Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages which told us of the joy which came for two women mentioned in the Bible, one from the Old Testament, while the other one was from the time of the New Testament. The first one was Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, while the second one was none other than Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Hannah was once a barren woman who was unable to conceive a child with her husband, while the other wife of her husband was able to conceive many children. Hannah was desperate because, we have to understand that in the customs and traditions of the ancient people of Israel, children are blessings from God, and the absence of children and a woman’s barrenness were considered signs that someone did not have God’s blessings or were cursed.

Hannah prayed before God and asked for His favour, and God listened to her prayers, and before long, she conceived a son, Samuel, and promised to consecrate him to God’s service, as we heard in today’s first reading, at the time when Hannah consecrated her son to God, to the service of God at His Temple. And later on, God would bless Hannah with even more children, as the sign of the end of her period of mourning and sorrow, and sign of God’s love and blessing for His faithful ones.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the great joy that Mary expressed through her song of praise, the Magnificat, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in her. Her joy was because of what she has herself witnessed, in the same miraculous deed that God has done among His people, when her cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, having been barren for so many years, suddenly conceived by the will and power of God, as He revealed to them by His Angel.

And even more so, the baby conceived within Elizabeth and Mary each, would become the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation for all of His people. St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, was the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, or God’s Saviour, by calling on the people to repent from their sins and be baptised as a sign of their readiness to welcome God Who was coming into their midst.

And of course, Mary bore within her, by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Word of God, the Son of God Who took upon Himself the form and fullness of humanity, the One promised for all the ages past, and the hope for humanity’s salvation and liberation from sin. Mary therefore, essentially expressed the great joy that came upwelling from humanity’s desire to be reconciled with God and to see the hope of God.

We have heard today, all the great deeds that God has done for His people throughout the ages past, and there were many other wonderful deeds He has done, for our sake. Yet, we should realise that in many occasions, God has often been overlooked, and especially what should have been the great celebration of joy in the thanksgiving for God’s love, in Christmas, have frequently been overtaken by commercial and selfish desires, as well as by human greed.

As we quickly approach the time of Christmas and the ending of our Advent season, we really should ask ourselves, again and again in order to remind us, what is the true meaning of Christmas for each and every one of us? Is it for us to enjoy the festivities, eat rich and plentiful of food and beverages, or to wear glamorous costumes and dresses? Or is it for us to know better and appreciate better just how great God’s love is for us?

That is why it is important that we get our focus on the Christmas joy and celebrations right, or else, we may end up missing the point about Christmas altogether. Christmas is about the joyful celebration of God’s generous and never-ending love, that He gave everything for us, by granting us the perfect and new hope in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom our salvation was assured, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today spend time to reflect on our lives and on what we have done so far in order to prepare ourselves for Christmas. If we have not done our preparation right until now, there is still time for us to go through a profound change in attitude and way of how we live our lives and how we will celebrate the true joy of Christmas from now on.

Let us turn towards God with a new heart, filled with love for Him, and dedicate ourselves, day after day, in celebration of His eternal love for each and every one of us. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, continue to love us, and bless us, every days and every moments of our life. Amen.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 20 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the prophecy on the coming of the Messiah, which was first revealed through the prophet Isaiah, in our first reading today as he spoke to the king Ahaz of Judah. In the face of the king’s false humility before God, in refusing to ask for God’s signs despite his life and actions being filled with sin and disobedience against God, Isaiah prophesied the coming of God’s great sign.

And that prophecy was fulfilled completed in the Good News that the Archangel Gabriel brought to Mary, the young virgin woman of a small village of Nazareth in Galilee, who was to be the mother and bearer of the world’s salvation. That was exactly what the prophet Isaiah told to king Ahaz, that the Woman will give birth to a child, and that child will be named Emmanuel or Immanuel, which means, ‘God is with us’. And Mary gave birth to Jesus, the Son of God Most High.

The essence of today’s Scripture readings is therefore about God fulfilling His prophecy and promises, despite of mankind’s refusal to believe and their stubbornness in sinning and rebellion against Him. God showed His faithfulness in the Covenant that He has established for us, His beloved people. He loves each and every one of us, and that is why, He wants to be with us, and He wants us not to be lost from Him, but be reconciled and be reunited with Him.

And to that extent, He promised that salvation will come, and that Saviour indeed has come, through Mary, the Virgin who was promised by the prophet Isaiah, as the one who would bear the Messiah. Mary accepted the role she has been prepared for, and despite her initial discomfort of hearing such a surprise news from the Archangel, she surrendered herself completely to the will of God, and allowed God to work His wonders in this world through her.

