Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today again from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we listened again to the message of consolation and hope from God, as the Lord spoke to His people for them not to worry and to place their trust in Him, for He Who loved them would take care of them and provide for them all that they needed. They would not need to be afraid anymore, for God would be their sure guarantee and strength amidst the challenges and trials in life.

At that time, the people of God suffered from the many opponents and enemies that surrounded them, at the time when the ancient kingdom of Israel had been splintered and the northern half, consisting of the ten tribes out of the twelve tribes of original Israel had been destroyed by the Assyrians, who carried off most of the people into exile. And even Judah, in the south where the prophet Isaiah was active, was also afflicted, having the Assyrians almost on the brink of conquering it if not for the intervention from God.

God was reassuring them through Isaiah that He would not abandon them, and on the contrary, He would in fact give them the way out of their predicament, because of His great love for them. Unfortunately, as if we know more about the later history, after the time of the prophet Isaiah and the righteous kings Hezekiah and Josiah, the people of Judah reverted back to their sinful ways, pagan worship and disobeyed God. That was why they too, were brought to exile by the Babylonians.

But then, yet again, God never gave up on His people, despite them having disobeyed, betrayed, abandoned and refused to listen to Him repeatedly many times. God continued to love them and desires that they should be saved, by sending to them, again and again, prophets one after another, messengers and all those who cry out asking for the people to repent from their sins and return to God.

And as mentioned in the Gospel passage today, one such figure was Elijah the prophet, who was sent to the Israelites in the years even before the time of Isaiah, in order to call on them to repent from their sins. He travelled from place to place, and had to go against even the king and his powerful supporters, those who championed the worship of pagan idols like Baal and Asherah. He was rejected, oppressed and persecuted, but that did not silence him.

In fact, he spoke all the louder and performed even more actions for the greater glory of God. For his commitment and dedication, he turned many hearts and minds back to the Lord, when he managed to prove that the Lord YHVH is indeed the one and only true God. On the mount Carmel he went up alone against four hundred fifty priests of Baal, and he showed God’s glory and power when Baal did nothing. God sent fire from heaven to burn the offerings on Elijah’s altar, and from there, God’s work and truth were vindicated.

The last of the great messengers of God, that is St. John the Baptist, was often compared with Elijah. For it was said in various parts of the Scripture, that he had in him the spirit of the prophet Elijah, or even that he himself was Elijah born into this world again. For Elijah, if we read the second Book of Kings, did not die, but was taken up by God into heaven in a flaming chariot. Nonetheless, regardless whether St. John the Baptist is Elijah or not, the fact remains that the former experienced and worked in much the same manner as the latter.

Again, at the time when St. John the Baptist came into the world to prepare the way for the Messiah, many among the people were again wandered off not following the path of the Lord. Some of them, like king Herod and his supporters lived in ways of sin, disobeying and disregarding God’s commandments. St. John the Baptist spoke harshly of the king and dared to do so, when king Herod committed adultery openly with the wife of his brother.

And still yet, some others who were seemingly pious and faithful, have also wandered off course, such as the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law. Those people had a self-righteous attitude and looked down on others who they deemed to be less worthy than themselves. They liked to be praised for their show of piety, prayers and devotions in public, but in truth, they have allowed themselves to be overcome by desire and pride in their hearts and minds. God had no place in them.

St. John the Baptist was not afraid to rebuke the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law then, who came to him doubting his teaching and baptising authority. He called them rightly as brood of vipers, as those who were stubborn in their refusal to listen to the word of God. He had to suffer and even die in martyrdom at the hands of king Herod because of that, but all for the greater glory of God, and for the salvation of all of God’s people, fulfilling what the Lord had promised them.

Today, we celebrate the feast of a famous martyr of the Church, that is St. Lucy or St. Lucia the martyr and holy woman, whose life is again another reminder of the challenges and difficulties we will encounter as a follower and disciple of Christ. St. Lucy was a devout Christian who lived in the city of Syracuse during the time of the harshest persecution of Christians under the Roman Emperor Diocletian.

