Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, the last day of the Gregorian solar calendar and which is also the seventh day in the Octave of Christmas, all of us are called to reflect on what has transpired and happened in the past one year of our lives, as well as how we have celebrated Christmas all these while, now that it is approaching one week since the beginning of our Christmas festivities.

At Christmas, its season and celebrations, all of us are always called to reorientate and refocus ourselves and our lives to God. Today’s Scripture readings are no different, as proven by today’s Gospel from the first chapter of the Gospel of St. John, the very same reading used for the Mass celebration of the daytime Christmas. In that reading, used to be read at every celebrations of the Mass according to the Extraordinary Form or the Tridentine Roman Rite, called the Last Gospel, is contained the essence of the fundamental Christian truths we believe in.

It is no coincidence also then that as this reading was used to be read at the end of every celebrations of the Holy Mass, and is still being read now by those who celebrate in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, that it is also being used today, at the very end of our solar calendar. This serves as a very important and timely reminder that God, Who was God, is God, and will always be God, the Word of God, has assumed the flesh of Man, and descended into this world, to become our Saviour.

And this truth is unchanging, just as God is always ever true through time immemorial, year after year, again and again. And as we progress on to the next year, beginning with tomorrow’s new year’s day, all of us are reminded of this truth which we have heard in our Gospel today, as we all believe in the One, Christ Who is the Divine Word incarnate, the Word made Flesh, by which He has gathered all of us to Himself and redeemed us by His sacrifice on the Cross.

It is this truth that we cherish and celebrate in Christmas, as we remind ourselves again of why we rejoice in this Christmas season, not for the merrymaking and gifts, or for the glamour and pleasures we receive from all the celebrations and parties, but rather because through our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, all of us have received the complete assurance of eternal life and salvation.

The same Child born in Bethlehem over two millennia ago and celebrated on Christmas, is the same One Who would be the Saviour of all, by voluntarily enduring for us all the sufferings and punishments intended for us because of our sins, and bearing all of them on His Cross, He brought us all the promise of a new life and hope in Him through faith. And yet, many of us have not believed in Him and His salvation.

As St. John told us through his Epistle in our first reading today, there are those who profess and proclaim different beliefs and truths from the truth which we have heard, and those are called the antichrists. Those antichrists work against the truth of God, the real and true Christ, through Whom we shall receive the fullness of God’s promise salvation, glory and life. But the forces of those arrayed against us, led by the antichrists and the devil, are powerful.

They have in their means and possessions, many tools to tempt us and lure us away from the path leading towards Christ. That is why St. John told us all to be vigilant and to be prepared, for the time will come, even as he has foreseen in the Book of Revelations, of the coming of the Lord and the final reckoning between good and evil. At that time, God will rescue all those who still remain faithful to Him and cast away from Him all those who reject Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore as we end this current solar year and begin a new year tomorrow, let us all reflect on our lives thus far and think of how we can progress in life with faith. And we should look therefore on the saint whose feast day we celebrate today, namely Pope St. Silvester I, one of the early Popes of the Church. Pope St. Silvester I was instrumental in his role in leading the Church into a new era after many centuries of persecutions.

At that time, the Church had just very recently survived through the most brutal era of persecution under the Roman Emperor Diocletian and which was partly continued by his successor, the Emperor Galerius. Just one year before the beginning of the reign of Pope St. Silvester, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great and the Emperor of the East, Licinius agreed and signed the Edict of Milan in the year 313, proclaiming the toleration of Christians and ending of the many centuries of persecution.

Pope St. Silvester reigned for approximately twenty-one years, one of the longer reign among the Popes, leading the Church through this new era, a time when the Church began to receive support from the state and finally was able to celebrate publicly and freely the profession of their faith. Many important churches were built during this period and the foundations of the Church was strengthened by the efforts of Pope St. Silvester and his contemporaries.

He was also supportive of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, the very first Ecumenical Council of the Church, which although he was unable to attend in person, but he did send delegates to the Council to support its works in declaring the objective Christian truth amidst the falsehoods of many of those who tried to lead the Church and the faithful astray, especially the heresy of Arianism, which Pope St. Silvester also courageously resisted and opposed.

As we have heard from the life and works of Pope St. Silvester, we can see how there are going to be lots of challenges and trials for us going forward in life, just as Pope St. Silvester encountered many challenges throughout his long twenty-one years pontificate. However, at the same time, just as he presided over a great new beginning of the Church and the faith, we too are called to look forward with faith and hope as we embark on this new year.

