Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 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, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who appeared approximately five hundred years ago in the area that is now Mexico, at the site where now a great Basilica built in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe now stands. Today let us reflect on the many wonders which we mankind have received through her intercession.

At that time, during the early years of Spanish America, Our Lady chose to appear to a local native, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, whose feast day we celebrated just a few days ago. At that time, she made her appearance on a hill known as the Tepeyac hill to St. John Diego, who then related her apparition and message to the local bishop. The local bishop was skeptical of St. John Diego’s account and wanted a proof of her authentic apparition.

Therefore, as Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared again to St. John Diego, she asked him to gather some flowers from the spot she pointed out on the hill, which were miraculous, as those flowers, Castilian flowers, were not existent at that part of the world. St. John Diego gathered the flowers in the cloak that he was wearing, called a tilma, and brought the flowers as a sign and proof to the bishop.

When St. John Diego came to the bishop and presented the miraculous flowers to him, what amazed the bishop much more and to his great surprise was that the very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on the tilma or cloak that St. John Diego was wearing. Many people came to believe in this miracle and apparition, and came to greater devotion to God through His mother, who appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Pope eventually recognised this apparition as authentic, and great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had continued ever since.

Today, as we recall this great apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Guadalupe, we should take note how Mary appeared many times to many different people, at Guadalupe, at Lourdes, at Fatima, and at many other places as deemed authentic by the Holy See. And all these apparitions were in fact ways through which Mary, the great Mother of God, is still ever active trying to bring us all, her adopted children, towards reconciliation and salvation in her Son, Our God.

For Mary has a special role in our salvation, and the Church has recognised her as the co-Redemptrix of mankind. It was not that she by her own power has saved mankind, but rather, it was through her that God made His salvation to be able to reach out to us. Her obedience and willingness to be part of God’s plan of salvation for us mankind has brought forth the Saviour into this world, just as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah.

Our Lord Himself has also entrusted all of us mankind to her, symbolically represented as He entrusted St. John the Evangelist to her, and at the same time entrusting her to his care. Through this, all of us have been made to be her children, as Jesus her Son, is also our Brother. As she has now been assumed to Heaven, to sit at the side of her Son, she is the greatest of all our intercessors, constantly praying for our sake. And this is also why she frequently appeared to us, appealing for us to repent from our sins and change our lives.

She loves each and every one of us mankind, just as she loved her Son Jesus with all of her loving heart. Every man and woman who died with sins unforgiven and unrepentant are in danger of eternal damnation, and is sorrowful for her. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that she was with her Son throughout His Passion, as He walked the path to Calvary, bearing the heavy burden of the cross and our sins. Just as she was sorrowful because of the suffering endured by her Son, she is also sorrowful for all the souls who will endure eternal damnation and suffering because of their sins.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate and rejoice in the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today, let us also then remember to reflect about our own lives and actions. Have we been truly faithful to God in all of our actions? Or have we rather allowed ourselves to fall into sin, and forgetting God and all of His love for us? Many of us have lapsed from our faith, and have not been active in practicing our faith in God, and we have allowed ourselves to be busy with worldly matters and forgetting about God.

In this season of Advent, during this time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas therefore, we need to prepare ourselves, our hearts and minds, our bodies and our souls, our whole beings, to be able to celebrate Christmas worthily and understand better its importance for our salvation. Christmas is the celebration of Our Lord’s birth and entry into this world, as the Light of the world that dawned and pierced through the darkness of this world.

And as the Church teaches us, the best way to reach out to the Lord, Our Light, is through His Mother, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who constantly appeared to mankind, in order to guide us all to her Son. It is imperative therefore, that we make whatever opportunity that we have been given, this very life, to reach out to the Lord, and humbly seeks His mercy and forgiveness for our sins, that we may come to be worthy of His eternal glory.

We should follow the examples of our holy and devout predecessors, the saints, in the examples of their lives. And there is no greater example than Mary herself, whose obedience and adherence to God’s will, whose commitment of love for her Son, Our Lord, made it possible for salvation to come to us from God. We are all now called to follow in her footsteps, that she may lead us all down the path towards salvation and eternal life.

May the Lord continue to bless each and every one of us, and may His blessed mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe continue to intercede for us sinners still living in this world. May all of us strive to be ever more committed to serve the Lord in all of our ways, and repent from our sins, that we may draw ever closer to God and His grace, and be worthy of the glory of eternal life. O Blessed Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

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

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

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!”

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

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

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-13

Sing to YHVH a new song, sing to YHVH, all the earth! Sing to YHVH, praise His Name; proclaim His salvation, day after day.

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

Let the heavens be glad, the earth rejoice; let the sea and all that fills it resound; let the fields exult and everything in them.

Let the forest, all the trees, sing for joy. Let them sing before YHVH Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice, and the peoples, with fairness.

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.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

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

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

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.”

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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 a great feast day of the Church, celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. This occasion commemorates the moment when Mary was conceived without any trace of original sin of man, and hence the Immaculate Conception, which is a dogma of the Church proclaimed by His Holiness Blessed Pope Pius IX a century and half ago.

