Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we heard of the works of the Lord, in ministering to us, His beloved ones, as described in the Epistle to the Hebrews as well as in our Gospel passage today. We heard of all the tangible works that the Lord had done in our midst, as Our Lord and Saviour, showing the genuine love of God to each and every one of us.

The author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today clearly and plainly described the works that the Lord had done, in coming down upon us and in taking up our human nature. By His sharing with us in His humanity, in the real and tangible existence in flesh and blood, the Lord has gathered us all in and embraced us with love, and led us into the new path towards His salvation.

He came to heal us from our sins, from all the afflictions that had been affecting us, all these while. In the Gospel today we heard how the Lord had laboured to touch all those who had been afflicted with various diseases and conditions, and possessed by evil spirits. The Lord healed them all and showed His love for them generously, but He did not stay on in just one place.

When His disciples asked Him why He disappeared as many more were waiting on Him, He told the disciples that He was also needed elsewhere, as there were still many others who had not yet heard of the truth and seen the love that He was to bring unto their midst. Thus, the Lord continued to show the love and mercy of God to all of us, the children of God, wherever He could, and sent His disciples before Him to help in His works.

But, His ultimate design came to be revealed in what He had willingly accepted at the end of His ministry in this world, as He accepted the burden of the Cross, as our High Priest and Mediator with God, as described and explained by the author of the Epistle to the Hebrews in our first reading today. As our High Priest, the Lord Jesus Christ became the Mediator between us and God, His heavenly Father, being the Bridge between us and Him.

While the priests of the Old Testament offered sacrifices of animals and their spilt blood upon the Altar, the Lord offered nothing less than Himself, as He is indeed both the High Priest as well as the perfect and unblemished Lamb of God, though sinless and without fault, willingly shouldered upon Himself the whole burden and weight of our multitudes of sins and faults. He offered for our sake the perfect sacrifice worthy of the forgiveness of our sins.

The Lord accepted this burden and role out of His amazing love for us, in enduring all the sufferings, humiliation and trials for our sake. He has humbled Himself and emptied Himself of all glory and majesty to bring us back to Himself, to embrace us and to love us all once again as He had always intended to. Due to sin, we have been separated from the love of God, and we should have suffered death and destruction. Yet, it was by God’s grace that we have been spared such a fate.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we all know of just how great the Lord has loved us, all these while, then let us all appreciate and love the Lord with all of our strength. And perhaps we should be inspired by the examples set by St. Hilary of Poitiers, whose feast day we celebrate today, and whose contributions and great commitment to the Lord and the Church we ought to remember this day.

St. Hilary of Poitiers was one of the most renowned early Church fathers and leader as the Bishop of Poitiers and defender of the true faith amidst the many challenges, heresies and divisions facing the Church during his time. At that time, there were numerous heresies misleading the faithful with false teachings, particularly that of the Arian heresy, which was widespread and supported even by powerful members of the community.

St. Hilary of Poitiers himself was not born as a Christian, but turned to the faith together with his family after he began delving into the study of the Christian Scriptures, their texts and faith. And the people saw the greatness and piety in St. Hilary of Poitiers, who was so well-respected by the faithful that they all unanimously elected him as their bishop, as the Bishop of Poitiers.

At that time, the Arian heresy was spreading rapidly, and as the heretics attempted to overcome the Church and even persecute the believers of the true faith, St. Hilary of Poitiers dedicated himself to struggle against the efforts of the Arians, and laboured hard in order to regain the faithful from the clutches of the false teachers and leaders. He encountered plenty of challenges and difficulties, having to endure even exile for his steadfastness in opposing the heresies and falsehoods.

But through his tireless efforts, his many writings and contributions, eventually, not only that St. Hilary of Poitiers managed to return to his See, but together with many others who upheld the true, orthodox Christian faith, he also began to stem the tide of heresy and lies that eventually saw the triumph of the true and orthodox Christian faith as upheld by the Ecumenical Councils and passed down authentically from the Apostles.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us have heard of the commitment and the efforts put by St. Hilary of Poitiers, who dedicated himself to the service of God with all of his strength. Having known of God’s love ourselves, can we follow in St. Hilary’s footsteps, brothers and sisters? Let us all seek to serve the Lord and glorify His Name at every possible opportunities, from now on. May God bless us and be our Guide in our journey towards Him. Amen.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Mark 1 : 29-39

At that time, on leaving the synagogue, Jesus went to the home of Simon and Andrew with James and John. As Simon’s mother-in-law was sick in bed with fever, they immediately told Him about her. Jesus went to her and, taking her by the hand, raised her up. The fever left her and she began to wait on them.

