Monday, 31 December 2018 : Seventh Day within 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, we are all reminded to keep the truth of Christ in our lives, to follow the path that God has shown us all as Christians, and not to believe in the falsehoods of the devil, the false prophets and all those who seek to mislead us into sin and destruction. In this season and time of Christmas, we ought to continue to reflect on what our faith is truly all about.

In the Gospel passage today, we listened to the beginning portion of the Holy Gospel according to St. John, we heard the same reading that is read during the Mass of Christmas Day, the narrative of the Word of God made Flesh, the Divine Word Incarnate, which used to be read at the end of the celebration of the Holy Mass as the Last Gospel. In that passage we heard how God sent His own beloved Son into the world, to be the Light of the world, and the salvation of all His people.

And through Him, we have received the fullness of truth, which He revealed to all of us, through His teachings and through the Holy Spirit, that gave us all the wisdom and understanding of what it means to become a follower of Christ, to be saved from our sins and from our fated destruction. In Him was revealed the fullness of God’s love for each and every one of us, by His own willingness to suffer and die for us on the cross, for our salvation.

The devil knows this well, and he knows that his fate and final defeat has been sealed, when the Lord conquered sin and death, by His own suffering and death on the cross, and by defeating death through the glorious resurrection from the dead. He showed all of us, that death does not have any more power over us, as long as we believe in Him, and put our trust and faith in Him, abandoning our old ways of sin and disobedience.

This is why the devil and his allies are always very busy at work, trying to subvert us and to turn us into the traps of sin that they had put into place in order to make us fall into eternal damnation together with him and his allies, the fallen angels, the demons. The devil does not want us to be saved, and this is why, he is placing in our path, many obstacles and temptations, in order to prevent us from receiving God’s saving grace.

He showed us path that is easier and more enjoyable and better than the Lord’s path, tempting us to follow him and to obey him instead of the path of the Lord. That is how we mankind fall into sin, when we allow the devil to tempt us and to turn us away from God. He is using the ego and pride, the greed and desire within our hearts and minds, to make us lose our way.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are all reminded by the Lord that we ought to rediscover that love which we should have for God, because after all, despite having disobeyed and sinned against Him, but He is still willing to forgive us our sins and to be reconciled with us, as long as we are willing to turn away from those sinful and wicked ways, and return to Him with sincere and repentant hearts.

We need to realise that the path that the Lord has shown us, although it may be filled with challenges and difficulties, but that is the path that will lead us to eternal life and true joy, and not the falsehoods presented by the devil and all of his wicked schemes. We must be careful not to be swayed and tempted by all of his schemes to make us fall into damnation, and as we approach the end of this current year, do we want to continue the next year with the same attitude in life?

Today we should make the resolution for our upcoming new year, with zeal and renewed faith in God, by seeking to turn away from our past mistakes, disobedience and all things that led to sin. We should look forward to a new life and existence in God, with the desire to serve Him and to love Him with all of out hearts and with all of our strength. Today, we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Silvester I, a holy and devout servant of God, during the years immediately after the toleration and liberation of the Christian faith from the harsh persecution under the early Roman Emperors.

Pope St. Silvester I did many work in establishing a stable foundation for the Church in those years, building many important churches and facilities, some of which are still present to this very day. He helped began a new chapter in the history of the Church, and he was also influential in the maintenance and expansion of the true, Orthodox faith in the midst of growing number of heresies and falsehoods that were widespread in the Church.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should imitate the same zeal and courage, the commitment that Pope St. Silvester I had shown in embracing the enormous prospects that awaited the Church at that time, and we too should make use of the opportunity given to us by the Lord, in the coming year. Let us all devote ourselves and be faithful from now on, doing our very best to walk in the way of the Lord and love Him, each and every days of our life. Amen.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : Seventh Day within 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.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12a, 12b-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.

Monday, 31 December 2018 : Seventh Day within 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.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture showing us just how great God’s love is for each and every one of us, that He is willing to do everything in order to be reconciled with us, that we may be saved from the predicaments caused by our sins. He loves each and every single one of us, without exception and without any prejudices. He used a parable to deliver this truth about His love to the people, as we heard in the Gospel passage today.

