Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a special occasion in the Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist. St. John the Baptist is one of the special saints of the Church, in the important role he played in the history of our salvation being the one to proclaim and herald the coming of the Messiah of God, Our Lord Jesus Christ. St. John the Baptist therefore has this celebration of his birth or Nativity, which commemorates the moment when he was born into the world.

St. John the Baptist has such an important role, that God prepared him and his own coming in such a marvellous and miraculous way, as prophesied by the prophets of old and by what was described in the accounts of the Gospels. It was about him that the prophets had spoken that he had been called to be God’s servant from his mother’s womb, as how his coming had been proclaimed by the Angel of God.

The Angel spoke to Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, speaking of how his son would become a great and dedicated servant of God, the last of the prophets and messengers of God with one very important role, that is to proclaim the coming of God’s salvation and to prepare the people for the coming of this salvation through his own works and ministry among the people of God.

St. John the Baptist was the one who called the people to repent from their sins, be baptised in the waters of the Jordan, as the commitment for them to turn away from their old sinfulness and to be prepared to welcome the coming of God’s kingdom and His salvation. But he also made it very clear to the people who followed him, to his own disciples and to all those who asked it of him, that he was not the Messiah of God.

St. John the Baptist had a lot of following and he was very charismatic and influential. People came to him from all over Judea, Samaria and Galilee and perhaps even beyond seeking him for them to be baptised by him. Had he desired to claim everything he had done for his own glory and benefit, he could have done it easily, as what some of the people at that time had done.

There were some people at the time who claimed to be the Messiah of God, and gathered following among the people and rebelled against the Romans and the authorities. But as they were not the true Messiah, their rebellions and uprisings failed terribly. St. John the Baptist did not choose that path, even though he could have easily done so. Instead, he obeyed the Lord faithfully and committed himself totally to what he has been called to do.

And he humbly accepted his role, even when he himself was eclipsed by the coming of the One Who is the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ. He revealed to the people and to his own disciples Who the Lord Jesus truly is, and let some of his own disciples to follow the Lord instead. When his disciples complained that everyone was going to the Lord and that He became increasingly even more popular than him, St. John the Baptist said humbly that it was only right that his Master increases while he, who is only the servant, decreases.

St. John the Baptist dedicated his whole life to serve the Lord, and that means even laying down his own life for the sake of God. When he opposed and stood up against the wickedness of king Herod and his adultery, he was arrested and put in prison, and by the mechanism of Herodias who hated him, St. John the Baptist was beheaded in prison, and therefore died a martyr’s death, for the sake of the Lord and His glory.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, truly we can see in St. John the Baptist a great saint and role model for our own lives. We should heed his examples, his call for us to repent from our past sinfulness and to embrace faithfully the way of the Lord. We should model our own lives and faith based on this holy servant of God’s own faith and dedication, his obedience to the will of God and his humility in service.

Let us all on this Solemnity celebrating the moment of this great saint’s birth recommit ourselves and our own lives to the Lord to honour the memory of the faithful St. John the Baptist, modelling our own lives after his own. Let us all draw ever closer to God and be more faithful with each and every days of our lives. May God bless us all and may He empower us all to live faithfully according to His will, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 57-66, 80

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father.

But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.” They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they made signs to his father for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John;” and they were very surprised. Immediately, Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea and the people talked about these events. All who heard of it, pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

As the child grew up, he was seen to be strong in the Spirit; and he lived in the desert, until the day when he appeared openly in Israel.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 13 : 22-26

After that time, God removed Saul and raised up David as king, to whom He bore witness saying : I have found David, the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all I want him to do.

It is from the descendants of David that God has now raised up the promised Saviour of Israel, Jesus. Before He appeared, John proclaimed a baptism of repentance for all the people of Israel. As John was ending his life’s work, he said : ‘I am not what you think I am, for, after me, another One is coming, Whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’

Brothers, children and descendants of Abraham, and you, also, who fear God, it is to you that this message of salvation has been sent.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 138 : 1-3, 13-14ab, 14c-15

O YHVH, You know me : You have scrutinised me. You know when I sit and when I rise; beforehand, You discern my thoughts. You observe my activities and times of rest; You are familiar with all my ways.

It was You Who formed my inmost part and knit me together in my mother’s womb. I thank You for these wonders You have done, and my heart praises You.

For Your marvellous deeds. Even my bones were known to You when I was being formed in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth.

Monday, 24 June 2019 : Solemnity of the Nativity of St. John the Baptist (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 49 : 1-6

Listen to me, o islands, pay attention, people from distant lands. YHVH called me from my mother’s womb; He pronounced my name before I was born. He made my mouth like a sharpened sword. He hid me in the shadow of His hand. He made me into a polished arrow set apart in His quiver.

He said to me, “You are Israel, My servant. Through you I will be known.” “I have laboured in vain,” I thought, “and spent my strength for nothing.” Yet what is due me was in the hand of YHVH, and my reward was with my God. I am important in the sight of YHVH, and my God is my Strength.