That evening at sundown, people brought to Jesus all the sick and those who had evil spirits : the whole town was pressing around the door. Jesus healed many who had various diseases, and drove out many demons; but He did not let them speak, for they knew Who He was.

Very early in the morning, before daylight, Jesus went off to a lonely place where He prayed. Simon and the others went out also, searching for Him; and when they found Him, they said, “Everyone is looking for You.” Then Jesus answered, “Let us go to the nearby villages so that I may preach there too; for that is why I came.”

So Jesus set out to preach in all the synagogues throughout Galilee; He also cast out demons.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Psalm 104 : 1-2, 3-4, 6-7, 8-9

Give thanks to the Lord, call on His Name; make known His works among the nations. Sing to Him, sing His praise, proclaim all His wondrous deeds.

Glory in His holy Name; let those who seek the Lord rejoice. Look to the Lord and be strong; seek His face always.

You descendants of His servant Abraham, you sons of Jacob, His chosen ones! He is the Lord our God; His judgments reach the whole world.

He remembers His covenant forever, His promise to a thousand generations, the covenant He made with Abraham, the promise He swore to Isaac.

Wednesday, 13 January 2021 : 1st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Hilary, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Bishops)

Hebrews 2 : 14-18

And because all those children share one same nature of flesh and blood, Jesus, likewise, had to share this nature. This is why His death destroyed the one holding the power of death, that is the devil, and freed those who remained in bondage all their lifetime, because of the fear of death.

Jesus came, to take by the hand, not the Angels but the human race. So, He had to be like His brothers and sisters, in every respect, in order to be the High Priest, faithful to God and merciful to them, a Priest, able to ask pardon, and atone for their sins. Having been tested through suffering, He is able to help those who are tested.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to proclaim the truth of God and to hold fast to the same truth that the Lord has passed down onto us through His Church. We should not be easily swayed by the temptations and the lies of Satan, and all that he has used in trying to lead us astray down the wrong path.

In our first reading today we heard from the Epistle of the Apostle St. John on the matter of the presence of antichrists, false prophets and the false leaders and teachers of the faithful who had and would, and indeed, in the future to come, will misguide the people of God into the path of ruin and sin against God. St. John reminded all the faithful to keep and to stay steadfast to what they had received from the very beginning.

He reminded us all of everything that the Lord had done for our sake, all that He had committed to us, by giving us His Son for our salvation and liberation from the bondage and enslavement to sin, as well as the tyranny of death. Through His Incarnation and birth into this world, and then by the truth and the salvation He brought to us by His sacrifice on the Cross, the Lord has saved us all, and this is what we all believe in as Christians.

In our Gospel passage today we heard of the faithful servant of God and the Herald of the Messiah, St. John the Baptist, who was calling the people to repent from their sinful ways, and who was baptising them with water in the River Jordan just before the Lord Himself was to begin His own ministry. He was confronted by many of the chief priests, Pharisees and all those who refused to believe in him and his works.

And we heard how St. John the Baptist courageously answered them all for their doubts and queries, and speaking of God’s works done through him. And when he was asked if he was the Messiah that was promised by God, St. John the Baptist resolutely and humbly spoke that he was not the One, and that he was not even worthy to untie the strip of His sandals. This was truly a great statement of faith and also a profound display of true humility that all of us Christians should be inspired by.

We have to contrast this to the behaviour of the many false teachers and leaders who had appeared and led the people astray throughout the history of the Church and man, those who claimed that they were the Messiah and profess to have the better knowledge of the truth when what they had were in fact falsehoods, utter nonsense and even came from the devil himself. They acted with pride and greed, selfishly focusing on themselves and their desires rather than serving God.

That is why today we should look upon the examples set by St. John the Baptist, as well as the many other devout and holy servants of God, particularly St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, whose feast day we celebrate today. And quite fittingly, these two saints worked hard against the falsehoods of the heretics and all those who had led the people astray from God.

