Wednesday, 7 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are called to remember the loving care of God, our Lord and Creator, the One Who has always provided for each one of us and protected us from harm’s way, and how He has always looked out for those who are downtrodden and troubled. He did not forget those whom He has called and chosen to be His own, and He gathered all of them from among the nations, and gave them renewed strength and hope, encouragement and assurance that He, their Lord and God, will be with them, and will guide and protect them through the hardships and challenges of the world. That is why we have to put our faith and trust in Him, and not be easily swayed by worldly temptations and distractions all around us.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, God has shown His people His power and might, reminding them of everything that He had done for all those times that they had journeyed with Him, and rebuking those who had not placed their faith in Him, but instead entrusting themselves to wicked pagan idols and gods. God told them all through His prophet Isaiah of everything that He had done, and how He had raised them up, giving them hope and strength although they had fallen and been downtrodden, cast down and brought low, humbled and suffered as a result of their own actions, their own lack of faith in Him and wayward attitudes. They had not been faithful and true to the path that God had shown them, and yet, God still loved them nonetheless.

Back then, the people to whom Isaiah ministered to, the people of the southern kingdom of Judah, had experienced many years of tribulations and hardships, witnessing the downfall and destructions of their northern neighbours, the kingdom of Israel, who were their own fellow brothers and sisters, conquered and exiled by the Assyrians who crushed them and their cities, humbled and humiliated them, because they refused to place themselves in the hands of the Lord, and their wickedness, evils and persecutions of the Lord’s prophets and messengers eventually caught up to them, and the same, although to a lesser degree had happened to the people of Judah as well. The people of God there had not been completely faithful to God, and had from time to time, fell again and again into the path of sin.

They often rebelled and disobeyed God, refusing to listen to Him or obey His Law and commandments, and as such, they suffered the just consequences of their actions. They chose to put themselves under the yoke of the devil and the idols, preferring to enjoy the corrupt fruits of worldly desires, power and glory, succumbing to those temptations of their pride, ego and greed, and not listening to God and His truth. God reminds us all therefore, just as we heard in our Gospel passage today, that He loves us all and calls upon us to return to Him, and to get out of all of that yoke of the world, and embrace Him and His path instead, with the well-known words, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” He reminds us all that while His path is not going to be easy, but in the end, compared to the path of worldliness, sin and evil, His path is going to be good and leads us to happiness, while the so-called more enjoyable path of the world, will lead us to nothing but regret and eternal suffering.

As Christians, each and every one of us must realise that God has shown us His love all these while, and He never gave up on us even when we have often been difficult and stubborn in refusing to embrace His love, kindness, compassion and mercy. He has always ever been patient in loving us and in reaching out to us, as a loving Father and Shepherd, calling out to us His beloved children and sheep who have been lost and separated from Him. Yet, we also must realise that unless we make the effort to welcome Him into our lives and open our hearts and minds to let Him enter into our existence and lives, then we are likely going to remain separated from Him and like many of us realised too late, that we may end up being forever sundered and separated from Him, for those who are eventually judged to be unworthy of God.

Today, let us all therefore be inspired by the great examples shown to us by one great saint whose feast we celebrate this day, namely that of St. Ambrose of Milan, the well-known Bishop of Milan and one of the most influential Church leaders of his time, through his piety and good works, his courageous and fearless efforts in leading the people of God to the right path, not afraid of oppositions and hardships, and his many contributions being recognised later on as one of the four original Doctors of the Church, together with St. Augustine of Hippo, St. Gregory Nazianzen and St. Basil the Great or St. Jerome, which highlighted just how great an impact that St. Ambrose of Milan had in the Church and the Christian community, not just in his See of Milan but also throughout the whole entire Christendom.

St. Ambrose was born into a Christian family, a rather influential and powerful family, and he was brought up with good education, preparing him for a life of service in the Roman administration, becoming a government official and finally being appointed as the regional governor of the regions of Liguria and Emilia in what is now present day northern parts of Italy, with the headquarters in Milan. Back then, there was bitter divisions within the Church in Milan as those who believed in the falsehoods of the Arian heresy, popularised by the famous preacher Arius, were in conflict with those who believed in the true teachings of the Church, the true and orthodox Christian faith. At that time, the death of the Arian bishop of Milan led to heated debate and conflict in the election of his successor, as each parties desired to elect their own candidates.

St. Ambrose had to step in to settle the issue, and after protracted and heated struggle to elect the new Bishop of Milan, the assembled faithful were inspired by the Holy Spirit to elect St. Ambrose himself, despite not being a clergyman, to be the new Bishop of Milan. He was also acceptable to those who sided with the heretical teachings of Arius. St. Ambrose embraced God’s call and became a most dedicated servant of His in his duty and ministry as the Bishop of Milan, in building up the Church and the Christian community. He helped to steer the Church out of the influence and the falsehoods of the Arian heresy mentioned earlier, and fearlessly faced the opposition from the powerful supporters of the Arians, which included the Roman nobles and distinguished personas, that included the Emperor and his family.

St. Ambrose patiently endured the challenges and was persistent in his efforts to reform the Church, proclaiming God’s truth among His people. When later on the faithful and orthodox Emperor Theodosius the Great became the ruler of all the Roman Empire, he did not stop himself from opposing the Emperor himself in a very well-known occasion as St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor for having been complicit in his role in the massacre of the people and the innocent population of the great city of Thessalonica. That led to the Emperor himself humbling himself before God and the people, as he put aside his Imperial cloak and garments, wearing the garments of a penitent, and repented from his sins, and welcomed back into the Church by St. Ambrose himself. There were also many other contributions that this holy man of God had done, in his many writings and works, and in helping the aforementioned St. Augustine of Hippo, another original Doctor of the Church, in finding his way towards God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the inspiring examples and dedications showed by St. Ambrose of Milan, and also of God’s love, compassion and mercy for all of us His people, and how many of those people had let Him down and betrayed Him for worldly temptations, let us all ask ourselves then, whether we have been truly faithful to God in our daily living and works. Have we spent our days and lives in faithful ways as our faith has called us to do? Or have we instead preferred to follow the whims of our worldly desires and the myriad of the temptations surrounding us? Let us all discern our path carefully, brothers and sisters, and be more faithful from now on, especially during this time of blessed Advent, when we are constantly being reminded of what we are supposed to do as Christians to welcome the Lord into our lives.

