Thursday, 31 December 2015 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day all of us are asked to reflect on the joy which we have and with which we celebrate the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ in this Christmas season. Each of us should reflect on today’s Scripture readings in order to understand in greater depth how significant this celebration of Christmas is for all of us.

This reading used to be read at the end of every Mass as what is known as the Last Gospel, for the very purpose that, the whole Mass itself, the entire celebration of our Faith and the whole purpose of the Church, and the very fact why we rejoice in this Christmas and have a hope in God and the eternal life which He promised us, is because of what had been written and revealed in that passage from the first chapter of the Gospel according to St. John.

Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour was not created by God, and neither should He be counted to be among the created ones of God. Even though He is fully and completely Man, but He was not created by God, as He is different. He has existed before everything was made, and indeed, He existed before the world and before the beginning of time, for He is God, and He was God, and He will be always God.

He is the Word of God, the Word of Creation, the one and inseparable aspect of the Lord, which in our understanding, exists as one and only God, but with Three distinct Godheads or Aspects, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, all of Whom are united in perfect love and harmony, such that although they are distinct from each other, but they cannot be separated from each other without diminishing the fullness of God’s greatness and glory.

The Word of God has made Himself into Flesh, the Flesh of Man. He was the Word that was with God, Who is God, and through Whom God created this world, all of creation, all of us mankind and everything that ever was, is, and will ever be. And it is the same Word, Who had come into this world, assuming the flesh of Man, and through the intermediary of the Blessed Virgin Mary, His mother, He was born into this world, an event we celebrate as Christmas.

This is very important as, before He came into this world, He is intangible, untouchable and distant, but God Who loves us all greatly and tenderly, desired for all of us to be reunited with Him and to be with Him in the union of perfect love, and therefore, through Jesus, He made Himself tangible, touchable, and now we can see in Him, the fullness of His love, and indeed, of our own future of happiness and eternal life together with Him.

Through Jesus our Lord, we have seen the very personification of God’s love and mercy. He has provided us this act of ultimate mercy, giving us the new and perfect opportunity to be reconciled with God. He has done everything for our sake, that all of us may be rescued from the abyss of darkness and damnation in hell. Shall we not therefore give our love and devotion to Him as well then?

Let us today reflect on the examples of the faithful servant of God, whose feast we are celebrating today, namely Pope St. Silvester I, the Bishop of Rome and leader of the Universal Church who lived and reigned as Pope during a time of great change in the Church and in the world. Pope St. Silvester I was among the first Popes to have led the Church after the official toleration of the Faith by the Edict of Milan in the year 313 AD, and he led the Church through a time of great renewal.

Pope St. Silvester I led the Church through a time of great building of many churches and basilicas, and many people flocked to the Church as never before. Many professed the faith and became believers, and Pope St. Silvester I and his good leadership and role model in faith helped ensure more and more souls being saved through the good works God had done through His Church.

As we all embark on this last day of the old year and as we rejoice in welcoming the beginning of the new year tomorrow, let us all also follow in the examples of Pope St. Silvester I and the other holy saints of God, so that we may usher in the beginning of a new year to be filled with the fullness of God’s love and our faith in Him. This is the time for us to make our new year’s resolution, that is to abandon our old ways of sin and wickedness, and embrace fully the ways of the Lord.

May Almighty God bless us all, and may He bless our coming new year, so that His blessings may fill that year with much grace, and all of us may look up to the coming of the new year of hope, and be ever more faithful and be more devoted to our Lord and God. God be with us all. Amen.

Thursday, 31 December 2015 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

John 1 : 1-18

In the beginning was the Word. And the Word was with God and the Word was God; He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing came to be. Whatever has come to be, found life in Him; life, which for human beings, was also light, light that shines in darkness, light that darkness could not overcome.

A man came, sent by God; his name was John. He came to bear witness as a witness to introduce the Light, so that all might believe through him. He was not the Light, but a witness to introduce the Light; for the Light was coming into the world, the true Light that enlightens everyone.

He was in the world, and through Him the world was made, the very world that did not know Him. He came to His own, yet His own people did not receive Him; but to all who received Him, He empowers to become children of God, for they believe in His Name.