St. Basil the Great was the Bishop of Caesarea in Asia Minor, while St. Gregory Nazianzen, also known as St. Gregory of Nazianzus was the Archbishop of Constantinople, contemporaries who were the courageous and important leaders of the Church in the struggle against the heresies prevalent at that time, particularly the heresy of Arianism that bitterly divided many of the members of the faithful, clergy and the laity alike, and which was supported by powerful members of the nobles and the government.

St. Basil the Great rallied hard against the Arians and their teachings, resolutely refusing to let their perversion of the true faith to continue, rejecting their false ideas that the Lord Jesus as the Son was not equal to the Father, and that He was created rather than Co-Eternal with Him. He also worked hard against other heresies like Apollinarism that conflicted the understanding of the nature of Christ.

St. Gregory Nazianzen similarly also worked hard in combatting the same heresies in his See of Constantinople and beyond, and helped to strengthen the theological discourse and teachings of the true faith together with St. Basil and other holy fathers of the Church. They laboured hard against those false prophets and leaders, and following in the footsteps of the Apostles, continued to strengthen the foundations of the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, all of us have received the same truth of God through the Church, and we are all therefore called to continue the good works that were started by those holy fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen in particular. Let us all do our very best, in whatever capacity we have, to devote and dedicate our time and effort, in our daily lives in whatever little ways and things we do, to glorify God and to proclaim the truth of God in our communities, and lead more souls to the truth.

May God bless us all in our good endeavours and efforts, and may Holy Fathers, St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen always intercede for us all. Amen.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 19-28

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, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to the Lord a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

The Lord has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you lands, make a joyful noise to the Lord, break into song and sing praise.

Saturday, 2 January 2021 : Weekday of Christmas Time, Memorial of St. Basil the Great and St. Gregory Nazianzen, Bishops and Doctors of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 22-28

Who is the liar? The one who denies that Jesus is the Christ. This is an antichrist, who denies both the Father and the Son. The one who denies the Son is without the Father, and those who acknowledge the Son also have the Father.

Let what you heard from the beginning remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you, too, will remain in the Son and in the Father. And this is the promise He Himself gave us : eternal life.

I write this to you thinking of those who try to lead you astray. You received from Him an anointing, and it remains in you, so you do not need someone to teach you. His anointing teaches you all things, it speaks the truth and does not lie to you; so remain in Him, and keep what He has taught you.

And now, my children, live in Him, so that when He appears in His glory, we may be confident and not ashamed before Him when He comes.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are called to focus our attention as we progress along the Christmas Octave, to focus on the Light of the world and the Light of our salvation, Jesus Christ. The Lord has come into the world and born to be our Saviour, and His light has restored us and pierced away the darkness and evil surrounding us. Through His Light we have seen the salvation of God, and because of that, we rejoice and are glad.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard about the account of the time when the Lord Jesus was presented at the Temple of God in Jerusalem, as per the Law of God revealed through Moses, which decreed that all the firstborn of Israel ought to be presented and offered to God. And at that moment, there were two people who came to the Lord, both of whom had been waiting for that encounter for a long time.

Simeon, the elder of the people was full of joy to be able to see the Messiah or the Saviour, as the Lord had told him that he would not die and rest before he saw the Messiah with his own eyes. And again, we heard Simeon saying in thanksgiving that because he had seen the Light of the Lord’s salvation, then he could finally rest and go to his fathers. He was referring to the Lord Jesus, the Light of the world.

Then the old prophetess Anna who was also there, spoke of the Child saying that He would be the sign for many and would bring the salvation of God to the nations, and together with Simeon, they were also saying that sorrow would come to Mary, the Mother of the Lord and figuratively saying that ‘a sword would pierce her own heart’, a reference and premonition of the sorrow that she would experience at the crucifixion and the death of her Son Jesus on the Cross.

St. John in his Epistle as we heard in our first reading spoke of the Light of the Lord having arrived and dwelled in our midst, and yet, many of us have yet to accept His light and turned our back against Him. The Light of God has entered into the world and yet we did not show Him true and genuine faith. We have done exactly what St. John said in his Epistle that while we claim to be living in the light, yet our actions show that we are still in darkness.

