Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this first day of the New Year, we celebrate the Solemnity of the Most Holy Mother of God, or Theotokos, commemorating the Mary’s special role, privilege and honour as the Mother of God, and not just an ordinary mother like any other mothers. Mary is truly the Mother of God just as much as Jesus Christ, her Son, is God Himself. If anyone were to deny that Mary is the Mother of God, then they are in fact also denying the divinity of Jesus.

This title and honour of Mary as the Theotokos, or ‘God-bearer’ in Greek, was already an ancient one by the time of the first Ecumenical Council of the Church at Nicaea, as is the belief in the divinity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Our Lord and Saviour. The Church through the Apostles and their successors, guided by the truth and wisdom shown by the Holy Spirit had preserved this truth carefully against all the false ideas and heresies that denied the divinity of the Lord and the divine motherhood of Mary.

At that time, there were those who refused to believe in the divinity of Christ and that Jesus is the Son of God, or those who ascribed that the Son was a created Being, less than equal than the Father, the latter viewpoint as believed by the Arian heretics. In opposition against all these false teachings and ideas were the faithful bishops and all those who remained committed to the true, orthodox Christian faith.

Thus, first of all the bishops gathered and with the support of the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great who was very favourable to the Christian faith, they commenced the first ever Ecumenical Council of the Universal Church at Nicaea, where the Faith itself was formalised and codified into a firm Creed, which we now know as the Nicene Creed, modified at the later Ecumenical Council in Constantinople into the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed that we still use to this day.

The divinity and equality of Jesus Christ with the Father was affirmed and codified into the Canon of the Ecumenical Council of Nicaea, and all the false and heretical teachings such as that of Arius, the founder of the Arian heresy and many others were rejected and condemned as false and heretical. However, with regards to the status of Mary as the Mother of God, it would take yet another century before the issue was definitively settled at another Ecumenical Council.

At the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus, another great matter dividing the faithful was the heresy of Nestorianism, which was the belief that the Lord Jesus was distinct in His human and divine nature, just as we believe it to this day, but with an important difference, as they believed that the humanity of Christ was totally distinct and separate, with two wills and two existences.

And this was related to the matter of Mary as the Mother of God because those who sided with Nestorius and his heretical views deemed that Mary could not be the Mother of God as she was just a human being, and that she was just merely the mother of the human Jesus Christ, the person born and distinct from the Son of God, thus, they preferred terms such as Christotokos, or the bearer of Christ, the human Jesus.

This was firmly rejected by all those who held strongly to the true faith, in holding to the view that the Lord Jesus was both Divine and Man, and although distinct in their respective natures, but these two natures are inseparably united in the perfect bond of love in the one person, Jesus Christ. Therefore, this is the core of our belief in the Lord Who exists in two natures, Divine and Man, but united perfectly in one Person, and thus, His mother is also the Mother of God and not just the Mother of Man.

At the Ecumenical Council of Ephesus therefore, the belief in Mary as the Mother of God or Theotokos was finalised and affirmed as a true teaching of the Christian faith, and all the other, dissenting teachings and falsehoods were considered as heresies and were condemned. Today on this Solemnity of Mary, Mother of God, we celebrate that great victory of the truth, upholding that Mary truly is God’s own Mother by His incarnation into this world.

It is also very significant that this celebration is held on the eighth or Octave Day of Christmas, the very last day of the Christmas Octave, as the culmination of the peak of our celebrations of Christmas that will still nonetheless continue on with the upcoming Solemnity of the Epiphany. The celebration of the Divine Motherhood of Mary is an affirmation of the significance of Our Lord’s birth into this world, that through Mary, He has assumed our very own human nature, and became Man, that in time to come, He might save us all through His sacrifice on the Cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we honour Mary this day in memory of her faith and obedience to God’s will just as we honour her as the Mother of God. If we love our Lord and Saviour, then naturally we should also love His mother as well. How can we not love her when we say that we love her Son? But even more importantly, we should follow the example and the faith that Mary has shown us, in how she lived and in how she dedicate herself to the Lord.

She committed herself so thoroughly to God and obeyed Him, and dedicated herself to the care of her Son, following Him all the way to the foot of the Cross. And from the Cross, the Lord Himself entrusted her to us by symbolically entrusting her to His disciple St. John, while also entrusting all of us to her to be her beloved children in the same way. Hence, we look upon Mary not just as a distant and unknown woman, but as the loving Mother of Our God, Our Lord and Saviour, and also as our own Mother.

