Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the great Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord, at the moment exactly nine months before the date of Christmas, as this date commemorates the very moment when Our Lord and Saviour was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary, when she responded to the revelation of God’s Good News through the Archangel Gabriel which marked this moment of the Annunciation, when God finally revealed the arrival of His long awaited Saviour into the world.

On this day we rejoice greatly because of this event which heralded the beginning of the whole process of the story of salvation, as the long awaited salvation promised by God has finally come, through a humble and young Virgin in the small and backwater village of Nazareth in Galilee. The Archangel Gabriel announced to her that she was to become the Mother of the Saviour, and since He is also the Son of God Most High, she would also become the Mother of God.

Such a news brought by a great Angel to that young woman would have surprised and rocked anyone’s lives tremendously, and evidently Mary was also surprised and did not expect to hear such a revelation. Yet, it is her response to the announcement of the Archangel Gabriel that we need to pay close attention to, as she humbly listened to the Archangel and obeyed the Lord’s words and will, with her now famous words of acceptance and total submission to God’s will, ‘I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done unto me as you have said’.

It is indeed interesting to see how God chose to come into this world in such a way. But this is because He wants to share in our humanity, by His incarnation in the flesh, assuming our fullness of humanity in Jesus Christ, born of Mary, His mother, to bring forth the fullness of God’s salvation to all of His people. And we focus our attention today to this wonderful occasion and especially on the amazing woman whose faith in the Lord can truly inspire us all in how we live our own lives.

We compare the response of Mary to the response of Ahaz, the king of Judah that we heard in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah. At that time, the king Ahaz also received revelation from God through Isaiah, of the coming of God’s salvation to His people. But Ahaz refused to accept the sign, saying that he would not put God to the test even when the prophet Isaiah had specifically said that God had asked Ahaz to ask Him of anything. This shows a lack of faith and obedience on king Ahaz’s side, and contrasted him to Mary.

King Ahaz of Judah led the people of Judah further into sin, as according to the Chronicles and the Book of Kings, he did not follow or obey God’s laws and ways unlike some among his forefathers. Thus, his lack of faith can indeed be contrasted to Mary’s total submission to God, his pride and false humility contrasted against Mary’s humility and devotion to God. Mary is the role model for all of us, as her obedience and willingness to accept her role as the Mother of God and Saviour is something that all of us as Christians should also emulate in our own lives.

In this season of Lent, which the Solemnity of the Annunciation’s date often falls within, all of us go through this time of renewal and purification as we prepare ourselves for the celebrations during the joyous season of Easter. And especially this year, our Lenten season have been filled with lots of uncertainty, sorrow and grief, challenges and trials, obstacles and difficulties as most of the world has, and is now still currently suffering from the current coronavirus pandemic and the disease it caused, COVID-19.

More than ten thousand people had died over the past few months and hundreds of thousands are suffering from this sickness, with millions and tens of millions more being affected in various ways, many have lost their jobs and means of living, many have been affected because of the impact this pandemic had on the economy and much of global movement and dynamics of peoples. Many people suffered, and suffering, and will suffer because of this current plague that is claiming more and more victims with every passing moment.

However, despite the darkness and sorrow that surrounded us, despite all the seemingly difficult and tough challenges that are suffocating us with their tight grip, we must realise that we must have faith in God and put our trust in Him while obeying His will and entrust our lives and our whole existence to His care. On this day of the Solemnity of the Annunciation, we are reminded once again that despite the darkness and all the uncertainties in our world, God’s promise of salvation is a reality, and He will always fulfil what He has promised to us.

On this day we celebrate God Who willingly assumed our human existence and chose to be incarnate in the flesh, dwelling in the womb of Mary, His mother, that through Him, Our Lord Jesus Christ, a new Light of hope may be born into this world, dispelling the darkness and all the evils that have been surrounding us, affecting us and enslaving us under their power. We are called today to look upon this Hope and Light we have in Christ, and put our trust in Him even in these difficult and darkened times.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, amidst this difficult crisis and this terrible pandemic, let us all entrust ourselves to God just as Mary had done, and humble ourselves before God, seeking His forgiveness and mercy, and also forgiving each other our faults and shortcomings to one another. Let us all grow ever stronger in faith and in our love and devotion to God, and let us all have no fear of what is to come, knowing that God is always by our side. Let us all take good care of one another and pray for each other in this turbulent times, that the darkness will soon pass and everything will be fine again.

