Wednesday, 8 December 2021 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. On this day, we celebrate one of the four great Marian Dogmas, that is the Immaculate Conception, as defined by the Church in the state of Mary, being the Mother of God and the bearer of the Lord and Saviour as Immaculate or free from the taint of the original sin. And it was also part of the tradition and teachings of the Church that Mary has remained free from sin throughout her life and is full of grace.

Let us now go through in detail the meaning and significance of today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. First of all, it does not refer to the birth of Mary, which we celebrate instead nine months from now in the Feast of the Nativity on the eighth day of September. The Immaculate Conception refers to the moment when Mary was conceived in the womb of St. Anne, her mother. It was the moment when she came into existence as willed by God, and it is indeed important that Mary was conceived in such a way by the will of God.

How is that so? That is because as we heard from our first reading today taken from the Book of Genesis, mankind fell into sin from the beginning of time when Adam and Eve, our first ancestors, listened to the lies and falsehoods of Satan instead of obeying God and His commandments. God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the fruits of the forbidden tree of knowledge of good and evil in the Gardens of Eden, but Satan managed to persuade mankind to disobey the Lord, by saying that if they ate the fruits, then they would become like God, in knowing things good and evil.

Through that disobedience, sin entered into Man’s existence, because sin is borne by disobedience. Sin has corrupted our human nature and existence, and what was all good and perfect by God’s design at creation, had been stained by the taints of sin. This was mankind’s original sin, and ever since then, the corruptions of sin had affected man, from generations to generations, enslaving them under its hold and power, just as Satan intended, as he desired our destruction and downfall.

However, as we also heard in our first reading today, the Lord punished Satan and also foretold the coming of His salvation that would come through the children of Man, through a Woman who would crush Satan beneath her heels. Through this revelation, even right from the beginning of time, God already had in mind, all knowing as He is, what He would do for our sake, as we are truly His most beloved ones among all the creation. Later on, He would repeat this again and again through the prophets, particularly the prophet Isaiah, who spoke to the then king of Judah regarding the coming of the Messiah through a Virgin and a Woman.

This Woman is indeed none other than Mary, whom God by His special grace hallowed and made holy, immaculate and pure, and free from the taint of original sin. We may wonder how God did this, or if this was possible, but we must not forget, that God is Almighty, all-powerful. What we may think or assume to be impossible, is perfectly possible for God. Mary was special because although she is still a created being, a human person just like us, but by that singular grace of God, she had been preserved from the taints and corruptions of sin.

That was why the Archangel Gabriel during his time visiting Mary, in the Annunciation and as we heard it in our Gospel today, hailed and proclaimed Mary as being ‘full of grace’. Mary was indeed in a state of perfect grace, bestowed on her by God, and she was completely faithful and obedient to the will of God. She was hallowed and prepared such because of her role, which the Archangel Gabriel revealed, that she was to be the Mother of God, and the Son born of her known as the Son of God Most High, Jesus, the Saviour of the whole world.

If we are to understand the importance of the Immaculate Conception of Mary, then let us all look upon the Ark of the Covenant. Mary is often referred to as the New Ark of the (New) Covenant. Why is that so? That is because her Son, Jesus Christ Our Lord, is the One Who made the New Covenant between us and God, sealed by the sacrifice He Himself offered on the Cross and by the Precious Body and Blood that were broken and flowing down from the Altar of the Cross. Mary bore Jesus in her womb for nine months before He was born into this world, which we celebrate at Christmas.

In the old Ark of the Covenant, God commanded Moses to order the people to make the Ark from the finest and most precious materials, from the finest gold and wood, as well as other worthy shapes and materials. God hallowed it and the two tablets of the Ten Commandments, the manna and the staff of Aaron were placed inside that Ark. And the Ark was considered so holy that no one was allowed to touch the Ark. In one occasion, during the transfer of the Ark back to Jerusalem, one of the priests touched the Ark when it slipped. He was struck dead almost immediately.

Then, in the case of Mary, as the New Ark, she bore not just a mere tablets of the Commandments that God had written, but God Himself in the flesh, the Law personified, and not just the bread of manna, but the Bread of Life, the Lord, the Giver of Life. Mary also bore the Good Shepherd and Saviour of all, and as such, if the old Ark was so revered and so hallowed, then how can one who was to bear God Himself in her not be hallowed and made immaculate as well. Unlike the old Ark, made by the hands of men, the new Ark, Mary, was made by God to be worthy of His Presence. The Sinless One and the Perfect God could not have been contained in a womb tainted by sin.

That is what the meaning of the Immaculate Conception of Mary and its importance to us is all about. Unfortunately there are still many among us, even among us Christians who still did not know what the Immaculate Conception is, and many of us are still ignorant of the importance of the Immaculate Conception. That is why today, as we celebrate this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, we have to realise first of all, that God’s love for us has made our salvation possible, as He resolved to save us through His coming into this world, through the womb of His Immaculate Mother.