Let us all look at Mary’s way of life and her faith, and spend more time with her, by means of prayers and contemplation, and remind ourselves always to follow her examples in every moments of our lives. As we embark on this new year, let us all start it right by living our lives more and more in accordance with our Christian faith and way of life. And as we continue to celebrate this joyful season of Christmas, let us all focus our efforts and attentions to bring joy to the world, and not just any joy but the true joy of Christ.

May all of us as Christians be the bearers of Christ’s Light and joy, His peace, hope and love into our respective communities, families and to all those whose lives we touch. May Mary, the Blessed Mother of God, our loving Mother, continue to pray for us all sinners and guide us in our journey of faith so that one day, all of us may glorify God together with her, reconciled with her Son and forgiven from our many sins. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 2 : 16-21

So the shepherds came hurriedly, and found Mary and Joseph, and the Baby lying in the manger. On seeing Him, they related what they had been told about the Child, and all were astonished on hearing the shepherds.

As for Mary, she treasured all these words, and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds then returned, giving glory and praise to God for all they had heard and seen, just as the Angels had told them.

On the eighth day the circumcision of the Baby had to be performed; He was named Jesus, the Name the Angel had given Him before He was conceived.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Galatians 4 : 4-7

But when the fullness of time came, God sent His Son. He came born of woman and subject to the Law, in order to redeem the subjects of the Law, that we might receive adoption as children of God.

And because you are children, God has sent into your hearts the Spirit of His Son which cries out : Abba! That is, Father! You yourself are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and yours is the inheritance by God’s grace.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 66 : 2-3, 5, 6 and 8

May God be gracious and bless us; may He let His face shine upon us, that Your way be known on earth and Your salvation among the nations.

May the countries be glad and sing for joy, for You rule the peoples with justice and guide the nations of the world.

May the peoples praise You, o God, may all the peoples praise You! May God bless us and be revered, to the very ends of the earth.

Friday, 1 January 2021 : Solemnity of Mary, the Holy Mother of God, World Day of Prayer for Peace (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Numbers 6 : 22-27

Then YHVH spoke to Moses saying, “Speak to Aaron and his sons and say to them : This is how you shall bless the people of Israel; you shall say : May YHVH bless you and keep you! May YHVH let His face shine on you, and be gracious to you! May YHVH look kindly on you, and give you His peace!”

“In that way they put My Name on the people of Israel and I will bless them.”

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church celebrates the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, commemorating the Apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God in the site of Guadalupe in what is today part of Mexico. Our Lady of Guadalupe is one of the most popular Marian devotions in the world and she is also the Patroness of the Americas, and is also among one of the oldest approved Marian apparitions, from long before the other ones at Lourdes and Fatima.

About five centuries ago, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, one of the pious native converts to Christianity, whose feast day we have just celebrated three days ago, saw the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at the site of the Tepeyac hill where the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe now stands. St. John Diego was a simple but pious peasant to whom Our Lady appeared to, revealing herself to be none other than the Mother of God.

Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared a few times to St. John Diego, asking for a church to be built at the site of her apparition in her honour. And most well known is the miracle of the tilma or cloak or mantle, which belonged to St. John Diego and on which was imprinted the image of Our Lady herself, not drawn by any human hands but miraculously appearing on the cloak after she told St. John Diego to gather rare flowers at the place she pointed out, as a sign to the local bishop.

This very mantle is still kept in the great Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe, at the centre of the very popular devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe as mentioned. Certainly many lost souls had been found due to her intercession, and many others had had their faith strengthened throughout the past few centuries, and it was indeed no coincidence that she chose to appear there at the time when the Christian faith has just recently then arrived to the Americas.

All in all, today we rejoice because of the great love which our mother
Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe has for all of us, her beloved children. That she has chosen to appear multiple times throughout history and in various occasions, especially after periods of great conflicts and upheavals pointed out to the fact that she truly loves each one of us dearly, and wants us all to find our way to her Son, Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, we are all called to look at our loving mother, appreciating the genuine care and compassion that she has shown us. And through her, we shall find our way towards the Lord, to His salvation, grace and eternal life. Are we willing to follow the example of our blessed mother, in her commitment and faith in God, as well as in her righteous and pious life?