Unfortunately, brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have forgotten what Christmas and its significance truly is for us. We celebrated it wrongly and focused on the wrong things during our Christmas joy and celebrations. We spent a lot on gifts, new clothes, parties and lavish food and drinks, and yet, in all of our Christmas celebrations, there was barely any space for the One for Whom we ought to be rejoicing for.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, Christ is often not the focus and centre of our celebrations in Christmas, despite the very fact that Christmas is the day when Christ was born into this world. Let us imagine how wrong and inappropriate it is for a great celebration to be made for someone’s birthday, and yet, at the celebrations and parties, the birthday person was forgotten and ignored?

That is exactly what we have often done with Christ, Our Lord, Who has loved us so much that He was willing to come down to us, embracing our humanity, and being born of the Blessed Virgin Mary, He became the hope for all mankind. His suffering and death on the cross became for us, the source of eternal life and salvation from death and hell. He has given everything for us, for our lives and for our safety, but have we given ours to Him?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we draw closer to Christmas, let us always ask ourselves what we can do more in order to celebrate Christmas meaningfully, and how we can be better Christians, in loving God in the same way as He Himself has loved us so dearly. Let us all turn ourselves to God, and devote ourselves, following the example of none other than Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, who devoted her life so thoroughly to God, and allowing God to do everything through her.

Let our lives be like Mary, in our love for God and in our obedience to Him. Let our response to His call be like Mary’s, that we are faithful servants of His, and His will be done for us, and not our own. Let us follow the example of the obedience of Christ, Whose obedience to His Father’s will, allowed Him to fulfil the work of salvation He completed on the cross. May our upcoming Christmas celebration be truly meaningful and fruitful, following the example of Mary in our own lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (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 speaking to us about two great servants of God, whose life and events surrounding his life are related or are parallel to one another. In the first reading today from the Book of Judges, we heard of the amazing birth of a son to a couple who had not been able to have any children, because the wife was barren for many years. This son was Samson, one of the famous Judges or leaders of the people of Israel after Moses and before the days of the kings.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage from the Gospel of St. Luke, we heard of the account of the miraculous conception and birth of another servant of God, St. John the Baptist, to his father and mother, who had also not been able to conceive any child previously because Elizabeth, his mother was barren. St. John the Baptist would go on to become the Herald of the Messiah, the one who called the people to repentance and baptism, in order to prepare the way for the Lord’s coming.

In both instances, both servants of God were born to two sets of parents, each of whom had not been able to have any child. But God proved that everything was possible for Him, and in fact, there was also another servant of God, namely Samuel, the one who anointed kings Saul and David of Israel, who was also born from a barren mother. In all of those instances, the child miraculously conceived and born, were given to the Lord to a life of commitment, consecrated to God’s cause.

Each one of them was called by the Lord to different missions, but eventually, all of them were for the good of the people of the Lord, with Samson’s role being crucial at the time when the people of Israel were oppressed by the Philistines, liberating them from the tyranny of their oppressors with his mighty strength, while St. John the Baptist came just before the coming of the Messiah, preparing the way for the coming of the Lord, by calling the people to repent from their sins, and therefore, opening their hearts and minds to God Who was about to come to them.

If we read on about their lives and ministry among God’s people, we will notice that even though they have been blessed with power and wisdom by God, but it was not that their lives or ministries became any easier. On the contrary, they encountered great challenges and difficulties, temptations and persecutions. For Samson, he was tempted by a woman whom the Philistines asked to help for defeating him by cutting off his hair and thus remove his enormous strength. Meanwhile, for St. John the Baptist, he was opposed by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law, and also by the king, and he also doubted for a while in his mission.

But in the end, both of them remained true to their mission, and paid with their lives, their commitment to follow God to the very end. Samson, having been betrayed by Delilah, blinded and bereft of his strength, prayed to God for one final strength to defeat his enemies, the Philistines. He pulled off the pillars of the place where many Philistines gathered to mock him, and the whole place collapsed, killing numerous people among the unbelievers.