These are born, but not by seed, or carnal desire, nor by the will of man : they are born of God. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us; and we have seen His glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father : fullness of truth and loving kindness.

John bore witness to Him openly, saying, “This is the One who comes after me, but He is already ahead of me, for He was before me.” From His fullness we have all received, favour upon favour. For God had given us the Law through Moses, but Truth and Loving kindness came through Jesus Christ.

No one has ever seen God, but God-the-Only-Son made Him known : the One, Who is in and with the Father.

Thursday, 31 December 2015 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 11-12a, 12b-13

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

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 the Lord Who comes to judge the earth. He will rule the world with justice and the peoples with fairness.

Thursday, 31 December 2015 : Seventh Day within Octave of Christmas, Memorial of Pope St. Silvester I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

1 John 2 : 18-21

My dear children, it is the last hour. You were told that an antichrist would come : but several antichrists have already come, by which we know that it is now the last hour.

They went out from us though they did not really belong to us, they would have remained with us. So it became clear that not all of us were really ours. But you have the anointing from the Holy One, so that all of you have true wisdom.

I write to you, not because you lack knowledge of the truth, but because you already know it, and lies have nothing in common with the truth.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, you may notice that the vestments, the altar cloth and the colours used today is different from the usual one used during the Advent season, that is, instead of the usual violet, the colour used today is rose. And there are only two occasions in the whole year when the colour rose is used, that is during today, the Gaudete Sunday, and then on one time during the Lenten season, that is the Laetare Sunday.

This Sunday is called the Gaudete Sunday because of the first words of the Antiphon for this Sunday, the Third Sunday of Advent, which in Latin sounds as “Gaudete in Domino semper…” which then translates to “Rejoice in the Lord always…” and thus, this Sunday we celebrate the aspect of joy of the Advent season, out of the four aspects of faith, hope, joy and love.

On this Sunday, the use of rose as the colour of the occasion mark a brief pause in the penitential nature of the season of Advent. The colour violet represent the time of renewal, of change, of introspection and of repentance from sins, the time of preparation in order to prepare ourselves well to be able to meaningfully celebrate with full participation, the occasion of Christmas, for the season of Advent, and the occasion of Easter for the season of Lent.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, indeed, during this season of Lent, it is a time for us to be prepared and be ready to celebrate Christmas with the true direction and orientation of the heart, and that is why we always have a confession and penitential session scheduled before the coming of Christmas during the Advent, so that having had our sins confessed and forgiven, we may truly and joyfully rejoice at the Lord’s coming and celebrate His majestic birth into the world.

But it does not mean that this season should be filled with gloom and darkness, or with sadness and despair. Instead, in this season, it means that it is important for us to discover the true joy that we ought to have and celebrate in the upcoming time of Christmas. What we have to be careful is that, on one side, we should not be so afraid and fearful so as to forget the joy we ought to have, and on the other side, we should not have the wrong kind of joy to celebrate this Christmas.

It is very easy for us to be distracted during this season, to be joyful for the wrong reasons. As I have often explained, during the time of Christmas, and even during the time preceding it, many of us became trapped by the commercial and materialistic excesses of how the world celebrate Christmas, through all the goods and secular celebrations that go on to exclude Christ from the celebrations that should have been centred on Him.

Christmas is a time for joy and celebration, and yet in our revelry and merrymaking, we often forget for whom it is that we rejoice, that is not just for ourselves individually, but as the whole creation of the Lord, joining our voices and praises together to our God, through Whom, our salvation had been made possible. It was through His commitment and dedication to us, His love for us, that we have hope for salvation.

Yes, as we speak of joy today during this moment of the Gaudete Sunday, it is truly perfect and very proper indeed to speak of the one true joy, that is Christ Who is our Joy. If we forget about the Joy of Christmas, then we can just forget about the entirety of the celebrations that we make during the time of Christmas, as our celebrations would be empty and meaningless.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day, let us all reflect and look deep into our own lives, and especially into our own preparation for the coming of Christmas. Do we truly have Joy in us? And why did I stress on Joy? That is because of the fact that our joy lies not in money, possessions, goods or in the things that the world can give, for these do not give us true and everlasting joy.

