Sunday, 19 December 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is the last Sunday in the season of Advent, and on this Sunday we focus our attention to the last of the four Advent themes. After going through the theme of Hope, Peace and Joy in the previous three Sundays of Advent, today finally we focus on the theme of Love. As we prepare ourselves for the great celebration of Christmas in just a few days’ time, we are all called to remember why Christmas is there in the first place. That reason is because of God’s love for each and every one of us.

Christmas is not just about having festivities and celebrations, and not just about parties, merrymaking and all the paraphernalia often associated with it. Instead, as Christians all of us should fully know and realise that first and foremost, Christmas is a celebration of love, of the love that is always enduring and pure, that has been given to us from God, from His heavenly abode. God loves us all so much that He has given us His only beloved Son, the Divine Word Incarnate, Whose coming and appearance into this world is what we celebrate at Christmas.

Why love, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because God Himself is Love, and by His incarnation, in taking up the humble existence of our human flesh and by lowering Himself to be born into this world, He has shown us what true love is all about. His love is what made Him to create all of us, because He wanted to share with all of us, with all of creation, the perfect love that He Himself has, in the perfect love of the Holy Trinity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. That overflowing love has always been intended for us, to be filled with every grace and blessings.

However, it was because of our disobedience and the weakness of our flesh that our ancestors chose to listen to the devil instead of holding on to the truth of God and keeping their faith in Him. They chose to listen to his lies, and allowed themselves to be persuaded and convinced to disobey God’s direct commandments. As a result, we have been found guilty and corrupted by sin. We were made perfect, blameless and without fault, and should have shared in the everlasting joy and true happiness in God’s presence. Unfortunately, our sins and the corruptions in us sundered us from His grace and love.

But God did not give up on us, and His love for us yet endured. He has devised for so great a plan and prepared everything for us, waiting for the time this plan would be revealed to all of us. He has given assurances and glimpses of this truth and the Good News through His prophets and messengers, and eventually, as we heard in our first reading taken from the Book of the prophet Micah, God revealed how He would come to His people, through the small town of Bethlehem Ephrata, the small town of David, where the great king of Israel hailed from, from his humble origins as a shepherd, the youngest son of Jesse of Judah.

God sent His Saviour, His own Son, born into this world in that town, on that day which we celebrate as Christmas, which therefore is the full and perfect manifestation of His love in the flesh. God’s love has become tangible and accessible to us, since no longer that God is One that we cannot see and perceive. Having shown Himself through His Son, God has shown us just how much He loves us and just how amazing His commitment has been to the Covenant that He has established with us.

He came into this world through Mary His mother, dwelling in her hallowed womb for nine whole months before being born into this world. And as we heard in our Gospel passage today, even the mother of St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth, who was Mary’s relative, recognised the Lord present in Mary’s womb, and both of them praised God for everything that God had done for them. The miraculous nature of the pregnancy for Elizabeth, which happened in her advanced age, and for Mary, whose pregnancy happened before she consummated her marriage with St. Joseph her husband were proof of God’s intervention and the fulfilment for the plan of His salvation for all of us.

But even more than that, the Lord through that action of becoming Incarnate in the flesh, to be born as a Man, was an act of supreme love and compassion, which He generously showed towards all of us sinners. And why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because the Lord came to us in the human form and existence in order to share with us our humanity, to be the New Adam that would overturn the past sins and mistakes committee by the first Adam which led us all into sin.

And in the most important action He did for our salvation, done out of His ever generous and enduring love for us, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, willingly took upon Himself the punishments and the consequences of our sins. He took up His Cross and endured the most humiliating conditions and punishments, suffering for us on our behalf, in perfectly obeying the will of His Father, showing us what God’s love is all about, and how we ought to love God as well. As we heard in our second reading today, from the Epistle to the Hebrews, that is all that God wants from us as well.

He does not require from us offerings and sacrifices, referring to the ritual sacrifices done up to that time according to the Mosaic Law. It truly means that He does not require from us mere formality of faith and worship, and neither did He desire lip service from us His people. Instead, what He wants is a total commitment made with love and real genuine love we have for Him, as Christ Himself, in bearing His Cross has shown us. In that supreme act of self-sacrifice and selflessness, God Himself, the Son of God and Son of Man, the Divine Word Incarnate in the flesh, the One born on Christmas Day, showed His love for us, and His love for His heavenly Father, as part of the Holy Trinity of perfect Love with the Holy Spirit.