Let us all look no further than how we have lived our lives and how we celebrate this Christmas then. How many of us have lived our lives caring only about ourselves, acted selfishly and in our own self-interest all these time? Have we been focusing too much on our many plans and desires in life? And have we been forgetting Christ in all of our Christmas festivities and celebrations so far?

Today we are all being reminded that we are celebrating Christ, the Light of our salvation in this season of Christmas, and therefore our celebration focus should be on Him and not on ourselves, and neither should the focus be on the glamour or the merry-making themselves. We rejoice because the Lord has so lovingly and generously loved us that He gave us all Jesus, Our Lord and Salvation to bring us out from our wretched and sinful state.

Let us all look upon the Light of Christ and reflect on what He has done to us, all the love He has shown us, and strive to be faithful and renew our devotion to Him. We must not lose our focus on the Light that Christ has brought us or else, we may end up falling into the many temptations of the world, of power, fame and glory, of wealth and influence that in the end led us to sin against God.

That is why today we should look upon the faithful life and the examples set by today’s saint, namely the great St. Thomas Becket, the renowned Archbishop of Canterbury and Primate of England from several centuries ago. He died in martyrdom defending the faith and the rights of the Church against the actions and tyranny of the then king of England, and was faithful to the very end despite the trials and challenges that he had to face for many years.

St. Thomas Becket himself was a close friend of the king of England, Henry II, and he was entrusted eventually with the important and powerful office of the Chancellor of England, becoming essentially the right hand man of the king. And king Henry II in his efforts to bring the Church and more income into his direct control, attempted to do so by appointing St. Thomas Becket to be the new Archbishop of Canterbury, the most influential and important bishop in all of England.

But contrary to what king Henry II had hoped, such an action actually completely undermined his effort and attempt to rule over the Church and the matters of faith. Although a good friend of the king, but his new responsibility as the Archbishop of Canterbury brought about a complete conversion of St. Thomas Becket, much like the Light of Christ dispelling the darkness of the world.

St. Thomas Becket opposed the king in his efforts to bring the Church under the control of the state, and when the king attempted to do so, and was trying to influence Church affairs, St. Thomas Becket opposed all of these and defended the rights and the independence of the Church. He was opposed by many of the nobles who sided with the king, and he had to endure bitter opposition and challenges, and were exiled from his See for more than once.

But this did not stop St. Thomas Becket from his courageous efforts and works in glorifying God and defending the rights of the Church. St. Thomas Becket persevered in his efforts to defend the Lord and His servants, and this led to his murder by the four knights who mistook the king’s drunken stupor and frustration with an order to execute the faithful bishop, who was in the eyes of many nobles, was a traitor to the king and country. Thus was how the infamous murder of St. Thomas Becket came to be, with the Archbishop murdered brutally in his Cathedral during prayer.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, hopefully the story of the faith and dedication of the faithful St. Thomas Becket can become an inspiration for many of us to follow just as we continue living our lives and in how we are celebrating this Christmas season in the days to come. Let us all be faithful and be good witnesses of the Lord at all times, that we may bring the Light of Christ into our darkened world through our every actions and deeds, at every moments of our lives. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 December 2020 : Fifth Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of St. Thomas Becket, Bishop and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 22-35

When the day came for the purification according to the law of Moses, they brought the Baby up to Jerusalem, to present Him to the Lord, as it is written in the law of the Lord : Every firstborn male shall be consecrated to God. And they offered a sacrifice, as ordered in the law of the Lord : a pair of turtledoves or two young pigeons.

There lived in Jerusalem at this time a very upright and devout man named Simeon; the Holy Spirit was in him. He looked forward to the time when the Lord would comfort Israel, and he had been assured, by the Holy Spirit, that he would not die before seeing the Messiah of the Lord. So he was led into the Temple by the Holy Spirit at the time the parents brought the Child Jesus, to do for Him according to the custom of the Law.

Simeon took the Child in his arms, and blessed God, saying, “Now, o Lord, You can dismiss Your servant in peace, for You have fulfilled Your word and my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You display for all the people to see. Here is the Light You will reveal to the nations, and the glory of Your people Israel.”

His father and mother wondered at what was said about the Child. Simeon blessed them, and said to Mary, His mother, “Know this : your Son is a Sign, a Sign established for the falling and rising of many in Israel, a Sign of contradiction; and a sword will pierce your own soul, so that, out of many hearts, thoughts may be revealed.”