Meanwhile, St. John the Baptist was arrested by king Herod after he accused him of adultery with his brother’s wife, Herodias. St. John the Baptist remained firm in his conviction despite being imprisoned, and Herodias plotted to have him killed, by tricking Herod, and successfully managed to get the head of St. John the Baptist, when Herod made vows before his guests and officials that he could not undo.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, why is it that we listened to the story of these two servants of God today? That is because, as Christmas is quickly approaching now, we are all called to reflect on our own lives, on our actions and deeds in life, and on how we have lived our lives so far. Have we been faithful to God all these times? Or have we instead allowed ourselves to be taken over by the many temptations of this world?

We are called to a life that is attuned to the Lord’s will and follow the good examples set by the two holy servants of God whose life we have heard about. This is our calling for this Christmas, to appreciate better God’s love for each and every one of us, which is so great, that He was willing to provide everything to reconcile us back to Himself, and liberate us from the tyranny of our sins.

If God has loved us so much, then it is only right that we also love Him equally, and devote ourselves to Him from the depth of our hearts. Let us turn our minds and hearts to Him, and let us be more willing to listen to God speaking in our hearts, deepening our relationship with Him through prayer, and by loving one another as He has commanded us to do. Let this Christmas be the moment of a profound change in our lives, that we may be converted from sin to righteousness, and be forgiven from our sins snd faults.

May the Lord continue to guide us, and may He bless us in all of our good endeavours and works. May He bless us in our preparation for Christmas in this blessed season of Advent. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse on the coming of the hope for the people of God, in the Messiah promised by the Lord, which is the core of our Christmas joy and celebrations. We heard from the prophet Jeremiah the prophecy of the coming of the Saviour, a King of the line of David, Who would be the One to save His people, reunite and gather them back from the many places where they had been exiled to.

In order to understand better how significant the words of the prophet Jeremiah were, we must know the context in which the prophet spoke to the people of God, at that time when the last kingdom of the Israelites was on the verge of collapse and destruction. For the prophet Jeremiah was active during the last years of the kingdom of Judah, the southern half of the ancient kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon. At that time, the northern kingdom, also called Israel, had been destroyed decades earlier by the Assyrians.

The people of the northern kingdom has been brought into exile by the Assyrians, their lands taken over by pagans and foreigners brought in to replace the Israelites exiled to the faraway lands of Mesopotamia and beyond. And then, at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Babylonians were rising in power, and were threatening the people of Judah. They had lived at the mercy of their neighbours, and having seen the fate of their northern brethren, they too, would have feared destruction of their kingdom and exile from their homeland.

Unfortunately, the same fate would befall the people of Judah, because they and their king refused to believe in God and refused to listen to the word of God as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. The kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the city of Jerusalem together with its Holy Temple was destroyed. The people of Judah was brought into exile in Babylon just like their northern brethren.

Thus, if we read through the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we can see how all these have been predicted and prophesied by the prophet, and how much of his prophecy is about the upcoming doom for Judah and its people because of their sins. However, as the segment of the book that became our first reading passage today showed us, God also showed His love and faithfulness to His people, by revealing through Jeremiah, the salvation and liberation that He would bring them.

God had loved His people many times, and again, and again, He rescued them from their troubles and difficulties, beginning with the Israelites, the people God first chose, by liberating them from their slavery in Egypt, by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. And then, after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem mentioned earlier, God would move the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to free the people of God and allow them to return to their homeland.

But God’s people were still then not free, as in the end, in all we have discussed earlier today, we have seen how the disobedience of man have caused our own downfall, because disobedience against God breeds sin, and sin leads to death and damnation in hell, unless we are freed from this slavery to sin and the tyranny of death. And it is God alone Who can free us from sin and death. He alone can forgive us our sins.

That is why, He fulfilled all of His promises and renewed the Covenant He made with us all, through the coming of His Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son He sent into the world, the Divine Word Incarnate, to be born of the family of St. Joseph, the heir of David. St. Joseph was a direct descendant and likely the direct heir of David, as the rightful successor of the last king of Judah.

And even though the Lord Jesus was not born from St. Joseph, but directly by the power of the Holy Spirit, but as the legal father according to the law of the Israelites, Jesus was the legal Son of St. Joseph, and thus, fulfilling God’s promise to His people, He is the Son and Heir of David promised as the King Who was to come. Jesus is the King Who was promised, and the King Who would gather all of the people of God, every single children of Adam, to be reunited with God.