May God be with us all, especially as we continue to journey through this season of Advent, that we may be ever closer to Him, and that we may find our path towards Him, and be ever more attuned to His will, His Law and commandments. May God bless us all in our every good deeds and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Tuesday, 6 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Nicholas, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all presented with the reminder yet again for us to look up to the Lord our God, our Shepherd and Guide, our Hope and our Light, the One Who has promised us His salvation and grace, and Who has willingly extended upon us His love and kindness, ever enduring and strong despite our constant disobedience and refusal to believe in Him and His love and truth. He has always loved us all despite our delinquent attitude and our hardened hearts and minds, and as our loving Father and Shepherd, He looked out for us, searched for us and did not give up on us, till the very end, seeking for us, His lost sheep and lost children, all of whom are in need of His help and guidance.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the call for the people of God to return to the loving embrace of their God, their Master, their Shepherd and King. The people of God had indeed been wayward in their ways, and they had been erroneous in their actions, but they were truly lucky and blessed to have the Lord by their side all throughout despite all the wickedness and the vile things that they had committed through life. The Lord loved them all, His beloved ones, whom He had loved since the very beginning, all those whom He had called from among the nations to be the first of those whom He loved and made to be His own flock, His own people. Through His promises and Covenant made and renewed through His servants, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and then Moses, King David and many more of the others among the people, God has made a flock and people for Himself, gathering them from the darkness of this world to His light.

But the people of God had not always been faithful to Him, and they had often chosen to walk away from Him, rejecting His love and kindness, worshipping pagan idols and gods, defiling the House and Temple of God in Jerusalem, its Altar and throwing down the Lord’s worship in His Holy of Holies. They had indeed behaved like the lost sheep, who have chosen to trod the rebellious path, running away from the flock and from their Shepherd, following the false illusions of worldly glory and desires, which ended up causing many of those lost sheep of the Lord to be scattered all around the world in the darkness of sin and evil. The Lord however never gave up on all of His lost sheep, calling on all of them to return to Him, sending His messengers and servants, the many prophets and all others who have borne the word of God’s truth and grace.

And although those same people persecuted the prophets and messengers of God, rejecting them and refusing to listen to the message which they had brought to the midst of the people of God, God still sent more of them regardless, and promised them His salvation and deliverance, and the words of hope with which He promised the Saviour and deliverance to come, which was therefore fulfilled with the coming of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, into the world. Through Him, God sent us all the perfect manifestation of His love, as the Divine Word of God incarnate in the flesh, born into this world through Mary His mother and become the personification of God’s enduring love made tangible and approachable to us. He also proclaimed the coming of God’s salvation as it has been promised, and referred to Himself specifically as the Good Shepherd. The one and only true Good Shepherd of all, the one flock of God’s people.

And as the Good Shepherd, He shower His love and care for each one of us, seeking the last, the lost and the least among us who were still lost to Him, breaking barriers and seeking those who were distant from Him. Those like the crippled and paralysed, those who were sick and dying, those who were afflicted by demons and evil spirits, and all those who were wicked in their deeds, those who were cast aside because they were considered sinners and unworthy of God and His grace. He reached out to all of them, prostitutes, tax collectors, those who were afflicted with diseases and possessed by evil spirits, showing them all the love and grace of God. He showed them that all of them truly had their worth and called on all of them to follow Him, not excluding them and casting them out like what the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done to them.

That is exactly what we heard in our Gospel passage today, as the Lord told the people of the parable of the lost sheep, where the shepherd went out of his way, trying his best to look for the lost sheep. The Lord Himself is the Shepherd, going out of His way to try to find us all, His beloved ones who have been lost and separated from Him. Having seen the great love that God has for us, all of us should therefore embrace Him and seek Him with all of our hearts and might. Each one of us should return to Him and listen to His call, as He calls on us with the great call of His voice in our hearts and minds. We must not harden our hearts against Him any longer, but be willing to open the doors for Him to enter and for Him to find us and bring us back to His flock, that we too may have a share in His eternal glory.

Today, all of us ought to reflect upon the great examples set by one holy servant of God, our predecessor in faith, whose name may well be known by many of us, namely that of St. Nicholas of Myra. He is probably better known all around the world in a more secular occasion as Santa Claus, the ubiquitous figure always ever present during this time of the year, when we saw this bearded old man carrying plenty of gifts for children from his large and heavy bag, dressed all in red and white. Brothers and sisters, that is the fictional Santa Claus, who does not actually exist and who is actually a character inspired by the real St. Nicholas, the Bishop of Myra, one of the early Church fathers and a truly devoted servant of God, as well as a faithful and loving shepherd to the flock entrusted to him by the Chief Shepherd, the Lord Himself.