St. Lucy dedicated herself to God and consecrated herself as a holy virgin before Him. But her mother who did not know of this intention and fearing for her family’s future due to her failing health, arranged for her to marry a wealthy pagan noble. But St. Lucy managed to convince her mother to seek the intercession of St. Agatha and to distribute their riches and possessions to help the poor. This was detested by St. Lucy’s pagan betrothed, who reported her to the governor.

St. Lucy was persecuted harshly and she was even sent to a brothel to be defiled. But miraculously, she could not be moved even by a team of soldiers when they were about to bring her to the brothel. In the end, she suffered more persecutions and was martyred by the sword. The courage and purity of St. Lucy has inspired many throughout the ages, and consequently, should be a great inspiration for all of us as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to devote ourselves just as St. Lucy, the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist had dedicated themselves to God? They placed their complete trust in God, Who guided them to the right path and to eternal glory in Him despite their initial suffering on earth. Therefore, let us all endeavour to do the same with our own lives, and seek to glorify God through our actions from now on. May the Lord help us and be our guide in this journey of life. Amen.

Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Matthew 11 : 11-15

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “I tell you this : no one greater than John the Baptist has arisen from among sons of women; and yet, the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. From the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of heaven is something to be conquered; and violent men seize it.”

“Up to the time of John, there was only prophesy : all the prophets and the Law. And if you believe Me, John is indeed that Elijah, whose coming was predicted. Let anyone with ears listen!”

Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 144 : 1 and 9, 10-11, 12-13ab

I will extol You, my God and King; I will praise Your Name forever. YHVH is good to everyone; His mercy embraces all His creation.

All Your works will give You thanks; all Your saints, o YHVH, will praise You. They will tell of the glory of Your kingdom; and speak of Your power.

That all may know of Your mighty deeds, Your reign, and its glorious splendour. Your reign is from age to age; Your dominion endures, from generation to generation.

Thursday, 13 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Isaiah 41 : 13-20

For I, YHVH, your God, take hold of your right hand and say to you : “Fear not, I am your assistance.” Fear not, Jacob, poor worm, and you, people of Israel, so frail. I am your Redeemer, says YHVH, the Holy One of Israel, your Helper.

I will make you a thresher, new and with sharp double teeth : you will thresh hills and mountains, crushing them and reducing them to chaff. You will winnow them, the wind will carry them off and the storm will scatter them. But you will rejoice in YHVH and glory in the Holy One of Israel.

The poor and the afflicted seek water, and find none. Their tongues are parched with thirst. But I, YHVH, will hear them; I, the God of Israel, will not forsake them. I will open up streams over the barren heights and let the rivers flow through all the valleys; I will turn the desert into lakes and brooks and the thirsty earth into a land of springs.

I will plant in the wilderness the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle and the olive; I will plant in the wasteland fir, cypress and pine – that all may see and know, consider and understand, that the hand of YHVH has done this, that the Holy One of Israel has created it.

Monday, 1 October 2018 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin 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 account of the suffering of Job, in which this Biblical Job was a very rich man who was also very devoted to God, as an exemplary and righteous servant. Although according to Biblical scholars and studies, it is likely that Job was a fictional character, but the examples shown by Job, his sufferings and how he dealt with the suffering and eventually overcome it, is an archetype and example for our own respective lives.

We may have lots of questions on why God let Job to be crushed by Satan’s power and manipulations, as what we heard from the conversations between Satan and God in the beginning of the Book of Job. But if we look deeper at the real intention of God through this story of the Bible, and by looking at the entirety of the Book of Job from the beginning towards the end, when Job was vindicated by God, and given double the blessings he once had, we can see that it was never God’s intention to make us to suffer.

Instead, God loves each and every one of us so greatly, that He was willing to do whatever He could in order to bring us to salvation and liberation from all of our troubles. It was through sin that suffering has entered into our lives and into our beings. And sin came from the disobedience against the will of God, which began from the rebellion of Satan, because of his pride and greed, desiring to be like God, and then, through temptations, coming to us mankind.