May God be with us always, and may He bless us all and our families, and may He be with all those who are currently sick and dying, and be with those whose loved ones have been afflicted, that He will comfort them, console them, guide them and heal those who are sick. May God bless our world and His Church, and dispel the darkness and evils from our lives. Amen.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (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, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Hebrews 10 : 4-10

And never will the blood of bulls and goats take away these sins. 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.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 39 : 7-8a, 8b-9, 10, 11

Sacrifice and oblation You did not desire; this You had me understand. Burnt offering and sin offering You do not require. Then I said, “Here I come!”

“As the scroll says of me. To do Your will is my delight, o God, for Your law is within my heart.”

In the great assembly I have proclaimed Your saving help. My lips, o Lord, I did not seal – You know that very well.

I have not locked up in my heart Your saving help, but have spoken about it – Your deliverance and Your faithfulness; I have made no secret of Your truth and of Your kindness in the great assembly.

Wednesday, 25 March 2020 : Solemnity of the Annunciation of the Lord (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10

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.”

“Devise a plan and it will be thwarted, make a resolve and it will not stand, for God-is-with-us.”

Tuesday, 11 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Lourdes, celebrating one of the most famous apparitions of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Lourdes in southern part of France. At that time, Mary appeared to a young girl named Bernadette Soubirous in a grotto within the forest nearby the small village town of Lourdes. The Blessed Virgin revealed herself to be the Lady of the Immaculate Conception. But before that revelation, she appeared as a figure of a woman dressed in white and bedazzled with light.

Bernadette Soubirous, later on to be known as St. Bernadette Soubirous was an uneducated peasant young girl, whose words no one initially took seriously, including the local parish priest to whom St. Bernadette had reported her vision of the apparition. Initially the priest was skeptical as was others, who thought that the young St. Bernadette must have been hallucinating. Yet, more and more apparition came through and the Blessed Virgin continued to make herself visible to St. Bernadette and some others who came to visit the grotto with her.

In one occasion, St. Bernadette was asked to show a sign by the people, and the Blessed Virgin guided her by asking her to dig the ground at a spot that she showed her. As St. Bernadette dug the ground, the ground felt damp and wet, and immediately a gush of spring water came out of the ground. This would eventually become the origin of the now famous Lourdes holy springs of water that had healed many people who came to Lourdes seeking to be healed by the grace of God through His mother Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes.

When the local priest and others still doubted the authenticity of the apparition, St. Bernadette asked the apparition of her name, and the Lady responded with ‘I am the Immaculate Conception’ as I mentioned earlier. St. Bernadette brought this response to the priest who was completely taken by surprise at what he had heard. For at that time, in the year 1858, the year of the apparition, it was just four years after the declaration of the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary by Blessed Pope Pius IX.

As such, due to the constraints of technology and communication at that time, as well as the obvious fact that St. Bernadette was just an illiterate, poor, uneducated young peasant girl, there could have been no way that St. Bernadette could have known of that fact beforehand if not for the fact that the apparition was indeed of the Blessed Virgin Mary herself. And since then, the priest would become a great champion for the cause of the apparition to be made officially approved and recognised by the Church, with the cooperation with the local bishop.

In the meanwhile, the crowds of people coming to the site continued to grow especially as several miracles were attributed to the spring water of Lourdes. Several people were healed of their illnesses and became perfectly well again. And eventually when doctors and psychologists came to investigate the miraculous occasion, the apparition and St. Bernadette herself, they could not explain all that happened there except with the eyes of the faith.

It would be several more years before the Church officially recognised the apparitions at Lourdes by the Blessed Virgin Mary, but ever since then, Lourdes have always been popular with numerous pilgrims from all over the world, especially the sick and the dying who were seeking God’s help through the intercession of His blessed Mother, Mary, who had made this recourse available for us mankind. And all of these indeed have its roots in what we have heard in our Scripture readings today.

In today’s Gospel text, we heard the famous account of the Wedding at Cana, the moment when Our Lord performed His very first miracle, turning water into wine for the sake of the couple who were married that day. As mentioned, the couple ran out of wine, and we have to understand that in the Jewish tradition, for a wedding to run out of wine while the celebration was still ongoing, it would be a terrible shame and embarrassment for the couple.

That was why the couple was having such a predicament, and Mary noticed their trouble, and she went to her Son Jesus, asking if He could do something to help the couple out of their trouble. The Lord responded that it was not yet His time, but nonetheless, Mary still went out of her way and told the servants to listen to whatever Jesus would be saying to them. Most likely moved by His mother’s compassion and concern for the couple, her plea for Him to help, Jesus moved and told the servants to follow His instructions, and as we all know, the water in the jars turned miraculously into the finest wines.

