Monday, 11 December 2017 : 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 we listened from the Scripture passages, relating to us about the healing that came from God. The prophet Isaiah in his book wrote about the coming of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness upon His people, shown with miraculous signs such as the opening of the eyes of the blind, loosening of the tongues of the dumb, healing of those who has paralysis and also possession by evil spirits.

All these healings have also been done by some of the prophets of old, but those are healing of the physical body. What the prophet Isaiah prophesied came about in its complete fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, Who in the Gospel passage today healed the paralytic man, despite the opposition from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

Those people were furious at Jesus because He healed the man who had paralysis by saying that ‘Your sins are forgiven’. In fact, Jesus was healing the man in body and in spirit, as He has the just right to do so. They alleged that only God could forgive sins, and by uttering such words, Jesus had blasphemed against God, but that was because they refused to believe that Jesus is indeed God, the Son of God.

This reading has a particular significance for us as Christians, as all of us know that the celebration of Christmas, for which we are preparing this Advent season, is centred on the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, we believe that God Himself has entered into this world, descending from heaven, and through Mary, His mother, He took up the flesh and appearance of Man.

Hence, we believe in Jesus, Our Lord, Who is both fully divine and fully human, through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and His nativity or birth through Mary into the world. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, has two natures, human and divine, but which at the same time, perfectly united in the one person, Jesus Christ Himself.

Thus, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and God, as our faith describes, then we should believe that He is capable to heal our sins, as sin is indeed a disease that afflicts us, corrupting our inmost selves, from the depths of our souls, to our hearts and minds, and of course, our bodies as well. Sin is the very reason for our separation from the fullness of God’s grace and love since our corrupted beings cannot bear to be in the presence of God.

But God is ever loving and merciful towards us. He has always loved us from the very beginning, even though we have often rejected His love and abandoned His laws and precepts. He is willing to forgive us our sins, and He indeed wants to heal us from our afflictions, as He has demonstrated through the many healing miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry, and which is continued by His disciples and the Church He established.

However, the question is, do we want to be healed? Do we want to be forgiven from our sins? God is always forgiving and He will constantly forgive without cease as long as we are willing to be forgiven. Yet, forgiveness cannot be complete without genuine repentance, as in order for us to be completely forgiven, we also need to be truly sorry for our sins and mistakes, and commit ourselves to a new life without sin.

Do we remember what the Lord Jesus did with the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? We know how the story goes, and the woman was spared stoning because no one was willing to admit that they themselves had no sin on their own, and thus worthy to cast the first stone. But we often forget that Jesus told the woman, that while He does not judge her at that moment, she should sin no more.

Therefore, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, let us all reflect on our lives, and on the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, for whom the Lord has come, and indeed has suffered and died for, on the cross. Whenever we look at the Lord Jesus at the crucifix, let us remember this immense love and mercy He has shown us by laying down His own life that each and every one of us may be healed and absolved from our sins.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope who lived in the first millennium after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope St. Damasus was renowned for his great piety and exemplary life. He helped to guide his flock to be faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties that were facing the Church and the faithful at the time. His holiness and many good works for the sake of the Church has saved many souls who repented from their sins and turned themselves back to the Lord.

Therefore, we should be inspired by his examples, as well as the many other inspiring lives by the other holy saints of God. Many of those saints were themselves great sinners, but they allowed the Lord to transform their lives, and their lives were forever changed, from a life of sin and darkness into a life filled with God’s grace. Let us therefore, pledge ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve Him, to love Him and to help one another to reach out to Him.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us to be able to live faithfully in accordance with His ways. May we draw ever closer to Him, that in the end, we may be worthy of Him and will stand to receive the eternal glory He has promised to all of His faithful ones. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, Jesus was teaching, and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once, the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would, that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet, His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

YHVH will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, My people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to our weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continued with the discourse of the Maccabees rebellion in our first reading today, this time, we heard of how the representatives of the Greek Seleucid king Antiochus IV Epiphanes came to Modein, where the Maccabees family resided, and we heard how the family patriarch, Mattathias, firmly stood his ground and refused to obey the commands of the king, for them to abandon their faith in God and give sacrifices to the Greek gods.