And that is what we ought to recall today, brothers and sisters in Christ, remembering the great love and the ever enduring patient love and compassion that God has always ever lavished on us, all these while. That is why this Sunday, we focus our attention on the what is arguably the most important of all the four Advent themes, that is Love. For without love, the love that God has for us, then we could never have been saved, and there could have been no hope for us at all. It was God’s Love for us that made all these possible.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, having come to realise God’s most amazing love for us, are we going to show Him the same kind of genuine love? Or are we going to continue to be stubborn in shutting Him out from our lives and in ignoring His loving presence in our midst? And most importantly, are we going to continue sidelining and forgetting about Him in our festivities and celebrations in and throughout the entire season of Christmas? We have to reflect and remember on what Christmas is truly all about.

Today, as we recall God’s loving presence in our midst, let us all strive to do our best to love the Lord with new hearts full of devotion and dedication to Him. If we have once ignored and abandoned Him for other idols and distractions in the world, let us now seek Him again with ever greater zeal and commitment. Let us all rediscover that love that each and every one of us ought to have for the Lord. And may the Lord, our ever loving God continue to love us and bless us, and may His love continue to be poured upon us, most generously, that we may also grow in our love for Him.

May all of us strive to celebrate Christmas worthily and remind one another what Christmas is truly all about, of a celebration of God’s most amazing love for His beloved ones, all of us, His children and His people, now and always. Amen.

Sunday, 19 December 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (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!”

Sunday, 19 December 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Hebrews 10 : 5-10

This is why, on entering the world, Christ says : You did not desire sacrifice and offering; You were not pleased with burnt offerings and sin offerings. Then I said : “Here I am. It was written of me in the scroll. I will do Your will, o God.”

First he says : Sacrifice, offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings You did not desire nor were You pleased with them – although they were required by the Law. Then he says : Here I am to do Your will. This is enough to nullify the first will and establish the new. Now, by this will of God, we are sanctified, once, and for all, by the sacrifice of the Body of Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 19 December 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Sunday, 19 December 2021 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Micah 5 : 1-4a

But you, Bethlehem Ephrata, so small that you are hardly named among the clans of Judah; from you shall I raise the One Who is to rule over Israel. For He comes forth from of old, from the ancient times.

YHVH, therefore, will abandon Israel until such time as she, who is to give birth, has given birth. Then the rest of His deported brothers will return to the people of Israel. He will stand, and shepherd His flock with the strength of YHVH, in the glorious Name of YHVH, His God.

They will live safely, while He wins renown to the ends of the earth. He shall be peace.

Sunday, 22 December 2013 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Brothers and sisters, today we enter into the last Sunday of Advent, the fourth one of all. We celebrate today the theme of love, after we had celebrated the themes of hope, peace, and joy. For indeed, these are all the things we rejoice and celebrate for in Christmas. And the most important of all, is love. That is because there will be no Christmas without love, and the greatest love is the love that God has for all of us.

For God so loved the world, that He gave us His only Son, that we who believe in Him shall not die nor suffer the effects of death, but receive life eternal in that Son. This well-known and well-read passage from the Gospel of John chapter three verse sixteen is that proof of the everlasting love and the ultimate form of love that God had shown us, and which was made manifest this Christmas.

Christmas is not just about Christmas lights, decorations, and about gifts. Christmas is not just about promotions, new goods, shopping opportunities, and something on the same line as those. Christmas is not the day preceding the Boxing Day if we think it in the terms of the gifts that we will receive and benefit from. Instead, indeed, it is all about love, about sharing the love that God had for all of us, and share it with one another in love.

Without love, our lives will not be perfect nor fulfilling. And without love, we will not have hope, peace, and joy. Love lies at the centre of our lives and is the centre of our faith. Our faith must always be based on love, because we believe in God, who is Love Himself. God is Love, and He cannot withhold His love for us, and that was why He wanted to be with us, and for us to be with Him.

Emmanuel, God is with us, is one of the many titles that Jesus Christ our Lord has. And His very presence in this world, as the Divine incarnate to the flesh of mortals, is a true example of this love. For as the omnipotent and all powerful God, eternal and limitless, God has no need for any worries or concerns because He has everything, and everything in creation belongs to Him. Yet, He concerned Himself with us, seeking our welfare and well-being.

