Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Church celebrates together the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating one of the four great Marian Dogmas of the Church, namely the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, Mary. What does this Immaculate Conception actually mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Quite a few of us still do not have the right understanding of what this celebration and event actually means.

We celebrate this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on the eighth day of December, and it is related to another celebration, exactly nine months later, on the eighth day of September, that is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is where people often confuse between the term ‘nativity’ and ‘conception’. While the former means birth, that is the moment when a baby is born into the world, out of his or her mother’s womb, the latter means the moment when life is conceived, from a father and a mother, in the womb of the mother, which is ideally nine months before the date of birth, as in humans pregnancy lasts for approximately nine months.

Therefore, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary focuses on that very important, unique and pivotal moment when Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, as the child of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. And the word ‘Immaculate’ has the meaning of pure and blameless, referring to the state in which Mary was conceived, free from the taints and corruptions of original sin.

Why is this significant, brothers and sisters in Christ? First, let us all examine what is this original sin that has just been mentioned. For those who are not sure what original sin is all about, it is the original and first sin of our ancestors’ disobedience as elaborated in our first reading today from the Book of Genesis. Surely all of us know the story of how Satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, the first woman and companion of the first man, Adam, to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord had specifically ordered man not to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Satan tempted them with many false promises of power and knowledge, glory and greatness, saying that if man were to eat of the fruits they would be like God and they would not perish unlike what the Lord had said. And through these sweet lies and tempting words, Satan led mankind down the path of disobedience, and through disobedience, sin entered into the hearts, minds and souls of man.

Ever since then, our human nature had been tainted by the corruption of sin, this original sin of Adam and Eve, the disobedience of man against their Creator, Lord and Master. They opened the floodgates that allowed sin to enter into us and enslave us, ruling over us and having dominion over us. And it was also because of sin that we have been cast out of the Gardens of Eden and having to endure suffering in the world, and eventually death.

Thus, through temptation, the first man and woman fell into sin and brought the whole race of mankind into sin and death. This is what original sin is all about. But if we notice, just as the Lord proclaimed the punishment due to sin in our first reading today, He also proclaimed at the same time, what would happen in the far future, that God would save His people and crush Satan who caused man to fall.

He said that while Satan would ‘strike at the heel of man’, meaning that all these while he has been trying hard to destroy us, by means of persuasion, coercion, trickery and temptations, but through the Woman, God will defeat Satan, and the Woman shall crush the head of Satan, a figurative expression of what would come to fulfilment in Mary and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And therefore, yes, Mary is the Woman mentioned by God, as the one through whom God would send His deliverance to His beloved people. Despite all of our sins, God’s love for us still endures, and that is why, He is willing to lift us up from our downfallen state, and He always seeks to be reconciled with us and to forgive us all our many sins. He did it all by sending none other than His own Begotten Son, the Word of God and the Son, into this world.

And the Word was made Flesh, according to the Gospel of St. John, and dwelled among man, and this is our core belief, that God Himself has assumed the body and essence of man, our human nature, that in the person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, exist two distinct yet inseparable natures of divine and human. And as all humans are, He is to be born of a mother, and this mother is none other than Mary.

However, because this Man is not just like any other man but God Himself incarnate in the flesh, there can be no taints or corruption of sin around Him. This can also be alluded commonly in the Ark of the Covenant of the time of the Old Testament and ancient Israel, where the Ark of the Covenant bears the Law of God, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the heavenly manna and the rod of Aaron, as the symbol of God’s presence among His people.

If we refer to the Books of Exodus and other books of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the most precious materials available to man, and it was hallowed and blessed by God, placed in the holiest part of the Tent of Meeting before the Temple of Jerusalem was built, and then in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. When the Ark was transported during the time of king David, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark was struck down, highlighting just how holy and special that Ark was.

