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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017 : Solemnity of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate a great feast and solemnity of the Church, honouring the Blessed Mother of God, Mary, most holy and ever virgin, the one whom God had entrusted to be the one to bear the Saviour of the world, and therefore, she was special among every other human beings, as one set aside by God to be the instrument of His salvation through Jesus Christ, her Son.

We must be wondering why is it that we as Catholics and as Christians celebrate and honour Mary as such? Why is it that we glorify her above every other human beings, even though she herself is also a human just like us? There are many out there who because of their misunderstandings and lack of knowledge about what we truly believe, about Mary and many other tenets of our faith, had criticised the holy Catholic faith, charging us falsely with idolatry of Mary.

Yet, if one truly understands what our faith is really about, they will indeed immediately see the errors of their ways and beliefs, and turn themselves to our faith. They will give honour to Mary, the mother of our Lord and God, Jesus Christ as we all have done. That is not because we glorify her as an equal to God or as a goddess in her own right, but rather because of her position as the mother of our Lord, God and Saviour.

In the historical times, especially from the traditions of the kingdom of Israel, the position of the mother of the king of Israel is a significant one, as what is also common in the other kingdoms and states in history. The queen mother has a significant place of honour, not because of her own authority and power, but because she is the mother of the king, the one who bore the king into the world, and the one who took care of the growth of the king.

If we honour our own mother, love her, and are grateful for all that she has done for us, in bringing us up, caring for us, and if we want to thank her and give her the best that we can give her, then it is the same case for the king, as shown in the time of the old kingdom of Israel, particularly shown as Solomon, the king, honoured his mother, Bathsheba greatly and put her place in a position of honour just beside his throne.

And thus, in the same manner, is it not then the same for the mother of our Lord and God, the King of all kings and the Master of the entire universe? Surely the Lord Jesus also honours His mother just as all of us honour our own mothers, and surely He has also given her a position of honour in heaven, close to His own throne, just as the kings of the ages past and the kings of Israel had honoured their own mothers?

This is the first reason why we celebrate this day, to honour the Mother of our God. However, that is not the only and main reason why we honour Mary. Indeed, on this day, the Scripture passages from the Vigil Mass and today's Mass focus on the role that Mary played as the bearer of the Messiah and the bearer of the One Who has established a new Covenant between God and mankind, sealed by His loving sacrifice on the cross.

Therefore, as the bearer of the Lord Jesus, the New Covenant He had established with us mankind, Mary is the new Ark of the Covenant, just as the first Ark of the Covenant bore inside it the Covenant of God, in the form of His laws, passed down through Moses, the manna that is the symbol of God's love in feeding His people throughout their journey through the desert. And in Jesus, is found God's laws and love personified, for He is the Law and He is Love.

If we read the Scriptures at the time of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant is a very precious and holy container of God's Law, which mortal eyes cannot ordinarily look upon or touch with bare hands, such that it was veiled from sight by a veil, and carried upon its poles to avoid touching the Ark directly. The Ark itself represents God's holy Presence in this world, and therefore, in the Temple of Jerusalem, it is placed in the innermost and holiest of all its places, the Holy of Holies.

Therefore, that is why the Lord created His Ark of the New Covenant, Mary as holy and precious, because she bore in her womb, in her very own body, the New Covenant of God, in Jesus Christ. And there lies not the two slabs of rock on which God wrote His Law, but the Law Himself, for God Himself had taken the flesh of Man, and descended into this world, the Real Presence of His Being in this world, contained within the womb of Mary, who therefore became the New Ark.

That was why Mary was conceived without the taint of original sin, immaculate and pure, set aside from among all the other mankind. For the original Ark was made by human hands using the precious metals and materials adorning the container of God's original Covenant. But, there can be no better Ark than the creation of God, perfect and good, as all of us humans have been crafted by none other than God Himself.

It was just that we have been tainted and corrupted by sin, and we have been made unworthy by those wickedness and sins. That is the reason why God, accordance to our faith and belief, as per the knowledge passed down to us from the time of the Apostles, created Mary immaculate and free from those sins, making her the perfect vessel for the Messiah and Saviour, Lord of lords and King of kings, as the Ark of the New Covenant.

That is thus the second reason why we honour Mary, as the greatest of all the saints and all human beings, that while she is still human and not divine, yet, because of her special place in the story of our salvation, she deserves the honour being not just the Mother of God, but also because of the virtue of that position, also the new Ark, of the New Covenant of God in Jesus Christ.

And Mary remained true and righteous throughout her life, living in accordance with what the Lord commanded and willed her to do. She submitted humbly to the will of God, made known to her through the Archangel Gabriel in Nazareth, and become therefore the Mother of God by her humble acceptance. And she walked faithfully, caring for her Son, and following Him even to the foot of the cross, seeing Him as He laid there, hung on the cross, dying for the sake of us all mankind.

Mary therefore, as I have just mentioned, is the greatest of all the saints, and is our greatest intercessor in heaven. She is also our role model in life, an example for us to follow in faith and in how we ought to dedicate ourselves to the Lord. This is all the more reason why we love Mary, and why we honour her, just as her own Son loved her and honoured her greatly.

And because of that, we come to the reason why we rejoice and celebrate in today's Solemnity, that of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary into heaven. First of all, we must be clear at what the Assumption is truly about. The Assumption does not equate with the Ascension of our Lord Jesus, a common misconception had by many, as in the Ascension, our Lord ascended in His own glory and by His own power into heaven, while in the Assumption, by the grace of God, Mary was assumed or taken up into heaven, in the body and soul.

The reason for the Assumption is none other than because all mankind have suffered death as a consequence for their sins and wickedness, and there is no one who can escape death. And while Christ is without sin, He willingly accepted death to free all of us mankind from the threat of eternal death, through His sacrifice on the cross.

And because He wanted to free mankind from death caused by their sins and their disobedience, it is only proper and right that He would want His own mother, who was conceived without sin, and had been righteous throughout her whole life, and as the holy Ark of the New Covenant, to be free from death, and not to fall into the same death that had claimed many others because of their sins. And hence, He gave her the grace, to be assumed body and soul into heaven, at the end of her earthly life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord Himself also said that the same thing will happen to us at the end of time, at the time of the Last Judgment when all of us will be brought up, in our glorified body and soul, into the eternal glory of heaven with God. Thus, as we celebrate this Solemnity of the Assumption today, it is also a foreshadowing of what will happen to us in the end, should we walk faithfully in the presence of God, and live in accordance with His will just as Mary had done.

On this joyful day, therefore, as we rejoice together with the whole Church, and honour the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary, let us all renew our commitment to live in accordance with the will of God, imitating the examples shown upon us by Mary herself, in how she devoted her whole life and committed herself thoroughly to the Lord, no matter what difficulties and challenges she had to face, even the pain and sorrow of seeing her own Son being tortured and crucified.

Let us all change our lives and turn ourselves completely to the Lord, shedding off our sinful ways of life and all the wickedness and selfishness we have committed in life thus far, so that we may truly be worthy of the Lord, and in the end, we will also be worthy of living an eternity of joy and happiness, when the Lord will bring us up in body and soul to His heavenly glory at the end of time.

Let us ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, she who has been assumed into heaven, and upon whom the Lord had bestowed the honorary title of the Queen of Heaven, the queen mother of all the universe, for she is indeed the closest to the throne of her Son in heaven, and as she had made known to us through her various apparitions, she is always constantly praying for us, for all of us sinners still living in this world. O Blessed Virgin Mary, Assumed into your glory in heaven, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017 : 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.