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.

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

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 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, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture reminding us on the importance for us to keep our faith alive in our lives, by listening to what the Lord has reminded each and every one of us today, particularly in what we heard in our Gospel passage today, on the moment when the Lord Jesus drove out the merchants and money changers from the Temple of God.

In that passage, we heard of what the Lord did when He saw all the corruptions and wickedness that were present amidst the people of God, all their corrupt dealings with money and cheating of the Temple visitors and pilgrims, for their own selfish benefits and other corrupt purposes that were totally unbecoming of the place as the location for divine worship and praise.

That is why the Lord chased them all out of the Temple for their blatant wickedness and refusal to follow the Lord’s commandments. And this is actually symbolic of what we need to do with our own lives. The Temple is referring to our own bodies, hearts, minds, and all of our whole beings. That is because God Himself is truly present in us, through His Spirit and the Body and Blood which He has given to us through the Eucharist.

And because God Himself is fully present in us, within us and in our midst, then each and every one of us must be truly exemplary as God’s Holy Temple and House. Otherwise, through our actions, by our disobedience of God’s commandments and by our failure to obey the Lord’s will, through our sins, we are putting wickedness and sin in the midst of this Temple of God, that is our body and being, much like the merchants and money changers that corrupted the Temple of God in Jerusalem.

God loves each and every one of us, brothers and sisters in Christ. And that is why, He is doing so much in order to bring us back to Himself, calling on us to change our ways and to repent from our sins. However, all of the wicked things and evil deeds we perform in our lives are things that have no place in God’s presence. For God is all good, and disobedience through sin is a great obstacle in the midst of our efforts to reach out to God.

Today, we should reflect on our every actions in life, and see if we have truly been faithful to God or whether we have veered off on the way in our journey towards Him, by the many temptations present in this life. We should think and reflect on all these things, and perhaps also take note of the examples shown by two saints, whose feast day we celebrate today, that is of Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban.

Pope St. Clement I was the Pope and leader of the Universal Church during some of its earliest years, as one of the first successors of St. Peter the Apostle, the first Pope. It was told that St. Peter himself consecrated Pope St. Clement I as bishop, and later on, the latter succeeded the second successor of St. Peter as Pope and Bishop of Rome. And Pope St. Clement I was remembered widely throughout the Church at that time and later on, as an influential Church and Apostolic father, the first among many of those who would continue the good works began by the Apostles in the building of the Church.

He wrote extensively to the various Church communities at the time, some of which were preserved as the collective writings of the Church fathers, and he helped to continue the growth and the stabilisation of the Church at the time, and many of the latter Church fathers and communities looked up to the piety and the good examples set by Pope St. Clement I in following Christ. He was martyred during the reign of the Roman Emperor Trajan, during one of the many Christian persecutions.

Today we also celebrate the feast of St. Columban, a holy man and abbot of the Church, who was an Irish missionary noted for his great many works among the regions of what is now France and Italy, establishing many monasteries and communities in those regions. At the same time, St. Columban also helped to evangelise the faith among the people, especially among those who have not followed the Lord in the right manner, affected by fallacies and heresies of the time.

St. Columban inspired many people through his works, and by his monastic rule, the Rule of St. Columban, mirroring the more famous Rule of St. Benedict, many people turned towards God and reorientate their lives towards God through prayer and upright life. Some of them joined the monasteries St. Columban founded, and many others became missionaries as how St. Columban was.

Today, by looking upon the examples set by these two holy and devoted servants of God, Pope St. Clement I and St. Columban, let us all turn towards God with a renewed love and faith for Him, and let us always be mindful, that we are all the Temples and Houses of God’s Holy and Real Presence, and as such, we should strive to be holy and free from sin, and repent from those sins if we have indeed fallen into the temptations and sins.

May God be with us all in this journey, and may we continue to devote ourselves and become ever closer to Him, day after day, in our every lives. May God bless us all and our good endeavours, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 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 : 45-48

At that time, Jesus entered the Temple area and began to drive out the merchants. And He said to them, “God says in the Scriptures, ‘My house shall be a house of prayer, but you have turned it into a den of robbers!'”

Jesus was teaching every day in the Temple. The chief priests and teachers of the Law wanted to kill Him, and the elders of the Jews as well, but they were unable to do anything, for all the people were listening to Him and hanging on His words.

Friday, 23 November 2018 : 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 118 : 14, 24, 72, 103, 111, 131

I delight in following Your laws, more so than in all riches.

Your laws are my delight, my counsellors who uphold me.

Your law is more precious to me than heaps of silver and gold.

How sweet are Your promises to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Your statutes are my heritage forever, they are the joy of my heart.

I gasp in ardent yearning for Your commandments that I love.