Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we listened to the words of the Scriptures reminding all of us to focus on the coming of the Lord Who has come to dwell among His people and how we, as those who are so fortunate to have been given such a great grace from God, should be ever grateful and appreciative of everything that He had done for our sake, from the very beginning until now. And as we continue to come ever closer to the season and celebrations of Christmas, we are constantly being reminded of why we rejoice this upcoming Christmas and what it is that we are all celebrating about. It is not about ourselves and our desires for merrymaking and festivities, all the joy and parties that we are celebrating Christmas for, but rather we rejoice because God’s love and mercy have been shown to us in the most concrete ways possible in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

In our first reading today, taken from the Book of Song of Songs, we heard the words of the joy that a lover had found in discovering the true love, which was in fact a reference to mankind and their love for God. It was in fact the Lord speaking directly to all of us, His beloved people, the ones whom He loves dearly, of the joyous and happy days that will come our way, when our Lord will come to us and we will walk in His Presence once again, with the fullness of joy, and with the shame and the veil of sin have been lifted up from us, and death and destruction no longer hold their power and dominion over us. God has always reached out to us and sought for us, seeking to reconcile us with Himself, and in doing so, He sent us His own begotten and beloved Son, to be our Saviour, Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Son of Man.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the Visitation of Mary to Elizabeth, her cousin, which happened because Mary heard from the Archangel Gabriel that Elizabeth, even in her old age and way past childbearing age, was bearing a child, who would be St. John the Baptist, the Herald of the Messiah. Meanwhile, Mary herself was in fact also bearing within her, her own Son, the Son of God just as the Archangel Gabriel had announced to her earlier on at the same occasion in Nazareth. It was the moment when God finally fulfilled the promises which He had promised mankind since the very beginning, that He would send unto them a Saviour, to deliver all of them from the hands of Satan, the dominion and bondage under sin, evil and death. Through the Son that Mary had borne within her, God will save all of His people.

Elizabeth herself, filled with the Holy Spirit and great joy, recognised Mary and the One she bore within her the very moment that she encountered her. She was thankful for the opportunity to be in the very presence of the Mother of God, to bring forth the Saviour Himself so close to her. Her own baby, St. John the Baptist, who was also still in her womb, also recognised his Lord and Master in the womb of Mary. Then, we heard as in our Psalm today, the glorious and most joyful words of Mary’s song of praise, the Magnificat, praising God for all that He had done for His people, and the grace He has bestowed on all of us mankind, and also for herself, to be the Mother of God and Saviour, bringing for His salvation to all the people, fulfilling the many promises and the Covenant that He had made with all of us.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we reflect on these words of the Scriptures, we can clearly see that there is that sense of great joy that should also be present in each one of us, as we await the imminent coming of our Lord and Saviour, just as He has come into this world and entered our human history two millennia ago. As we draw now already so close to Christmas and the end of the current preparatory season of Advent, we really ought to be asking ourselves, if God is truly at the centre of our lives and existence? Is God truly our Lover, the One Whom we truly we love with all of our hearts and might, the One to Whom we give our fealty and heartiest obedience, with the greatest devotion and commitment? Is God the One Whom we truly celebrate this Christmas and all of its joyful festivities, as we should?

Or have we instead allowed the many temptations of this world to distract us and to prevent us from finding our path towards God? Have we allowed the many excesses of worldly and secular Christmas festivities and celebrations to distract us and make us forget of why we celebrate Christmas in the first place? That is why today’s Scripture readings serve to remind us all that Christmas is truly all about Christ, of God’s Love made manifest and tangible to us through His Son, that we may truly come to Him, approach Him and be cared by Him, our loving God and Shepherd, Who embraced each one of us and is willing to forgive us all our many sins and faults. He has always loved us all, without exception, and we truly should do our best to do the same, beginning first of all by remembering this Love at our Christmas celebrations this year.

Not only that, but we should also be ever more exemplary Christians in our way of life and deeds, following the good examples of the saints, our holy predecessors. And today we have a great example in St. Peter Canisius, holy Priest and one of the venerable Doctors of the Church, through whom many people had great inspiration and strength, hope and perseverance because of his many hard works and efforts, his patient teaching and ministry among the people who have gone wayward in their faith and lives. St. Peter Canisius was one of the founders of the Jesuits or the Society of Jesus, who was close friend of the founder of the Jesuits, St. Ignatius of Loyola. St. Peter Canisius hence became an integral part and member of the Jesuits, and was tasked with the conversion of all those who had lapsed and broken away from the Church during the height of the Protestant reformation.

St. Peter Canisius carried out his mission patiently, and went through many places in what is today Switzerland and Germany, preaching the word of God and establishing Jesuit institutions and also put a lot of emphasis on Catholic education and teaching, as according to him, it was poor understanding of the faith that led to many Christians falling away from the Church and its teachings and embracing false ideas and heresies that were aplenty at that time, as various dissidents proclaimed their own versions of the Christian faith and led many to the wrong paths. St. Peter Canisius calmly and patiently reached out to all those who have left the Church while caring for those who still remained in the Church, and expressly warned against actions that can be considered hostile or violent against those who have separated themselves from the Church could backfire and make things worse. In his own words, he said that ‘with words like these, we don’t cure patients, we make them incurable.’

