joseph was given further instructions in a dream, and went to the region of Galilee.

There he settled in a town called Nazareth. In this way, what was said by the prophets was fulfilled : ‘He shall be called a Nazorean.’

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Colossians 3 : 12-21

Clothe yourselves, then, as is fitting for God’s chosen people, holy and beloved of Him. Put on compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience to bear with one another and forgive whenever there is any occasion to do so. As the Lord has forgiven you, forgive one another.

Above all, clothe yourselves with love which binds everything together in perfect harmony. May the peace of Christ overflow in your hearts; for this end you were called to be one body. And be thankful.

Let the word of God dwell in you in all its richness. Teach and admonish one another with words of wisdom. With thankful hearts sing to God psalms, hymns and spontaneous praise. And whatever you do or say, do it in the Name of Jesus, the Lord, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

Wives, submit yourselves to your husbands, as you should do in the Lord. Husbands, love your wives and do not get angry with them. Children, obey your parents in everything, because that pleases the Lord. Parents, do not be too demanding of your children, lest they become discouraged.

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 127 : 1-2, 3, 4-5

Out of the depths i cry to You, o Lord, o Lord, hear my voice! Let Your ears pay attention to the voice of my supplication.

If You should mark our evil, o Lord, who could stand?

But with You is forgiveness, and for that You are revered. I waited for the Lord, my soul waits, and I put my hope in His word.

Sunday, 29 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary and Joseph (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Sirach 3 : 3-7, 14-17a (Greek version 2-6, 12-14)

Whoever honours his father atones for his sins; he who gives glory to his mother prepares a treasure for himself.

Whoever honours his father will receive joy from his own children and will be heard when he prays.

Whoever glorifies his father will have a long life. Whoever obeys the Lord gives comfort to his mother. He serves those who brought him to birth as he would serve the Lord.

For kindness done to one’s father will never be forgotten, it will serve as reparation for your sins. In the day of adversity the Lord will remember it to your advantage; for just as ice melts in the heat, so will your sins melt away.

The man who abandons his father is like a blasphemer; he who annoys his mother is cursed by the Lord. My son, conduct your affairs with discretion.

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Jealousy and greed for power, as well as the fear of losing it, are just a few of the evil afflictions that affect mankind, and which many of us had succumbed to, many, many times. These evil afflictions affect us, because we have been made vulnerable to them, ever since our ancestors opened the way to sin through their disobedience to the Lord.

Today, as we continue into the Christmas season, and continue with the festivities and revelries, and all the joy and happiness that we have among us, all the gift exchanges and partying, we must not remember a great tragedy which we all remember on this day, that is the Feast of the Holy Innocents, a great tragedy that is filled with sorrow and wickedness of mankind.

On this day, we remember the great and merciless slaughter of the innocent infants of Bethlehem, the city of David, where our Lord Jesus was born. King Herod the Great, the then Roman appointed King of Israel and Judea, was so fearful and jealous of the authority and power of the promised King of Israel, the true King of kings, Jesus the Messiah, that he resolved to kill this Messiah, before the kingdom that was his is usurped from him.

You can clearly see this king’s hubris, jealousy and arrogance, that even though he knew about the coming of the Messiah, he was unwilling to part with his own authority and power and give it to the coming King. He was foolish and short-sighted, one which certainly brought him down to the deepest depth of hell. You see what desperation, fear, and wickedness can bring to men.

Yes, they brought downfall to man, and they bring nothing but death and destruction. And it is often that the innocent ones are the ones to suffer, such as what happened in Bethlehem. One may ask why God did not intervene in the case of what has happened, but indeed, if we look at it again, God gave everyone a free will to follow what he thinks is best to be done. One can choose to follow the Lord and be righteous, or give in to their human vulnerabilities and embrace what is evil and wicked.

And those infants were innocent, and Herod massacred them in order to ensure the continuation of his own power and authority. He took the quick way out of problems, and did not regard even the sanctity of human lives. Those innocent infants also deserved to live. They therefore, were holy martyrs of the faith by the virtue of their innocence. They were the victims of humanity’s disdain for the sanctity of life.

Today we all remember these Holy Innocents, whose massacre is a reality amidst the joy and the festivities surrounding Christmas. And that is why we have to always remember that Christmas is about life. Yes, the sanctity of life, which is also often under attack in today’s society, especially by those championing for the culture of death.

That is right, on this day, on this era, thousands of even unborn infants or more are being killed on daily basis. You all know about the controversy, and the voices crying out for and against the practice of abortion. It is sad indeed, that even among us who believe in the Lord, the source of life, even some of us agree, or participate in the killing of the innocents, either by our actions or by our silence.

Hence, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate Christmas, never forget that we have to celebrate life, and we cannot forget about the massacre of the innocents that had happened, and what is happening even now. Life is sacred, brethren, as is it not Jesus who came into this world that we may have life eternal. We cannot profess to be Christians and yet treat life as something trivial. It is a gift from God to all of us.

May the Lord therefore continue to inflame in us, the love for Him, as well as the love for all of God’s creations, treating with honour everyone, even to the least of all, the poorest of all, and the weakest of all, to the smallest of infants. God bless us all. Amen.

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 2 : 13-18

After the wise men had left, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph and said, “Get up, take the Child and His mother and flee to Egypt, and stay there until I tell you, for Herod will soon be looking for the Child in order to kill Him.”

Joseph got up, took the child and His mother, and left that night for Egypt, where he stayed until the death of Herod. In this way, what the Lord had said through the prophet was fulfilled : ‘I called My son out of Egypt.”

When Herod found out that he had been tricked by the wise men, he was furious. He gave orders to kill all the boys in Bethlehem and its neighbourhood who were two years old or under. This was done in line with what he had learnt from the wise men about the time when the star appeared.