Instead, it is only in the Lord our God, that we can find true and lasting Joy, a joy that transcends everything and is beyond anything and any other joys that we can find. But sadly, in the midst of our enjoying of the joys and the happiness that the world offers us, we conveniently and easily forgets about Him, through Whom we may have lasting joy, and instead we often choose to take shortcuts in finding joy.

So let us ask ourselves, shall we continue on our own path as per usual, immersing ourselves completely in the festivities of Christmas without fully understanding what Christmas is truly about? Or shall we start to make a difference to our own lives, by discovering that no matter how many gifts we give or receive, or how many gifts and presents we exchanged with each other, no matter the amount of decorations we put around the Christmas tree and in our houses, the joy of Christmas is truly not in all of these.

No, it is not wrong to do all these, but we have to realise that all these are just like the icing of a cake, the ornaments and the decorations that can be excluded if necessary, but not the matter of the cake itself. For a cake that has no matter of the cake, that is the baked mixture of the flour, sugar, egg and other components is not a cake, and an icing without a cake inside, does not constitute a cake.

Thus, our Christmas joys and celebrations must be centred upon the essence of Christmas itself, Who is none other than Jesus, our Lord. He is the One Whom we are celebrating this Christmas, for it was the day of His birth into this world, a Saviour long awaited by the world long suffering in the darkness, that through His Light, a new hope arises again in the hearts of men.

So, as we celebrate and rejoice, let us keep our Lord Jesus Christ at the heart of our joyous celebration, and just as our Lord Jesus would do, let us all share the joy and happiness that we have with us, so that we do not selfishly keep whatever blessings have been given to us, and share them with those who have less or none. And if we are afraid that our joy will be less, then perhaps we should heed the wise words, “Shared joys are double joys.”

Therefore, let us all on this Gaudete Sunday, rejoice and exult in the presence of our God. And let us all find a renewed energy and commitment to be joyful, not just for ourselves, but for each and every one of us, and not for the goods of this world or for all the pleasures that they can offer us, but rather because we know that through Christ, we have been made whole and freed from all taints of sin. May God our Joy bless us all and strengthen us in our faith towards Him. Amen.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Luke 3 : 10-18

At that time, the people asked John the Baptist, “What are we to do?” And John answered, “If you have two coats, give one to the person who has none; and if you have food, do the same.”

Even tax collectors came to be baptised, and asked him, “Master, what must we do?” John said to them, “Collect no more than your fixed rate.”

People serving as soldiers asked John, “What about us? What are we to do?” And he answered, “Do not take anything by force, or threaten the people by denouncing them falsely. Be content with your pay.”

The people were wondering about John’s identity, “Could he be the Messiah?” Then John answered them, “I baptise you with water; but the One Who is coming will do much more : He will baptise you with Holy Spirit and fire. As for me, I am not worthy to untie His sandal. He comes with a winnowing fan to clear His threshing floor and gather the grain into his barn. But the chaff He will burn with fire that never goes out.”

With these words and many other words John announced the Good News to the people.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Philippians 4 : 4-7

Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again : rejoice and may everyone experience your gentle and understanding heart. The Lord is near : do not be anxious about anything. In everything resort to prayer and supplication together with thanksgiving and bring your requests before God.

Then the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Isaiah 12 : 2-3, 4bcd, 5-6

He is the God of my salvation; in Him I trust and am not afraid, YHVH is my strength : Him I will praise, the One who saved me. You will draw water with joy from the very fountain of salvation.

Praise to the Lord, break into songs of joy for Him, proclaim His marvellous deeds among the nations and exalt His Name.

Sing to the Lord : wonders He has done. Let these be known all over the earth. Sing for joy, o people of Zion, for great in your midst is the Holy One of Israel.

Sunday, 13 December 2015 : Third Sunday of Advent, Gaudete Sunday, Memorial of St. Lucy, Virgin and Martyr (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or Rose (Gaudete Sunday)

Zephaniah 3 : 14-18a

Cry out with joy, o daughter of Zion; rejoice, o people of Israel! Sing joyfully with all your heart, daughter of Jerusalem! YHVH has lifted your sentence and has driven your enemies away. YHVH, the King of Israel is with you; do not fear any misfortune.

On that day they will say to Jerusalem : Do not be afraid nor let your hands tremble, for YHVH your God is within you, YHVH, saving Warrior. He will jump for joy on seeing you, for He has revived His love. For you He will cry out with joy, as you do in the days of the Feast. I will drive away the evil I warned you about.