St. Nicholas of Myra was remembered for his great care, dedication and love for his flock, the people of God under his care as shepherd, and he was known for his habit of coming to children and giving them gifts, which eventually over time gave raise to the legend of Santa Claus as mentioned earlier. St. Nicholas of Myra spent a lot of time visiting his people and parishes, and was a great role model of faith, spending a lot of time in prayer and in guiding the people under his care in finding their way back to the Lord, their Chief Shepherd, their Master, Lord and King. St. Nicholas of Myra was also known for his great devotion to God and to the true faith, opposing heresies and false teachings with all of his might. In an apocryphal story and tale, which may or may not be true, during the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, when the faithful bishops gathered and condemned the false teachings of the preacher Arius that had led to the terrible Arian heresy, St. Nicholas of Myra hit the arch-heretic in the face for his contempt of the Lord and for misleading God’s people as he spoke his words of falsehoods and blasphemies before the assembly of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard the life and works of St. Nicholas of Myra, let us all therefore do our best to be inspired to follow his good examples, dedication and hard work in our own lives and works. Let us all do our best to love the Lord, our most loving God and Good Shepherd, and strive to follow Him and be fully reconciled with Him, embracing His most generous mercy and love. Let us all turn our hearts and minds back towards Him, and dedicate ourselves with renewed strength and vigour from now on that we may celebrate the upcoming joyful Christmas with true understanding and appreciation, and not indulge in the excesses of merrymaking and festivities. May God bless us all, in our every good works, efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 5 December 2022 : 2nd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the coming of God’s great hope and light, the promise of happiness and joy that will come through Him, as He comes into this world bearing that Light dispelling the dominion that darkness and sin, evil and others had over us all. We are reminded that in God alone there is Hope and the path towards everlasting peace and happiness, and we can truly trust in Him because He has been ever faithful to the Covenant He had made and renewed with all of us. Through His Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, we have seen the fulfilment and the proof of God’s ever enduring love, and the power of His saving grace, which during this Advent we should really reflect upon as we prepare ourselves for the upcoming celebration at Christmas.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, as it had been for the past one week or so, we continue to hear the words of the Lord’s pronouncements for His people, made through Isaiah, of the days of joy and salvation that will come upon them. We have to understand that from the perspective of those people who heard those words of comfort and encouragement, it was really a relief from the hardships, struggles and challenges that they had faced. Back then, as I have discussed earlier in last week’s discourses, the people of God in Judah, where Isaiah performed his ministry, had fallen under hard times, having had to witness the downfall of their northern neighbour, the northern kingdom of Israel, composed of their own relatives and brethren, the ten tribes that rebelled against the House of David, to the forces of the Assyrians.

The same Assyrians conquered and destroyed the northern kingdom of Israel, exiled its people and then brought their forces also against Judah and Jerusalem, which only escaped destruction and defeat, and the same fate as their northern neighbours thanks to God’s timely intervention. God crushed the forces of the Assyrians and sent their king back home in disgrace, saving the people of Judah from harm and safeguarded them, because of the faith that still remained in them and their faithful kings. The Lord showed them His power and might, as He rescued them from harm just in the same manner as He had rescued their ancestors, from their enslavement in the land of Egypt much earlier on. And just as back then He had led them all to the Promised Land, freed from their bondage in Egypt, so He would also lead them all back to their land, which was fulfilled later on when God restored His people to their land once again, after they had been exiled from their homeland of Israel and Judah.

How is this then relevant to us? Similarly, all of us here present in this world, the children of mankind, descendants of Adam and Eve, have been placed under the bondage of sin and evil, death and destruction after our disobedience against God and refusal to listen to His commands and obey His Law. The Lord has reassured and promised us since the very beginning that He will bring us His deliverance and salvation through His Messiah or Saviour, the One Whom He promised will be born of the Woman, Who will rule and judge over all people, past, present, future, all throughout time. And in Jesus Christ, this promise of salvation, renewed again and again by the Lord throughout history, had been fulfilled, as He was born into this world manifesting God’s love and compassionate mercy, making God and His love tangible and approachable by us.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, that is exactly one of the manifestation of that love, as we listened to the well-known story of the Lord Jesus healing a paralysed man, who was brought to Him through the roof of the building that He was preaching and teaching in. The Lord had pity in the paralysed man and was touched by the dedication and faith shown by the man and his fellow helpers, who brought him up all the way to the roof and helped to bring him right to the Lord for healing. Yet, just as the Lord healed the paralysed man, those hypocritical Pharisees and teachers of the Law who were there with the Lord, criticised Him and argued with Him regarding what He was doing, especially because they regarded the Lord Jesus’ forgiveness of the paralysed man’s sins as a blasphemy against God, and hence, took great offence at that.

The Lord was dismayed at the stubbornness of those Pharisees and teachers of the Law who had repeatedly failed to see the truth and love of God personified and manifested in Him. Many of those Pharisees and teachers of the Law had seen and heard everything that the Lord had done, His wisdom and truth, the authority and justice in His teachings and words, and all the miracles and wonders that He had done before their very own eyes. And those people, being the most knowledgeable and educated among the people of God, and well-versed in the words and the prophecies of the prophets, ought to be the ones who first acknowledged and welcomed the Lord Jesus, the Messiah and Holy One of God. Instead, they took pride at their own supposedly superior knowledge, understanding and skills, and refused to listen to the Lord and His truth.

Nevertheless, the Lord healed the paralysed man, showing all of us that He has come into this world to heal us from our predicaments and maladies, as the foreshadowing of the ultimate act of His love, which He performed on the Cross. The Lord Jesus obeyed His heavenly Father perfectly, and willingly took upon Himself all the combined weight and burdens of our sins, and offered Himself through His suffering and death, the perfect and most worthy offering for the atonement of our innumerable sins and evils. Through Christ, God has brought us close once again to Himself, bridging the once infinite chasm separating us from Him due to sin. Christ has reconciled us to God, through His Cross, His death and Resurrection, and by that same Resurrection, He showed us all that there is life and existence beyond this world.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in our world today, and especially now that as we prepare ourselves in this season of Advent in the preparation for Christmas and its joyful celebration, let us all therefore spend the time to reflect and focus ourselves on God and His love, upon everything that He has promised us all and all that He has shown us, through Jesus Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. Let us all refocus our attention towards Him, and be no longer ignorant of God’s most amazing love and kindness, His compassion and mercy that He has constantly shown us all these while. Let us all make great use of this time and season of Advent to make ourselves ever closer to God and reorientate our lives so that we are truly focused on Him as the centre and the pinnacles of our lives and existence.

May the Lord continue to guide us through this season of Advent and through life, that we may grow ever stronger in faith, and devote ourselves ever more, in time and attention to Him. May God bless our every good endeavours and hard works, for the greater glory of His Name. May He empower us all to become the worthy bearers of His truth and love in our world today, and may He help us to remain humble, open-minded and willing to listen to Him, and not harden our hearts and minds the way the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law had done. May God bless us always, now and evermore. Amen.

