Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we celebrate the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a very popular devotion to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, who appeared approximately five hundred years ago in the area that is now Mexico, at the site where now a great Basilica built in honour of Our Lady of Guadalupe now stands. Today let us reflect on the many wonders which we mankind have received through her intercession.

At that time, during the early years of Spanish America, Our Lady chose to appear to a local native, St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin, whose feast day we celebrated just a few days ago. At that time, she made her appearance on a hill known as the Tepeyac hill to St. John Diego, who then related her apparition and message to the local bishop. The local bishop was skeptical of St. John Diego’s account and wanted a proof of her authentic apparition.

Therefore, as Our Lady of Guadalupe appeared again to St. John Diego, she asked him to gather some flowers from the spot she pointed out on the hill, which were miraculous, as those flowers, Castilian flowers, were not existent at that part of the world. St. John Diego gathered the flowers in the cloak that he was wearing, called a tilma, and brought the flowers as a sign and proof to the bishop.

When St. John Diego came to the bishop and presented the miraculous flowers to him, what amazed the bishop much more and to his great surprise was that the very image of Our Lady of Guadalupe was imprinted on the tilma or cloak that St. John Diego was wearing. Many people came to believe in this miracle and apparition, and came to greater devotion to God through His mother, who appeared as Our Lady of Guadalupe. The Pope eventually recognised this apparition as authentic, and great devotion to Our Lady of Guadalupe had continued ever since.

Today, as we recall this great apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Guadalupe, we should take note how Mary appeared many times to many different people, at Guadalupe, at Lourdes, at Fatima, and at many other places as deemed authentic by the Holy See. And all these apparitions were in fact ways through which Mary, the great Mother of God, is still ever active trying to bring us all, her adopted children, towards reconciliation and salvation in her Son, Our God.

For Mary has a special role in our salvation, and the Church has recognised her as the co-Redemptrix of mankind. It was not that she by her own power has saved mankind, but rather, it was through her that God made His salvation to be able to reach out to us. Her obedience and willingness to be part of God’s plan of salvation for us mankind has brought forth the Saviour into this world, just as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah.

Our Lord Himself has also entrusted all of us mankind to her, symbolically represented as He entrusted St. John the Evangelist to her, and at the same time entrusting her to his care. Through this, all of us have been made to be her children, as Jesus her Son, is also our Brother. As she has now been assumed to Heaven, to sit at the side of her Son, she is the greatest of all our intercessors, constantly praying for our sake. And this is also why she frequently appeared to us, appealing for us to repent from our sins and change our lives.

She loves each and every one of us mankind, just as she loved her Son Jesus with all of her loving heart. Every man and woman who died with sins unforgiven and unrepentant are in danger of eternal damnation, and is sorrowful for her. Remember, brothers and sisters in Christ, that she was with her Son throughout His Passion, as He walked the path to Calvary, bearing the heavy burden of the cross and our sins. Just as she was sorrowful because of the suffering endured by her Son, she is also sorrowful for all the souls who will endure eternal damnation and suffering because of their sins.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate and rejoice in the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe today, let us also then remember to reflect about our own lives and actions. Have we been truly faithful to God in all of our actions? Or have we rather allowed ourselves to fall into sin, and forgetting God and all of His love for us? Many of us have lapsed from our faith, and have not been active in practicing our faith in God, and we have allowed ourselves to be busy with worldly matters and forgetting about God.

In this season of Advent, during this time of preparation for the celebration of Christmas therefore, we need to prepare ourselves, our hearts and minds, our bodies and our souls, our whole beings, to be able to celebrate Christmas worthily and understand better its importance for our salvation. Christmas is the celebration of Our Lord’s birth and entry into this world, as the Light of the world that dawned and pierced through the darkness of this world.

And as the Church teaches us, the best way to reach out to the Lord, Our Light, is through His Mother, Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe, who constantly appeared to mankind, in order to guide us all to her Son. It is imperative therefore, that we make whatever opportunity that we have been given, this very life, to reach out to the Lord, and humbly seeks His mercy and forgiveness for our sins, that we may come to be worthy of His eternal glory.

