Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the Second Sunday of the season of Advent. We gather together this Sunday to prepare ourselves for the coming of the joyous celebrations of Christmas as we should have done throughout this past week of the Advent time. This Sunday marks the time when we have to reflect on whether we have indeed understood the true importance and significance of Christmas, and whether we are able to deepen our connection and relationship with God, through our spiritual preparations and willingness to open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord into them. Through the passages of the Sacred Scriptures we have just heard, we are reminded to return our focus on the Lord this Advent and Christmas, and to rededicate ourselves to Him and to His cause.

This Sunday, as with all the Sundays of Advent, we focus on one particular Aspect of Advent, and that is Peace for this Sunday. Peace is an important aspect of our Advent and later on Christmas celebrations, as we remind ourselves that Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Whose Nativity or birth we commemorate in Christmas, is the Prince of Peace. The Lord’s coming will usher in the new age of peace, harmony and cooperation, and there will be no more discord between everyone. However, it does not mean that the Lord’s coming immediately will lead to cessation of all conflicts, wars and destructions caused by our actions in this world. Instead, what is promised and guaranteed is that, when the Lord comes again at the end of time, He shall bring unto us everlasting peace, as He will free us from the bondage of sin, evil and death for all eternity.

As we heard from our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the prophecy of Isaiah regarding the coming of the Messiah or the Saviour of God, Who has been prophesied to belong to the line and house of David, as Isaiah spoke of the Shoot that would rise from the stump and Root of Jesse. Jesse was David’s father, and hence one the ancestors of the Lord, as the Lord Jesus was born into the House of David as his Heir, just as the prophecy of Isaiah had mentioned. Through His foster-father St. Joseph, the Lord Jesus is the direct Heir and the One Who will sit on the Throne of David, as the King over all of His people. Back then, the people of God awaited the coming of the Messiah or Saviour, Who was told to be the Son and Heir of David, not realising that a Baby born in Bethlehem that time, was indeed the long awaited Saviour.

That is because they expected their Saviour to be a mighty conquering King, sent by the Lord to end their misery and to gather all of them into a liberation campaign against their oppressors and rulers, reestablishing the glorious kingdom of the days of David and Solomon. They did not realise that while it is God’s intention to lead all of His beloved and faithful ones to eternal glory and peace, that will yet happen in the future and not at the time of His first coming into this world. That Child born in the poor stable in the outskirts of Bethlehem, rejected by all the innkeepers and others, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, is therefore God’s instrument through Whom He would restore the link between Him and mankind, long sundered by our disobedience and sins, our wickedness and evils.

Through Christ, His own begotten Son, born into this world, Son of God and the Divine Word Incarnate, God willingly revealed Himself and the fullness of His love to all of us, restoring the true meaning and purpose of His Law and commandments, and restoring the Covenant which had been forsaken and neglected between Him and His people. Christ is the One mentioned by the prophet Isaiah as the One Who will be the Judge of all the peoples of all the nations, and He would indeed be a Sign to all of them, raised up high for all to see. No one back at the time of the prophet Isaiah all the way to the time of the Lord Jesus Himself could have foreseen what this actually meant, until the moment when the Lord took up His Cross, with all the sufferings and pains, the punishments due to all of us, and chose to be raised on that Cross, to be the salvation for the whole entire world.

Through Our Lord Jesus Christ, the salvation of all the peoples and the nations have been revealed and brought as assurance to us, because He willingly assumed the role as the Mediator of a New and Everlasting Covenant between us and God. He is the Eternal High Priest Who offered nothing less than His own Most Precious Body and Blood, as the Lamb of God, the Paschal Lamb slaughtered and sacrificed on the Altar of the Cross, to be the worthy offering and sacrifice for the atonement of all of our sins. That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as we reflect on the Aspect of Peace of Advent in this Sunday, we are reminded that through Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, we have been made as the sharers of a new and everlasting Peace between us and God.