And imagine then that there is this New Ark, crafted by the hands of God Himself, a Woman, prepared specially for this very purpose of containing the New Covenant between God and mankind. Christ, through His Passion, suffering and death has established that New Covenant between God and man, and because of that, His mother, Mary in whose womb the Lord dwelled for nine months before His birth at Christmas, is truly the New Ark of the Covenant, far greater than the old Ark of the Covenant.

That is why, coupled with the fact that God cannot coexist with sin and no sin can be in the presence of God, the Lord specifically set Mary aside from among all other sons and daughters of mankind, and by a singular grace, according to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was preserved from original sin, and was conceived without any taints of sin at all, free from that original sin and therefore is ‘Immaculate’ from the moment of her conception, right through her birth, and according to our faith, she remained free from sin and in perfect state of grace throughout her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Mary we have seen the coming of the Saviour, through her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born from her womb, she who is the New Ark of the Covenant, pure and blameless. And she is the terror of Satan and the demons, as through her, the Lord’s promise of Satan’s defeat has come true, crushing the head and pride of this wicked devil. But not only that, brothers and sisters in Christ, but Mary through her faith and complete obedience to God has shown us what we ourselves need to do as Christians in our lives.

Why is that so? That is because we must not forget that we ourselves are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Houses of God’s Holy Presence. We have received the Lord into ourselves, especially through the Eucharist, the Lord in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, His very essence into ourselves. Mary has kept herself faithful and she has devoted herself completely to the Lord, throughout her life, as challenging and difficult it had been for her. If she could do it, then we can do our best to follow in her examples too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate in today’s great celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us all therefore rejoice because God’s salvation has come to us through Mary, our beloved Mother, by her Son Jesus Christ. And through her example as the New Ark of the Covenant, let us all as God’s holy people, also be faithful in our own respective lives, that we show exemplary Christian attitudes and actions at all times, in our world today.

O Most Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, New Ark of the Covenant and the Immaculate Conception, pray for us all your sons and daughters who are sinners, and guide us all to your Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Help us to follow the Lord and remain faithful to Him as you have done. May God bless us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Mother of God and Our Lord Jesus Christ. It is usually celebrated on the eighth day of December but since yesterday the eighth fell on a Sunday, which is the Second Sunday of Advent, this Solemnity is brought to the next day that is today, the ninth of December.

This celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception refers to the time when Mary was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne without any trace or corruption of original sin, and does not refer to the moment of her birth, her Nativity which is celebrated exactly nine months from now, on every eighth of September. This Immaculate Conception is a very significant belief of our faith, which was formalised as a Dogma by Blessed Pope Pius IX in the year 1854 in his Papal Bull, Ineffabilis Deus.

Although it has only been formalised as a Dogma relatively recently by the Church but in truth, the Church and the faithful since the earliest times and history of the Church has always believed that Mary, as the Mother of God was free from any taints of sin by the singular grace of God, because of the role that she has been entrusted to by the Lord Himself. Mary has been called and chosen to be the one who was to bear the Messiah in herself.

Through this, we can see essentially what is the significance of the Immaculate Conception of Mary to all of us, as her Immaculate Conception actually underlines the core tenets of our faith, the central focus of our beliefs in God. This is such that if we do not believe in the Immaculate Conception, or worse still, reject this Dogma, then we actually have done nothing less than to reject the basic and most important core beliefs of our faith itself.

That is because the belief of the Immaculate Conception, or Mary conceived without the taint of sin is rooted in the belief that Mary is none other than the new Ark of the Covenant. Why is that so? That is because the Ark of the Covenant was the historical relic and an actual receptacle, a large box made of the most precious materials to contain several objects that represent the Covenant which God has made with His people, the Israelites.

Inside the historical or the old Ark of the Covenant according to the Old Testament was the two stone tablets on which the Ten Commandments were written. These were the ones that Moses made to replace the ones written by God which had been destroyed when God became angry at His people’s disobedience in worshipping the golden calf idol. It therefore became a symbol of the Covenant of God renewed with His people.

