Wednesday, 19 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 5-25

In the days of Herod, king of Judea, there lived a priest named Zechariah, belonging to the priestly clan of Abiah. Elizabeth, Zechariah’s wife also belonged to a priestly family. Both of them were upright in the eyes of God, and lived blamelessly, in accordance with all the laws and commands of the Lord, but they had no child. Elizabeth could not have any and now they were both very old.

Now, while Zechariah and those with him were fulfilling their office, it fell to him by lot, according to the custom of the priests, to enter the Sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. At the time of offering incense, all the people were praying outside; it was then, that an Angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing on the right side of the altar of incense. On seeing the Angel, Zechariah was deeply troubled and fear took hold of him.

But the Angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, be assured that your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son and you shall name him John. He will bring joy and gladness to you, and many will rejoice at his birth. This son of yours will be great in the eyes of the Lord. Listen : he shall never drink wine or strong drink; but he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother’s womb.”

“Through him, many of the people of Israel will turn to the Lord their God. He, himself, will open the way to the Lord, with the spirit and power of the prophet Elijah; he will reconcile fathers and children; and lead the disobedient to wisdom and righteousness, in order to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.”

Zechariah said to the Angel, “How can I believe this? I am an old man and my wife is elderly, too.” The Angel replied, “I am Gabriel, who stands before God; and I am the one sent to speak to you, and to bring you this good news! My words will come true in their time. But you would not believe; and now, you will be silent and unable to speak until this has happened.”

Meanwhile, the people waited for Zechariah; and they were surprised that he delayed so long in the Sanctuary. When he finally appeared, he could not speak to them; and they realised that he had seen a vision in the Sanctuary. He remained dumb and made signs to them. When his time of service was completed, Zechariah returned home; and, some time later, Elizabeth became pregnant.

For five months she kept to herself, remaining at home, and thinking, “This, for me, is the Lord’s doing! This is His time for mercy, and for taking away my public disgrace.”

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 70 : 3-4a, 5-6ab, 16-17

Be my Rock of refuge; a Stronghold, to give me safety; for You are my Rock and my Fortress. Rescue me, o my God, from the hand of the wicked.

For You, o YHVH, have been my Hope; my Trust, o God, from my youth. I have relied on You from birth : from my mother’s womb You brought me forth.

I will come to Your strength, o YHVH, and announce Your justice, Yours alone. You have taught me from my youth and, until now, I proclaim Your marvels.

Wednesday, 19 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Judges 13 : 2-7, 24-25a

There was a man of Zorah of the tribe of Dan, called Manoah. His wife could not bear children. The Angel of YHVH appeared to this woman and said to her, “You have not borne children and have not given birth, but see, you are to conceive and give birth to a son.”

“Because of this, take care not to take wine or any alcoholic drink, nor to eat unclean foods from now on, for you shall bear a son who shall be a Nazirite of YHVH from the womb of his mother. Never shall his hair be cut for he is consecrated to YHVH. He shall begin the liberation of the Israelites from the Philistine oppression.”

The woman went to her husband and told him, “A messenger of God who bore the majesty of an Angel spoke to me. I did not ask him where he came from nor did he tell me his name.” “But he said to me : ‘You are to conceive and give birth to a son. Henceforth, you shall not drink wine or fermented drinks, nor eat anything unclean, for your son shall be a Nazirite of God from the womb of his mother until the day of his death.’”

The woman gave birth to a son and named him Samson. The boy grew and YHVH blessed him. Then the Spirit of YHVH began to move him when he was in Mahane Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we continue the discourse on the coming of the hope for the people of God, in the Messiah promised by the Lord, which is the core of our Christmas joy and celebrations. We heard from the prophet Jeremiah the prophecy of the coming of the Saviour, a King of the line of David, Who would be the One to save His people, reunite and gather them back from the many places where they had been exiled to.

In order to understand better how significant the words of the prophet Jeremiah were, we must know the context in which the prophet spoke to the people of God, at that time when the last kingdom of the Israelites was on the verge of collapse and destruction. For the prophet Jeremiah was active during the last years of the kingdom of Judah, the southern half of the ancient kingdom of Israel of David and Solomon. At that time, the northern kingdom, also called Israel, had been destroyed decades earlier by the Assyrians.

The people of the northern kingdom has been brought into exile by the Assyrians, their lands taken over by pagans and foreigners brought in to replace the Israelites exiled to the faraway lands of Mesopotamia and beyond. And then, at the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the Babylonians were rising in power, and were threatening the people of Judah. They had lived at the mercy of their neighbours, and having seen the fate of their northern brethren, they too, would have feared destruction of their kingdom and exile from their homeland.

