Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures and draw ever closer to Christmas, we are all reminded of the coming of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, into our midst. The Lord has sent us His messenger and herald to prepare the path for His coming into this world, and He has fulfilled that promise, with the coming of St. John the Baptist, the one who was prophesied to be the one to prepare the way for the Lord. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, all these happened so that the Lord might come and rescue us all from our troubles and bring us into His loving presence once again, and that is the reason why we rejoice this Christmas.

In our first reading today, we heard of the words of the prophet Malachi, speaking about the coming of the days of God’s messenger, who would come to prepare the hearts and minds of the people, to prepare for the coming of the Lord, which was also alluded to in the words of the prophet Malachi. Malachi was one of the last prophets chronologically in the Old Testament era, who ministered to the people of God a few centuries before the Lord’s coming, and his words of prophecy further set the expectation of the coming of God’s salvation, which the people of God looked forward to, as they heard the words of reassurances that God had made through His many prophets, including that of Malachi.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard of the account of the birth of St. John the Baptist, the one whom Malachi and the other prophets had been prophesying about, the one to prepare the path for the coming of the Lord. His miraculous conception and birth truly became knowledge among the people, as he was conceived by his mother at the age well-past childbearing and after being barren for so many years. His coming, conception and birth were also announced by the Angel of God before his father Zechariah, whose doubt led him to become mute before the moment as we heard in our Gospel today, that once the baby was named John as the Angel spoke of, Zechariah was miraculously able to speak once again. All of these and the later events in the life of St. John the Baptist serve as a reminder for us that as we approach the coming Christmas season with expectation and joy.

St. John the Baptist went on to call the people of God to be converted and to turn away from their sinful paths, and this is also therefore a reminder for all of us that as we approach Christmas, we should also prepare ourselves in heart and mind to turn towards the Lord, to return our focus upon Him, and to make Him the centre of our upcoming Christmas celebrations and rejoicing. We should not be distracted by the many temptations and distractions all around us, all the glamour and merrymaking surrounding the often secular and worldly Christmas celebrations. We have to be committed to the Lord and renew our faith in Him, and serve Him with ever greater conviction and zeal. We should do our best to make sure that we celebrate Christmas in the right way, and with the right predisposition and mindset.

That is why we should make use of this short remaining time before Christmas, whatever is left this Advent season to deepen our understanding of Christmas and its true meaning, its significance and importance for us. Today we should therefore spend some time to reflect upon the life and works of one St. John of Kanty, also known as St. John Cantius, a Polish priest and philosopher whose life and work should inspire us to become ever more worthy of God, ever more connected to Him, and ever closer to Him. St. John of Kanty was remembered for his great intellect and philosophical as well as theological prowess, as he became great professor and instructor, helping many of his students and followers to understand better their faith in God, as well as the many mysteries and aspects of the Christian faith.

Not only that, but the same St. John of Kanty was also well remembered for his great love for God, his personal piety and holiness, and especially also for his great compassion, love and care for the poor and the suffering all around him. He was known for his care for the needy students at his university and faculty, helping to support them whenever and wherever it was possible. He also spent time and effort to care for the poor and the needy in his community, and at wherever he was visiting and ministering. He lived his life simply and full of devotion, spending not more than what was necessary for him, and he made several pilgrimages on foot all the way to Rome. The faith and humility that St. John of Kanty showed in his life should be inspiration for all of us to follow in our own lives.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us therefore seek the Lord with a new heart, with a new commitment to follow Him and to devote our time and attention to Him, and from this upcoming Christmas celebration, to put Him back as the centre and focus of our lives. Let us all follow the examples set and shown by St. John of Kanty, doing our best to walk faithfully in the path that God has shown us. First let us all start by changing our Christmas celebrations from one that is worldly and self-centred into one that is centred on God, as well as love and life-giving, inspired by the love and generosity which St. John of Kanty has shown to those who were less fortunate all around him. Let us also remember that Christmas is all also possible, and that we can rejoice exactly because God has shown us His most generous love and kindness, compassion and grace.