In this way, what the prophet Jeremiah had said was fulfilled : ‘A cry is heard in Ramah, wailing and loud lamentation : Rachel weeps for her children. She refuses to be comforted, for they are no more.’

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 123 : 2-3, 4-5, 7b-8

Had not the Lord been on our side, when people rose up against us, then they would have swallowed us alive; such was their anger against us.

A bit more and the flood would have engulfed us, the torrent would have swept over us, the raging waters would have swept us away.

The snare was broken and we were freed. Our help is in the Name of the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

Saturday, 28 December 2013 : Feast of the Holy Innocents, Martyrs (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

1 John 1 : 5 – 1 John 2 : 2

We heard His message from Him and announce it to you : God is Light and there is no darkness in Him. If we say we are in fellowship with Him, while we walk in darkness, we lie instead of being in truth.

But if we walk in the light, as He is in the light, we are in fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, the Son of God, purifies us from all sin. If we say, “We have no sin,” we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He who is faithful and just will forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all wickedness.

If we say that we do not sin, we make God a liar, His word is not in us. My little children, I write to you that you may not sin. But if anyone sins, we have an intercessor with the Father, Jesus Christ, the Just One. He is the sacrificial victim for our sins and the sins of the whole world.

Friday, 27 December 2013 : Feast of St. John the Evangelist, Apostle (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Brothers and sisters in Christ, if yesterday we celebrate the feast of St. Stephen the protomartyr, the first of the martyrs of the faith, then today we celebrate the feast of one of the four writers of the Holy Gospels, that is St. John the Evangelist, the youngest of the disciples of the Lord and the only one who did not die of martyrdom.

St. John the Evangelist was the brother of St. James the Lesser, another of the Twelve Apostles. They were the sons of Zebedee, and they were once fishermen at the Lake of Galilee. They were called from their former lives and profession by Christ, to be His followers, and were selected to be among the Twelve He had made to be His Apostles.

St. John the Evangelist was one of the closest disciples to Jesus besides that of St. Peter and his own brother, St. James. They were the three who went up the mountain with Jesus and witnessed His glorious Transfiguration. St. John the Evangelist was also the one whom the Lord entrusted His own mother, Mary, to his care. He was the first to believe in the resurrection after Mary Magdalene had reported to the disciples that the tomb of the Lord was open and the Body was missing. That was the Gospel we had heard today just now.

St. John the Evangelist was the one whom Jesus mentioned that he would not ‘die’ before he saw all the things that the Lord had told His disciples, about the things that are about to happen. The disciples were annoyed at this because they failed to understand what the Lord had truly meant with what He said. Jesus said that to foretell what St. John would do to bring glory to God, that is through the Revelation he was to receive.

It was in that revelation, about what is going to happen at the end of everything, when the Lord will come again in His Second Coming, to judge the living and the dead, that John saw all that Jesus had foretold, and he died after he had seen all these visions, and shared them to all of us through his writings, both in the Book of the Revelation and in the Gospel that he wrote.

The Gospel of John is different from the other three Gospels in that it is unique in terms of its mystic and spiritual nature, with more difficult concepts and mystery as compared to the Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which spoke in more historical terms and in a more chronological way, unlike the Gospel of John. But if we are able to read and understand what was written by John in his Gospel, our faith and our lives will be made considerably richer.

That is because John had been endowed with the gift of great faith, and when he wrote the Gospel, he did so with great zeal for the Lord and showed the faith to us, in all of its complexity, and yet at the same time bared the entire truth of the Lord to us. He started his Gospel with none other than the centre of the very Creed of our faith, that Jesus is God, and He is the Word of God incarnate into flesh, and He came in order to dwell among us, and bring us to complete perfection in Him.

Indeed, for those who lack the faith and who had not practiced the faith, these may seem very difficult to understand, to the point of impossibility. But that was what John made clear in his own Gospel, that the Lord is Lord, and He has one, singular mission in this world, that as we celebrate Christmas at the moment, we must never, ever forget.

That Christ who was Divine incarnate into Man, was born into this world that He might die for the sake of us all, that He might bear all the burdens of the sins of the world, the sins and taints of our rebelliousness against the will of God. Christ is the Lord, and He alone has the power and authority, to be able to liberate us from the enthrallment under sin and the power of Satan. This is what John made clear throughout his Gospel, by showing what Jesus had done, and His ultimate purpose on the cross.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we too have been given with the gifts of faith, and we have made the profession of the faith, that we believe in our Lord and Saviour, whose birth into this world, we are celebrating this Christmas. But to reiterate again the points I have often raised during this period of festivities, I want to remind all of us gathered, that we must never forget about Christ in our lives.

We cannot take out Christ out of the equation of our lives, for He is the One who provided us with basically, everything we have. Without Him, we are nothing. Therefore, brethren, let us use this time, this chance, and this opportunity, to profess our faith, as clearly as St. John the Evangelist had, showing it not only through words but also through our actions. Most importantly, as Christians, we cannot say that we are Christians if we do not base our actions on love, for God is Love.

St. John the Evangelist had shown us the virtues of faith, and how important faith is for all of us. We all have been granted faith, and we have faith in the Lord, but we cannot remain idle. As Christians, that is as the followers of God, we are expected to go out and show our love to others, particularly those who lack them, and even unto those who hate and persecute us.

Let us all, from today onwards, follow in the footsteps of St. John the Evangelist, and proclaim the truth about our faith to all. Profess and proclaim it through our tongues, our hands, and our legs, yes, through our words, actions, and deeds, rooted deeply in the faith in God and in the love for the Lord, as St. John had once did.

May the Lord born unto the world on Christmas, bless us, strengthen us, and make us into the instruments of His will, just in the same way as St. John the Evangelist had been. God bless us all. Amen.