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.

Saturday, 12 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the second feast of this month celebrating Mary, the mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ, that is Mary, who appeared approximately five hundred years ago to a simple and devout servant of God, St. Juan Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin at what is known now as the site of Guadalupe, where a great Basilica now stood, the Basilica of our Lady of Guadalupe.

The Mother of our Lord appeared to St. Juan Diego in a series of visions, all of which related the concerns which she had for mankind, for the people of our Lord, her own adopted children by virtue of our Lord Who had entrusted us to her, and how she wanted as many as possible to repent from their ways of sin, and she showed that as our mother, she cares for us and wants for us to be saved and not fall into damnation.

The story of the devotion to our Lady of Guadalupe began with St. Juan Diego himself, who received the visions from the Blessed Virgin Mary, on the place where now stands great the Basilica dedicated to her. She herself asked that a church ought to be built at that site, and this was truly a premonition of the time to come, when countless peoples would pass through its gate, and how through her, many were saved.

St. Juan Diego related what he had seen and heard, the visions he received, and how miraculous things had happened, including the miracle healing of one of his relatives, but the governor and the Archbishop would not believe the visions that St. Juan Diego had received. He asked for a sign and a proof. And when St. Juan Diego related the request to the Blessed Virgin, he was instructed to gather rare flowers that then miraculously grew on the site, and place them into his tilma of cloak.

And after he had returned to the Archbishop, he laid down the flowers before him, and not only that those flowers did not belong among the local flowers, but also that, the tilma that St. Juan Diego wore became imprinted with the image of the mother of God herself, which since then had been known as the image and the icon of our Lady of Guadalupe.

And today, as we commemorate that moment, some of us may ask why we gave so much honour and attention to Mary, even though she was just a human being like us, similar in flesh and blood, and having the same Spirit of God dwelling in us. However, we honour her because firstly, as we have just commemorated another of her feast a few days ago, she was special, for she was conceived without the taint of sin, pure and immaculate since the day of her conception.

She had been prepared ahead by the Lord to be the vessel and the bearer of our Lord, as the Ark of the New Covenant. But it was not just because she was conceived without sin that she is honoured, but because of her actions, where she faithfully carried out her duties and all that has been expected of her and even more, carrying herself properly and faithfully as inspiration for many others.

By looking at her and what she has done, how she had lived her life, how she had loved her Son, Jesus our Lord and Master, and correspondingly, how she also loves all of us her adopted children, as proven by her numerous and countless apparitions to men, in various places and at various times, pleading and calling on them to repentance and to change their ways lest they be swallowed by sin and darkness.

The celebration of our Lady of Guadalupe today is a reminder for us, and a wake up call for many, that all of us ought to reflect on our own lives, on our own actions and deeds. Have we been faithful in what we say, in what we do and in what we commit ourselves in our own lives? Or have we been rather disobedient and following our own hearts’ desires as the first men were, and thus risking falling into sin and damnation.

Let us realise how important it is for us to seek God’s forgiveness for our sins, and for us to do that, we need to have genuine repentance and change of heart, or else, we will remain in the trap of sin, and we will remain in darkness forever. And in this, we have a great ally in the mother of our Lord, Mary, our Lady of Guadalupe. After all, which good and faithful son does not listen to his mother? And Jesus too will surely listen to His mother praying for our sake. Now what matters is, for us to make the effort for the change for the better.

Let us all devote ourselves, our time and our works for the sake of the salvation of our souls. Let us no longer be filled with sin, evil and darkness, but instead replace these with obedience, faith and light. May God Who loves His blessed mother Mary, will love us all too, who devote ourselves with equal love to her. Amen.

Saturday, 12 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe)

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?” And Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah to set everything as it has to be. But I tell you, Elijah has already come, but they did not recognise him, and treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Alternative reading (for the Mass of our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

At that time, Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with Holy Spirit, and giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women, and Blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God my Saviour!”

Saturday, 12 December 2015 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Memorial of our Lady of Guadalupe)

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o Lord of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Alternative reading (for the Mass of our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread but the hungry need work no more. The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone.

YHVH is Lord of life and death, He brings down to the grave and raises up. YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He beings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.