May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us, empowering us with the love and courage to do our best in our lives, to be ever more loving and generous to each other. Through our faithful and worthy Christmas celebrations, where Christ is at the very focus and heart of our joy, let us all inspire more and more people that each one of us may be the shining beacons of God’s hope, light and truth. Let us show our love and generosity to those around us and not be distracted by the worldly glamour and desires. May all of us draw ever closer to God and be blessed as we approach the glorious and joyful season of Christmas. Amen.

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

When the time came for Elizabeth, she gave birth to a son. Her neighbours and relatives heard that the merciful Lord had done a wonderful thing for her, and they rejoiced with her. When, on the eighth day, they came to attend the circumcision of the child, they wanted to name him Zechariah after his father. But his mother said, “Not so; he shall be called John.”

They said to her, “But no one in your family has that name!” and they asked the father, by means of signs, for the name he wanted to give him. Zechariah asked for a writing tablet, and wrote on it, “His name is John,” and they were very surprised. Immediately Zechariah could speak again, and his first words were in praise of God.

A holy fear came on all in the neighbourhood, and throughout the hill country of Judea the people talked about these events. All who heard of it pondered in their minds, and wondered, “What will this child be?” For they understood that the hand of the Lord was with him.

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 8-9, 10 and 14

Teach me Your ways, o Lord; make known to me Your paths. Guide me in Your truth and instruct me, for You are my God, my Saviour.

Good and upright, the Lord teaches sinners His way. He teaches the humble of heart and guides them in what is right.

The ways of the Lord are love and faithfulness for those who keep His covenant and precepts. The Lord gives advice to those who revere Him and makes His covenant known to them.

Friday, 23 December 2022 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for Whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, each and every one of us are meant to do what we can as Christians, having been given various talents and gifts, blessings and graces by the Lord. Each and every one of us are therefore expected to make good use of those gifts of the Lord and be fruitful in the grace of God, bearing the rich fruits of our actions and commitments in life, in accordance to what each one of us have been called to do as Christians. All of us are reminded today of this calling, and we should embrace the Lord’s calling wholeheartedly.

In our first reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Ephesians, we heard about the matter of the gifts that God had given to His disciples, to the Apostles and the others who have given themselves to the service of God. The Lord has granted them all the gifts and the blessings, the opportunities and the abilities to do His will, and gave them each a mission to fulfil in their lives. St. Paul therefore wanted to remind the faithful in Ephesus of their calling and mission in life, on the significance of them being Christians, as followers of the Lord. The Lord has called on all of them to be the members and parts of His Church, His one united Body, made up of all the different various parts, all the different peoples of different origins and background.

The Church of God is made up of all these people and parts, each one of them with their own talents and capabilities, with their own missions and responsibilities. For example, as mentioned, the Lord called and gave the gifts and entrusted some with their responsibility as Apostles, some others as missionaries and teachers, while some others were entrusted to be evangelists and preachers, while others were called to be involved in building good and faithful Christian families, to be good fathers, mothers, children and other members of the Christian community, as parts of the same united Body of Christ, the Church.

At that time the Church and the Christian communities in the various parts of the Mediterranean and elsewhere were still in their early stages, as the Apostles and the other missionaries spread the Good News and the Christian faith to various parts of the world, proclaiming the truth of God courageously despite the many challenges that they had to face. The Lord has sent His disciples to those places, revealing His truth and salvation to all the people of all the nations. That is why, the Lord wants us all to remember how all of us have the same mission that He has entrusted to His Apostles and disciples, and thus, we have to make good use of the gifts and talents given to us. We can neither be idle or ignore our calling and mission.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord telling His disciples that all those people who had suffered due to the riot in Galilee and the collapse of the tower in Siloah had met their end, and while it was not due to any fault of theirs, but the Lord highlighted to them all, that unless they changed their ways and actions, then they would face the end in the same manner as those who had perished experienced. He used this example to highlight how all of our actions and works, our beliefs and faith truly matter as they all determine whether we are going to be worthy of the Lord, or whether our actions and lives will condemn us at the Day of Judgment. The choice and opportunities have been given to us, and now therefore it is up to us whether we will act on it or not.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all realise that as Christians, as members of the Church of God, all of us like that of the Apostles and the early Christians, are all the same disciples of the Lord, and we all share the same calling and mission which the Lord had given and entrusted to us through His same Church. Each one of us have been given the gifts and talents, and the various capabilities and opportunities, for us to reach out to more and more of our fellow men, and proclaim the truth of God through our own exemplary lives and actions. We do not have to perform amazing and wonderful things, as in truth, what really matters is for us to do whatever we can, in our own small little ways, to do the will of God, and to follow His path, at all times.

