Friday, 14 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the reminder from God to each one of us that we must be righteous in our ways, following and obeying God’s commandments and laws, as taught and revealed to us through the Church. We heard from the readings of the prophet Isaiah and the Gospel passage today two lamentations from God for His people.

In the first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the lamentation that God delivered to His people through His prophet, about the people themselves. It was a lamentation of what should have happened if the people of God, Israel, had remained faithful to the Covenant which God has established with them with their forefathers. God stated that had they been faithful to His Covenant, they would have prospered and not suffered as they had.

For the historical context of what happened, the people had chosen freely to abandon God and His Covenant, and instead, putting their trust in the worldly goods, strength and power they had. They chose rather to trust in their attachments to sin and the temptations of life, worshipping the pagan gods and idols of their neighbours and following their wicked ways. As a result, they became divided among themselves and bickered, and as they fell further away from God, they fell into disarray and their downfall.

All those who trusted in the powers of the world only ended up being disappointed, for in the end, nothing of their power, glory and prestige remained. Israel placed their trust in those wicked idols, and yet, those idols did nothing to prevent them from being delivered into the hands of their enemies, and from the dismantlement of their country and nation, the destruction of their cities and their exile into the faraway foreign lands.

God lamented all these, which could have been prevented, had the people were willing to listen to the word of God. But they hardened their hearts and closed off their minds and ears to God calling them to repent and to turn away from their sins and to return to Him. And in the Gospel passage today we also heard the same lamentation made by Jesus, Our Lord and God, showing how the people had not changed their ways and had not learnt the lesson from their forefathers’ mistakes.

That is because even when St. John the Baptist had called for the conversion of the people and to prepare the way for the Lord, but there were still tough opposition from those within the community, especially the rich and the powerful, such as the influential Pharisees and the Sadducees, the nobles and the king’s men, who refused to listen to the word of God. Many of them even doubted and questioned the authority of the saint, just as they would later also oppose the works of the Lord Jesus.

Thus, it was only right and just that the Lord Jesus made the same lamentation just as God has done all these while. He is lamenting the fact that even though He has consistently and continuously loved us and is always willing to forgive us our sins and overlook our trespasses against Him, should we desire to be forgiven and to repent from them, but our stubbornness and unwillingness to repent caused us to continue to fall again and again into sin.

And this season of Advent is the time which God has prepared and provided for us, in order to relook and reflect on our lives thus far. It is a time for us to think again of how we have lived our lives thus far, on whether we have been faithful to God, or whether we have allowed sin to reign over our lives. And this is the opportunity which God has given to us, and by the lessons and experiences made from observing and listening to our predecessors, we should do well to heed the Lord’s call.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. John of the Cross, the holy and devout servant of God whose life should become inspiration for us all. He was a Carmelite friar and priest who was remembered for his role in reforming the Carmelite order together with another holy saint, St. Teresa of Avila. He devoted his whole life to God, and committed himself to a life of sanctity and preached the faith to many people, many of whom were touched by his words and returned to the faith.

St. John of the Cross lived at a time when there had been irregularities and laxity in the way that the priests and the religious, including the Carmelites, lived their lives and ministry. Therefore, through his contributions and hard works, and despite the challenges he and his contemporaries had to face, he pressed on nonetheless, and continued his many good works for the greater glory of God and for the salvation of His people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow in the footsteps of St. John of the Cross and the many other holy men and women who had gone before us to the glory of God? Let us not make the same mistakes as those who have turned away from God and sinned without repentance, and let us all make use this blessed opportunity this Advent, to turn towards God with all of our hearts, minds, and strength. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 14 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 14 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 14 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of the Cross, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

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.