Through the outpouring of His Most Precious Blood and through the shedding of His Most Precious Body, Christ Our Lord has become the fulfilment of all that the Lord has promised His people, just as St. Paul briefly mentioned it in our second reading today in his Epistle to the Romans. Through Christ, Whose birth we rejoice in and commemorate in Christmas, we see the power of God liberating all of us from the bondage and dominion of sin, evil and death, as by His incarnation and assumption of our humanity and existence, and by dying on the Cross, He shared with all of us the death to our past existence and sinful lives, and by His glorious Resurrection, He proved to us that death does not have the final say over us, and that there is life and existence beyond death, which we shall share with Him on the end of times, the last days, forevermore.

By His most generous offering of love on the Cross, the Lord Jesus our Saviour truly had brought His Peace upon us, the Peace that God has promised His people, the peace of knowing that we have been reconciled with God, and that we shall enjoy the bounty and blessings of eternal life and true joy with Him, at the end of our journey, if we are truly faithful to Him. While that peace is yet incomplete at the moment, due to sin still being present all around us in our world past, present and future, but we have to hold on to that faith, believing that at the time of His choosing, He shall come again in glory as promised, and will bring unto us the perfect and everlasting Peace, that will last and endure forever, when evil will finally be utterly defeated and crushed, and no more tears, sorrow or suffering will remain in the world to come.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what we then need to do now is to make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves that we may worthily celebrate the upcoming joy of Christmas. Each and every one of us are reminded that it is often our preoccupations with worldly desires and glory, and the temptations all around us which often distracted us and misled us in the journey towards the Lord. In our Gospel passage today, we heard St. John the Baptist calling on all the people to return towards the Lord with faith, embracing His compassion and mercy, and to be changed in the heart and mind as they received baptism of water from him, as a sign of commitment to follow the path of the Lord. Many came to St. John the Baptist seeking to be baptised and showing their sincerity in embracing God’s love and mercy.

But there were also those who doubted him and refused to believe in him, like the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law who came to St. John the Baptist and questioned him on the authority and the legitimacy of his actions, essentially questioning and doubting the works and wisdom of the Lord and the Holy Spirit, Who guided St. John the Baptist to do what he had done, in preparing the way for the coming of the Messiah, the Saviour of the world. It was therefore of those same people that St. John the Baptist rebuked with very strong words like ‘brood of vipers’ and telling them off for their pride and ego, by which they closed their hearts and minds against God’s truth, and misleading the people of God under their care by their own vanity, greed and desire for worldly power and glory. This same reminder is also directed at all of us, brothers and sisters, that we do not end up walking down the same path as they had done.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us make good use of this time and season of Advent therefore to prepare ourselves well for the celebration of the birth of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace. Let us all remember how our Prince of Peace had brought God’s Peace into our midst, returning the peace between us and God, and leading us on the way towards His everlasting peace, joy and glory. As we prepare ourselves to celebrate Our Lord’s coming into this world, let us not forget that we do not just remember His past arrival into this world, two millennia ago, but in fact we also rejoice because of His eventual coming in glory, that we all await, when He shall judge all the living and the dead, and bring all those whom He deems to be worthy, into His eternal kingdom of true bliss and happiness in His presence.

May the Lord Jesus Christ, our Saviour and King, continue to guide us and strengthen us in faith, particularly during this time and season of Advent, so that each and every one of us may indeed make good use of this time and opportunity to reaffirm our faith in Him and to prepare ourselves well in all aspects so that we may indeed make best use of the upcoming time and season of Christmas, and celebrate it most properly and worthily, becoming inspiration for all of our fellow brothers and sisters, by our lives’ examples and good works. May God bless us all in our every good works, efforts and deeds, and may He bless us in our every endeavours for the greater glory of His Name. Let us bring God’s Peace into the midst of our communities and families, and may Peace reign forevermore in our Christian family. Amen.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 3 : 1-12

In the course of time John the Baptist appeared in the desert of Judea and began to proclaim his message, “Change your ways, the kingdom of God is now at hand!” It was about him that the prophet Isaiah had spoken when he said : A voice is shouting in the desert, ‘Prepare a way for the Lord, make His paths straight!'”

