Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, each and every one of us are reminded that we can indeed put our complete and undivided attention and trust in the Lord, for it is in Him alone that we will find true joy and comfort, and we will not be disappointed should we decide to put our faith in Him, as He is always ever faithful to the Covenant that He has made with us.

In our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Isaiah we heard the prophet Isaiah spoke again regarding of the promise of good life and salvation which all of us will receive from God, and in today’s passage, the prophet spoke of just how mighty and all-powerful God is, and everything is possible for Him, as He is truly almighty and omnipotent in all things. And yet, this almighty and all-powerful God wants to love each and every one of us mankind, whom He has made to be His own people.

In our Gospel passage today, we heard the Lord Jesus Himself said, as He called all of us to Him, offering His yoke to us, as the lighter yoke than that of the yoke of the world, and calling on us all who are weary and heavily burdened, that He will give us rest. This is indeed a message that brings great comfort to all of us just as how it must have brought great relief to all those who heard Christ right there and then.

Yet, if we notice carefully, the Lord did not say that He will immediately remove from all of us all obstacles and make our lives easy and good. In fact, by using the term ‘yoke’ which is the burden used to bind the cattle and beasts of burden at that time, the Lord indirectly referred to the fact that for those who follow Him, there will be trials and challenges to come, and to be a faithful Christian we must be prepared to stand up for our faith and defend it.

But this is still better compared to the alternative path, in which we may not suffer as much for now, and we may enjoy the journey more and be pleased more for now. That is because while the path of the Lord may seem to be more challenging and difficult for us to walk, but in truth, it leads us into the true and eternal rest in God, when we will receive the fullness of the inheritance, happiness and glory that God has promised us all.

On the other hand, if we choose the other path, the path of worldliness and the path advocated by the devil, it may seem to be less challenging and easier, and we will likely be more accepted and have more peace in life, but all these are just deceptions to prevent us from realising that this path is leading us into damnation and eternal suffering in hell. And this is why many people ended up falling into the same temptation and fell away from God’s path.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent we are all called to reflect on our lives and how we have lived them thus far. Have we been walking faithfully with God and putting our trust in Him, or have we instead sought the comforts and good things in life that as Christians we have been lukewarm in living our faith and been inactive and dormant in embracing our faith in God?

That is why today perhaps we should look upon the examples set by one of our holy predecessors, namely Pope St. Damasus I, whose feast we are celebrating today. Pope St. Damasus I was the Pope and leader of the Universal Church at a time when there were plenty of challenges and difficulties facing the faithful and the Church, as there were many heresies and false teachings threatening to divide the Church among many other issues.

Pope St. Damasus managed and led the Church through those difficult years. He spoke out firmly against the heresies and those leading the Church and the faithful into them. Pope St. Damasus had his hands full in managing all these issues and yet he continued to do his best to serve the faithful in his role as Pope and leader of the Church. He wrote extensively and also supported St. Jerome in compiling the Latin version of the Bible, namely the Vulgate.

Pope St. Damasus also worked hard to maintain good relations with the Church leaders in the Eastern part of the Roman Empire, and he even played a major role in the resolution of the leadership and succession disputes in the Eastern Patriarchates of Antioch and Alexandria. Truly, we can see just how busy Pope St. Damasus I must have been at that time and the kind of immense trials that he had to endure in being faithful to God and to the missions entrusted to him, yet he remained true to his faith and dedicated himself wholeheartedly.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all therefore follow in the footsteps of Pope St. Damasus I, in being faithful to God and in putting our trust in Him, that we may walk courageously in the path that He has shown us even despite all the challenges and trials that we may have to face along the way. May the Lord guide us and help us throughout this journey and may He bless us all always. Amen.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 28-30

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble of heart; and you will find rest. For My yoke is easy; and My burden is light.”

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 102 : 1-2, 3-4, 8 and 10

Praise YHVH, my soul; all my being, praise His holy Name! Praise YHVH, my soul, and do not forget all His kindness.

He forgives all your sins and heals all your sickness; He redeems your life from destruction and crowns you with love and compassion.

YHVH is gracious and merciful, abounding in love and slow to anger. He does not treat us according to our sins, nor does He punish us as we deserve.

Wednesday, 11 December 2019 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 40 : 25-31

To whom, then, will you liken Me or make Me equal? says the Holy One. Lift up your eyes and see : who has created all this? He has ordered them as a starry host and called them each by name. So mighty is His power, so great His strength, that not one of them is missing.

How can you say, o Jacob, how can you complain, o Israel, that your destiny is hidden from Me, that your rights are ignored by YHVH? Have you not known, have you not heard that YHVH is an everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth? He does not grow tired or weary, His knowledge is without limit.

He gives strength to the enfeebled, He gives vigour to the wearied. Youth may grow tired and faint, young men will stumble and fall, but those who hope in YHVH will renew their strength. They will soar as with eagle’s wings; they will run and not grow weary; they will walk and never tire.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture showing us just how great God’s love is for each and every one of us, that He is willing to do everything in order to be reconciled with us, that we may be saved from the predicaments caused by our sins. He loves each and every single one of us, without exception and without any prejudices. He used a parable to deliver this truth about His love to the people, as we heard in the Gospel passage today.