It is this joy in the fulfilment of the promises God had made, the perfect sign of His love for us, His faithfulness to the Covenant He made with us, that is the true meaning of our Christmas joy. This is why we rejoice this Christmas, and not because it is a good holiday season, or a time for shopping or revelries and festivities, but because Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has come into this world, and will come again, to gather us all, to be worthy to enter into the eternal glory and joy in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready then to celebrate Christmas? It is just a week away from the date of Christmas, and if we are not yet ready to do so, then we should do all that we can to prepare ourselves. And preparing ourselves does not mean doing all the Christmas decorations and preparing for the parties we are going to have, but rather, preparing ourselves spiritually and in our whole being, that we are properly attuned to the true spirit of Christmas.

Let us all go to confession when we are still able to, to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming in joy. Let us be reconciled with God, and therefore, we will be able to welcome the Lord with the fullness of joy, no longer burdened by sin. And let us all heed the past precedents and examples, of the downfall of Judah and its people, to rectify our own way of life, and turn ourselves from sin, devoting ourselves to God from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our way and bless us, now and forevermore. May God be with us, and may He bless us in our preparations for the true joy of Christmas in Him. Amen.

Monday, 17 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we draw ever closer to the coming of Christmas day and season, our focus and attention is brought directly to the very reason why we rejoice and why we celebrate Christmas in the first place. As we all should know, Christmas is the celebration of the birth or the nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, the moment when He was born into this world about two thousand years ago in the small city of Bethlehem.

That is why today’s readings focus on this aspect of Christ’s coming into the world, particularly in His being born into our humanity, as the descendant of David, and because of that, also as the descendant of Abraham, the father of the people of Israel and many other nations, and though not mentioned in the whole list of genealogy that is our Gospel passage today, but He is therefore born as a Son of Adam, the first of all mankind.

And this is linked to the first reading passage we heard today, from the Book of Genesis, in which we heard of the moment when Jacob, also named Israel, the father of Israel, was dying and gathered all of his children before him to grant them a blessing each. And among all the blessings that Jacob gave to his sons, the progenitors of the twelve tribes of the Israelites, it was peculiar that Judah, though not the oldest, but he received a special blessing.

Again in that blessing we heard of something like a prophecy of what was to come. And it came true with David, of the tribe of Judah, who became the chosen king of Israel, to whom God promised that his house would remain in power forever, and that his house will be forever firm, a fulfilment of what Jacob has said to his son Judah in the blessing he gave him. And all of the prophecies and revelations are fulfilled completely in none other than Jesus Christ, the Messiah.

We heard of the history of mankind in today’s Scripture readings, because the Lord wants us all to recall all that He has promised us, all that He has given us and shown us throughout the long history since the beginning of time, and how faithful He has been to those promises, by the arrival of His salvation into this world, in the person of Jesus Christ, Son of God and Son of Man.

We need to understand, first of all, why we need salvation in the first place, and that goes back all the way to the time of the first man, Adam and Eve, whom at the beginning of creation, fell from grace and disobeyed God, because they chose to listen to the temptations and lies of Satan rather than to remain in God’s love. And because of that, sin entered into our lives, and because of sin, we have become separated from God’s love.

Sin has no place before God because God is all good and perfect, and sin is a stain and corruption that is abhorrent to God. And because of that, due to our sins, we cannot be in the presence of God and would have to suffer eternity in the darkness beyond God’s love, to suffer the absence of God’s grace in our midst, which is what hell is all about. And hell is truly very real, brothers and sisters in Christ. Unless we get rid of sin, there is no hope for us.

But we cannot get rid of sin, and the corruption and sickness that is sin cannot be healed and removed from us, save for God’s action alone. And since the beginning, although God had to send mankind into exile on earth for our disobedience, but He has promised us, that His salvation will come, and the time of reckoning will be there for us, through a Woman, through whom the power of the devil, the deceiver, will be forever broken.

Throughout history, God promised His people and renewed the promise He has made about His salvation. To His faithful ones, Abraham, David and all, He has made Covenants as proofs of His faithfulness and love for each and every one of us. And the final and perfect fulfilment of His promises, is none other than the coming of the Messiah that was promised. The word Messiah means Saviour, and while the people of Israel had different understanding and idea of what salvation God would bring to them, but He revealed it all, through Jesus Christ, Our Saviour.

He chose to assume the flesh of man, so that, according to St. Paul, He could become the New Adam, through Whom the race of man can be saved and absolved from their sins. While the first and old Adam disobeyed God, Christ, as the New Adam, would be the perfection of obedience to the will of God, His Father, and by that obedience, which He took even unto the point of suffering and death, is the source of our salvation.