Today, the Church celebrates the feast of one of the great recent saint, whose name and memories must be familiar to so many among us both young and old, as he was the leader of the Universal Church as the Successor of St. Peter, the Pope and Bishop of Rome. Pope St. John Paul II, also known by his birth name as Karol Jozef Wojtyla, the first Polish Pope and non-Italian Pope after close to five hundred years. Karol Jozef Wojtyla was born in Poland after the First World War to a loving family, but unfortunately, he lost his family members one by one, beginning with his mother, then his elder brother and finally his father, during the harsh early years of the Second World War.

The young Karol Wojtyla suffered hardships during the war years, and during that time, he went through discreet seminary preparation as he committed himself to priesthood. He was ordained a priest, and then went through another hard period of oppression of Christians by the Communists, who were in power at that time. Christians were persecuted and oppressed, but Fr. Wojtyla cared for the needs of his flock, and this quiet obedience and commitment to the Lord eventually led to him being chosen as first the Auxiliary Bishop of Krakow, and then succeeding as the Metropolitan Archbishop of Krakow, and from there on, his participation as a leader of the Church continued to rise on.

After being made a Cardinal by the Pope, the then Cardinal Wojtyla continued to fight for the rights of the Christians in his homeland, in Krakow and elsewhere, and he was particularly remembered for his period of struggle against the Communist government, as he led the faithful in the effort to establish a church in the new town of Nowa Huta, which the Communist government had touted back then as a churchless town, in a seeming symbol of triumph of Communism over the Christian faith. Cardinal Wojtyla helped to lead the campaign which eventually led to the completion of the church and shrine at Nowa Huta of the now famous Black Madonna of Nowa Huta.

He was then elected as the successor of St. Peter as the Pope and leader of the Universal Church. As Pope St. John Paul II, he led the Church on a great campaign of renewal, in leading the Church through efforts to evangelise to many more people, to lead to the greater unity within the Church, the repair of relations between the separated brethren among the Christian Church splinters, as well as in his great and memorable role in leading to the downfall of Communism, which happened just over a decade after he took over as the Pope and leader of the Church. He travelled to many countries, more than any Popes ever before and ever since until today, and as the Apostles long before his time and ours, Pope St. John Paul II continued to carry on the mission entrusted to the Church of God.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore seek the intercession of Pope St. John Paul II and the many other saints who are our good role models, including that of the Apostles and the other disciples themselves, and let us ask all of them to pray for us, that God may strengthen us in our missionary journey, in whatever we do as members of the same Church of God, for our current Pope, Francis, the Cardinals and the Archbishops and Bishops all throughout the Church, all the priest and deacons, and everyone in the religious orders, brothers and sisters, and of course all those among the laity, in their various capacities and workplaces, as fathers, mothers and children, as members of the living Church of God.

Let us all do our best to obey the will of God and commit ourselves anew to the Lord from now on, resolving to follow the path that God has shown before us. May the Lord continue to guide us all and be with us always, and may He empower each and every one of us with the strength and the grace to remain faithful to Him despite the challenges and trials that we may have to face in our journey of faith through our respective lives. May God bless us all in our every good efforts and endeavours, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Luke 13 : 1-9

At that time, one day, some people told Jesus what had occurred in the Temple : Pilate had had Galileans killed, and their blood mingled with the blood of their sacrifices. Jesus asked them, “Do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all other Galileans, because they suffered this? No, I tell you. But unless you change your ways, you will all perish, as they did.”

“And those eighteen persons in Siloah, who were crushed when the tower fell, do you think they were more guilty than all the others in Jerusalem? I tell you : no. But unless you change your ways, you will perish as they did.” And Jesus continued, “A man had a fig tree growing in his vineyard, and he came looking for fruit on it, but found none. Then he said to the gardener, ‘Look here, for three years now I have been looking for figs on this tree, and I have found none. Cut it down, why should it continue to deplete the soil?’”