John had a leather garment around his waist and wore a cloak of camel’s hair; his food was locusts and wild honey. People came to him from Jerusalem, from all Judea and from the whole Jordan valley, and they were baptised by him in the Jordan as they confessed their sins.

When he saw several Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he baptised, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who told you that you could escape the punishment that is to come? Let it be seen that you are serious in your conversion, and do not think : We have Abraham for our father. I tell you that God can raise children for Abraham from these stones! The axe is already laid to the roots of the trees; any tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire.”

“I baptise you in water for a change of heart, but the One Who is coming after me is more powerful than me; indeed I am not worthy to carry His sandals. He will baptise you in Holy Spirit and fire. He has the winnowing fan in His hand and He will clear out His threshing floor. He will gather His wheat into the barn, but the chaff He will burn in everlasting fire.”

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 15 : 4-9

And we know that whatever was written in the past was written for our instruction, for both perseverance and comfort given us by the Scripture sustain our hope. May God, the source of all perseverance and comfort, give to all of you to live in peace in Christ Jesus, that you may be able to praise in one voice God, Father of Christ Jesus, our Lord.

Welcome, then, one another, as Christ welcomed you for the glory of God. Look : Christ put Himself at the service of the Jewish world to fulfil the promises made by God to their ancestors; here you see God’s faithfulness. The pagans instead give thanks to God for His mercy, as Scripture says : Because of that, I will sing and praise Your Name among the pagans.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 2, 7-8, 12-13, 17

May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

Justice will flower in His days, and peace abound till the moon be no more. For He reigns from sea to sea, from the River to the ends of the earth.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor, He saves the life of the poor.

May His Name endure forever; may His Name be as lasting as the sun. All the races will boast about Him, and He will be blessed by all nations.

Sunday, 4 December 2022 : Second Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 11 : 1-10

From the stump of Jesse a Shoot will come forth; from his roots a Branch will grow and bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest upon Him – a Spirit of wisdom and understanding, a Spirit of counsel and power, a Spirit of knowledge and fear of YHVH.

Not by appearances will He judge, nor by what is said must He decide, but with justice He will judge the poor and with righteousness decide for the meek. Like a rod, His word will strike the oppressor, and the breath of His lips slay the wicked. Justice will be the girdle of His waist, truth the girdle of His loins.

The wolf will dwell with the lamb, the leopard will rest beside the kid, the calf and the lion cub will feed together and a little child will lead them. Befriending each other, the cow and the bear will see their young ones lie down together. Like cattle, the lion will eat hay. By the cobra’s den the infant will play. The child will put his hand into the viper’s lair. No one will harm or destroy over My holy mountain, for as water fills the sea the earth will be filled with the knowledge of YHVH.

On that day the “Root of Jesse” will be raised as a signal for the nations. The people will come in search of Him, thus making His dwelling place glorious.

Sunday, 27 November 2022 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday the Church marks the beginning of both the new liturgical year cycle as well as the season of Advent. This season of Advent marks the time of preparation and spiritual discernment for all of us as we are getting ourselves ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Saviour at Christmas. Thus this season of Advent is meant to be a time of recollection and realignment in our lives that we may truly be ready and worthy to celebrate Christmas, not the worldly ways of how Christmas is celebrated but rather the true Christmas, the celebration of the birth or Nativity of Our Lord Jesus, as we welcome Him into our midst, to dwell among us and be with us, God made manifest and tangible. Through Him we have seen the love that God has for each and every one of us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, the Lord spoke through Isaiah, His prophet to the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, speaking of what will happen at the end of time, when God will raise Jerusalem and His people to the highest of the highest, where He shall rule over them forever, and the people from every nations and every ends of the Earth will come flocking to Him, referring to how God will rule not just over Israel or Judah, but also over the whole world, over all of mankind. Through His prophecy made via Isaiah, we all heard how the Lord reassured His people, and hence us all, that He will be with us, and will raise us up on the last day, when He will judge all the living and the dead, from all time, and those who are worthy will be brought into His everlasting kingdom while those who are found unworthy will be cast out into eternal damnation.