What is our resolution for this coming new year, brothers and sisters in Christ? If our resolution is all about gaining more wealth, glory and happiness for ourselves as many often do, year after year, or if we do not even have any resolution made or thought of at all, then I suggest that we resolve to enter this new year with a new faith in God, seeking to glorify Him from now on through our actions, and strive to follow Him and to be ever closer to Him, with each and every moments of our life.

Let us all give thanks to God for the year that has passed, for all its good and not so good things, for all that God has blessed us with. May the Lord continue to watch over us and bless us through the new year and beyond. May He be with us always, at all times. Amen.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

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; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone. He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him.

He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name. These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God.

And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving-kindness. John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One Who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.”

From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving-kindness came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God-the-only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12, 13

Sing to the Lord a new song, sing to the Lord, all the earth! Sing to the Lord, bless His Name. Proclaim His salvation day after day.

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them; let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before the Lord.

He Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Tuesday, 31 December 2019 : Seventh Day within the Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 18-21

My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come; but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour.

They went out from us though they did not really belong to us. Had they belonged to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom.

I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, each and every one of us are reminded that we can indeed put our complete and undivided attention and trust in the Lord, for it is in Him alone that we will find true joy and comfort, and we will not be disappointed should we decide to put our faith in Him, as He is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophet Isaiah spoke again regarding of the promise of good life and salvation which all of us will receive from God, and in today’s passage, the prophet spoke of just how mighty and all-powerful God is, and everything is possible for Him, as He is truly almighty and omnipotent in all things. And yet, this almighty and all-powerful God wants to love each and every one of us mankind, whom He has made to be His own people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself said, as He called all of us to Him, offering His yoke to us, as the lighter yoke than that of the yoke of the world, and calling on us all who are weary and heavily burdened, that He will give us rest. This is indeed a message that brings great comfort to all of us just as how it must have brought great relief to all those who heard Christ right there and then.

Yet, if we notice carefully, the Lord did not say that He will immediately remove from all of us all obstacles and make our lives easy and good. In fact, by using the term ‘yoke’ which is the burden used to bind the cattle and beasts of burden at that time, the Lord indirectly referred to the fact that for those who follow Him, there will be trials and challenges to come, and to be a faithful Christian we must be prepared to stand up for our faith and defend it.

But this is still better compared to the alternative path, in which we may not suffer as much for now, and we may enjoy the journey more and be pleased more for now. That is because while the path of the Lord may seem to be more challenging and difficult for us to walk, but in truth, it leads us into the true and eternal rest in God, when we will receive the fullness of the inheritance, happiness and glory that God has promised us all.

On the other hand, if we choose the other path, the path of worldliness and the path advocated by the devil, it may seem to be less challenging and easier, and we will likely be more accepted and have more peace in life, but all these are just deceptions to prevent us from realising that this path is leading us into damnation and eternal suffering in hell. And this is why many people ended up falling into the same temptation and fell away from God’s path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent we are all called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them thus far. Have we been walking faithfully with God and putting our trust in Him, or have we instead sought the comforts and good things in life that as Christians we have been lukewarm in living our faith and been inactive and dormant in embracing our faith in God?

That is why today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Damasus I, whose feast we are celebrating today. Pope St. Damasus I was the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at a time when there were plenty of challenges and difficulties facing the faithful and the Church, as there were many heresies and false teachings threatening to divide the Church among many other issues.

Pope St. Damasus managed and led the Church through those difficult years. He spoke out firmly against the heresies and those leading the Church and the faithful into them. Pope St. Damasus had his hands full in managing all these issues and yet he continued to do his best to serve the faithful in his role as Pope and leader of the Church. He wrote extensively and also supported St. Jerome in compiling the Latin version of the Bible, namely the Vulgate.

Pope St. Damasus also worked hard to maintain good relations with the Church leaders in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and he even played a major role in the resolution of the leadership and succession disputes in the Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria. Truly, we can see just how busy Pope St. Damasus I must have been at that time and the kind of immense trials that he had to endure in being faithful to God and to the missions entrusted to him, yet he remained true to his faith and dedicated himself wholeheartedly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of Pope St. Damasus I, in being faithful to God and in putting our trust in Him, that we may walk courageously in the path that He has shown us even despite all the challenges and trials that we may have to face along the way. May the Lord guide us and help us throughout this journey and may He bless us all always. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.