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.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church marks the occasion of the Feast of St. Francis Xavier, the Patron of Missions and a member of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits renowned for his lengthy and great missionary journeys to different parts of the world, especially his works in Asia, in the regions of India and South Asia, then Southeast Asia and the Far East, in Macau, China and Japan. St. Francis Xavier gave inspiration to many others in how he dedicated his life and service to God, in his perseverance to continue the mission despite the challenges and hardships he encountered during his journeys, and his passion and love for his fellow brothers and sisters, in the genuine desire he has to proclaim the Word of God and His Good News to more and more of the people of God all around the world.

St. Francis Xavier was born in what is today Spain as Francisco de Jasso y Azpilicueta in the town of Javier or Xavier which would later on made him known as Francis Xavier as we know him today. He was one of the companions of the Founder of the Society of Jesus, St. Ignatius of Loyola and one of the first members of the Jesuits, considered as one of its founding members. Back then, during the height of the Protestant reformation, St. Ignatius of Loyola gathered his companions and other like-minded people to commit themselves to the works of evangelisation and other ministries to spearhead the efforts in countering the terrible effects of the so-called reformation, which splintered the Church in many places into several factions and ‘churches’, and heresies and falsehoods were abound because of errant heretics and preachers.

The Jesuits were founded with the aim to help the Pope and the Church to oppose the tide of heresy and disunity, as well as to reform the Church in the right way. St. Ignatius of Loyola sent out the Jesuits in ministering both to the traditional areas of Christendom like in what is today Germany, the hotbed of the reformation, and also to those mission areas beyond Europe, where European explorers and adventurers made many discoveries of distant lands, all of which had not yet heard the message of God’s truth, His Gospels and the Good News of His salvation. St. Francis Xavier was among those entrusted with the responsibility to proclaim the Good News in the foreign and distant lands, and hence, he went forth, never returning to his homeland ever again.

He followed the long journey to the newly discovered areas, embarking on an extensive missionary journeys in parts of India, where missionaries had already laid some foundations earlier on, as well as areas of Southeast Asia like Malacca and the Spice Islands where he went to several islands and communities, preaching about God and gaining some people who were interested to know more about the Lord and became the first Christian converts in those areas. He did not always have it smooth though, as he did face rejection and hardships along the way, and in a well-known story about him, St. Francis Xavier almost met his end in a terrible storm in the sea, where the boat he was in was battered by waves and the strong wind. He prayed to God and thrust his crucifix into the waves, which then fell into the water and the storm stopped miraculously. A crab later on brought the crucifix back to St. Francis Xavier, who blessed it, and that crab later on always had a cross on its back.

That is just one of the many well-known stories regarding St. Francis Xavier, in his many efforts to serve the Lord through his time and work, in proclaiming the Good News to the furthest ends of the world. He went on to proclaim the Gospels in Japan, and was instrumental in laying the foundations for the later very successful Jesuit mission in Japan, which despite its termination later by the very intense persecutions under the Tokugawa Shogunate, for a period of about fifty years, the Church managed to flourish really well in Japan, with an estimated three hundred thousand Christians during the very height of the mission there, several decades after the passing of St. Francis Xavier. St. Francis Xavier himself passed away in Shangchuan Island just on the shores of China as he awaited the opportunity to enter China to begin a mission there. Some of other Jesuits like the famous Matteo Ricci would then continue what St. Francis Xavier had started.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on the lives and works of St. Francis Xavier today, on his Feast day, all of us are called to reflect on our own respective calling and missions as Christians. Each one of us as God’s followers and disciples share the responsibility as the members of the same One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church to proclaim the message of God’s truth, His Good News and the Gospels of salvation to all the people whom we encounter in this world. St. Francis Xavier being the Patron of Missions and all missionaries serves as a reminder for all of us that we too share in this same mission and we must not have the misconception and misunderstanding thinking that the responsibility for mission and proclaiming the Gospel of Christ are solely that of missionaries and those ordained ministers alone.

On the contrary, every members of the Church including and even especially the laity have important parts to play in the works and ministries of the Church. If each members of the Church do not do their parts in the mission and works of the Church, or worse still, do things that are contrary to the teachings of the Church and bring scandal upon our faith, then it does not help the works of the Church’s missions in this world and can even jeopardise all the good efforts that had been put in place by the tireless efforts and hard works of all those who have committed themselves to the glory of God. Hence, that is why it is crucial that each and every one of us as Christians have to be genuine and true in our way of life that we have to practice our faith and show it through our every words, actions and deeds, in our every interactions with one another.

Let us all therefore commit ourselves to be a missionary Church, a vibrant and evangelising community of the Lord’s disciples, filled with the love for the Lord and with the passion to serve Him and to follow Him all the days and moments of our lives. Let us all follow the examples and inspiration from the passion and the commitment which St. Francis Xavier had dedicated his life to the service of God and to the proclamation of the Good News, the Gospel of salvation. Let us be exemplary in our way of life so that all those who witness our actions and works may indeed be convinced of God’s truth and His Good News that we and many other missionaries of the Church had proclaimed. If we ourselves have not lived in the way that the Lord had told and taught us to do, how can we then convince others to do the same?

May the Lord our most loving God continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, so that we may always remain firm in our conviction and dedication, walking ever firmly in the path that He has set before all of us. May God be with us always and may He empower each and every one of us to be shining beacons of His light and truth, much as how St. Francis Xavier and the many other, innumerable saints had shown us their faith and light of God’s truth. May God bless our every works and efforts, and help us to persevere ever more faithfully in all the things we do for the greater glory of His Name. May He bless our Advent journey that we will always continue to grow ever stronger in our love for Him, and be prepared and ready to rejoice with Him this upcoming Christmas season. Amen.