Contextually, this message was presented by the Lord to His people at a rather low time in the psyche and experience of the people of God then, the descendants of Israel and Abraham. That was because at that time, the northern kingdom of Israel had just recently fallen to the conquering forces of the Assyrians, who had destroyed the kingdom and its capital city of Samaria, and brought many of the people of the northern kingdom into exile, scattering them off in distant lands away from their ancestral homeland. Not only that, but the Assyrian king Sennacherib even almost destroyed Jerusalem as well if not for God’s mighty intervention. All of that happened because of their constant disobedience and rebellion against God, and they had to face the consequences for their lack of faith and their betrayal against God. But the Lord still reached out to His people and wanted them all to be reunited with Him, and hence, He gave them this reassurance through His prophets like Isaiah and many others.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the words of the Lord Jesus speaking to His disciples and all the people assembled that the Son of Man will come again at the end of time, at the moment when no one will expect and when many will be caught being lax and unaware of the fact that they have to account for their lives and existence before God, and answer for their failures to follow Him and obey His Law and commandments. St. Paul speaks of the same thing in his Epistle and letter to the Church and the faithful in Rome in our second reading today, as he reminded the faithful there to remember their obligations and missions as Christians, and not to be lax or complacent in how they live their lives. They were reminded to uphold their faith in God most faithfully, and to do their best to live righteously as Christian believers, behaving and doing things in the manner that they had been shown and taught to do by the Lord and through His Church.

After hearing from the Scripture passages today, we are all reminded that on this First Sunday of Advent, we focus one of the aspects of Advent in the anticipation of the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, that is Hope, Peace, Joy and Love. This Sunday therefore we are focusing on the Theme of Hope, the Hope that we have in Christ, our Lord, Whose birth we commemorate this coming Christmas season. Throughout the Scripture readings we heard this Sunday, we can clearly see this Hope being presented, as the Hope for the people of God Who were expecting the coming of God’s Saviour and liberation, just as He has proclaimed and promised to them, throughout time, again and again, from prophets to prophets, and messengers to messengers. It is this Hope that the people were holding onto firmly even as they suffered throughout all those years, humiliated and enduring hardships.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore at the very beginning of this season of Advent reflect carefully on our way of observing it and how we are preparing ourselves for the coming of the joyful season of Christmas. Let us ask by asking ourselves, what is it that we await for in Christmas? And what is it that we rejoice for in Christmas? We may not realise it but the ways that many of us and this world are using in preparing to celebrate and celebrating Christmas are not reflecting and showing what the true meaning of Christmas is all about. In whatever we see all around us these few weeks and in the next upcoming few weeks, what we see is all about excessive secularisation of Christmas, and all about glamour and merrymaking, but one that is lacking the true reason why we ought to rejoice in the first place.

We rejoice because of the Hope we have received and been reassured of by the Lord Himself, the Hope of salvation, eternal life and liberation from the chains and bondage of sin and death. Yet, in many of our celebrations, we place excessive emphasis on the many secular practices, customs and observances of Christmas, where the birthday Boy Himself was often sidelined, put aside and ignored, and instead we spent a lot of time and are spending a lot more time on the festivities, glamorous displays, of Santa Claus, Father Christmas, all the reindeers, glitters and snow, and all those things that should be merely accessory and accompanying the joy we have in the Hope in Christ we gained through Christmas. Yet, those things have often occupied the centre stage, and the Lord is often forgotten, ignored and laid aside on the festivities that bear His very own Name, Christmas.

Therefore, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas appropriately and worthily, let us all reflect on what Christmas is truly all about, and think of how we can do better in making our Christmas celebration a truly genuine and worthy one, which reflects the true meaning, importance and significance of this event. Let us all focus on that great Hope we have seen in Christ, the Light of God and His salvation that has appeared in the midst of our darkened world filled with sin and evil. That way we will realise that whatever we plan for Christmas, if we have been following the customs and habits of the world, are really excessive and unnecessary. We have to remember that we celebrate Christmas because we are grateful, full of joy and happiness because of what our Lord and Saviour had done for us, in restoring Hope to each and every one of us.