St. Peter Canisius emphasised on proper teaching, catechism and better understanding and appreciation of the faith as the way to lead the people of God back to Him, and he was also credited with his famous Catechism, through which countless multitudes of people have believed in the Lord and knew more about Him, returning back from their rebellious path and being reconciled with God. These were just some of the many other great deeds that St. Peter Canisius had done, and which all of us should also therefore be inspired to follow in our own lives as well. We are all called and reminded to be focused on God and to dedicate our lives and works to Him just as St. Peter Canisius himself had done. Are we able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing and able to commit our time and effort to serve the Lord and to honour Him at all times?

Let us all therefore do our best to do what we can to be ever more faithful and committed to God, in everything we say and do, in our every actions and interactions with one another. Let us also make our upcoming Christmas celebrations one that is truly centred on Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, that each and every one of us may become inspirations and source of strength for one another to be the beacons of God’s hope and light in the midst of our communities, walking in the same path that our holy predecessors had walked, especially that of St. Peter Canisius. May the Lord be with us always and may He bless our every good works and endeavours, all for His greater glory. Amen.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 39-45

Mary then set out for a town in the hill country of Judah. She entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth. When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the baby leapt in her womb.

Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit, and, giving a loud cry, said, “You are most blessed among women; and blessed is the Fruit of your womb! How is it, that the mother of my Lord comes to me? The moment your greeting sounded in my ears, the baby within me suddenly leapt for joy. Blessed are you, who believed that the Lord’s word would come true!”

Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 32 : 2-3, 11-12, 20-21

Give thanks to YHVH on the harp and lyre, making melody and chanting praises. Amid loud shouts of joy, sing to Him a new song and play the ten-stringed harp.

But His plan stands forever, and His heart’s design, through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is YHVH – the people He has chosen for His inheritance.

In hope, we wait for YHVH, for He is our help and our shield. Our hearts rejoice in Him, for we trust on His holy Name.

Wednesday, 21 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Song of Songs 2 : 8-14

The voice of my Lover! Behold He comes, springing across the mountains, jumping over the hills, like a gazelle or a young stag. Now He stands behind our wall, looking through the windows, peering through the lattice.

My Lover speaks to me, “Arise, My love, My beautiful one! Come, the winter is gone, the rains are over. Flowers have appeared on earth; the season of singing has come; the cooing of doves is heard. The fig tree forms its early fruit, the vines in blossom are fragrant. Arise, My beautiful one, come with Me, My love, come.”

“O My dove in the rocky cleft, in the secret places of the cliff, let Me see your face, let Me hear your voice. Your face – how lovely! Your voice – how sweet!”

Alternative reading

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day, they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

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.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Mark 16 : 15-20

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “Go out to the whole world and proclaim the Good News to all creation. The one who believes and is baptised will be saved; the one who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

“Signs like these will accompany those who have believed : in My Name they will cast out demons and speak new languages; they will pick up snakes, and if they drink anything poisonous, they will be unharmed; they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will be healed.”

So then, after speaking to them, the Lord Jesus was taken up into heaven and took His place at the right hand of God. The Eleven went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that accompanied it.

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

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 116 : 1-2

Alleluia! Praise the Lord, all you nations; all you peoples, praise Him.

How great is His love for us! His faithfulness lasts forever.

Saturday, 3 December 2022 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 9 : 16-19, 22-23

Because I cannot boast of announcing the Gospel : I am bound to do it. Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel! If I preached voluntarily, I could expect my reward, but I have been trusted this office against my will. How can I, then, deserve a reward? In announcing the Gospel, I will do it freely without making use of the rights given to me by the Gospel.

So, feeling free with everybody, I have become everybody’s slave in order to gain a greater number. To the weak I made myself weak, to win the weak. So I made myself all things to all people in order to save, by all possible means, some of them. This I do for the Gospel, so that I too have a share of it.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are reminded of the responsibilities and the missions which God has entrusted to us as we have been called to be His disciples and followers, and as His beloved ones, His own children and people, all of us are expected to be like our Father and Lord in all things, and each one of us share the same responsibilities as members and parts of the same Church of God. And what is this mission, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is to proclaim the word of God and His truth to all the people of all the nations, all those whom we encounter in our lives each day and at every moments.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful people of God in Ephesus, the Apostle spoke of the revelation of truth which had come to them all through the Apostles and the many other disciples, followers and missionaries of the Lord. And this revelation is such that God has called on all of the people, all the children of mankind to follow Him, both from among the Jewish people and origin, and those from the non-Jewish or Gentile origin alike, and whether they had already been faithful to God, or whether they were once pagans and unbelievers.

Back then, as it was common throughout the Jewish diaspora and communities, there were often frictions and disagreements between the Jews and the Gentiles as the former saw themselves as the chosen people of God, as the descendants of the Israelites, the inheritors of the kingdoms of King David and King Solomon. To those people, especially the ones who were belonging to the group of the Pharisees and teachers of the Law, they took great pride in such a status, and considered the Gentiles to be unworthy and even unclean, as back then, even going to visit and enter the house of a Gentile or a pagan could make one unclean according to the customs of the Jewish laws.