Friday, 2 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all called to remember the love and kindness which God has shown each one of us Christians, and all of His beloved ones, that He came to rescue us from our predicament and fate, leading us into the path towards everlasting life and true joy with Him, a path that He has shown us, as light and hope lighting our way out of the darkness surrounding us in our lives. We are all reminded that it is in God alone that we have our salvation and hope, and it is through Him alone that we shall receive justification and grace, and liberation from the bondage of sin, death and evil which had always hounded us all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of yet another one of God’s reassuring words for His people just as we have heard all throughout this week, reminding them all of everything that God has done for them and then what He will do for all of them, as He gathered them all from being scattered all over, and returned them to their lands, to enjoy once again His favour and grace, His love and providence. Back then, the land of Israel and its people were far off from the once glorious days of their predecessors, of the great kingdom of David and Solomon. They had faced great challenges and trials, difficulties and humiliations, all because of their lack of faith in God and their disobedience and sins against Him. Yet, the Lord continued to show His love towards them and sent them His help and providence, again and again.

Historically, the people of God would be scattered all throughout the world, uprooted from their lands, as consequences for their sins. Yet, the Lord would gather them once again, leading all of them towards Him and returning them back to their lands, as He had done when He moved the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to allow the people of Israel, who have regretted their sins and the faults of their ancestors, and being repentant of those sins, to return once again to their homeland, the Land promised to their ancestors. What God spoke about in our today’s first reading through the prophet Isaiah to His people was indeed a proclamation of what would happen when He led them all back to their land, an expectation of the happy and glorious days to come, and in fact, also a lead-up to what will one day happen at the end of time, when God finally leads all of us, His beloved ones, back to Him.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the Lord healing two blind men who came to Him, begging Him to heal them from their blindness. They asked Him and believed that He could deliver them from their troubles, and indeed, the Lord healed and allowed their eyes to see once again. They were saved from their predicament by the power of God, and became yet another proof of God great power and also love for His beloved people. God brought them out of the darkness and back into the light. God has restored hope to them and made them whole again, and that same thing is what He will also do to all of us, to each and every one of us who have faith in Him and are called to follow Him and to walk in His path. We are God’s people, and He is our Lord and Master.

That is what we really need to reflect on in this season of Advent, recalling the great love, compassion and mercy which Our Lord has shown us and which He has generously given to us. Through Him, all of us have received a new hope and the light that pierced through the darkness of despair and evil that surrounded us. It is Him Whom we are expecting and preparing for this coming Christmas, the source of our rejoicing and celebrations, the source of our strength and life. This Advent is a time for us to contemplate all these and to prepare ourselves so that we may indeed celebrate Christmas with proper understanding and appreciation of everything that God had done for us all, His beloved people. We have to make good use of this season of Advent to prepare ourselves, body, heart, mind and soul, so that our whole being may be ready to welcome the Lord.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all spend the time this Advent to reconnect ourselves with God and to strengthen our relationship and connection with Him, so that we may draw ever closer to Him and become ever more committed to His path. Many of us have not been doing this and many have been spending their Advent and Christmas on the wrong things, both their time and effort, as they were swayed by the worldly ways that Christmas has often been celebrated all around the world. Instead of celebrating and commemorating the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the Love of God made Man, and brought into our midst, we have put Him aside and forgotten about Him, which led to us distancing ourselves ever further from Him and His path.

We are all reminded that we are all so blessed that God has willingly shown us His love and compassion, just as the Scripture passages today earlier on had shown us. Therefore, it is only right and just that we should appreciate and reciprocate that love that God has shown us with our own love and devotion towards Him, doing our best to follow Him and His path, doing His will, listening to Him and walking in the path that He has shown us, His commandments and Law, and showing the same love He has shown us, to our fellow brothers and sisters, that through our love, kindness and compassion, more and more people may come to know the love of God and be brought ever closer to Him and to the salvation and eternal life in Him.

May the Lord our most loving and compassionate God continue to help and guide us through this blessed season of Advent so that we may make good use of this time and season of Advent to prepare ourselves to be ever more worthy to celebrate the true joy of Christmas, and be inspirations, role models and examples in how we live out our faith, glorifying God by our lives and showing others what it truly means to be Christians, as our Lord’s followers and disciples. May God bless us all at all times, and may He bless our every good efforts, works and endeavours, now and always. Amen.

Thursday, 1 December 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded that the Lord our God is our Rock and Foundation, and in Him alone we will find a firm and steady support for ourselves, regardless of whatever trials, hardships and struggles we may encounter throughout life. The Lord alone is the source of our true strength and without Him we shall have nothing and our existence has no meaning at all. Yet, many of us still chose to build our lives upon unstable and shaky foundations, based on worldly things, resources and matters, and not on the Lord and His providence. We have often left the Lord out of our lives and put Him aside when in truth He should have been at the very centre of our lives.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard of the words of the Lord speaking to His people through Isaiah regarding what He will do to them, in providing for them, protecting them and leading them into glory, rescuing them from their troubles and their enemies. They shall once again see happiness and true joy through God’s providence and love. Back then, during the time of the ministry and work of the prophet Isaiah, the people of God left in the land of Judah, the southern half of the once united kingdom of Israel, were facing great trials and challenges, as their enemies rose up all around them, threatening them and drowning them by their great power. Yet, the Lord reassured them that if they remained firm in their faith in Him and trusted in Him, God will always be by their side and they will be saved in the end.

At that time, the kingdom of Israel, the northern domain of the people of God, north of Judah had just recently been destroyed by the conquering and rampaging Assyrians who crushed the entire kingdom of Israel, subjugating its people to humiliation and exile, bringing many of them to the distant lands away from their homeland. Their constant refusal to listen to the Lord, their sins and wickedness had brought about that consequence, as they were all humbled from their haughty attitude against the Lord’s faithful, His many prophets and messengers whom they had persecuted and rejected. However, it did not mean that God did not love His people or forsake them. He still loved them, but those wayward ones indeed had to face their consequences first, and know that what they had suffered, came because of their own actions and choices.

Then, the Assyrians also came up against Judah after they had crushed the Israelites. King Sennacherib of Assyria brought a massive and powerful army against the kingdom of Judah and laid siege to Jerusalem itself. Conventionally, by the wisdom and understanding of the world, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were doomed, and they should have shared the fate of their northern brethren. Yet, while Sennacherib uttered blasphemies and nasty words against God and His people, the people of Judah, who had been faithful to the Lord by the leadership of their king Hezekiah, remained firm in their faith and were not swayed by the persuasions, coercions, threats or ridicule by the king of Assyria. The Lord did not abandon His people and He stood by them, exactly just as what we have heard in our first reading today.