And then, the Immaculate Conception of Mary shows us how we have been originally intended to be, as creatures that are perfect and free from corruption, perfect and all good as God had intended us to be. We were never meant to suffer in this world and from the consequences of our sins. But, our inability to resist the temptations of sin, its allures and power caused us to end up in this predicament. But God has shown us the way out, through His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. And His mother, Mary, the Immaculate Conception is our inspiration and guide to Him.

Let us all resolve to commit ourselves anew to God, in the footsteps of our Blessed Mother, Mary, the one conceived without sin, the Mother of God, of Our Lord and Saviour. Let us do our best to remain faithful to God and to keep our trust and faith in Him. Let us all do our best to resist and reject the temptations to sin, living our lives to the best of our abilities in our obedience to God, inspired by the faith, dedication and obedience that Mary has shown in her actions and commitment through life in the mission entrusted to her, even to the foot of the Cross.

May the Lord be with us always, and may He empower us all with the courage to serve Him, and to strive to be always worthy of Him. May God bless us and all of our good efforts for the greater glory of His Name. Holy Mary, Mother of God, the Immaculate Conception, conceived without the taint of sin, pray for us sinners, now and always, and lead us to your Son. Amen.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021 : 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.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3bc-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.

Wednesday, 8 December 2021 : 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.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary, a highlight of this month of October, which is also the Month of the Holy Rosary, a time when we are all encouraged to pray the rosary daily and to rediscover that love and relationship we have for God through Mary, His loving Mother and our beloved mother too. Mary has always interceded and prayed for us on our behalf, and her thoughts are always ever focused on us, her wayward children still living in this dark and sinful world.

Today, we mark the occasion of the four hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of Lepanto, a great and decisive battle, a triumphant victory for the forces of Christendom and the champions of the Lord in the struggle against the forces of heathens of the Ottoman Empire and its allies, who sought the domination of the world and the subjugation of Christians and the Christian kingdoms and states of that time. At that time, Christendom was beset not only with these external pressures but also with many internal divisions, having suffered from the effects of the reformation that led to many leaving the Church and many in rebellion against the true faith.

Therefore, at that time, the Church, the faithful and the entire Christendom itself were under great threat of destruction, and that would have happened if not for the great intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, by the actions of the Pope then, Pope St. Pius V, who exhorted all of Christendom to stand together and asked all the faithful to pray the Rosary as he gathered together forces from the various kingdoms and realms, establishing a great Holy Alliance aimed at standing up against the great Turkish invasion forces.

At the same time, the Church also geared up her efforts in combating the heresies and divisions by the conclusion of the Ecumenical Council of Trent and its many sweeping reforms through which many excesses and previous errors of the Church were eradicated, and the teachings of the Church were reaffirmed and reinforced. Missionaries and teachers of the faith, led by the courageous Jesuits were sent to the forefront where many of those who have lapsed from the true faith were to be encouraged and welcomed to return to the Holy Mother Church, and many more still were sent to evangelise in far away nations and places.

And then, the forces of Christendom were gathered together, numerous mighty ships, sailors and soldiers, all gathered against an even larger armada of the Ottomans bent on destruction of Christendom. With the guidance and intercession of the Blessed Mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, as Christendom was united in the prayer of the rosary as encouraged by the Pope, the forces of the Holy Alliance met the enemy at the Bay of Lepanto in a great battle that is still remembered to this very day, as a major turning point in the history of the world.

During the battle, many eyewitnesses saw a great vision of heavenly forces led by Our Lady, with a rosary in her hand, which terrified the forces of the enemies of the Lord, and many of the sailors and slaves on the ships, who were enslaved Christians forced by the wicked Ottomans, turned against their masters and slavers, seeking freedom and turned the whole tide against the enemy, resulting in a great overwhelming victory for the forces of Christendom. The forces of the enemies of the Lord were scattered, and the faithful were saved from the destruction planned against them.

Through this great victory, the whole Christendom rejoiced and celebrated, as church bells tolled and rang all around, commemorating the great triumph which God had led His people into. The Pope proclaimed the day of this great victory initially as the celebration of Our Lady of Victory, before eventually it was changed to the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary as we all celebrate it today. We remember the great intercession by which Our Lady of the Rosary had helped the faithful being attacked by the forces of the enemies of the Lord and His Church.

As we heard in the story of the Battle of Lepanto, and undoubtedly many other examples present in our world and in our own lives, the Lord often delivered the faithful through the intercession of His loving mother, who always directed her gaze upon us, her children in this world, and through the Holy Rosary that we dedicated to her, we united ourselves in prayer through Mary to her Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. So, we ought to ask ourselves if we have spent at least some good quality time in prayer to God and also asking His blessed mother to pray for us, by devoting ourselves through the rosary.