From what we have heard in this account from the Wedding at Cana and also what we have just talked about, the story of the apparition of Mary at Lourdes, we can clearly see how Mary, God’s own Mother, has always been concerned for us, and she has always tried to show us compassion and getting her Son, Our Lord, to help us from our troubles and predicaments. Just as the wedding couple faced potential shame and embarrassment from having not enough wine in their wedding, we too are beset by many troubles, including sickness and sufferings from many diseases.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all remember that at the moment of His crucifixion and as He was about to die, the Lord Jesus entrusted His own mother Mary to St. John, His Apostle, and in doing so, He symbolically entrusted her to all of us His disciples and His Church. And at the same time, we have all also been entrusted to her as her own adopted children as well. That is why our Blessed Mother always looks upon us with loving and tender care, seeking our happiness and true joy in God, her Son.

And because Mary is the mother of God, by our faith we believe that she sits even now by the side of her Son’s throne in heaven. Historically, the mother of the king has always held great influence in the court and the king has also often listened to his mother’s counsel and words. In the same way therefore, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, is always interceding and praying for us, and her Son, Our Lord and King, will listen to His own mother’s words and prayers.

That was how so many people who had faith in God and in the intercession of His mother, Our Lady of Lourdes, were healed from their many afflictions and sicknesses. Let us therefore today, which is also designed as the World Day of the Sick, focus our prayer and intentions on all our sick ones, for all those who are suffering from all sorts of physical, mental and spiritual sicknesses of all kinds. Let us also pray especially for this moment, those who are currently suffering from the terrible effects of the current novel Coronavirus, 2019-nCov, that all those who suffer may, by the grace of God and through the intercession of Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes, be healed from all of their sufferings, pains and troubles.

May the Lord continue to watch over us, and may His blessed mother, Mary, Our Lady of Lourdes continue to look after us, that each and every one of us who are suffering from sickness one way or another, may be healed and made whole, and having been made good and whole again, may we all be brought together in God’s love and embrace, forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 February 2020 : 5th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Our Lady of Lourdes and World Day of the Sick (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

Mark 7 : 1-13

At that time, one day, the Pharisees gathered around Jesus, and with them were some teachers of the Law who had just come from Jerusalem. They noticed that some of His disciples were eating their meal with unclean hands, that is, without washing them.

Now the Pharisees, and in fact all the Jews, never eat without washing their hands, for they follow the tradition received from their ancestors. Nor do they eat anything, when they come from the market, without first washing themselves. And there are many other traditions they observe; for example, the ritual washing of cups, pots and plates.

So the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law asked Him, “Why do Your disciples not follow the tradition of the elders, but eat with unclean hands?” Jesus answered, “You shallow people! How well Isaiah prophesied of you when he wrote : ‘This people honours Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. The worship they offer Me is worthless, for what they teach are only human rules.’ You even put aside the commandment of God to hold fast to human tradition.”

And Jesus commented, “You have a fine way of disregarding the commandments of God in order to enforce your own traditions! For example, Moses said : Do your duty to your father and your mother, and : Whoever curses his father or his mother is to be put to death. But according to you, someone could say to his father or mother, ‘I already declared Corban (which means “offered to God”) what you could have expected from me.’”

“In this case, you no longer require him to do anything for his father or mother; and so you nullify the word of God through the tradition you have handed on. And you do many other things like that.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Lourdes)

John 2 : 1-11

At that time, three days after Jesus called Nathanael, there was a wedding at Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus was also invited to the wedding with His disciples. When all the wine provided for the celebration had been served, and they had run out of wine, the mother of Jesus said to Him, “They have no wine.”

Jesus replied, “Woman, what concern is that to you and Me? My hour has not yet come.” However His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever He tells you.” Nearby were six stone water jars, set there for ritual washing as practiced by the Jews; each jar could hold twenty or thirty gallons.

Jesus said to the servants, “Fill the jars with water.” And they filled them to the brim. Then Jesus said, “Now draw some out and take it to the steward.” So they did. The steward tasted the water that had become wine, without knowing from where it had come; for only the servants who had drawn the water knew. So, he called the bridegroom to tell him, “Everyone serves the best wine first, and when people have drunk enough, he serves that which is ordinary. Instead you have kept the best wine until the end.”

This miraculous sign was the first, and Jesus performed it at Cana in Galilee. In this way He let His glory appear, and His disciples believed in Him.