We should follow the examples of our holy and devout predecessors, the saints, in the examples of their lives. And there is no greater example than Mary herself, whose obedience and adherence to God’s will, whose commitment of love for her Son, Our Lord, made it possible for salvation to come to us from God. We are all now called to follow in her footsteps, that she may lead us all down the path towards salvation and eternal life.

May the Lord continue to bless each and every one of us, and may His blessed mother, Our Lady of Guadalupe continue to intercede for us sinners still living in this world. May all of us strive to be ever more committed to serve the Lord in all of our ways, and repent from our sins, that we may draw ever closer to God and His grace, and be worthy of the glory of eternal life. O Blessed Mother of God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, pray for us. Amen.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Matthew 18 : 12-14

At that time, Jesus said to His disciples, “What do you think of this? If someone has a hundred sheep and one of them strays, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the hillside, and go to look for the stray one? And I tell you, when he finally finds it, he is more pleased about it, than about the ninety-nine that did not go astray.”

“It is the same with your Father in heaven. Your Father in heaven does not want even one of these little ones to perish.”

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Luke 1 : 39-47

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 the 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!”

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Psalm 95 : 1-2, 3 and 10ac, 11-12a, 12b-13

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

Recall His glory among the nations, tell all the peoples His wonderful deeds. Say among the nations, “He will judge the peoples with justice.”

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

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-8

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more.

The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone. YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up.

YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts. He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour. The earth to its pillars belongs to YHVH and on them He has set the world.

Tuesday, 12 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Our Lady of Guadalupe (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 40 : 1-11

Be comforted, My people, be strengthened, says your God. Speak to the heart of Jerusalem, proclaim to her that her time of bondage is at an end, that her guilt has been paid for, that from the hand of YHVH she has received double punishment for all her iniquity.

A voice cries, “In the wilderness prepare the way for YHVH. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley will be raised up; every mountain and hill will be laid low. The stumbling blocks shall become level and the rugged places smooth. The glory of YHVH will be revealed, and all mortals together will see it; for the mouth of YHVH has spoken.”

A voice says, “Cry.” and I say, “What shall I cry?” “All flesh is grass, and all its beauty as the flower of the field. The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of YHVH blows upon it. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will forever stand.”

Go up onto the high mountain, messenger of Good News to Zion, lift up your voice with strength, fear not to cry aloud when you tell Jerusalem and announce to the cities of Judah : Here is your God! Here comes YHVH Sabaoth with might; His strong arm rules for Him; His reward is with Him, and here before Him is His booty. Like a shepherd He tends His flock : He gathers the lambs in His arms, He carries them in His bosom, gently leading those that are with young.

Alternative reading (Mass of Our Lady of Guadalupe)

Isaiah 7 : 10-14 and Isaiah 8 : 10c

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, for God-is-with-us.”

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scriptures that first of all showed us the nature of our loving God towards us, from the book of the prophet Isaiah. Isaiah showed the prophecy of God’s love for His people, in how He will guide all of them back towards His grace, and will no longer be separated from them.

As we proceed through this season of Advent, approaching the time of Christmas, let us all use the time provided for us in order to reflect on our lives and on our actions. Many of us have fallen away from God’s grace and walked in the path of sin. We have not put God as the focus of our lives, but rather, we become distracted with the many temptations of life.

We have become like lost sheep, scattered and having no idea where to go, just like the people described by Jesus in the Gospel passage today, as ‘sheep who are without a shepherd’. And thus, at that time, because there were so many people who had become wayward in their ways and sinned, they have lost direction in their lives and sought the Lord to bring them back to the way of truth.

The Lord Who loves each and every one of His people had mercy on them, and had pity because He saw those people who would be doomed to damnation should they continue in their present path. Thus, if we read through the Gospels, the Lord spent a lot of time teaching the people and calling them to abandon their old ways of sin and embrace God’s ways.

But at the same time, He also mentioned how the labourers are few while the harvest is plentiful. This means that, while there are indeed vast potential for God’s work and grace to be done among the people, with many souls waiting to be saved, yet there are only few people who are willing to step forward and take up the mantle of the hard work of those who serve the Lord and preach His Good News.