We are all called to reexamine our way of life throughout this Advent season that we may rediscover the true meaning of Christmas that we are all going to celebrate in just two more weeks from now, as well as the true meaning of our Christian faith. This is the perfect opportunity and time for us to rediscover our love for the Lord and to remove from ourselves all the unhealthy attachments to sin and worldly temptations.

Let us all heed our loving mother’s call, that all of us may embrace her with love and find our way to the Lord’s salvation and grace through the path that our mother Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe has shown us, that we may join the many others who had followed her and devoted herself to her, and through her to her Son. Let us all seek the Lord our God and have a conversion of heart and mind in this blessed season of Advent. May all of us draw ever closer to Our Lord and Saviour, and may His mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe, always intercede for us sinners. Amen.

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

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!”

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour!”

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

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.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more.

The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone. YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up.

YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.

Saturday, 12 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Sirach 48 : 1-4, 9-11

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10c

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, for God-is-with-us.”

Thursday, 10 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Universal Church celebrates the Feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Loreto or Our Lady of Loreto. The history of this devotion to Mary, the Mother of God as Our Lady of Loreto had a long history and is tied to the miraculous preservation and appearance of the Holy House of Nazareth in that place, where now the Basilica of the Holy House of Loreto now stands.

The tradition states that this very House enshrined at the centre of the Basilica is none other than the very house where the Lord and His Holy Family, St. Joseph, His foster-father and Mary, His mother had lived in, at the village of Nazareth. How is it then that this house ended up in Loreto in Italy? First of all, well-attested by Apostolic tradition is that this house was converted into a church by St. Peter and the other Apostles.

Hence, within the house there is the ‘Altar of the Apostles’, built none other by St. Peter and the other Apostles themselves. It was told that a Basilica was built at the site of the house after the Roman Empire adopted the Christian faith, and worship had continued at the site throughout the succeeding centuries afterwards. However, it came to be that the house was under threat of destruction from unbelievers at the end of the age of the Crusades.

Therefore, in a miraculous occasion, the Holy House of Nazareth was lifted up by Angels of God to a site in what is now Croatia, which was verified by several checks by the contemporary people, in both the new and the previous sites. After a few further translations, the house eventually settled at its current site, over seven hundred years ago. A great Basilica and shrine was soon built over the house, and eventually took shape of the current shrine.

The shrine and devotion to the Blessed Mother of Loreto as the Matron and Patroness of the Holy Family of Nazareth steadily grew and gained Papal patronage, as successive Popes devoted themselves to the shrine of Loreto. Miracles were also attributed to the holy shrine, and prayers made were effective. Litany of Loreto is a famous litany that is recited by many Christians around the world asking for the intercession of Our Lady of Loreto.

Today as we celebrate in this Feast of Our Lady of Loreto, the Blessed Mary Mother of God, we are all brought in deeper into the mystery of the Advent season, preparing ourselves in our hearts, minds and in our beings for the celebration of Christmas. Through this celebration as well as through the readings of the passages of the Scriptures, we are all brought to centre our focus on the Lord and His salvation, which had come into this world through the obedience of Mary.

We are all called to model ourselves after the Holy Family of Nazareth in our celebrations, in our way of life, and in everything we do. We see the obedience of Jesus to their parents, St. Joseph’s righteousness and obedience to God’s laws and commandments, his hardworking attitude, and of course, Mary’s love for her family, her obedience to God and her commitment to the mission that has been entrusted to her.

Therefore, all of us are reminded that we cannot forget our fundamental roles as Christians in our respective communities, to be exemplary in our Christian way of life, imitating the Holy Family of Nazareth. And let us all devote ourselves to Our Lady of Loreto, imitating her examples and faith, that we may also be faithful in all things, and be obedient and righteous just as she had been obedient and righteous.

May the Lord, through His loving Mother, the Blessed Virgin of Loreto, be with us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us will grow ever stronger in faith and devotion, and grow to live a more faithful Christian and Christ-centric life from now on. Let us all make best use of this blessed season of Advent, and redirect our attention and focus in life towards the Lord, the reason of our joy in Christmas. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.