That is because while Sennacherib boasted in the greatness of his worldly power, the might of his army and his vast armaments, the Lord reminded him and humbled him, telling him just how futile his boasting and how fleeting his power and glory actually were. The Lord sent His mighty Angels to stand guard over His City, and He sent them to crush the armies of the Assyrians, where the whole vast multitudes of Sennacherib’s army was destroyed, and the king of Assyria had to return back to his lands in shame. According to the Scriptures and historical evidence, he was assassinated by his own sons soon after, marking the most ignominious end for this king who had boasted against God and uttered blasphemy against Him. Meanwhile, the people of Judah and Jerusalem were saved and triumphant, under the power of their Lord and true King, God Himself.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard then of the Lord’s parable of the houses, in which He highlighted two houses built upon two different foundations, one of insecure and shaky sand, and the other of solid and firm rocky foundation. In that parable, the Lord Jesus highlighted how all those who had no real and genuine faith in Him are like those who built their houses upon the unsteady foundation of sand, and gave examples of those who called on Him and claimed to know Him, and yet in their hearts and minds, they had no place for God and God is not at the centre or the focus of their hearts and minds. The Lord reminded us all therefore that if we are truly to call ourselves as Christians, then we must indeed have genuine faith in Him, and we cannot merely be faithful on the outside, but is empty of faith inside.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter and progress through this season of Advent in preparation for Christmas, let us all therefore reflect on our faith and life, whether we have indeed been true believers of Christ and His truth, and whether we have made Him the firm foundation of our lives, or whether we have chosen to make other worldly things and matters as the foundations of our lives instead of God. We do not have to go and look far beyond what we can see in how many people celebrate Christmas. Christmas has become so secularised and focused on many worldly forms of pleasures and joys that we end up losing sight of what Christmas is all about, and what we are in fact celebrating. We must not forget that the Lord Jesus is truly the reason why we rejoice as we prepare for the glorious celebrations of Christmas.

That is why, let us all purify our hearts and minds, and clear our thoughts and discern carefully our way of living, and our preparations for Christmas in particular so that we may indeed be worthy to celebrate it with proper disposition, understanding and faith. Let us all lead by example through our lives so that we may help others to see the truth of God, and anchor our lives firmly on Him, our Rock and our Strength, our Foundation and our Salvation. May the Lord continue to bless and guide us in our journey of faith, and may He empower us all to remain faithful and committed in our Christian living, now and always, evermore. May all of us have a truly blessed and fruitful Advent. Amen.

Wednesday, 30 November 2022 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of one of the great Twelve Apostles of the Lord, namely that of St. Andrew the Apostle, also known as St. Andrew the First-Called because he was indeed one of the first if not the first one among the Twelve Apostles to be called by the Lord to be one of His followers. St. Andrew the Apostle was once a fisherman of the region of the lake of Galilee, together with his brother St. Peter, the chief of all the Apostles and first Vicar of Christ, as well as the sons of Zebedee, St. James and St. John, another two of the Twelve Apostles. Altogether, the four of them were the first of the Twelve Apostles to follow the Lord, and were the Lord’s first disciples, leaving everything behind in order to follow Him.

St. Andrew according to the Gospel of St. John and tradition was also one of the disciples of St. John the Baptist, and was one of the two disciples who became first followers of Christ because St. John the Baptist at the moment when he baptised the Lord Jesus at the River Jordan proclaimed, ‘Behold the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world’, revealing that the One he had just baptised, was truly the One Whom God had promised, the Messiah and Saviour of the whole world. St. Andrew and the other unnamed disciple of St. John the Baptist therefore decided to follow the Lord from then on, and it was likely hence that St. Andrew was the one who introduced the Lord to his fellow fishermen, his brother St. Peter as well as the brothers St. James and St. John as mentioned.

St. Andrew the Apostle was often present at many important events in the Lord’s ministry as mentioned in the Gospels. He continued to carry out his ministry amidst the challenges and trials of the world, and all the persecutions facing the faithful after the Lord has suffered, died on the Cross and risen from the dead, and sent out His disciples and the Apostles to the many distant parts of the world to proclaim the Word of God and the Good News of His salvation to all the people in those places. St. Andrew himself according to Apostolic and Church traditions, went to the various regions in the distant north from the Holy Land, in places like Scythia, which corresponds to the modern day parts of Ukraine, Belarus and Russia. He also ministered to the people in other places like the Balkans, establishing the See of Byzantium, which would later on became the principal See of Constantinople of his successors, and Greece among others.

St. Andrew later would suffer martyrdom as described by the traditions of the Church, as he was arrested and condemned to death in the region of what is now Greece. He was crucified on an X-shaped cross, which henceforth would be known as St. Andrew’s Cross. He remained firm in his dedication and faith in God, doing his best in fulfilling God’s missions and calling entrusted to Him. St. Andrew continued to persevere in the mission which the Lord has given him, to the very end. He chose to suffer and die rather than to abandon His mission and to endure the hardships of this world rather than to stay silent amidst proclaiming the words of God’s truth against the falsehoods and evils of this world. His examples, faith and convictions should inspire us in our own way of observing the Law of God and in following His path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect together on this Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle upon the actions and life work of this Apostle and holy man of God, let us all discern our own actions and way of life, in how we live our lives as Christians in our world today. Have we placed the Lord our God as the centre and focus of our lives, or have we instead allowed ourselves to be swayed by the many temptations and allures of this world that we end up being drawn further and further away from the Lord and His salvation? It is important that we reflect upon these today as we continue to progress through the season of Advent in preparation for the great celebrations at Christmas. That is because we must not be ignorant of our calling and mission as Christians, to be the beacons of God’s light and hope in our world today.

