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.

Thursday, 22 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we continue to approach the end of the current liturgical cycle, we listen to more and more apocalyptic readings from the Scriptures that speak about the coming of the end times, from the revelations of St. John the Apostle, to the accounts of the Gospel recounting the moment when the Lord Jesus wept over Jerusalem because of all the things that would happen to that city.

First of all, the first reading today from the Book of the Revelations of St. John we heard about a vision that St. John received of the heavenly kingdom, in which, a Throne was surrounded by multitudes of Angels and elders, and a Scroll was laid on the Throne, which no one was worthy of opening. Within that scroll lies the truth of God and the salvation of all mankind. And in the end, only the Lamb of God, Who has sacrificed Himself, was worthy to open the scroll.

All of the elders and the Angels worshipped the Lamb Who came to take His rightful place at the Throne, and proclaimed His glory and majesty, by all the things and deeds He had done, through His loving and selfless sacrifice on the Cross. He is a King, Who has come into the world in order to save His beloved people, but the same people whom He wanted to save, many of them refused to believe in Him, rejected His message of truth, and in the end, put Him to death on the cross.

The reading from this Book of the Revelations, coupled with what we heard on the lamentations of the Lord for the heinous things that in therefore present us with the realities of our faith, that there would be persecutions and challenges awaiting all those who are speaking the truth and bearing what the Lord Jesus Himself has brought into this world, that is, the message of His salvation for us all.

The lamentations which Jesus made over the city of Jerusalem are linked to what the people of Israel had done to the prophets and messengers of God throughout history, in how they rejected God’s truth and revelations, persecuted the prophets and messengers of God, exiling them and even killing them for speaking the truth. The people hardened their hearts and minds, and refused to believe in the message of truth.

This presents to us how persecution and martyrdom have been part of our faith for countless years, how the faithful had to endure various challenges and difficulties in order to remain true to their faith. Throughout the history of the Church, innumerable martyrs have been made due to the persecution of Christians by various groups and authorities, including St. Cecilia, whose feast day we are celebrating today.

St. Cecilia is one of the most famous of the saints and the martyrs of the Roman persecution era, as the patron saint of musicians. St. Cecilia was a devout Christian and made a vow of virginity to the Lord. But despite that, her parents forced her to marry Valerian, a pagan nobleman. She continued to devote herself to the Lord nonetheless, and managed to persuade her husband to let her remain chaste and virgin, and showed him the proof of what she said, and an Angel appeared to her husband.

In the end, even her husband became a believer and was baptised as a Christian. But that was a particularly difficult time to live as a Christian, when Christians throughout the Empire were going through a particularly brutal and vicious persecution. That is why St. Cecilia and her family went through martyrdom for remaining faithful to the Lord despite the sufferings they had to go through.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today we are called to reflect on our own Christian living. Have we been probably too complacent or too lax in how we live up our lives in faith? Have we been true witnesses of the Lord in how we conduct our actions and in how we lived our lives? What we heard from the Scripture passages today and from the life of St. Cecilia should inspire us to be more active in living our faith, in devoting our time, effort and attention to the Lord.

May the Lord bless us all, and may He continue to remind us to be faithful to Him, each and every single moments of our life. May God be with us all, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Thursday, 22 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Luke 19 : 41-44

At that time, when Jesus had come in sight of the city of Jerusalem, He wept over it, and said, “If only today you knew the ways of peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. Yet days will come upon you, when your enemies will surround you with barricades, and shut you in, and press on you from every side.”

“And they will dash you to the ground and your children with you, and not leave stone upon stone within you, for you did not recognise the time and the visitation of your God.”

Thursday, 22 November 2018 : 33rd Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Cecilia, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Psalm 149 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6a and 9b

Alleluia! Sing to the Lord a new song, sing His praise in the assembly of His saints. Let Israel rejoice in his Maker, let the people of Zion glory in their King!

Let them dance in praise of His Name and make music for Him with harp and timbrel. For the Lord delights in His people; He crowns the lowly with victory.

The saints will exult in triumph; even at night on their couches. Let the praise of God be on their lips, this is the glory of all His saints. Alleluia!