Without this divine love, we would certainly have no hope whatsoever. Life will be meaningless and death will truly be fearsome. That is why the Lord came to us, to be with us, and to dwell with us, in Jesus Christ His Son. In Jesus lies all of our hope, and in Him we find true love, and this love is the joy of Christmas, the true joy that we should be celebrating.

So, brothers and sisters in Christ, do we come together to celebrate Christmas because we like to revel in the festivities and the partying, in all the merrymaking? Do we enjoy and look forward to Christmas because of the gifts we are to get from our friends and families? Do we look forward to Christmas because it is a time for us to travel around as it is the holiday period?

If our answers to these questions are yes, then we have missed the true intention of Christmas and the true joy of Christmas. That is precisely the problem with our modern world, where Christmas has been extensively and thoroughly transformed into a commercial property. Christmas is no longer about Christ, after which it was named for. Christmas which was about the birth of Christ, had become the fascination on Santa Claus, gift elves and all the pagan fantasies that mankind had indulged themselves in, submitting to the temptations of the world.

Every time we celebrate Christmas, we should always remember that it is about Christ, about the wondrous birth of Christ our Lord and Saviour, and about the perfect manifestation of love that God our Father showed us. He showed us all His favour, by choosing to be born of the Virgin Mary, to become one of us, and to be the lowest among us, born in a poor and dirty stable even though He was destined to be a King.

So are we ready now to celebrate the coming of Christ this Christmas? We have to bring Christ into Christmas, or otherwise our celebrations will be meaningless. Invoke Christ as we rejoice with one another, and use this opportunity to share our blessings and graces with those who have less. As people often said, that Christmas is a season of giving, but we must not limit this giving just to among ourselves and our own circle of friends.

Share the love of God this Christmas, and proclaim the joy of His coming to everyone. As we welcome Christ into our world, let us also welcome Him into our hearts, and share this Love incarnate, Christ Himself, with everyone we encountered, especially those who lack the sweetness of love.

May the Lord our God continue to bless us with love, that we will grow to love one another, and love Him more and more. May our Christmas be bountiful, peaceful, and be filled with love and joy, not for ourselves, but for the glory of God and the glory of all of God’s people! Amen.

Sunday, 22 December 2013 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Matthew 1 : 18-24

This is how Jesus Christ was born : Mary His mother had been given to Joseph in marriage, but before they lived together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy Spirit.

Then Joseph, her husband, made plans to divorce her in all secrecy. He was an upright man, and in no way did he want to discredit her. While he was pondering over this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, descendant of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife. She has conceived by the Holy Spirit, and now she will bear a Son. You shall call Him ‘Jesus’ for He will save His people from their sins.”

All this happened in order to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet : ‘The virgin will conceive and bear a Son, and He will be called Emmanuel, which means : God-with-us.’

When Joseph woke up, he did what the angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.

Sunday, 22 December 2013 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Romans 1 : 1-7

From Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, an apostle called and set apart for God’s Good News, the very promises He foretold through His prophets in the Sacred Scriptures, regarding His Son, who was born in the flesh a descendant of David, and has been recognised as the Son of God endowed with Power, upon rising from the dead through the Holy Spirit.

Through Him, Jesus Christ, our Lord, and for the sake of His Name, we received grace and mission in all the nations, for them to accept the faith. All of you, the elected of Christ, are part of them, you, the beloved of God in Rome, called to be holy : May God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ, give you grace and peace.

Sunday, 22 December 2013 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 23 : 1-2, 3-4ab, 5-6

The earth and its fullness belong to the Lord, the world and all that dwell in it. He has founded it upon the ocean and set it firmly upon the waters.

Who will ascend the mountain of the Lord? Who will stand in His holy place? Those with clean hands and pure heart, who desire not what is vain.

They will receive blessings from the Lord, a reward from God, their Saviour. Such are the people who seek Him, who seek the face of Jacob’s God.

Sunday, 22 December 2013 : Fourth Sunday of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Isaiah 7 : 10-14

Once again YHVH addressed Ahaz, “Ask for a sign from YHVH, your God, let it come either from the deepest depths or from the heights of heaven.”

But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask, I will not put YHVH to the test.” Then Isaiah said, “Now listen, descendants of David. Have you not been satisfied trying the patience of people, that you also try the patience of my God? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign : ‘The Virgin is with child and bears a Son and calls His Name Immanuel.'”