Often we may think that we are unworthy or incapable of doing what the Lord has entrusted to us to do, but this is because we do not realise or understand that it is not we who make ourselves worthy of the Lord or decide whether we are worthy or not. Instead, it is God Himself Who calls and has called upon all those whom He deems to be worthy. After all, He knows everything in us, all in our hearts and minds, even to the deepest of our secrets. Nothing is hidden from His All-Knowing might, and hence, He knows perfectly what we are capable of, and He empowers each one of us with unique and variety of gifts, blessings and opportunities to do His will, and to be fruitful in the missions that He has entrusted to each one of us. All of us should follow in the footsteps of St. Andrew the Apostle, and the other Apostles and saints.

The works that the Lord had entrusted to His Apostles and disciples are still far from being completed, brothers and sisters in Christ. There are still many areas where there are people who have not yet known the truth, wisdom and salvation in God, and there are many of those who can be called closer to God and His truth, His salvation and grace by our lives and actions. We have been entrusted with many things by the Lord, and sometimes we ourselves do not realise this, as we are often too preoccupied with worldly matters, our desires and ambitions that we end up being blindsided and unable to realise what a great opportunity that we have been given by God, and how we often squandered those opportunities and gifts, in ignoring and not answering to the call that the Lord has made upon us to follow Him.

Let us all therefore entrust ourselves to the Lord, following the examples that saints like St. Andrew the Apostle had done. Let us all allow the Lord to lead and guide us in our lives so that we may truly walk faithfully down the path that He has prepared for us. Let us all be active in the faithful living and carrying out of our Christian duties and obligations, in being true and shining beacons of God’s light and truth in our world today. Are we willing to commit ourselves to this path? And are we willing to commit our effort, time and attention to do what the Lord had called us to do and entrusted in our care? Let us ask St. Andrew to intercede for us, that God may always be by our side and strengthen us in whatever struggles and paths that He has called us to walk through, now and always, evermore. May our lives, and especially this time of Advent be a truly fruitful one. Amen.

Tuesday, 29 November 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded of how fortunate we are for having received the revelation of truth from God, of the coming of His future return, and how we shall all be partakers and inheritors of His glorious kingdom, when He comes again at the end of time. We are reminded that God will deliver us into a new existence and life free from the bondage and sufferings due to our sins and wickedness. The Lord has reassured us that He will never abandon us to the darkness, and all of us who are faithful to Him shall receive from Him the gift of everlasting grace and life, freedom from the darkness of sin and death. No longer shall we have to fear the threats of evil and the attacks of Satan, the evil one, because our Lord will lead us to His great triumphant victory in the end.

However, along the way there will indeed be plenty of challenges, trials and obstacles facing us. Hence, we really have to be patient and committed to the Lord, with all of our hearts and minds, so that we may remain firm and true in our faith in Him, and not be tempted to walk away and abandon Him for other comforts and pleasures in the world. And that is why we have to remind ourselves in this season of Advent of what we are expecting in the coming Christmas, as we approach the time of rejoicing because we see the coming of the hope and new life in Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. We are reminded that we rejoice greatly as we have seen the light of Our Lord’s glory and all that we shall enjoy in Him, the eternity of perfect bliss and happiness in His presence.

In our Gospel passage today, the Lord Jesus Himself praised His heavenly Father for all that He had planned for the salvation of all mankind, and how everything had indeed been fulfilled and accomplished perfectly through His coming into this world, He, the Son of God and Son of Man, incarnate in the flesh and born of His blessed Mother Mary. Through Christ, all that God has promised all of us and our ancestors and predecessors, all mankind from the beginning of time had come to a full circle and perfect accomplishment. He has shown us the fullness of God’s love manifested before our own eyes, where God became tangible and approachable, and hence, showing and proving to us that whatever He has promised us all and our predecessors are not merely empty promises.

Indeed, it was not just that the love of God has been made manifest in this world and tangible to us, but through His actions, especially by His suffering and death on the Cross, Christ has delivered us the ultimate expression of God’s ever enduring love for all of us. As He Himself said that there is no greater love than for someone to lay down one’s life for a friend, that was exactly what the Lord had done for our sake. The Lord has shown us just much beloved we are and how precious we are to Him, that despite of our constant stubbornness and rebellion against Him, He still reached out to us and loved us nonetheless. His salvation has been extended to all mankind, even those who have hurt and persecuted Him. He is the one Lord of all, and all of us are His people, His beloved ones.

If God has loved us so much then we really need to ask ourselves, why then we have often neglected and ignored Him in our preparations for Christmas? Why have we spent so much time and effort in preparing and immersing ourselves in the festivities and merrymaking and yet, Christ is nowhere near the centre or the focus of our celebrations? The Lord has given us the wonders and riches of His love, and yet, we have not responded to His love with openness and willingness to embrace that love. How often is it that we remain stubborn in our refusal to embrace God’s love and mercy despite Him having patiently cared and reached out to us all these while? We have been busy preparing for Christmas, but is it the true Christmas that we are truly preparing for? Or is it the Christmas of our fancy and desires that we are actually looking forward to.

Let us all consider all of these very carefully even as we continue to progress through this season of Advent. We should not let the distractions and temptations of the secular and worldly Christmas from misleading us down the wrong path this season of Advent. Instead, we should do better in deepening our understanding of God’s love and compassion for us, and how we can do better in our respective lives to do what God has called on each one of us to do. We should this time of Advent to reflect on everything that God had done for us, in loving us and in showing us mercy and forgiveness, even when we have repeatedly disappointed Him and disobeyed Him, betrayed and rejected Him. Such pure love that God has shown us should be reciprocated and responded with our own love and devotion towards Him. But many of us realised it only too late that God has loved us so much.

Too many times we have been too busy with ourselves, our desires and pursuits in this world, blinded by our ego and pride, and as a result, we end up falling deeper and deeper into the path of worldliness and sin, and distracted away from the path of God’s righteousness and truth. Unless we keep this in mind and do our best to steer ourselves away from worldly temptations and resist their influences, we may likely end up going down the wrong paths, and end up being found unworthy to receive the Lord’s glorious inheritance on the Day of Reckoning. Is that what we truly want, brothers and sisters in Christ? To gain the temporary and short-term pleasures and happiness of the world, we sacrifice and forgo our assurance of eternal life in God?