St. Paul was therefore reminding the people of the real truth which the Lord Jesus Himself had revealed to everyone, that God’s salvation is meant to all the people, regardless of their background or origin, regardless of their races or past status and beliefs. There is no discrimination by God and hence, the Church and the community of the faithful should not be biased or discriminate against anyone at all either. The Jewish converts to the Christian faith was reminded to be welcoming and to drop their condescending attitude on the Gentiles, both those who have embraced God and those who have not yet believed in God.

It is this self-righteous attitude which often led to the downfall of many among the righteous, not only that they caused them to commit wicked and unworthy acts against their own fellow brothers and sisters, who are all beloved equally by God, but also because such attitude would eventually lead to the faithful becoming slack and complacent in their way of living their lives. Why is that so? That is because then those who saw and thought themselves as being worthy and righteous like many among the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law would spend their time and effort on self-aggrandisement and praise, inflated by their ego and pride, and ending up falling into sin and temptations to sin instead.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, that is why in our Gospel passage today we are reminded through the parable which our Lord has told His disciples, telling them all the story of the diligent steward and the lazy, irresponsible steward. In that parable, the stewards are representative of each and every one of us, God’s disciples and followers. The diligent and committed steward represents those who listened to the word of God, embraced His calling and dutifully carried out the mission that they had been entrusted with. Meanwhile, the lazy and irresponsible steward represents those who have not listened to the Lord and refused to act on the mission which had been entrusted to them.

As Christians, all of us are expected and called to be active in our faith, so that we will not end up being like the lazy and irresponsible steward. The Lord had made clear the consequences of such inaction and lack of responsibility, and clearly all of us should heed and take note what we need to do in obeying God’s call and how to be active in living our lives with genuine faith. All of us have been called to devote our time, effort and attention to do the will of God, and we should not delay or drag our feet any longer. Instead, we should be inspired by the examples of the saints and martyrs, particularly of those whose feasts we are celebrating today, namely the Martyr Saints of Canada, as well as St. Paul of the Cross.

The Holy Martyrs of Canada, also known as the North American Martyrs were the Jesuit priests and missionaries who had embarked on very difficult and challenging mission in what is today parts of Canada and the northern segments of the United States of America. Some of them like St. Isaac Jogues and St. John de Brebeuf, among others braved through the very harsh conditions of that region, particularly the severe Canadian winter, in order to preach the Good News and the salvation in Jesus Christ to the indigenous peoples of the Americas. They had great successes and were welcomed by some of the natives, but also faced bitter and harsh challenges from other natives who opposed them and refused to listen to them. They never gave up their struggle, even unto their martyrdom at the hands of their persecutors.

Meanwhile St. Paul of the Cross was a great priest and founder of the Passionists, a religious order dedicated particularly to the devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and which members spent a lot of effort in reaching out to the faithful and ministering to their spiritual needs. St. Paul of the Cross himself answered God’s call to follow Him and to be a priest, dedicating his time and effort henceforth to serve the people of God, encouraging faithful practices such as praying the Divine Office and other devotions meant to help the faithful to focus their attention towards God, and to bring them ever closer to Him. St. Paul of the Cross tirelessly worked throughout his life and ministry to reach out to more of the people of God, and also wrote extensively on many matters of the faith.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore emulate the good examples and faith which our holy predecessors had done before us, that of the Holy Canadian Martyrs, St. Paul of the Cross and the many innumerable other holy men and women of God. May the Lord our God continue to help and guide us in our journey of faith through life, and may He ever always strengthen us and empower us all to live in the manner that God has called us to do. May all of us be good examples and inspirations for one another, now and always, evermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 19 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. John de Brebeuf and St. Isaac Jogues, Priests and Martyrs, and Companions, Martyrs, and St. Paul of the Cross, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Priests)

Luke 12 : 39-48

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “Pay attention to this : If the master of the house had known at what time the thief would come, he would not have let his house be broken into. You also must be ready, for the Son of Man will come at an hour you do not expect.”

Peter said, “Lord, did You tell this parable only for us, or for everyone?” And the Lord replied, “Imagine, then, the wise and faithful steward, whom the master sets over his other servants, to give them wheat at the proper time. Fortunate is this servant if his master, on coming home, finds him doing his work. Truly, I say to you, the master will put him in charge of all his property.”

“But it may be that the steward thinks, ‘My lord delays in coming,’ and he begins to abuse the male servants and the servant girls, eating and drinking and getting drunk. Then the master will come on a day he does not expect, and at an hour he does not know. He will cut him off, and send him to the same fate as the unfaithful.”

“The servant who knew his master’s will, but did not prepare and do what his master wanted, will be soundly beaten; but the one who does unconsciously what deserves punishment, shall receive fewer blows. Much will be required of the one who has been given much, and more will be asked of the one who has been entrusted with more.”