Besides that, there were also a bowl of the manna, the miraculous bread of heaven by which God had fed His people through their forty years journey in the desert, yet another reminder of the Covenant of God, how God has been faithful in taking care of and loving His people all the way even though the people had often disobeyed and walked away from the path of God. And lastly, in the Ark was also the staff of Aaron, the staff used by Moses to perform the many plagues of Egypt and his many other miraculous works, to show the power of God among the people.

The Ark of the Covenant had always been, since the time of its creation, the most hallowed and blessed object in the world. It was made from the most precious materials and God also blessed and hallowed it, for it is on the Ark of the Covenant, placed at the Holy of Holies in the Tent of Meeting, and later on in the Holy of Holies of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem, that God and His Holy Presence descended to dwell in the midst of His people.

It was so holy that no one was allowed to touch it, and when one of the priests accidentally touched it when it was about to be moved to Jerusalem during the time of king David, the one who touched it was immediately struck dead. And the Ark was always placed behind a veil, to represent the great holiness of God. No one except the High Priest was allowed to enter the Holy of Holies, and even so, he was only allowed to enter into the Holy of Holies only once a year.

We can see just how holy, blessed and hallowed the old and historical Ark had been, which was still a creation of man, no matter how precious and amazing it had been. Then let us imagine just how much more wonderful, amazing and holy the new Ark of the Covenant is, because Mary was made not by the hands of any man, but by the hands of God Himself. There can be no creation of man, no matter how great can compare with God’s creation.

And while the inside of the old Ark was two slabs of stone, a bowl of manna and the staff of Aaron blessed by God’s presence, but the new Ark contained nothing less than God Himself present in the Flesh, God incarnate, Son of God, Jesus Christ. And that is why, if the people of Israel had treated the old Ark of the Covenant in such a hallowed manner, it is just perfectly logical that Mary would also have been hallowed and blessed by God.

It is as simple as how God Who is perfect and all good can never be paired together with any form of sin. No sin can ever stand in the presence of God. That is why, if He was to be born of a human being, through His incarnation in the Flesh, how can He Himself be borne into this world in a vessel so pure and blessed, free from any corruption, if all men had fallen into sin, are sinners and are tainted by sin? That is why, because of this, God gave Mary the singular grace of being immaculate, pure and free from sin.

This is primarily why we honour Mary, the Mother of God and our Lord Jesus Christ so much. And that is why so many of us are so devoted to her, because not just that she is the Mother of God, and therefore the one closest to her Son, but even more so, that her own exemplary faith and life, her complete obedience to the will of God as shown in our Gospel passage today, is truly the best example for us all to follow in our own journey of faith.

Her acceptance of the great role as the mother of the Lord and Saviour of all, her humble obedience and readiness to respond to God through the Archangel Gabriel is indeed a very amazing example and inspiration for us all to follow, as it is indeed not easy for any one of us to bear the burden and the crosses that Mary herself had to bear in her own journey, in having to raise Jesus and then to see her own Son being condemned, tortured and died on the Cross before her very own eyes.

Now, all of us then have to realise that each and every one of us are called to follow the example of Mary, in our own journey of faith. Do you remember what I have just said earlier on, that no creation of man can ever compare to the creations of the Lord? Each and every one of us are God’s creations, brothers and sisters in Christ, and all of us are special even more so, because we have been made in the image and likeness of God.

While unlike Mary, we have been tainted by sin, and corrupted by the darkness of our sins and disobedience, but God has always intended for us all to be like that of His mother, in faith and purity, as He made all things to be good and holy. Sin was not God’s creation and was never intended to be part of us or our lives. This is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, we must all strive to be holy, just as Our Lord is holy, and resist all the temptations to sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, therefore today as we honour Mary, the Mother of our Lord and God, for her wonderful faith and life, let us all ourselves devote ourselves anew to God, with a new faith and commitment, to be holy and to sanctify ourselves, by turning away from all of our sins, and by embracing a new life dedicated to serve God and to walk in His path alone. Let us all do our best and help one another in this journey together as one faithful people of God.

Mary, Holy Mother of God, conceived without sin, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Monday, 9 December 2019 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.