Unfortunately, the same fate would befall the people of Judah, because they and their king refused to believe in God and refused to listen to the word of God as spoken through the prophet Jeremiah. The kingdom of Judah was destroyed by the Babylonians, and the city of Jerusalem together with its Holy Temple was destroyed. The people of Judah was brought into exile in Babylon just like their northern brethren.

Thus, if we read through the book of the prophet Jeremiah, we can see how all these have been predicted and prophesied by the prophet, and how much of his prophecy is about the upcoming doom for Judah and its people because of their sins. However, as the segment of the book that became our first reading passage today showed us, God also showed His love and faithfulness to His people, by revealing through Jeremiah, the salvation and liberation that He would bring them.

God had loved His people many times, and again, and again, He rescued them from their troubles and difficulties, beginning with the Israelites, the people God first chose, by liberating them from their slavery in Egypt, by the Egyptians and their Pharaoh. And then, after the destruction of Judah and Jerusalem mentioned earlier, God would move the heart of the King of Persia, Cyrus the Great, to free the people of God and allow them to return to their homeland.

But God’s people were still then not free, as in the end, in all we have discussed earlier today, we have seen how the disobedience of man have caused our own downfall, because disobedience against God breeds sin, and sin leads to death and damnation in hell, unless we are freed from this slavery to sin and the tyranny of death. And it is God alone Who can free us from sin and death. He alone can forgive us our sins.

That is why, He fulfilled all of His promises and renewed the Covenant He made with us all, through the coming of His Messiah, Jesus Christ, the Beloved Son He sent into the world, the Divine Word Incarnate, to be born of the family of St. Joseph, the heir of David. St. Joseph was a direct descendant and likely the direct heir of David, as the rightful successor of the last king of Judah.

And even though the Lord Jesus was not born from St. Joseph, but directly by the power of the Holy Spirit, but as the legal father according to the law of the Israelites, Jesus was the legal Son of St. Joseph, and thus, fulfilling God’s promise to His people, He is the Son and Heir of David promised as the King Who was to come. Jesus is the King Who was promised, and the King Who would gather all of the people of God, every single children of Adam, to be reunited with God.

It is this joy in the fulfilment of the promises God had made, the perfect sign of His love for us, His faithfulness to the Covenant He made with us, that is the true meaning of our Christmas joy. This is why we rejoice this Christmas, and not because it is a good holiday season, or a time for shopping or revelries and festivities, but because Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, has come into this world, and will come again, to gather us all, to be worthy to enter into the eternal glory and joy in Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, are we ready then to celebrate Christmas? It is just a week away from the date of Christmas, and if we are not yet ready to do so, then we should do all that we can to prepare ourselves. And preparing ourselves does not mean doing all the Christmas decorations and preparing for the parties we are going to have, but rather, preparing ourselves spiritually and in our whole being, that we are properly attuned to the true spirit of Christmas.

Let us all go to confession when we are still able to, to prepare ourselves for the Lord’s coming in joy. Let us be reconciled with God, and therefore, we will be able to welcome the Lord with the fullness of joy, no longer burdened by sin. And let us all heed the past precedents and examples, of the downfall of Judah and its people, to rectify our own way of life, and turn ourselves from sin, devoting ourselves to God from now on.

May the Lord continue to guide us on our way and bless us, now and forevermore. May God be with us, and may He bless us in our preparations for the true joy of Christmas in Him. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week 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 disgrace 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’ fo He will save His people from their sins.”

All this happened in order to fulfil 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 awoke, he did what the Angel of the Lord had told him to do, and he took his wife to his home.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 71 : 1-2, 12-13, 18-19

God, endow the King with Your justice, the royal Son with Your righteousness. May He rule Your people justly and defend the rights of the lowly.

He delivers the needy who call on Him, the afflicted, with no one to help them. His mercy is upon the weak and the poor; He saves the lives of the poor.

Praised be YHVH, God of Israel, Who alone, works so marvellously. Praised be His glorious Name forever; may the whole earth be filled with His glory! Amen. Amen.

Tuesday, 18 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Jeremiah 23 : 5-8

YHVH further says, “The day is coming when I will raise up a King Who is David’s righteous successor. He will rule wisely and govern with justice and righteousness. That will be a grandiose era when Judah will enjoy peace and Israel will live in safety. He will be called YHVH-Our-Justice!”

“The days are coming,” says YHVH, “when people shall no longer swear by YHVH as the Living God Who freed the people of Israel from the land of Egypt. Rather, they will swear by YHVH as the Living God Who restored the descendants of Israel from the northern empire and from all the lands where He had driven them, to live again in their own land!”