Let us also keep in mind that there are those brothers and sisters of ours who cannot celebrate Christmas the way we often celebrate it. There are Christians all around the world who are still being persecuted, and who endure daily sufferings just because of their faith in God. There are places where Christians have to be very careful or lest they may be persecuted, or even lose their lives if they are found out to be believers of Christ. This was just like how it was during the early days of the Church, and how it was also during the many times throughout history when the Church and faithful Christians endured a lot of trials, challenges and many martyrdoms happened. But they all remained firm in their faith in God because of the Hope which they have seen in Christ, their Lord and Saviour.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all restore the true dignity and meaning of Christmas by restoring our focus on the true reason for Christmas, that is Christ Himself. Let us all focus our attention on Him and embody the true spirit and joy of Christmas in ourselves, in how we act and in how we prepare ourselves during this season of Advent. Let us all bear the Hope of Christ, His light and truth in our every words, actions and deeds, and be the beacons of His light and hope to the nations, especially to those who have been bereft and denied of hope and courage, of comfort and strength. But we can be their encouragement and strength, brothers and sisters, and if we can, through our actions and support, in whatever way we can do to bring the Light and Hope of Christ to our suffering brethren, then we truly have understood the true meaning and significance of Christmas, and are ready to celebrate it worthily.

May all of us progress through this season of Advent with the right spirit and motivation, and do our best to stay focused on the true meaning of Christmas in all of our preparations and expectations. Let us remind each other of the Light and Hope that we have received from Christ Himself, Our Lord and Saviour, and bear that Light and Hope in our own lives, that we may inspire many others to find their way to the Lord and to His salvation. May God bless us always and may He grant us the strength and the courage to do our best in glorifying Him ever always by our lives. Amen.

Sunday, 27 November 2022 : First Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 24 : 37-44

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “At the coming of the Son of Man, it will be just as it was in the time of Noah. In those days before the Flood, people were eating and drinking, and marrying, until that day when Noah went into the Ark. Yet they did not know what would happen, until the flood came and swept them away.”

“So will it be at the coming of the Son of Man : of two men in the field, one will be taken and the other left; of two taken and the other left; of two women grinding wheat together at the mill, one will be taken and the other left. Stay awake then, for you do not know on what day your Lord will come.”

“Obviously, if the owner of the house knew at what time the thief was coming, he would certainly stay up and not allow his house to be broken into. So be alert, for the Son of Man will come at the hour you least expect.”

Sunday, 27 November 2022 : First Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 13 : 11-14a

You know what hour it is. This is the time to awake, for our salvation is now nearer than when we first believed; the night is almost over and day is at hand. Let us discard, therefore, everything that belongs to darkness, and let us put on the armour of light.

As we live in the full light of day, let us behave with decency; no banquets with drunkenness, no promiscuity or licentiousness, no fighting or jealousy. Put on, rather, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Sunday, 27 November 2022 : First Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

There the tribes go up, the tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem : “May those who love you prosper! May peace be within your walls and security within your citadels!”

For the sake of my relatives and friends, I will say, “Peace be with you!” For the sake of the house of our Lord, I will pray for your good.

Sunday, 27 November 2022 : First Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 2 : 1-5

The vision of Isaiah, son of Amoz, concerning Judah and Jerusalem. In the last days, the mountain of YHVH’s house shall be set over the highest mountains and shall tower over the hills. All the nations shall stream to it, saying, “Come, let us go to the mountain of YHVH, to the house of the God of Jacob, that He may teach us His ways and we may walk in His paths. For the teaching comes from Zion, and from Jerusalem the word of YHVH.”

“He will rule over the nations and settle disputes for many people. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not raise sword against nation; they will train for war no more. O nation of Jacob, come, let us walk in the light of YHVH!”