“The gardener replied, ‘Leave it one more year, so that I may dig around it and add some fertiliser; perhaps it will bear fruit from now on. But if it does not, you can cut it down.’”

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Psalm 121 : 1-2, 3-4a, 4b-5

I rejoiced with those who said to me, “Let us go to the house of the Lord!” And now we have set foot within your gates, o Jerusalem!

Jerusalem, just like a city, where everything falls into place! There the tribes go up.

The tribes of the Lord, the assembly of Israel, to give thanks to the Lord’s Name. There stand the courts of justice, the offices of the house of David.

Saturday, 22 October 2022 : 29th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. John Paul II, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Popes)

Ephesians 4 : 7-16

But to each of us, divine grace is given, according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore, it is said : When He ascended to the heights, He brought captives and gave His gifts to people. He ascended, what does it mean, but, that He had also descended to the lower parts of the world? He, Himself, Who went down, then ascended far above all the heavens, to fill all things.

As for His gifts, to some, He gave to be Apostles; to others, prophets, or even evangelists; or pastors and teachers. So, He prepared those who belong to Him, for the ministry, in order to build up the Body of Christ, until we are all united, in the same faith and knowledge of the Son of God. Thus, we shall become the perfect Man, upon reaching maturity, and sharing the fullness of Christ.

Then, no longer shall we be like children, tossed about by any wave, or wind or doctrine; and deceived by the cunning of people, who drag them along into error. Rather, speaking the truth, in love, we shall grow in every way, toward Him, Who is the Head, Christ. From Him, comes the growth of the whole body, to which a network of joints give order and cohesion, taking into account, and making use of, the function of each one. So, the body builds itself, in love.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scriptures, we are all reminded of our Christian obligations to seek the Lord and to remain faithful to Him, and to follow the good examples of faith set by the Lord Himself and His many saints. Each and every one of us are called to devote our time and attention to God, and we are all encouraged to proclaim the word of God in our lives courageously, through our words and actions, and to be genuine in our interactions with one another, so that our lives may become good examples for many others who witness our works and interact with us.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and faithful in Galatia, we heard the Apostle recounting his past experiences, as he grew in the faith and followed what the Lord asked him to do. We heard of the deeds of the Apostles, of St. Paul himself and his companions like St. Barnabas the Apostle and others, as well as with Cephas, that is St. Peter the Apostle, the leader of the Church and all the Apostles. St. Paul recounted his works and his interactions with the other Apostles, and how the Lord worked through their interactions, as they helped and assisted each other, and St. Paul himself reminded St. Peter in the spirit of fraternal correction, that he should not give in to those who advocated for the imposition of un-Christian rules and regulations on the Gentiles.

Back then, we have to understand that during the time of the early Church, there existed great tensions and divisions among the members of the faithful as they were still maintaining their past distinctions in terms of their race and origin, their prior identities and beliefs, their status and ideologies, among others. The Jews and the Gentiles or the non-Jewish people, in particular, were often divided in their opinion and ways in the early Church, with some among the Jewish Christian converts advocating the imposition of Jewish laws and customs in their entirety on the entire body of the Christian faithful.

The Jewish people made up a significant proportion of the early Christians as the disciples of the Lord preached first to the Jews and the people in Judea and Galilee before they began their outreach to the Gentiles both in the lands of Judea and Galilee and in distant lands. The Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord were themselves Jewish, and that naturally made many of the early Christians to hold certain ideas and viewpoints, with some among them desiring to impose their will on others. The non-Jewish people however would find adopting such practices and customs to be very difficult, as many of them were difficult to enforce even among the Jews themselves, and some of those customs were also seen as abhorrent by the non-Jewish communities.

As such, St. Paul, who had often reached out to the Gentiles and worked among them, spending many years in ministering to the Gentile converts to Christianity and more, he stood by the Christian Gentiles, that the Church ought to understand their position and difficulties, and also understand better the true wishes of the Lord, Who called on everyone to follow Him, Jews and Gentiles alike. There should be no prejudice or bias in the path of following God, and all the faithful people of God should have been treated equally without certain preferences to a particular race, culture, customs and ways of living.