In that passage, we heard about the parable of the lost sheep, in which He told them a story of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of those sheep strays from the flock. He told them how the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine who are safely together behind, and do all he can in order to track and find the stray sheep, and bring it back to the flock. This is what the Lord exactly used in His own way of reconciling with His people, those represented by the lost sheep.

God went out all of the way just so that He could reclaim us, His lost ones, who have been lost and sundered from Him since the day we first disobeyed Him and chose to follow Satan and his temptations rather than to be faithful and fully in love with Him. Satan is the false shepherd, the wolf is sheep’s clothing that is ever ready to distract us and to lure us away into our downfall, by separating us from our loving shepherd.

And that is exactly how the devil works, brothers and sisters in Christ, by the means of persuasions and false promises of worldly glories, pleasures and other forms of enjoyment of the flesh and the body, or of the mind. He presents to us a path that seems to be easier and less challenging, more profitable and enjoyable for us. And thus, many were tempted to abandon the path of righteousness, and instead embracing the ways of sin.

But God did not give up on us, and instead, as He Himself said, that He is the Good Shepherd, He truly loves us and cares for us, even to the point of doing everything so that we may be saved, even if that requires Him to suffer and to be persecuted for our sins, suffering the blows and punishments that should have been ours. He, our Good Shepherd, stands between us and our destruction, offering up Himself for our sake, that we do not perish.

That was what the Lord has done for us, by what He has done, all that we believe in our faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Whom God has sent into this world in order to be our Saviour. He willingly took up the appearance and substance of Man, to be crucified for us, bearing the cross to Calvary, and by gathering all of our sins to Himself, offering up His own perfect offering of His Body and Blood, He, our Good Shepherd, is gathering all of us, God’s lost sheep, back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father.

Sadly, it was our reluctance and stubbornness, our predisposition and vulnerabilities to sin, that have prevented many of us from taking full advantage of this love which God has shown us. We are like those lost sheep that stubbornly run away from our loving shepherd, and instead, seeking those seemingly more enticing and enjoyable opportunities elsewhere, without knowing that those false leads are efforts by the devil and his forces to prey on us, waiting for our downfall.

Many of us are too busy with those temptations and allures of worldliness, that we fail to notice God’s love for us, and we continue to dwell in our state of sin, which unless we repent from it, we are at risk of falling into eternal damnation and separation from God, when even all of our regrets will have no use at all. This is not what God wants to happen to us, and certainly, He wants as many of us to be rescued and to be recovered from our lost state.

That is why, it is important that today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, roughly halfway towards Christmas as of now, we need to recalibrate our lives and reflect on our actions and deeds in life thus far. We are called to find the true meaning of our Christmas celebrations, that we may be able to enrich our own lives, with genuine faith and understanding of God’s love. Do we truly know what Christmas is about?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas is in fact the moment when the tangible reunion between God and man is made possible, through the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born on Christmas day in the manger, the One Who would save all of us by His death on the cross. It is a time of joy, not because of all the parties and merry-making, all the merchandises and shopping we can enjoy, but instead, because in Christ, we have seen the hope and fulfilment of our salvation.

Today, let us all discern on our lives and how we can live it better to be more in accordance to God’s ways. Let us all see God’s great love for us, and find that courage and desire to love Him, and to be reconciled with Him. Today, as we also celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope and a devout servant of God, who contributed greatly to the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, by his tireless efforts to combat heresy and by giving his support to the Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome, let us ask for his intercession, that we may find the humility and the desire to love God, to return to Him, our loving Father and Good Shepherd.

May the Lord Who loves us so dearly continue to love us and to reach out to us, just as we also make the conscious effort to seek Him out, to realise how much He has loved us and given Himself for us on the cross. Let us turn away from sin, sin no more, and become devoted children of God, our loving Father, from now on. May this blessed season of Advent be a time for us to rediscover our love for God. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name; proclaim His salvation, day after day.

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

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