Monday, 21 December 2020 : 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 all of us are reminded to refocus our attention towards the Lord and the faith that Mary, His beloved Mother has shown. As we draw ever closer to the celebration of Christmas, our attention is brought to Mary’s role in the salvation of the world, by her humble acceptance of the role that was entrusted to her, and her obedience to God’s will.

Mary, the Mother of God, was just a simple and humble woman in the town of Nazareth in Galilee, someone without pedigree and status, without much wealth, and yet, she has been honoured far greater than anyone else, to be the Mother of God and to bear the Saviour of the world in her. Of course, the Lord has prepared herself specifically and preserved her from the state of sin, and by grace therefore made her to be a worthy vessel of the Divine Saviour and as Ark of the New Covenant.

However, it was also her genuine and pure love for God, for her Son, and her obedience in total fullness of grace that kept her as a truly worthy servant of God and also a great role model for all of us as Christians. Her love for God and her faith are things that we should be inspired to follow in our own lives, and we should live our lives just as Mary had lived hers, placing God above all else and as the priority and focus in our lives.

This is a timely reminder for all of us just as we are about to enter into the glorious mystery and joyful celebration of Christmas. Ultimately, Christmas is not about ourselves and all the joyful merrymaking and pleasures that we desire from all the festivities and celebrations. Christmas is about God’s love, reaching out to us through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, born into the world through Mary, His mother.

We are all called to love God in the same way that God Himself had dedicated Himself to us, cared for us and spent time looking for us and calling on us to repent from our sinful ways. That is indeed the true essence of Christmas for us, the celebration of God’s love in our midst. We rejoice because of the hope that Christ has brought us, the light that He has restored to us amidst the darkness of the world.

We have to appreciate fully just how beloved and fortunate all of us have been, to have God Who truly cares for us and desires for us to be saved and reconciled with Him, that He had done everything for that purpose. We celebrate this love at Christmas, and therefore, we are called to reflect on the way that we celebrate Christmas, not through mindless and meaningless extravagance but through genuine love and devotion to God.

Today, let us all model ourselves on the examples of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, as well as the other holy men and women, saints and blesseds of the Lord. In particular, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, the great Doctor of the Church and Jesuit priest who was remembered for his great dedication to the Lord, his commitment to many works for the greater glory of God, his patient labours in spreading the Good News and truth of God among the people.

St. Peter Canisius was born in what is today part of the Netherlands, and he joined St. Ignatius of Loyola and other men in the newly founded Society of Jesus or the Jesuits. At that time, at the height of the reformation era in Europe, St. Peter Canisius and his fellow Jesuits were crucial in their role of ministering to the people and bringing back numerous people back to the Church through their efforts.

St. Peter Canisius was especially known for his efforts in evangelisation in the areas now part of Switzerland and Germany, and through his famous Catechism, many people rediscovered the true meaning and importance of the Christian faith, and many returned to the true faith they left behind out of ignorance and misunderstandings of the true Christian teachings.

And lastly, St. Peter Canisius was also known for his devotion to Mary, and his works on Mariology was also quite well remembered. In fact, he is credited with the last part of the prayer ‘Hail Mary’ that every one of us know very well, ‘Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.’ Through this, all of us are reminded by St. Peter Canisius, of the important role that Mary as the Mother of God has in our salvation, for truly, she is our great helper and intercessor before her Son in heaven.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore be inspired to live our lives in the manner that the faithful people of God, as represented by Mary herself and by St. Peter Canisius, had done in their own lives. Let us all make good use of the remaining time of Advent to prepare ourselves well that we may celebrate Christmas well, with proper understanding and appreciation of its importance to us. May God bless us all, now and always. Amen.

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 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!”

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 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.

Monday, 21 December 2020 : 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. Noe 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.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : 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 commemorates the feast of the great saint, St. Francis Xavier, known widely throughout the Church especially in the mission areas of the Eastern Hemisphere, where he laboured for many years as the missionary of God to proclaim the Gospel and the Good News of God to the many people who had not yet ever heard of the Lord.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the earliest and founding members of the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. At that time, like minded men and those with fervour and zeal to reform the Church and spread the faith joined St. Ignatius of Loyola in what was soon to become a great struggle and plenty of work in advancing the cause of the Christian faith both within the Church and outside of the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts throughout Christendom, particularly in Europe when they were working hard in stemming the tide of false teachings and heresies that sprung up with the reformation. Many members of the Jesuits were sent to various states and countries throughout the world in order to evangelise, preach and teach the faith to the people, and they often faced many challenges and trials.

While much of the attention was often given to the efforts of the Jesuits in Europe and in Counter-Reformation, but equally important is the Jesuits’ efforts in sending missionaries that became successful in their efforts to plant the seeds of the Christian faith in many distant places in the Far East as well as in the New World, the Americas, where St. Francis Xavier was the pioneer in this effort with his missions to India, Southeast Asia, Japan and also China. It was timely with the discovery of routes and improvement in naval technology that allowed the Christian missionaries to travel to all those places they had not been able to go to before.