And now YHVH has spoken, He Who formed me in the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob back to Him, to gather Israel to Him. He said : “It is not enough that you be My servant, to restore the tribes of Jacob, to bring back the remnant of Israel. I will make you the light of the nations, that My salvation will reach to the ends of the earth.”

Wednesday, 29 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of the Passion of St. John the Baptist, which marks the moment when St. John the Baptist suffered and endured death because of his righteousness and courage against the king Herod of Galilee. St. John the Baptist spoke up against the king on his adulterous behaviour with Herodias, his deceased brother’s wife, and as a result he was put in prison.

St. John the Baptist was the one whom God sent into this world to be the Herald of the Messiah, the one who would proclaim the coming of the Saviour of the world and the one who would prepare the way for the coming of Christ. He called many people to repent from their sins, and baptised them with water in the River Jordan. He spoke up against the sins and wickedness of the people, and called them to turn away from those sins.

He did not mince his words when he spoke up against the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who came to him and questioned the origin of his teachings and baptism, calling those people as brood of vipers. He acted in the same way towards the king and his entourage, speaking out on the king’s adulterous behaviour and actions. This was what St. John the Baptist had done, even though surely he must have known that it would have landed him in prison.

In the first reading today, God spoke to His prophet Jeremiah, whom He sent to the people of Judah during the last years of existence of the kingdom of Judah just prior to the destruction of the First Temple of Jerusalem. He promised and reassured the prophet that He would be with him, even when the whole world rose up against him, and despite all the challenges he had to endure.

And today, we are reminded that we can indeed learn from these experiences the servants of God had endured. First of all, we are reminded that God is always with us, and He is always on our side, even when things are not in our favour, or when seemingly everything goes against us in our lives. Many of us did not dare or were reluctant and hesitating in fulfilling God’s commandments, because we were afraid of the opposition against us.

It is natural for us to feel fear and insecurity from all these oppositions and challenges. No one, no matter how courageous or brave, will not be affected by fear in their hearts, as it is part of our human weaknesses and nature. But that is why, as Christians, all of us must remember that God is always by our side, no matter what happens. Sometimes it is just that we do not realise how He has done His works in our midst.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is also important that we also take note how easily we can fall into temptations, and therefore, fall into sin. That was what happened to the people living at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, as well as to king Herod. The people living in Judah at that time lived wickedly, following the unlawful practices of their neighbours, enticed by worldly wealth and power.

And as we all just discussed, king Herod gave in to the temptation of his flesh, the temptation of worldly beauty and sexual pleasures in committing adultery with Herodias, his deceased brother’s wife, who already had a child. Herodias herself also likely gave in to the temptation of power and glory, by agreeing to enter into an inappropriate relationship with king Herod.

We heard how Herod fell to the temptation when the daughter of Herodias danced before Herod. He was so swayed and tempted that he made easy promises that he did not think about carefully beforehand. In the end, because of that action, he ended up committing the sin of murder, when Herodias asked her daughter to ask Herod to bring her the head of St. John the Baptist on a plate right there and then.

This is where we need to be vigilant, brothers and sisters in Christ, that we guard ourselves against the advances of the devil and his forces, who are always trying to strike at us at every available opportunity, to bring us down through temptations and the many traps they carefully laid down in our path towards God and His salvation. Let us all keep this in mind as we live our lives in this world.

May the Lord strengthen us in our faith, that we may follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist, his courageous servant, that we will not be easily tempted and swayed by the temptations of this world, and remain true to our faith despite the challenges and difficulties we may encounter for being faithful to the Lord. May He empower us all to become His good and faithful disciples, now and always. Amen.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018 : 21st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of the Passion of St. John the Baptist (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Mark 6 : 17-29

At that time, this is what had happened : Herod had ordered John to be arrested; and had had him bound and put in prison because of Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip. Herod had married her; and John had told him, “It is not right for you to live with your brother’s wife.”

So Herodias held a grudge against John and wanted to kill him; but she could not, because Herod respected John. He knew John to be an upright and holy man, and kept him safe. And he liked listening to him; although he became very disturbed whenever he heard him.

Herodias had her chance on Herod’s birthday, when he gave a dinner for all the senior government officials, military chiefs, and the leaders of Galilee. On that occasion, the daughter of Herodias came in and danced; and she delighted Herod and his guests.

The king said to the girl, “Ask me for anything you want and I will give it to you.” And he went so far as to say with many oaths, “I will give you anything you ask, even half my kingdom.” She went out and said to her mother, “What shall I ask for?” The mother replied, “The head of John the Baptist.”

The girl hurried to the king and made her request, “I want you to give me the head of John the Baptist, here and now, on a dish.” The king was very displeased, but he would not refuse in front of his guests because of his oaths. So he sent one of the bodyguards, with orders to bring John’s head.

He went and beheaded John in prison; then he brought the head on a dish and gave it to the girl. And the girl gave it to her mother. When John’s disciples heard of this, they came and took his body and buried it.