As I mentioned in the previous days, the Jewish people were persecuted and were in a great danger because of their faith, which the Greek king wanted to eradicate, and it resulted in many sorrowful cases of those who were martyred, including yesterday’s story of a mother and her seven sons who refused to listen to the king’s commands and persuasions, and they were martyred one by one.

They would rather suffer for a while and then be worthy of God’s everlasting glory, rather than submitting to the king and enjoying a merely temporary respite of false happiness. That was why they resisted the pressure and the temptations to abandon their faith. All of those things however were not easily done. There were many during the time of the Maccabees who apostasised and abandoned their faith, in exchange of worldly safety and pleasures.

In the Gospel today, we heard about the lamentation that the Lord Jesus made about the city of Jerusalem, because He predicted what would happen to that city under the Roman rule just a few decades after Our Lord’s crucifixion. The city of Jerusalem would be destroyed in the year 70 A.D., by the Roman legions who were sent there to put down rebellion by Jewish zealots and hardliners who rose up against the Romans. The Temple of Jerusalem and the entire city were ransacked and toppled.

All of these, ultimately came about because those people believed not in the power of God, but in their own power, and trusted in worldly matters more than their faith in God. If many of the Jews at the time of the Maccabees surrendered to temptation and abandoned their faith in God, then during the time of Jesus, as Our Lord Himself mentioned, the people refused to believe in Him or listen to Him, and they rejected Him.

What is the lesson that all of us should take note of today? It is that we should expect if we remain faithful to the Lord and are active in living our faith as we should be, we may encounter difficulties and challenges from those who do not agree with our faith, just as what happened in the Scripture passages that we heard today.

Now we have to ask ourselves the question, are we willing to suffer and be persecuted for the sake of Our Lord, that for temporary suffering and pain, and yet, because of our faith, we merit the eternal glory and happiness with God? Or do we rather seek temporary respite and happiness, because we are accepted by the world through our rejection and abandonment of our faith?

Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Clement I, one of the first Popes of the Church, as the successor of St. Peter the Apostle as the Bishop of Rome and therefore, as the most preeminent bishop and leader of the entire Church. Pope St. Clement I lived and reigned as Pope just a few decades after the crucifixion and resurrection of Our Lord. He was known to be the first of the Apostolic Fathers, whose writings were highly significant for our faith even though they were not included in the Bible.

Pope St. Clement I wrote extensively and several of his letters and works survived until this very day. He was a very important leader of the early Church, guiding it through the difficult years that alternate between toleration of the Christian faith by the Roman authorities and persecution by the same authorities. He helped to guide the Church through those difficult times, and remained firmly anchored in his faith.

To this very end, he persevered in faith, and remained resolute in standing up to the truth, even amidst difficult times. He of course had the choice to abandon his hard work and enjoy respite from the world, all the persecutions he had to face. Yet, he chose to be with God. This is an example which all of us as Christians should also follow as well. Let us all renew our faith and our commitment to God, in all the things we do.

May the Lord be with us all, and may He bless all of our endeavours. And may all of us draw ever closer to Him, that we will always endure whatever persecution and difficulty that we may encounter on our way to Him. Amen.

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”

Thursday, 23 November 2017 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots)

Psalm 49 : 1-2, 5-6, 14-15

The God of gods, YHVH has spoken; He summons the earth, from the rising of the sun to its setting. God has shone from Zion, perfect in beauty.

Gather before Me, My faithful ones, who made a Covenant with Me by sacrifice. The heavens will proclaim His sentence, for God Himself is the Judge.

Yet, offer to God a sacrifice of thanks, and fulfil your vows to the Most High. Call on Me in time of calamity; I will deliver you, and you will glorify Me.