Tuesday, 3 February 2015 : 4th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Blaise, Bishop and Martyr, and St. Ansgar, Bishop (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or Red (Martyrs) or White (Bishops)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we hear about the healing which Jesus performed to the woman who had bleeding in her for twelve years, and also the resurrection of the dead daughter of a synagogue official. And both of them have a great significance for us, as they were both saved and healed because of their faith.

The woman was healed from her bleeding because she believed that Jesus had the power to free her from her afflictions, while the daughter of the official was healed because her father also showed the same faith in the power and authority of Jesus. What Jesus told the woman is important, as He said that the woman’s faith had saved her. This showed that we must have faith in the Lord in order for us to achieve salvation.

However, people tend to interpret this differently, thinking and assuming that faith alone is sufficient for us to attain salvation and liberation from all of our afflictions. Some were misled by the confusion to think that we just need to have faith and to believe in the Lord, and then all of our problem will be gone, and all of our difficulties will cease. But this is a wrong idea, an erroneous thinking and a heresy planted in our minds by Satan.

Our Lord Himself, as the first reading from the Epistle to the Hebrews had testified, is the founder of the Faith we have now, not just because He preached what He had preached, and not just because of all the words and things which He had mentioned and taught to His disciples, but even more importantly, Jesus Himself practiced and made true what He had taught and preached in His own actions.

He persevered and suffered grievously for all of our sins, and He bore that cross that is our sins, holding onto it as He ascended the hills of Calvary, and every single wounds He received is our sins that He patiently and lovingly bore upon Himself. What does this mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Our Lord loves us all very much, and He wants us all to be saved. He had faith in us all being able to overcome sin, but without action, everything would come to naught.

And that was why, He showed us all the example through His own action, that faith is never complete without action and deed to prove that faith, and without action based on that faith, the faith is essentially dead. The woman with bleeding believed in Jesus, but had she not taken the action to come through the numerous crowd and try her best to touch the cloak of Jesus, she would not have been healed.

It was also the same for the daughter of Jairus, the synagogue official. Had Jairus not make the effort to come down and seek the Lord Jesus, he would not have received the reward for his faith, even though he was indeed faithful to the Lord. Thus, our faith requires effort, a conscious effort and work, which is our faith made alive and real.

Indeed, we cannot profess that we are truly faithful to the Lord, if we had not done anything to show that we are indeed faithful. Therefore, let us all from now on, change our ways and be truly faithful, just as today we celebrate the feast of two saints of the Church, namely St. Blaise and St. Ansgar, the faithful servants of God, whose examples hopefully may inspire us all.

St. Blaise was renowned as the patron saint of throat diseases, and we know of him now primarily because of the custom of the blessing of the throat, also known as St. Blaise’s blessing, with two crossed candles on our throats. St. Blaise was once a physician that cured and healed diseases, but he then settled on in the greater service of God and His people and instead he became the physician of souls.

The works of St. Blaise in calling the people of God to repentance and to a holy lifestyle is a constant reminder to all of us, that we are all always afflicted with the disease of the soul, that is sin, and we have to seek remedy for this affliction, that is by seeking the Lord our God with faith, and by doing what He had commanded us to do, as doing good deeds for others around us is a panacea and medicine against the sickness of sin.

Meanwhile, St. Ansgar showed us that we have much to do as the fellow servants of God, in doing good for one another and in calling many people from the darkness of the world into the Light. St. Ansgar was truly experienced in this as he lived during the early Medieval era Europe, in the midst of the people still gripped by pagan worship and pagan gods, and he was indeed sent to those people to bring the Light of Christ upon them.

St. Ansgar tirelessly worked to bring the Good News and the truth of Christ to them. Amidst all the difficulties and challenges, he managed to convert countless souls and gained them for the Lord, for their own benefit as well. And this should inspire us all to take up the same cross, the same mission to bring more and more people to the salvation in the Lord.

May our Almighty God be with us all, guide us all in our ways that we may always be upright in His eyes and at the end of the days, may we all find salvation and justification in Him, the One who rewards all His faithful with the abundance of graces. God bless us all. Amen.