In the Old Testament, the people of Israel were instructed to offer sacrificial offerings of animals in atonement of their sins, as the sin and burnt offerings before God. The priests took up the offerings and offer the offerings for the forgiveness of their sins as well as for the sins of the people. The blood of the offerings was sprinkled as the sign of the Covenant with God and the forgiveness of sins.

And Jesus Christ became our eternal High Priest, the One and True High Priest, Who offers not the body and blood of animals, but His own Body and His own Blood, for He is both God and Man united in His person, and that offering is the only perfect offering that is worthy for the atonement for all of mankind’s sins. And He offered this sacrifice on the Altar of the Cross, accepting the heavy burden of the cross, obeying His Father’s will, and thus attain for us the eternal life promised to those who have faith in Him.

Today, as we reflect on the great love which God has for each one of us, that He was willing to endure all the pains and sufferings, the punishments for our sins, we should spend some time thinking about our own lives in this world. God is willing to forgive us our trespasses and faults, and He has given us the opportunity through His Saviour, Jesus Christ, Whose birth brought hope to a world filled with darkness of sin and despair.

And the celebration of Christmas is indeed about the joy for us for having that hope, which God has given us through Christ. But have we realised that many of us are still in need of healing and forgiveness for our sins? Many of us have not lived our lives as how we should have lived it, in obedience to God, and instead, we continued to live in the state of sin. But God is always patient, and He always remembers His love for us.

This Christmas, let us make our celebrations more meaningful, by preparing ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually to welcome and rejoice in God’s coming, by living our lives in a better way from now on, turning away from sin and becoming more obedient to God’s will, and grow deeper in our faith in Him. Let us also confess our sins to a priest at the soonest available opportunity, before the time of Christmas, so that we may find our peace with God, and be worthy to celebrate the true joy of Christmas.

May the Lord be our guide, and may He continue to strengthen us in our faith and resolve, so that we may come ever closer to Him, and find the true joy of our life, the joy of being reunited with God and being forgiven from our sins, this Christmas. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Sunday, 16 December 2018 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Gaudete Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today is a unique occasion during the season of Advent, as we can notice from the difference in the liturgical colour used in the celebration of the Holy Mass, that is rose. The rose colour is only used on two occasions throughout the whole liturgical year, one that is during the season of Lent, on Laetare Sunday, the fourth Sunday of Lent, and then one that is today, the third Sunday of Advent, also known as the Gaudete Sunday.

The word Gaudete is the Latin word which means ‘joy’ and the name Gaudete Sunday comes from the beginning of the Introit of today’s Holy Mass, ‘Gaudete in Domino semper…’ which means ‘Rejoice in the Lord always…’. And this points out to the joyful nature that is present in this season of Advent. During this season of Advent, indeed, our celebrations are a bit muted as we focus more on the preparation of ourselves, our hearts and minds, in expecting the coming of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

However, we must also not forget that in this season of Advent, we are expecting the fullness of joy that comes with the occasion of Christmas. Christmas is the moment when the fullness of God’s glory and the true joy He is bringing upon us is revealed in its wholeness. It is just like when a mother gives birth to a baby, as at the moment when the baby is successfully delivered, the joy that the mother and the whole family feels is truly overwhelming and impossible to quantify.

Yet, that does not mean the mother and the family was not joyful before the baby was born. For when the baby was still in the mother’s womb, surely the mother has all of the designs and wishes she has on the baby that is to come, all the joy that comes with the expectation of the fullness of joy to come. The whole family also has that suspense and joy knowing that the baby to come is to bring even greater happiness and joy after the baby is born.

We surely have seen and experienced how expectant mothers and the fathers-to-be planned in our families, among our friends and acquaintances, how they all did all they could to prepare for the eventual birth of the baby, their bundle of joy and blessing from God. Although it must have been challenging and difficult at times to prepare everything, especially for those who are first-time fathers and mothers, but somehow, we can see the energy and joy in them, that hidden joy in expectation.

Thus, this is the same joy that we are focusing on today, on the occasion of this Gaudete Sunday. We do not yet celebrate the fullness of joy that comes with Christmas, just as it is inappropriate for us to pre-empt Christmas celebrations by our revelry and partying during this season of Advent, unless circumstances require us to do so. On this Gaudete Sunday, we take some kind of a short break to the penitential and sombre nature of Advent, and focus on the expectant joy of looking forward to the fullness of joy of Christmas.