The Church through its sacred tradition and teachings show that God has given a special privilege to Mary, in that she had been set aside from the rest of mankind, descendants of Adam and Eve. Unlike all men and women since the time of Adam and Eve, Mary was conceived free from the taint of original sin, the mark of disobedience which all mankind have received, from the time when our first forefathers disobeyed God and sinned.

In our first reading today, that was why we heard about the time when Adam and Eve sinned, because they disobeyed God and chose rather to follow the lies and sweet words of Satan, who persuaded them to eat from the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that they might become like God. Instead, they received rebuke and condemnation from God, and the truth about the lies of Satan was exposed. Ever since then, mankind had been tainted by the sin of their disobedience, and had to wander and suffer on earth.

That is also why, because of our sins, all of us mankind also faces death at the end of our earthly lives. All of us are to experience death as the just consequence for our sins, because sin has corrupted us, our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our souls, our whole and entire being, and as such, we are not worthy to be with God, as He Who is perfectly good, cannot tolerate sin to be in His presence. But this does not mean that God does not love us, or that He has abandoned or rejected us. Instead, God still loves us as He has always had.

Otherwise, God could have just destroyed us with the mere thoughts of His mind. He did not do so. He allowed us to endure the suffering for our sins and disobedience, but at the same time, He has also prepared the ultimate salvation for all of us, His beloved people, right from the time that we first fell into sin. In our first reading from the Book of Genesis today, God Himself prophesied that while there would be conflict between the descendants of man with the forces of Satan, but God will triumph in the end.

God promised that His salvation will come, and indeed as He mentioned, the Woman will crush the serpent under her feet, a prophecy about the time of salvation to come for mankind. And through the prophet Isaiah, again God made His intention clear, promising the salvation of the world, the Saviour, born of a Virgin, which surely we all know, have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, born of His mother, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary.

In the Gospel today, the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth, bearing the Good News of God’s salvation, which He would fulfil through her. He revealed to her through the Archangel, of the plan of salvation He Himself has long put in place, that the Son of God, the Divine Word of God Himself would come into the world, taking up upon Himself the human flesh, and born of a Woman, Mary herself, which became a reality through her humble obedience to the will of God.

And now, let us link all these back to the reason for our celebration today, that is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why is it that Mary is so special? That is because God has prepared her to be part of His plan for the salvation of His people, as she was to be the one who would bear the Messiah, Lord and Saviour of the world inside her, as the Archangel Gabriel mentioned, ‘the Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and the Son born of you will be called the Son of God.’

For this special role, God is certainly able to give an exception to Mary among all mankind, that for her alone, she was conceived, and born of her parents without the taints of the original sin of man. And this special grace is related to the role she played in our salvation, as the one who bore God within herself. In order to understand this better, we must know that Mary is the New Ark, bearing the New Covenant of God.

The old Ark of the Covenant was built by Moses from precious metals and materials, and adorned to be worthy of bearing the Law of God and His Covenant, and the Ark came to represent God’s presence among His people, so much so that it is hallowed and no one may touch it without dropping dead, as what happened in one occasion when a priest touched the Ark by accident, and he was struck down.

That is why the Ark had to be carried on two poles born by four people. And if this old Ark is made by the hands of man, carved and designed by man, and bearing within it, two slabs of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, and was considered so holy and precious, then all the more that the New Ark bearing the New Covenant must be hallowed, pure and holy.

Thus, God has prepared Mary, who is to be the mother of God, and made her holy and pure, clean from any taint of the original sins of man. And this New Ark is all the more precious, far surpassing the old Ark, because Mary, as all men and women are, she was crafted and designed by the Lord Our God. And she bore within her womb for nine months, none other than the Lord Himself, Master of all the universe, Who has willingly come down upon us in human flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God.

That is why today the whole universal Church rejoice together celebrating this wonderful mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for through Mary, the final defeat of the devil and his forces have been made a reality, as the promises God has made about our salvation has been fulfilled in their entirety. And even more so, in Mary, the devil has encountered a great enemy, who is always thwarting his plans all the time.

That is because Mary is also the greatest of all the saints of God, and she is the one ever closest to her Son in heaven. She is, as the Queen Mother of heaven, a close advisor to her Son, and she is always active trying to help the people of God to return to Him. She appeared several times to us, in various places and ways, appealing to us mankind to repent from our sins.

Through her example of obedience and commitment to fulfil God’s will, walking faithfully in His ways throughout her whole life, Mary has become a great example for each and every one of us, on how we should behave and act in this life, in obedience to God. Ultimately, through our renewed obedience, and by believing in the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved and redeemed from our past sins.

Let us today therefore, by following the examples of Mary, mother of God, conceived without sin, dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord. Let us abandon our sinful ways and put our trust in God from now on, striving to live worthily in accordance with God’s words. May the Lord be with us all, and may our mother Mary intercede for us sinners, that we may find our way towards God and His salvation. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.