May the Lord continue to guide us in our journey, and may He strengthen our faith, resolve and commitment to follow Him wholeheartedly in our way of life. May God be with us always and may He encourage us to walk down the path of righteousness and justice, and be ever vigilant against the allures, coercions and pressures of worldly corruptions, evils and temptations, as well as by deepening our relationships with God. May God bless our every actions and interactions, and give us the strength to carry out our calling and duties faithfully in life. Amen.

Monday, 28 November 2022 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, as we enter into this season of Advent, the time of preparation for Christmas, through the words of the Sacred Scriptures we heard today, all of us are being reminded that there will be the time when the Lord comes again in His glory, to gather us all, His beloved people and all of His faithful ones, that all of us may find rest and true happiness in Him. And we are reminded too that we should have faith in God and in His providence, and that in Him we shall have sure hope of eternal life and salvation, and we should believe in Him wholeheartedly and sincerely, devoting ourselves, our time, effort and attention to serve Him in each and every moments of our lives. Especially also during this Advent season, we are all called to rediscover our connection and strengthen our relationship with God, Whose coming celebrate this upcoming Christmas.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah regarding the promises that God brought to His people regarding the coming of the time of glory, joy and liberation for all of them, as He will deliver them from the hands of their enemies. The Lord never forgets all of them and has always put them in His thoughts. The Lord proclaimed of the future coming of His eternal and righteous dominion over all, when He will rule over all the people and the nations of the world, and where the old wickedness, evils and filth of this world will all be swept away and replaced with the righteousness and justice of God. They will all live in the presence of God, enjoying the fullness of His love and grace, and they will not suffer or have any more need any longer, because they will find perfection with and through God.

And that is what we are looking forward to as we journey through this season of Advent, in preparing ourselves for the joyous and glorious celebration of Christmas that is coming soon. We all know that Advent is a time for preparation for us so that we can celebrate Christmas worthily but how many of us truly know what it is that we are really celebrating in Christmas and its significance to us? Christmas marks the birthday of Our Lord and Saviour, the Nativity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, Who has dwelled in His mother’s womb for nine months, and then appearing to us in the flesh, as He was born into this world, that the Saviour of this world finally made His appearance and became tangible and approachable by all of us. In Christ is the culmination and the completion of all that God had proclaimed and reassured His people with, all the promises of salvation and grace.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard a seemingly different narrative, that of an army captain or centurion whose beloved servant was very sick to the point of death. This army centurion, which by the conventions of the time was most certainly not a Jew, and might likely be a Roman, a pagan and outsider by the standards of the people living in the land of Judea and Galilee back then, came to the Lord with great faith, one that the Lord Himself praised before all. For this army centurion, although one of high rank and therefore would have been expected to demand assistance from the Lord, instead humbled himself before everyone who might have witnessed the encounter between him and the Lord, and he had so much faith in the Lord that he went all the way to Him by himself, asking Him personally for the favour for his servant’s sake.

Peculiarly, we may also notice that the army captain also said to the Lord that He should not come to his house when the Lord was making a move towards there, because he was unworthy to have Him enter under his roof. This is the same phrase that we mention every time the priest in the Holy Mass raised the Most Holy Eucharist, the Most Precious Body and Blood of our Lord before us after the Agnus Dei or Lamb of God, saying, ‘This is the Lamb of God Who takes away the sins of the world, blessed are those called to the supper of the Lamb’, and we respond with the exact same words that the army centurion had spoken. This is the profession of our faith and also our humility, realising just how unworthy we truly are for the Lord to come into our midst, and yet that is what He had done for our sake.

Back then, what the army centurion had done was also very shrewd and right, as it was considered taboo and wrong for a Jew to enter the house of a pagan. According to the strict observance of the Law by the Pharisees and the elders, that would have made the Lord Jesus and His disciples unclean by merely stepping into the army centurion’s house. Hence, the army centurion might have wanted to prevent that unfortunate circumstance, which would have generated more reasons for the enemies of the Lord to attack and persecute Him all the more. But nonetheless, what matters is that the army centurion had such great faith in the Lord that essentially he did not have to witness the Lord actually performing His miracles before his own eyes in order for him to believe in Him.

Contrast this to the attitudes of the Pharisees, the teachers of the Law and all the elders who continued to doubt and question the Lord, refusing to believe in Him and His truth, and even accusing Him of blasphemy and colluding with demons when they themselves had seen many miracles and wonders performed before their own eyes, and heard all the wisdom and good things that the Lord had spoken before them, and which had fulfilled the prophecies and predictions made by the prophets, a fact that they were all certainly familiar with. What is the reason then for the contradiction and contrast, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because for all of those people, they had no faith in them, and in their pride, ego and self-righteousness, they had closed the gates of their hearts and minds against God.

Hence, today as we continue our journey through this blessed season of Advent, let us all reflect on our attitudes in life, in our way of life and in how each one of us have responded to God’s call in our lives. In our preparation for Christmas in particular, have we realised and understood the true meaning and importance of Christmas to us? Or have we allowed the extreme commercialisation and secularisation of Christmas to affect and influence us? It is not wrong for us to celebrate Christmas the way that we are familiar with, but we must not allow that to distract us from appreciating and celebrating the true meaning and importance of Christmas. We should do our best to observe Christmas with the true spirit and understanding of what we are celebrating, and we should maintain our focus on the light of truth and salvation that Christ has brought into our midst.

May the Lord, our God and Saviour, born into this world and incarnate in the flesh, revealed to us and through Whom we have been made sharers in God’s most generous love and inheritance, continue to guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He strengthen each one of us in our resolve so that we may always be ready to follow Him and walk in His path at all times. May God bless us and our every good endeavours and efforts, all for the greater glory of His Name, and may He help us to prepare ourselves well so that we may indeed welcome the season of Christmas worthily with faith and true joy, in Christ, the One in Whom we truly should be celebrating and be rejoicing about. Amen.