The rosary devotion has been given to us by our own blessed mother Mary, as a way for us to draw closer to the Lord through her, as a way for us to deepen our relationship with God through prayer, by removing from us the distractions and the temptations of our daily living, and instead focusing ourselves on the Lord and His mother, through which we may grow ever deeper in spirituality and in commitment to God, and through the rosary, we may grow ever better as Christians, and also even inspire others to follow in our good examples.

Let us all therefore entrust ourselves to our beloved mother Mary, Our Lady of the Rosary, so that we may grow ever deeper in our love for God through His mother. May the Lord, our loving God and Saviour deliver us from those who seek our destruction, and may He strengthen and encourage us all always, to strive and persevere through the challenges of our lives, at all times. Our Lady of the Rosary, our most loving mother, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (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.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 46-47, 48-49, 50-51, 52-53, 54-55

My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!

He has looked upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed. The Mighty One has done great things for me, Holy is His Name!

From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans.

He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden. He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty.

He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.

Thursday, 7 October 2021 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of the Rosary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Acts 1 : 12-14

Then they returned to Jerusalem from the Mount called Olives, which is a fifteen minute walk away. On entering the city they went to the room upstairs where they were staying. Present there were Peter, John, James and Andrew; Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James, son of Alpheus; Simon the Zealot and Judas son of James.

All of these, together, gave themselves to constant prayer. With them were some women, and also Mary, the mother of Jesus, and His brothers.

Wednesday, 15 September 2021 : 24th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, which is always celebrated on the day after the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, reminding us of the important role that Mary, our Lady of Sorrows and the Mother of God, played in the history of our salvation, and how faithful she has been in obeying God’s will and in following her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, as He went to fulfil the mission entrusted to Him by His heavenly Father.

Yes, brothers and sisters in Christ, just as the Lord Jesus picked up His Cross on His shoulders and journeyed with much pain and sufferings, with scourges and wounds onwards to the hill of Golgotha or Calvary, the place of His execution, Mary followed Him throughout, shadowing Him along the journey, and it was also told by tradition that they also met each other during that Way of Sorrows, as Mary beheld her beloved Son, scourged and bruised from His many wounds.

We can only imagine just what kind of sorrow and suffering that Mary herself had experienced as she beheld her Son in such a state, rejected by the people that He had loved and cared for, condemned to die for sins that He did not commit, scourged and broken, tortured and bleeding from His many wounds. No mother should ever have to see her own children suffering, and yet, that was what Mary precisely experienced as she walked the Via Dolorosa together with her Son, on the way to Calvary.

Yet, just as the Lord Jesus remained faithful and firm to His convictions, holding up His Cross despite falling on three occasions, and reaching the place of His crucifixion, Mary also remained firm in her dedication to her Son, her great love for Him, that she stayed by His side even to the foot of the Cross. She looked upon her Son on the Cross as He laboured and spent the time of suffering for the atonement of all of our sins, fulfilling what the Lord has promised to all of us. Just as the prophet Simeon had said, a sword truly must have pierced Mary’s heart, seeing all that unfolding before her own eyes.

And from the Cross, the Lord then entrusted His own mother to the care of St. John the Apostle, His beloved disciple, to be his own mother and for him to be her own son. Through this significant and symbolic act in fact, the Lord entrusted His Church, that is all of us, to His own mother Mary, giving her to us to be our mother and our caretaker, as a loving mother to her children, ever worried and concerned about us, and ever dedicated to each and every one of us, as her own adopted sons and daughters.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, it is little wonder then why the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God and Our Lady of Sorrows appeared quite often especially after periods of great turmoil and troubles, during times of war and destruction. In many times she has shown herself in many forms, to serve as a reminder to each and every one of us, passing to us her wish and the message, that all of us may be converted to the truth and embrace the salvation that her own Son, Our Lord and Saviour has offered to us freely from the Cross.

In all of those occasions, Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows always called for us to turn back towards the Lord and be converted, to pray and to do our best efforts to contribute to the conversion of souls. Having seen how her Son had suffered under the weight of the burden of our many sins, all of His wounds and scourges essentially were due to our many faults and trespasses, which He bore out of love for us, henceforth, it is no surprise that Mary has always been concerned for us, as our own loving mother, who does not want to see her children to fall into the eternal damnation in hell.

That is why, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate this Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows and as we recall the celebrations of yesterday’s Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross, we as the people of God, as fellow Christians, let us all help one another and be sources of inspiration to lead us all towards the path of redemption and eternal life in God. Let us all be courageous to stand up to our faith and be truly committed to God in all things, that by our deeds and commitment, many more may also come to believe in God.

Let us all confide in our sorrowful mother, Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows, who is always sorrowful upon seeing our many sins, the same sins that have caused her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, so much pain. Let us all ask her for her constant intercession, that she will continue to pray for us, even to the hour of our death, for the sake of all of us, sinners unworthy of God, and yet beloved and whom God desired to forgive, out of His everlasting love for us. May God be with us always, and may His beloved mother, Our Lady of Sorrows, continue to watch over us. Amen.