What is important is for all Christians to embrace the true core of our faith and belief in the Lord, that all of us ought to love the Lord our God, with all of our hearts and minds, with all of our strength and abilities, and then to love one another, our fellow brothers and sisters in the same way that we have loved the Lord and ourselves. What some of the Jewish converts back then tried to impose on the whole Church especially on the Gentile Christians were excessive and unnecessary, and could have even turned many people away from the Lord, and worsen the instances of elitism and self-righteousness among the Christian people, just as what had happened among the Pharisees and the Jewish elites.

Then, in our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord teaching His disciples how to pray, through the prayer that I am sure all of us know very well, that is the Lord’s Prayer or Pater Noster. As we listened to the words of this prayer that I am sure we have often prayed for, we are once again reminded of our purpose and obligation as Christians, that is as those whom God had called and chosen, and having responded to His call, each one of us have been made the children of God. And because of this, each and every one of us should do our best to live our lives in the way that the Lord had taught and shown us to do. All of us should not behave in ways that will bring disgrace and dishonour to the Name of the Lord and to His Church.

We should also deepen our relationship with the Lord through prayer, just as the Lord Himself had taught us. And praying is one of these ways, as we are reminded to keep in contact with the Lord our God. As in any relationships we have in this world, we have to maintain them through constant contact and interactions, and we cannot be close to the Lord unless we really make the conscious efforts to do so, and to bring ourselves nearer to Him, through prayers and by following His will, obeying His Law and commandments. The Lord has called us all to follow Him, and it is really up to us to renew our relationship with Him and commit ourselves to Him, through our efforts at each and every moments.

Then, we should also be inspired by the examples and good things done by our holy predecessors, just as on this day we celebrate the feast of St. Faustina Kowalska, the Polish religious sister who was the visionary and the inspiration for the very popular Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God. St. Faustina Kowalska joined religious life at an early age and began receiving visions of the Lord, especially that of the suffering Jesus, calling upon the people of God to return to Him and to embrace His mercy and love. St. Faustina Kowalska recorded her experiences and mystical visions, especially when the Lord appeared to her in the now famous Divine Mercy form, with rays of red and white light emanating from His Most Sacred Heart.

St. Faustina Kowalska spent a lot of time in prayer and devoted herself in humble submission to the will of God. She also related her visions and told them to her superiors and others, as per instructed by the Lord Himself in her visions. Despite the challenges and oppositions that she encountered throughout her life, and in her work of spreading the message and truth of the Devotion to the Divine Mercy of God, St. Faustina continued to persevere nonetheless, and eventually, this Devotion gained tract and popularity among Christians worldwide, especially after her passing not long after she received those visions of the Divine Mercy. This Devotion is now among the most popular among Christians all over the world. St. Faustina Kowalska might have lived just a short life, and yet, in that short moment, she had touched the life of so many people.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all emulate the good faith and examples as shown by St. Faustina Kowalska and many other saints, our holy predecessors, holy men and women of God. Let us all live up to our faith and do whatever we can to fulfil our obligation and calling as Christians, living our lives to the fullest as role models and the good examples of Christian discipleship, loving God and loving one another with all of our strength and might. Let us all inspire one another and be the good examples to help more and more people to find their way to God, to embrace the Divine Mercy and His love for us, that we may be forgiven from our multitudes of sins.

May God be with us always and may He continue to empower us all, that we may always persevere with faith. May God be glorified through our lives, our actions and deeds, and may our every interactions help to proclaim His truth and love to others, and bring more souls ever closer to God and His loving embrace. In the words of the prayers to the Divine Mercy, ‘Eternal Father, I offer You, the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Your dearly beloved Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, in atonement for our sins and those of the whole world.’ Amen.

Wednesday, 5 October 2022 : 27th Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of St. Faustina Kowalska, Virgin (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Holy Virgins)

Luke 11 : 1-4

At that time, Jesus was praying in a certain place; and when He had finished, one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught His disciples.”

And Jesus said to them, “When you pray, say this : Father, may Your Name be held holy, may Your kingdom come; give us, each day, the kind of bread we need, and forgive us our sins; for we also forgive all who do us wrong; and do not bring us to the test.”