St. Francis Xavier went on a long journey to India where he established the foundation of the Jesuit mission in several places, and became the lead for many more Jesuit missionaries as well as other missionaries from other religious orders in the centuries to come. He also then went to Malacca in Southeast Asia, in the present day Malaysia and travelled throughout the Indonesian archipelago, spreading the first seeds of faith and building up the first local Christian communities.

This was where the famous story of St. Francis Xavier and the crab named after him came to be, as it was told that during a great storm that hit his boat as he was travelling through the archipelago, the boat was about to sink when St. Francis Xavier prayed hard and threw his crucifix into the water with faith that God would calm the waters. Indeed, the storm stopped and the waves calmed, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had once calmed a storm before His disciples. A crab appeared, holding up the crucifix that St. Francis Xavier threw, and as he collected his crucifix and thanked the crab, he blessed it, and from there henceforth, the crab has the marking of a cross on its back.

This story, among many others showed just how tough the works of a missionary is, especially in those distant, unexplored territories that St. Francis Xavier had gone to, to the furthest reaches of Japan and East Asia, where he also established the foundation of a very successful Japanese mission where hundreds of thousands would be converted in the succeeding decades. At that time, missionaries had to endure a lot of hardships, and St. Francis Xavier was no exception.

Nonetheless, St. Francis Xavier remained firm in his conviction and in his efforts to serve the Lord, doing his very best to spread the word of God and showing by example what it means to be faithful to Him and what it truly means to be a Christian missionary. As he waited for the opportunity to enter China in Macau and Shangchuan island off the coast of China, he passed away, until the very end never ceasing to desire to work for God and His greater glory, seeking to convert many souls for the Lord in the great land of China.

St. Francis Xavier had been named as the Patron of Missions and as the role model for all the Christian missionaries, all those who dedicate themselves for the Lord and His mission to evangelise the Good News to all the peoples, of all the nations. St. Francis Xavier should also be our role model in faith because ultimately, the Lord’s commission has been given to all of us and not just to any one of us.

He told all of His disciples, ‘Go forth to the nations, and baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And with that same commandment, all of us have also been called to reach out to our neighbours and to all others, and to show them what our Christian faith is all about, not necessarily by words, but even more importantly through our actions and deeds.

After all, if we say that we believe in the Lord and preach of Him, and yet, in how we behave and act, we are doing contrary to what we believe, just like what many among the Pharisees had done, how can we expect others to believe in us? We are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers in reality. Unless we become genuine and true Christians in all things, we will have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all embrace our calling as Christian missionaries, in each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be role models of faith and be good examples of what it means to be Christians to all. Let us show by example and not just by words alone, as St. Francis Xavier had done, and let us all have the same fire and zeal in us as St. Francis Xavier had once shown.

May the Lord help us all that we may make best use of this Season of Advent to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas, as well as to strengthen our conviction to be good and exemplary Christians, from now onwards if we have not yet done so. Let us all commit ourselves ever more faithfully from now on, always and evermore. Amen.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : 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.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listen to the words of the Scripture we are reminded that we have often been stubborn and rebellious before God, and we have often ignored the Lord’s genuine love and call for us to return to Him, as history and Scriptural records and truth had revealed to us. As it had once happened at that time, so it has happened again at present and will happen again in the future.

In the first reading today, taken from the passage of the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the words of the Lord that He spoke through Jeremiah and which He asked of the prophet to convey to the people of Judah, calling them all to repent and turn away from their sins, that He might forgive them and stay His wrath from them all and rescind the punishments for the many sins that the people had committed all those while.

And the Lord also reminded His people that unless they repent from their sins, then what happened to the sanctuary of Shiloh would also happen to them all, as a kind and loving reminder that God still yet gave more and more chances to His people to repent and turn away from their sins. For the context, the sanctuary of Shiloh historically had been important religious centre for the Israelites since the days of the Judges before the rise of the kingdom of Israel.

And Shiloh was likely the place where the then Judge and High Priest Eli had his seat and where the Ark of the Covenant was kept under the Holy Tent. When the two wicked sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas led the Israelites against the Philistines who raided and attacked them, they brought the Ark of the Covenant with them, thinking that they would win and triumph over the Philistines. On the contrary, they suffered a terrible defeat, the wicked Hophni and Phinehas were killed and the Ark of God was taken away by the enemy.

The story of the sanctuary of Shiloh was a great tragedy and humiliation for the Israelites, and the utterance of the place was the way for the Lord to convey the message to the Israelites that if they continued on in their path of wickedness and sin, just as it had happened before, then it would happen again. And this was proven correct later on, as within about two decades, both Judah and Jerusalem would be destroyed by the Babylonians, the Temple destroyed and the Ark went missing since then.

