Saturday, 23 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

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 asked the father, by means of signs, 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 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.

Tuesday, 19 December 2017 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Sunday, 17 December 2017 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

John 1 : 6-8, 19-28

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness, as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light.

This was the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him, “Who are you?” John recognised the truth, and did not deny it. He said, “I am not the Messiah.”

And they asked him, “Then who are you? Elijah?” He answered, “I am not.” They said, “Are you the Prophet?” And he answered, “No.” Then they said to him, “Tell us who you are, so that we can give some answer to those who sent us. How do you see yourself?”

And John said, quoting the prophet Isaiah, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness : Make straight the way of the Lord!” Those who had been sent were Pharisees; and they put a further question to John, “Then why are you baptising, if you are not the Messiah, or Elijah, or the Prophet?”

John answered, “I baptise you with water, but among you stands One Whom you do not know; although He comes after me, I am not worthy to untie the strap of His sandal.”

This happened in Bethabara beyond the Jordan, where John was baptising.

Saturday, 16 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they 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.

Friday, 15 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.”

Sunday, 10 December 2017 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”

Tuesday, 29 August 2017 : 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 remember the memory of the great saint and servant of God, St. John the Baptist and the moment of his Passion, when he suffered and died in the prison of king Herod of Galilee, echoing the Passion which his Lord and Master would suffer in His own Passion, His death on the cross. St. John the Baptist was arrested by king Herod because he criticised the king harshly for his adultery with his brother’s wife, Herodias.

King Herod has taken Herodias to be his own wife, after his brother’s death. In Jewish customs and in the laws of Moses, should a man dies without having a child with his wife, it was lawful and allowed for the brother of the deceased man to take the widow as a wife, as long as he was unmarried. Then, a child born from the union would be legally considered as the child of the deceased man. However, if we look more carefully at the Gospel passage today, we will be able to see that this was not the case for Herod and Herodias.

In the Gospel, we heard that the girl who danced before Herod and his guests was referred as the daughter of Herodias. This would mean that the girl was not the daughter of Herod and Herodias, but rather that of Philip, Herod’s deceased brother. And as Herod’s brother had a daughter with Herodias, his wife, it is therefore not lawful and an adultery for Herod to take Herodias as wife. And because he was the king of Galilee, such a wicked behaviour was particularly inappropriate for him, thus St. John the Baptist criticised him severely.

From what we have heard today, therefore there are two important things that we need to take note of as we remember the Passion of St. John the Baptist. First of all, all of us need to learn from the examples of St. John the Baptist, who remained strong and resolute through his mission as God’s messenger and herald, calling the people to repent from their sins and to change their ways so as to prepare for the Lord’s coming.

He did not even fear to call the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law as brood of vipers, for their hypocrisy and lack of faith, for their doubt in God’s works as shown through St. John the Baptist himself, and later on through Christ. And accordingly, he did not fear either to rebuke a king for his lack of faith and adultery, for the sin which he had committed before God, for his lack of proper morality.

And even when he was imprisoned, he continued to remain steadfast, and neither begged for his release, but continued to rebuke the king who came regularly to visit him. St. John the Baptist is an inspiration to all of us, in how all of us should live our faith with devotion. He has shown us the example of piety, steadfastness and faith, as well as humility, when he humbly acknowledged that the Lord Who came after him became more popular than he was.

Then, secondly, all of us need to take note of what happened between king Herod, Herodias and her daughter during the celebration. King Herod was so fascinated by the dance done by the daughter of Herodias, presumingly captivated by her beauty or by the sensual moves made in the dances made at the time, that he made lots of promises in front of his guests, even to the point of promising that he would give her everything she wanted.

What does this mean brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that all of us must always be vigilant, keeping watch on our eyes, ears, and all sorts of senses, guarding ourselves against the temptations which the devil are placing in our path through all the worldly allures we received, just as the daughter of Herodias enticed king Herod to give her and her mother the head of St. John the Baptist. In that manner, the king sinned because he murdered the good saint and servant of God due to his failure to restrain himself.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all keep these things in mind as we continue to live in this world, that we will always strive to do what is right and just in the presence of God, and turning away from the temptations of this world. Instead, let us all walk in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist and seek to remain faithful to God as he had been faithful to the very end. May the Lord be with us, and may He give us the courage to live like His beloved servant. Amen.