It was the misuse of the freedom which God has given us which led us to experience suffering, because we do not follow the path which God has shown us. Suffering is caused by the desires and the pride that is within us, which often prevent us from truly being able to experience and realise God’s love and goodness present within us, that caused us to act in ways which lead us into disharmony, infighting, bickering, unhappiness and even anger and hatred against one another.

That is also in fact, the source of the unhappiness which was present in what we heard in the Gospel passage today, when the disciples of the Lord were arguing among themselves who was the most important and the best among them. They bickered and disagreed with each other and became unhappy at one another because of their own personal desires and wishes to be acknowledged as the better one, the superior disciple.

That was why they were also unhappy that someone else besides the disciples of the Lord were preaching and healing the people in His Name. It was because of their pride and their desire, that ended up causing them to be self-centred, exclusive and showing all the unbecoming attitudes that the Lord had to quickly address, by pointing out to them, that unless they become like a little child in their attitude and faith, they would not have any place with Him.

Today we celebrate the feast of St. Therese of the Child Jesus also known as St. Therese of Lisieux, who was remembered for her famous ‘Little Way’, which she promoted as the way to reach out to the Lord and His salvation. This ‘Little Way’ of St. Therese is exactly what will cure us from the troubles facing us and our world today, and is in harmony with what Job in his account did before the Lord, that is to humble himself and accept his own mortality and insignificance.

As mentioned, suffering came about because of our inability to let go of our human and worldly desires and emotions. Through temptations, we always seek to find more gains for ourselves, and to place ourselves and our desires before anything else. But this is in fact a distraction that prevents us from being able to find our way to the Lord, and has caused many of us to falter and fail in our journey of life.

Job remained faithful through his long period of suffering and pain, because he trusted the Lord completely and did not think of himself and his possessions and things to be greater than the love which God Himself had given him. He said in the midst of his suffering, ‘Naked I have come from my mother’s womb, and therefore naked too shall I return.’, a clear show of his great humility and commitment to love God with all of his heart.

St. Therese of Lisieux was remembered for his great piety and prayerful life, through which she persevered the many challenges and sickness that troubled her for much of her life. St. Therese of Lisieux placed God before everything else, committing her whole life entirely to God. Through her ‘Little Way’, she sought to do and obey God’s will, one little thing and part for a time, for the greater glory of God.

St. Therese of Lisieux made herself small and insignificant before the Lord, but knowing that the Lord will pay attention to even the very smallest and least significant of His followers and disciples. Are we able to make ourselves small and insignificant before the Lord as well? If we want to do so, then we should follow in the footsteps of Job and St. Therese of the Child Jesus in their faith and in how they lived their lives with complete love for God.

May the Lord help us that we may be able to live our lives filled with zeal and renewed dedication to Him. May He empower us all to be inspired by the faith which Job has shown to Him, despite the challenges and suffering He encountered in life. Let us all shun pride and greed in our hearts, and seek to turn to God from now on, with a new faith and commitment. May God bless us all, now and evermore. Amen.

Monday, 1 October 2018 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 9 : 46-50

At that time, one day, the disciples were arguing about which of them was the most important. But Jesus knew their thoughts, so He took a little child and stood him by His side. Then He said to them, “Whoever welcomes this little child in My Name, welcomes Me; and whoever welcomes Me, welcomes the One Who sent Me. And listen : the one who is found to be the least among you all, is the one who is the greatest.”

Then John spoke up, “Master, we saw someone who drives out demons by calling upon Your Name, and we tried to forbid him, because he does not follow You with us.” But Jesus said, “Do not forbid him. He who is not against you is for you.”

Monday, 1 October 2018 : 26th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, Virgin and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 16 : 1, 2-3, 6-7

Hear a just cause, o YHVH, listen to my complaint. Give heed to my prayer, for there is no deceit on my lips.

Let my defence come forth from You; Your eyes see what is right. You have probed my heart, searched me at night, tested me by fire, and You have seen no wickedness in me.

I call on You, You will answer me, o God; incline Your ear and hear my word. For You do wonders for Your faithful, You save those fleeing from the enemy as they seek refuge at Your right hand.