It was a humiliation on a perhaps much greater scale than the humiliation of Shiloh, but it could have been prevented had the people then been more humble and accepting of God’s love and mercy. But they hardened their hearts as we heard from our first reading today, opposing Jeremiah and protesting publicly against him and whatever he had said and done, while refusing to reinspect and relook once again at their own lives and actions, their lack of faith and sin.

In the Gospel today, we heard a parallel story in how Jesus was doubted and rejected by none other than His own townspeople, those who had seen Him grow up in their midst, His neighbours and even perhaps friends. Those were the same people who expressed doubt and disbelief at the Lord after hearing Him speak and performing miracles. They had seen Him grow up in a poor carpenter family just like many of them, in a poor backwater village in Galilee. Therefore, it could even be seen as the people being jealous and refused to believe that the Lord Jesus could have been genuine.

It is sad how these attitudes are leading people away from God, and they kept so many people in their ego and pride, their hardened hearts and closed minds that they ended up being ever more and more distant from God. Yet, God has always been patient in reaching out to us and calling on us to follow Him despite our many transgressions and disobedience. And just as the path of disobedience leads to our downfall and annihilation, should we turn away from sin and be reconciled with God, then a bright future awaits us.

Today, we remember the memory of one of such converts, a great saint and holy man of God, devout as priest and champion of Christendom against its many troubles and enemies. Yet, when this holy man of God was young, he was not at all devout, and treated God as someone insignificant and distant, preferring to seek worldly ambitions and dreams of glory and might, as the life of St. Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Society of Jesus or the Jesuits can tell us.

St. Ignatius of Loyola was born into a minor noble family in northern part of what is now Spain. He was brought up in the common norm of the time as part of the nobility, surrounded by wealth, power and privileges, and the young St. Ignatius of Loyola dreamt of great pursuits and noble, chivalrous deeds as was expected of many among the nobles then. To that extent, in the pursuit of glory and power, St. Ignatius of Loyola joined the military, and at that time, wars and conflicts characterised many parts of Christendom as kings fought for power and influence.

In one of the sieges, St. Ignatius of Loyola was badly injured and he had to stay in the hospital to treat his terrible wounds. As he was bedridden for a while, he was initially restless and wanted to resume his previous military career. But his almost life-threatening injury ended his military life, and he went through profound spiritual conversion through reading the lives of the Lord and the saints. As he continued to explore this newfound interest and passion, St. Ignatius of Loyola left behind the worldly pursuits and desires he once had, and instead, he sought to imitate the holy lives of the saints and serve the Lord.

To this extent, St. Ignatius of Loyola came to practice spiritual discernment and experiences that he would later also be famous for, as the Ignatian spirituality. And as he met and gathered like-minded people, who wanted to serve the Lord and the Church particularly during the troubled times at that time when the Church and the faithful were threatened from both the outside by the rising power of the Ottomans that persecuted Christian communities and conquered many nations, to the rapidly growing heresy of Protestantism that divided many communities of the faithful and led many astray from the true faith.

Therefore, St. Ignatius of Loyola together with several other men founded the Society of Jesus and became in time, the spearhead of the Church’s efforts in countering the threats faced at that time by the faithful. Led by St. Ignatius of Loyola, many Jesuits would go to various places throughout Christendom and through many years of labour and loving commitment, brought countless souls back to salvation in God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we heard how St. Ignatius of Loyola had been transformed by the chance experience he had when he was injured, and how he opened himself to the Lord and desired to seek Him as he went on to learn more and more about Him. And this is what we should all be doing as well in our lives. This is what each and every one of us have been called to do, to allow God to lead us in our lives to the right path, and for us to follow Him wholeheartedly, rejecting sin and evil for good and righteousness.

Let us all follow in the footsteps of St. Ignatius of Loyola, and remember his motto, ‘Ad Maiorem Dei Gloriam’ meaning ‘For the greater glory of God’. Let our lives and actions be transformed and changed by God, that in everything we say and do, in our every interactions, we will glorify God and be inspiring role models for one another, that we all may become ever closer to God and His salvation. May God bless us always in everything we do, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 31 July 2020 : 17th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Ignatius of Loyola, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Matthew 13 : 54-58

At that time, Jesus went to His hometown and taught the people in their synagogue. They were amazed and said, “Where did He get this wisdom and these special powers? Is He not the carpenter’s Son? Is Mary not His mother and are James, Joseph, Simon and Judas not His brothers? Are not all His sisters living here? How did He get all this?” And so they took offence at Him.

Jesus said to them, “The only place where prophets are not welcome is their hometown and in their own family.” And He did not perform many miracles there because of their lack of faith.