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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 40 : 25-31

To whom, then, will you liken Me or make Me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see : who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is His power, so great His strength, that not one of them is missing.

How can you say, o Jacob, how can you complain, o Israel, that your destiny is hidden from Me, that your rights are ignored by YHVH? Have you not known, have you not heard that YHVH is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, His knowledge is without limit.

He gives strength to the enfeebled, He gives vigour to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in YHVH will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are all reminded by God through His words in the Scriptures not to put our trust in any worldly things or dependencies, but instead put our whole trust in the Lord our God alone. If we place our trust in the world, all the glories, power and wealth it can give us, then in the end, what we will face is just disappointment and regret as our Scripture passages today should remind us of the truth.

In our first reading today, we heard the story of the Greek Seleucid king, Antiochus IV Epiphanes in continuation of the narrative of this week from the Book of the Maccabees. King Antiochus IV was the same king who ordered all the people in his whole Empire including the descendants of Israel in Judea to abandon their laws and customs, their faith and worship of God for the pagan worship of the Greek gods, and enforced Greek customs and ways on them.

And for that purpose and end, the king persecuted many of those who remained faithful to their dedication and faith in God, and those who refused to abandon their faith were put to great suffering and many even met death in martyrdom. That was the beginning of the Maccabean Revolt in which the Maccabees, the sons of Mattathias, one of the faithful Jew, rose up against the king in revolt, seeking to free themselves from his tyranny.

In today’s first reading then, we heard of the great campaign carried out by king Antiochus IV as he went to the land of Persia and Media to reclaim parts of the kingdom which once belonged to his predecessors but had been lost in the past decades. We can see from all these that king Antiochus IV was a stubborn and ambitious man, who sought above all the glory of the world, power and majesty above everything else that he was willing to go against God.

Yet, as we have heard and witnessed from history, for all of his pursuits and aims for greatness, king Antiochus IV failed in all of his efforts, as not only that his religious policies and oppressions led to rebellions particularly in the lands of the Jewish people, but he also failed terribly in his efforts to reclaim the lost lands of his predecessors and his plans to gain the wealth and taxes from those lands. And he ended up dying and meeting his end in regret and sorrow.

This is then related to what we have also heard from the Gospels today, in which we heard of the exchange and debate between the Lord Jesus and the group called the Sadducees. The Sadducees were one of the major and very influential groups at the time of Jesus, in contrast to the Pharisees. While the Pharisees were those who were very spiritual and particular of the commandments and the Law of God, the Sadducees on the other hand were like the ‘secular’ party, who did not believe in many of the tenets of the Law.

The Sadducees did not believe in Angels and spiritual things, and neither did they believe in the resurrection from the dead. To them, the life in this world as they enjoyed was the ideal and death was nothing more or less than the end of all the joy and happiness. This fits the personality of the Sadducees perfectly as they were men of this world, those with positions of power and close connections to the king and members of the ruling class.

As they debated and asked the Lord with regards to whether the woman who had seven brothers as husbands had any one of them as her husband in the afterlife, they were in fact thinking in a worldly manner, thinking and wondering if they could retain the possessions, wealth and things in this world as how they have enjoyed it even to the afterlife. They could not bear to part with all of that they have gained and enjoyed in life, just as how king Antiochus IV himself also behaved.

But all of these had led many among us mankind into our downfall as they made us to be greedy and obsessed with all the worldly concerns and things that often distract us, mislead us and bring us further and further away from the path towards God and His salvation. And many of us also failed to realise until it was too late, that none of these things will last forever, and the joy and happiness they provided were merely temporary and not true joy, unlike what God can give to all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all instead as Christians seek for the true joy and happiness in God, by learning from the examples of our holy predecessors in faith, the two saints whose feasts we are celebrating on this very day, namely that of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban the Abbot. Both of them had led holy and wonderful lives committed to God, which we ourselves can imitate and follow in our own lives. All of us should look up to the examples of these two holy men for inspiration.

Pope St. Clement I was one of the earliest successors of St. Peter as the Vicar of Christ and the Pope of the Church, remembered for his great zeal and faith, for his tireless dedication to build and maintain the Church through difficult years of persecution and struggles. He was known for his many letters and Epistles to the various parts of the Church through which he reminded the faithful to keep their faith strongly in God and to persevere through the challenges and trials that they had to face.

And like the other early Church fathers and the Apostles, Pope St. Clement I had to suffer persecution as well, as it was told that he was arrested and put into exile, and he was also put into hard labour as part of his imprisonment and suffering. In the end, Pope St. Clement I was martyred, but he met his death with joy, unlike king Antiochus IV who met it with regret and the Sadducees who feared it, because Pope St. Clement I knew that God was with him, and he would receive the gift of eternal life and glory from Him.

Meanwhile, St. Columban the Abbot was a famous and pious Irish missionary who was a great missionary and abbot, who helped to strengthen the foundations of the Church and also monastic practices of the Church of his time, as he helped in the establishment of many monasteries and places that eventually attracted many monks and people who wanted to serve the Lord through prayer. St. Columban was remembered for his great dedication to God, his enduring love and faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all look upon the examples which these two holy men had set for us. Let us all follow in their footsteps and grow in our own faith and love for God. May the Lord continue to guide us through life, and may He help us to remain faithful to Him and to love Him with ever greater devotion from now on so that we may look beyond earthly things and desires, and seek only His eternal kingdom and glory. May God bless us all and our good works for His sake, now and always. Amen.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Luke 20 : 27-40

At that time, then some Sadducees arrived. These people claim that there is no resurrection, and they asked Jesus this question, “Master, in the Law Moses told us, ‘If anyone dies leaving a wife but no children, his brother must take the wife, and any child born to them will be regarded as the child of the deceased.’”

“Now, there were seven brothers : the first married, but died without children. The second married the woman, but also died childless. And then the third married her, and in this same way all seven died, leaving no children. Last of all the woman died. On the day of the resurrection, to which of them will the woman be a wife? For all seven had her as a wife.”

And Jesus replied, “Taking a husband or a wife is proper to people of this world, but for those who are considered worthy of the world to come, and of resurrection from the dead, there is no more marriage. Besides, they cannot die, for they are like the Angels. They are sons and daughters of God, because they are born of the resurrection.”

“Yes, the dead will be raised, as Moses revealed at the burning bush, when he called the Lord the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. For God is God of the living, and not of the dead, for to Him everyone is alive.”

Some teachers of the Law then agreed with Jesus, “Master, You have spoken well.” They did not dare ask Him anything else.

Saturday, 23 November 2019 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Clement I, Pope and Martyr, and St. Columban, Abbot (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Abbots or Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Psalm 9 : 2-3, 4 and 6, 16b and 19

Let my heart give thanks to YHVH, I yearn to proclaim Your marvellous deeds, and rejoice and exult in You; and sing praise to Your Name, o Most High.

For my enemies fell back in retreat, they stumbled and perished before You. You have turned back the nations; You have destroyed the wicked; You have blotted out their names forever.

The feet of the pagans were ensnared by the trap they laid. For the needy will not always be forgotten, nor the hope of the poor perish forever.