What does all these mean for us, brothers and sisters in Christ? It means that first of all, each and every one of us should do our best to turn towards the Lord, and especially during this season of Advent, we are constantly reminded of the need to prepare ourselves for the eventual coming of the Lord Jesus and also eventually the final Judgment. We should do our best to prepare ourselves physically, mentally and spiritually, by turning away from sin, resisting the temptations to sin, and by doing what is right in the sight of God.

However, that is not all that God had asked us to do. All of us are also called to heed what the Lord Jesus had mentioned in the Gospel passage, ‘Ask the Master of the harvest to send labourers to gather His harvest,’ and also, ‘Go, instead to the lost sheep of the people of Israel.’ All of these are set to remind us of the obligations we have as Christians to reach out to those who have not yet known God, or those who have lapsed in their faith.

How do we do that, brethren? We should not think that we need to do many wondrous and ambitious large-scale works. Rather, we should begin from ourselves, from our immediate family, friends and acquaintances. We should role model our faith through our actions and by devoting ourselves to God in everything. We should help the Church in its works of evangelisation, by becoming beacons of light through which many others can see God and His light through us and therefore believe.

We should also heed the examples of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin. St. John Diego or also known as St. Juan Diego was a saint who lived a few hundred years ago in Spanish America, at the place where now the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe is located at. St. John Diego was a native of the land, a convert from his previous pagan faith, who witnessed the apparition of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Guadalupe.

St. John Diego has always been a righteous person, living his life humbly and gracefully. Through him, Our Blessed Mother delivered her messages to the people, calling on them to repent from their sins and wickedness. And when they doubted St. John Diego and his accounts about the apparition, Our Lady showed him a sign through his cloak or ‘tilma’ in the local language.

It was told that Our Lady asked him to gather some flowers at the site of the apparition, and present them to the local bishop. When St. John Diego presented the flowers, which are not local or seasonal to the area, the bishop was amazed as the very likeness of Our Lady herself was imprinted on the cloak of St. John Diego. Many came to believe in this miraculous occasion, and many people repented from their sins and were saved.

The story of St. John Diego and Our Lady of Guadalupe should inspire all of us to do what we can in order to be faithful disciples of the Lord, by encouraging one another to live righteously in accordance with God’s ways. Let us all be good messengers of God, delivering the truth of the Lord through our righteous life, that we may convince more and more people, that less and less souls may be lost from God.

Let us be lost sheep no longer and help those who are still lost that they may find their way to the Lord, their Good Shepherd. Let us be His faithful labourers, to help Him gather the rich harvest of this world, that is the salvation of the souls of our fellow brothers and sisters. May God help us in these endeavours. Amen.

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Matthew 9 : 35 – Matthew 10 : 1, 5a, 6-8

At that time, Jesus went around all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues and proclaiming the Good News of the kingdom; and He cured every sickness and disease. When He saw the crowds, He was moved with pity; for they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.

Then He said to His disciples, “The harvest is abundant, but the workers are only few. Ask the Master of the harvest to send workers to gather His harvest.”

Jesus called His Twelve disciples to Him, and gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out, and to heal every disease and sickness. Jesus sent these Twelve on mission, with the instruction : “Go, instead, to the lost sheep of the people of Israel. Go, and proclaim this message : The kingdom of heaven is near. Heal the sick, bring the dead back to life, cleanse the lepers, and drive out demons. Freely have you received, freely give.”

Saturday, 9 December 2017 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Diego Cuauhtlatoatzin (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Saints)

Psalm 146 : 1-2, 3-4, 5-6

Alleluia! How good it is to sing to our God, how sweet and befitting, to praise Him! YHVH rebuilds Jerusalem; He gathers the exiles of Israel.

He heals their broken hearts and binds up their wounds. He determines the number of stars; He calls each of them by name.

The Lord is great, and mighty in power; His wisdom is beyond measure. YHVH lifts up the humble, but casts the wicked to the ground.