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.”

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Church celebrates together the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating one of the four great Marian Dogmas of the Church, namely the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, Mary. What does this Immaculate Conception actually mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Quite a few of us still do not have the right understanding of what this celebration and event actually means.

We celebrate this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on the eighth day of December, and it is related to another celebration, exactly nine months later, on the eighth day of September, that is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is where people often confuse between the term ‘nativity’ and ‘conception’. While the former means birth, that is the moment when a baby is born into the world, out of his or her mother’s womb, the latter means the moment when life is conceived, from a father and a mother, in the womb of the mother, which is ideally nine months before the date of birth, as in humans pregnancy lasts for approximately nine months.

Therefore, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary focuses on that very important, unique and pivotal moment when Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, as the child of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. And the word ‘Immaculate’ has the meaning of pure and blameless, referring to the state in which Mary was conceived, free from the taints and corruptions of original sin.

Why is this significant, brothers and sisters in Christ? First, let us all examine what is this original sin that has just been mentioned. For those who are not sure what original sin is all about, it is the original and first sin of our ancestors’ disobedience as elaborated in our first reading today from the Book of Genesis. Surely all of us know the story of how Satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, the first woman and companion of the first man, Adam, to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord had specifically ordered man not to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Satan tempted them with many false promises of power and knowledge, glory and greatness, saying that if man were to eat of the fruits they would be like God and they would not perish unlike what the Lord had said. And through these sweet lies and tempting words, Satan led mankind down the path of disobedience, and through disobedience, sin entered into the hearts, minds and souls of man.

Ever since then, our human nature had been tainted by the corruption of sin, this original sin of Adam and Eve, the disobedience of man against their Creator, Lord and Master. They opened the floodgates that allowed sin to enter into us and enslave us, ruling over us and having dominion over us. And it was also because of sin that we have been cast out of the Gardens of Eden and having to endure suffering in the world, and eventually death.

Thus, through temptation, the first man and woman fell into sin and brought the whole race of mankind into sin and death. This is what original sin is all about. But if we notice, just as the Lord proclaimed the punishment due to sin in our first reading today, He also proclaimed at the same time, what would happen in the far future, that God would save His people and crush Satan who caused man to fall.

He said that while Satan would ‘strike at the heel of man’, meaning that all these while he has been trying hard to destroy us, by means of persuasion, coercion, trickery and temptations, but through the Woman, God will defeat Satan, and the Woman shall crush the head of Satan, a figurative expression of what would come to fulfilment in Mary and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And therefore, yes, Mary is the Woman mentioned by God, as the one through whom God would send His deliverance to His beloved people. Despite all of our sins, God’s love for us still endures, and that is why, He is willing to lift us up from our downfallen state, and He always seeks to be reconciled with us and to forgive us all our many sins. He did it all by sending none other than His own Begotten Son, the Word of God and the Son, into this world.

And the Word was made Flesh, according to the Gospel of St. John, and dwelled among man, and this is our core belief, that God Himself has assumed the body and essence of man, our human nature, that in the person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, exist two distinct yet inseparable natures of divine and human. And as all humans are, He is to be born of a mother, and this mother is none other than Mary.

However, because this Man is not just like any other man but God Himself incarnate in the flesh, there can be no taints or corruption of sin around Him. This can also be alluded commonly in the Ark of the Covenant of the time of the Old Testament and ancient Israel, where the Ark of the Covenant bears the Law of God, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the heavenly manna and the rod of Aaron, as the symbol of God’s presence among His people.

If we refer to the Books of Exodus and other books of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the most precious materials available to man, and it was hallowed and blessed by God, placed in the holiest part of the Tent of Meeting before the Temple of Jerusalem was built, and then in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. When the Ark was transported during the time of king David, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark was struck down, highlighting just how holy and special that Ark was.

And imagine then that there is this New Ark, crafted by the hands of God Himself, a Woman, prepared specially for this very purpose of containing the New Covenant between God and mankind. Christ, through His Passion, suffering and death has established that New Covenant between God and man, and because of that, His mother, Mary in whose womb the Lord dwelled for nine months before His birth at Christmas, is truly the New Ark of the Covenant, far greater than the old Ark of the Covenant.

That is why, coupled with the fact that God cannot coexist with sin and no sin can be in the presence of God, the Lord specifically set Mary aside from among all other sons and daughters of mankind, and by a singular grace, according to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was preserved from original sin, and was conceived without any taints of sin at all, free from that original sin and therefore is ‘Immaculate’ from the moment of her conception, right through her birth, and according to our faith, she remained free from sin and in perfect state of grace throughout her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Mary we have seen the coming of the Saviour, through her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born from her womb, she who is the New Ark of the Covenant, pure and blameless. And she is the terror of Satan and the demons, as through her, the Lord’s promise of Satan’s defeat has come true, crushing the head and pride of this wicked devil. But not only that, brothers and sisters in Christ, but Mary through her faith and complete obedience to God has shown us what we ourselves need to do as Christians in our lives.

Why is that so? That is because we must not forget that we ourselves are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Houses of God’s Holy Presence. We have received the Lord into ourselves, especially through the Eucharist, the Lord in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, His very essence into ourselves. Mary has kept herself faithful and she has devoted herself completely to the Lord, throughout her life, as challenging and difficult it had been for her. If she could do it, then we can do our best to follow in her examples too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate in today’s great celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us all therefore rejoice because God’s salvation has come to us through Mary, our beloved Mother, by her Son Jesus Christ. And through her example as the New Ark of the Covenant, let us all as God’s holy people, also be faithful in our own respective lives, that we show exemplary Christian attitudes and actions at all times, in our world today.

O Most Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, New Ark of the Covenant and the Immaculate Conception, pray for us all your sons and daughters who are sinners, and guide us all to your Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Help us to follow the Lord and remain faithful to Him as you have done. May God bless us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : 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.