But now, then, we need to reexamine ourselves and look deep into our own lives and actions. What is joy for us, and specifically, what is the meaning and significance of Christmas joy for us? Have we actually ever given it a thought, or have we instead allowed ourselves to just follow the flow and all the formalities of Christmas, year after year, again and again? That is, brothers and sisters in Christ, unfortunately what many of us have been doing all these while.

The joy of Christmas, according to what many of us have experienced, is the joy of prosperity, of celebrations and parties, of often lavish and elaborate Christmas lunches and dinners, of going to multiple celebrations, of all the decorations we put in place to prepare for the parties that we are going to have, and of all the gifts we are going to exchange and receive from one another. To us, Christmas is joyful because it is a time of merrymaking and enjoying ourselves, looking at all the beautiful decorations and receiving all the satisfactions be it for our stomach, or for our other desires.

And that is what exactly the problem is with how we celebrate Christmas and how we prepare ourselves for Christmas. We have often been swayed too much by the currents of the world, in how the secular Christmas celebration is perceived. It is indeed sad to note that while Christmas is a very popular celebration worldwide, but at the same time, it is also one of the most secularised and commercialised celebration of our faith.

We just need to look all around us, and we can easily see all the usual paraphernalia and items associated with Christmas, from all the lights and decorations, the Christmas trees and the ubiquitous Santa Claus, the Christmas candies and cakes, bells and all other things we are surely very familiar with, every time we celebrate Christmas. Yet, in all these, many of us have forgotten what the true joy of Christmas truly is.

The practices of using lights and Christmas tree originally came from the desire to honour Christ Himself, as He is the Light of the world, Light that comes to vanquish the darkness present in the world, and He is the Lord of life, ever living and He has vanquished death by His resurrection, symbolically represented with the Christmas tree, made from the evergreen pine trees. In many countries where our Christian faith traditionally existed, the time of Christmas coincided with the peak of the winter season.

And Christmas happened just right after the winter solstice, the time of the longest night in the year. The darkness and the cold that winter brings usually cause most of the vegetations and plants to become barren during that time, but not for the evergreen trees used for the Christmas trees. This again symbolises Christ and the Light He is bringing to the darkened world, and the hope and joy of a new life He is bringing with Him, overcoming the darkness of sin and death.

A lot of our Christmas traditions in fact have relations and origins from the desire to honour Christ, and to expect the joyful coming of Christ, but in the twists of time, the meaning and purpose have been overlooked and forgotten. And in the end, what we have is a twisted, materialistic, hedonistic and self-serving celebration that feeds instead on our ego, pride and greed within us.

We are familiar with the figure of Santa Claus, or also known as Father Christmas. We often know him as the figure who comes bearing gifts for children during the Christmas time. But we end up becoming greedy for the gifts and for the many goods we expect to enjoy during this time of celebration. But if we look deeper into the original figure of Santa Claus, he actually came about from St. Nicholas of Myra, a renowned saint, whose love and charity for those who have little or nothing was truly remarkable.

Instead of focusing on what we are to receive, how about if we instead be inspired by what St. Nicholas of Myra had done, in how he gave generously to the poor and those who have little to celebrate? Instead of expecting to receive even more when we already have plenty, how about if we instead share the joy we have with those who have less than us, and even more for those who do not have the joy?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us not forget that there are still many out there who cannot celebrate Christmas in the way that we do. There are those who have to celebrate in hiding or in fear because of persecutions, in places where Christmas cannot be celebrated openly. In those places, each and every day may even be a time of life or death for some of them, and we need to keep them in mind, as we prepare for the joy of Christmas.

Today, let us all rediscover for ourselves what the true joy of Christmas is for us, and realise that behind all of the merrymaking and the happy celebrations we are preparing, we often forget the One Whom we truly ought to be joyful for, and that is Christ, Our Lord, the One born and celebrated in Christmas. Let us all turn ourselves towards Him and put Him once again at the centre of our celebrations this Christmas.

Let us be generous in giving and in sharing our Christmas joy with everyone around us, and be mindful especially for the needy and for all those who have not been able to celebrate the joy of Christmas for various reasons. Let us be the bearers of Christ’s joy and bring the light of hope He has brought into our midst, that each one of us can be the sources of joy for our fellow brethren, for our families and friends, for those who are around us, and for the poor and the needy in our midst. May the upcoming joy of Christmas be the true joy that inspire us all, to be ever more devoted and loving to God, Our loving Father. Amen.