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.

Sunday, 15 August 2021 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday is truly a special occasion for all of us, as not only that we celebrate the Sunday of the Lord, but by coincidence on this fifteenth day of August, as is every year, we also celebrate the great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which marks the moment when Mary, the Holy Mother of God was ‘assumed’ into the glory of Heaven, body and soul, and therefore, in some way, did not suffer fully the embrace of death, by the unique singular grace of God, her Son, Our Lord and Saviour.

This Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is one of the four important Dogmas or core tenets of the faith with regards to Mary, together with the Dogma of the Theotokos or the Divine Motherhood of Mary, the Dogma of the Perpetual Virginity of Mary and finally the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. The Dogma of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary is an affirmation of the long-held belief of the Church since the earliest times, declared official by Pope Pius XII in the year of Our Lord 1950, in his. ‘Ex Cathedra’ proclamation and the Papal Bull Munificentissimus Deus.

First of all, the Assumption is not equivalent to the Ascension of the Lord, as how some had misunderstood, thinking that we believe in Mary’s ‘Ascension’ into heaven. The Ascension of the Lord refers to how the Lord Jesus ascended by His own power and might, to sit on His Throne in Heaven, returning from where He had come from, and to prepare the place for us all, the faithful people of God. Meanwhile, the Assumption refers to the moment when Mary, by the grace and the power of God, was taken up into Heaven, not on her own accord.

There lies the difference between Our Lord’s Ascension and His mother’s Assumption, a difference that seems to be minute and yet, very important, lest we misunderstand them and like for some, causing them to have the wrong impression and idea about the true Christian faith, especially among some of our separated brethren, who held wrong ideas and false perception of what the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

In the same manner, all of us also must know what the Assumption is all about and how significant it is to our faith. Many among us Christians are still having misconceptions about our own faith, having misunderstandings and doing the wrong practices, and showing the wrong identity of the faith, with regards to our devotion to Mary and the other saints. That is why we have to understand clearly what the Assumption is all about, that we may indeed become genuine witnesses of our faith to many others.

Mary has been chosen by God to be the special Vessel and to be the New Ark, of the New Covenant between God and all of us. As such, she has been given the special grace of being conceived without the taint of original sin, which we celebrate as the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, as the pure and immaculate Vessel, conceived and then born without sin or any subjugation to it, free from its influences unlike that of any other human beings, save that of her own Son, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour.

Therefore, having been so prepared to be the New Ark of the New Covenant, far better than the old Ark, which was sacrosanct and holy, therefore, Mary, who bore in her womb, the Lord and Saviour Himself, ought not to have been subjected to the punishment and suffering of death. Why is that so? That is because death is the punishment and consequence of sin, and if Mary had not been tainted or corrupted by sin, then death has no hold over her at all.

Yet, with regards to the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, also known in the Eastern Church traditions as the Dormition of the Theotokos, there are two main schools of thoughts regarding what actually happened at the moment of the Assumption. One stated that since Mary as the one who had been free from the taint of sin and as the Mother of the Saviour of all, then she must have completely been free from death, and therefore, was raised up into heavenly glory, in body and soul, that she entered Heaven and is no longer in the world.

Then, another school of thought stated that Mary did go through death, just like any others, because she shared in her Son’s Passion and death, and she died just as her Son also died, but not because of a punishment for her own sins. Therefore, that death was merely symbolic and in the end, whether she died or went into the sleep of death as per the Eastern tradition of the Dormition of the Theotokos, Mary went body and soul up into Heaven. Hence, regardless whether she actually died, went through death or any experience of death, Mary is now in Heaven, and that is what truly matters.

Then, brothers and sisters in Christ, how is this crucial for us? How is it important for us to appreciate this celebration of the Assumption of Mary, the Blessed ever-Virgin Mother of God? Mary’s Assumption into Heaven first of all is an assurance for us that we have someone who is always ever constantly praying for us, and who intercedes for us directly beside the Throne of her Son. For Mary is indeed the greatest of all the saints, and the one closest to Our Lord Himself, as is she not His mother? Just like the occasion of the miracle of the wedding at Cana, even the Lord would still listen to the words of His loving mother.

And that is not all, brothers and sisters in Christ, for in the Assumption of Mary, we also see the promise of new life and existence that we ourselves are going to experience in the time to come, as we will also be raised to Heaven, body and soul, at the end of time, when the final judgment comes, and our souls shall be reunited fully with our bodies, glorified, purified and blessed, that we may enjoy forever, with Mary, and with all the saints, the glory and true joy of Heaven with God forevermore.

Through the Assumption of the Holy Mother of God, all of us are called to examine our own lives, and how we have lived them thus far. Have we been truly faithful to God in all things? Or have we instead allowed the temptations and the allures of worldly pleasures to distract us and mislead us down the wrong path? These are just some of things and questions that we should consider carefully, as we celebrate this great Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, being reminded that if we sin, and do not repent from those sins, then death is the consequence, and there can be nothing worse than to be judged to eternal death and suffering.

Let us all therefore aspire to reject the path of sinfulness and evil, rejecting wickedness and disobedient attitudes in life. Instead, let us all look upon Mary, our loving mother and inspiration, that we may be more like her in faith, dedication and love for God, and be righteous in all of our dealings and actions. We are all called to be role models ourselves, and to be faithful and good witnesses of our Christian beliefs and faith in the midst of our respective communities.

Are we willing and able to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is something that each and every one of us are certainly capable of doing, but more often than not we did not do so because we spent more time on worldly pursuits and in satisfying our personal desires, that we could not even spare a thought or effort to commit ourselves sincerely and with conviction. Hence, this Sunday, as we celebrate this great occasion of the Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us all remind ourselves to be ever more committed to the Lord, and to do our very best to follow the Lord and to serve Him, and to live faithfully in accordance to His will from now on.

May the Lord bless us all and remain with us throughout this journey of life, and may His blessed mother, Mary, who has been assumed, body and soul, into the glory of Heaven, continue to intercede for us sinners, and be our constant source of strength and inspiration in how we live our lives as Christians from now on. Holy Mary, Mother of God, assumed into Heaven, pray for us sinners now, and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Sunday, 15 August 2021 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 39-56

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 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! 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.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Sunday, 15 August 2021 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 Corinthians 15 : 20-27

But no, Christ has been raised from the dead, and He comes before all those who have fallen asleep. A human being brought death; a Human Being also brings resurrection of the dead. For, as in Adam all die, so, in Christ, all will be made alive. However, each one in his own time : first Christ, then Christ’s people, when He comes.

Then, the end will come, when Christ delivers the kingdom to God the Father, after having destroyed every rule, authority and power. For He must reign and put all enemies under His feet. The last enemy to be destroyed will be death. As Scripture says : God has subjected everything under His feet.

When we say that everything is put under His feet, we exclude, of course, the Father, Who subjects everything to Him. As Scripture says : God has subjected everything under His feet. When we say that everything is put under His feet, we exclude, of course, the Father, Who subjects everything to Him.

Sunday, 15 August 2021 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 44 : 10bc, 11, 12ab, 16

At your right hand, in gold of Ophir, stands the queen.

Listen, o daughter, pay attention; forget your father’s house and your nation.

And your beauty will charm the King, for He is your Lord.

Amid cheers and general rejoicing, they enter the palace of the King.