In that passage, we heard about the parable of the lost sheep, in which He told them a story of a shepherd who has a hundred sheep and one of those sheep strays from the flock. He told them how the shepherd will leave the ninety-nine who are safely together behind, and do all he can in order to track and find the stray sheep, and bring it back to the flock. This is what the Lord exactly used in His own way of reconciling with His people, those represented by the lost sheep.

God went out all of the way just so that He could reclaim us, His lost ones, who have been lost and sundered from Him since the day we first disobeyed Him and chose to follow Satan and his temptations rather than to be faithful and fully in love with Him. Satan is the false shepherd, the wolf is sheep’s clothing that is ever ready to distract us and to lure us away into our downfall, by separating us from our loving shepherd.

And that is exactly how the devil works, brothers and sisters in Christ, by the means of persuasions and false promises of worldly glories, pleasures and other forms of enjoyment of the flesh and the body, or of the mind. He presents to us a path that seems to be easier and less challenging, more profitable and enjoyable for us. And thus, many were tempted to abandon the path of righteousness, and instead embracing the ways of sin.

But God did not give up on us, and instead, as He Himself said, that He is the Good Shepherd, He truly loves us and cares for us, even to the point of doing everything so that we may be saved, even if that requires Him to suffer and to be persecuted for our sins, suffering the blows and punishments that should have been ours. He, our Good Shepherd, stands between us and our destruction, offering up Himself for our sake, that we do not perish.

That was what the Lord has done for us, by what He has done, all that we believe in our faith, in the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Whom God has sent into this world in order to be our Saviour. He willingly took up the appearance and substance of Man, to be crucified for us, bearing the cross to Calvary, and by gathering all of our sins to Himself, offering up His own perfect offering of His Body and Blood, He, our Good Shepherd, is gathering all of us, God’s lost sheep, back to the loving embrace of God, our loving Father.

Sadly, it was our reluctance and stubbornness, our predisposition and vulnerabilities to sin, that have prevented many of us from taking full advantage of this love which God has shown us. We are like those lost sheep that stubbornly run away from our loving shepherd, and instead, seeking those seemingly more enticing and enjoyable opportunities elsewhere, without knowing that those false leads are efforts by the devil and his forces to prey on us, waiting for our downfall.

Many of us are too busy with those temptations and allures of worldliness, that we fail to notice God’s love for us, and we continue to dwell in our state of sin, which unless we repent from it, we are at risk of falling into eternal damnation and separation from God, when even all of our regrets will have no use at all. This is not what God wants to happen to us, and certainly, He wants as many of us to be rescued and to be recovered from our lost state.

That is why, it is important that today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, roughly halfway towards Christmas as of now, we need to recalibrate our lives and reflect on our actions and deeds in life thus far. We are called to find the true meaning of our Christmas celebrations, that we may be able to enrich our own lives, with genuine faith and understanding of God’s love. Do we truly know what Christmas is about?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, Christmas is in fact the moment when the tangible reunion between God and man is made possible, through the coming of the Messiah, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born on Christmas day in the manger, the One Who would save all of us by His death on the cross. It is a time of joy, not because of all the parties and merry-making, all the merchandises and shopping we can enjoy, but instead, because in Christ, we have seen the hope and fulfilment of our salvation.

Today, let us all discern on our lives and how we can live it better to be more in accordance to God’s ways. Let us all see God’s great love for us, and find that courage and desire to love Him, and to be reconciled with Him. Today, as we also celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope and a devout servant of God, who contributed greatly to the unity of the Church and the salvation of many souls, by his tireless efforts to combat heresy and by giving his support to the Latin translation of the Bible by St. Jerome, let us ask for his intercession, that we may find the humility and the desire to love God, to return to Him, our loving Father and Good Shepherd.

May the Lord Who loves us so dearly continue to love us and to reach out to us, just as we also make the conscious effort to seek Him out, to realise how much He has loved us and given Himself for us on the cross. Let us turn away from sin, sin no more, and become devoted children of God, our loving Father, from now on. May this blessed season of Advent be a time for us to rediscover our love for God. Amen.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.”

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.

Tuesday, 11 December 2018 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from the Scripture passages, relating to us about the healing that came from God. The prophet Isaiah in his book wrote about the coming of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness upon His people, shown with miraculous signs such as the opening of the eyes of the blind, loosening of the tongues of the dumb, healing of those who has paralysis and also possession by evil spirits.

All these healings have also been done by some of the prophets of old, but those are healing of the physical body. What the prophet Isaiah prophesied came about in its complete fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, Who in the Gospel passage today healed the paralytic man, despite the opposition from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

Those people were furious at Jesus because He healed the man who had paralysis by saying that ‘Your sins are forgiven’. In fact, Jesus was healing the man in body and in spirit, as He has the just right to do so. They alleged that only God could forgive sins, and by uttering such words, Jesus had blasphemed against God, but that was because they refused to believe that Jesus is indeed God, the Son of God.

This reading has a particular significance for us as Christians, as all of us know that the celebration of Christmas, for which we are preparing this Advent season, is centred on the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, we believe that God Himself has entered into this world, descending from heaven, and through Mary, His mother, He took up the flesh and appearance of Man.

Hence, we believe in Jesus, Our Lord, Who is both fully divine and fully human, through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and His nativity or birth through Mary into the world. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, has two natures, human and divine, but which at the same time, perfectly united in the one person, Jesus Christ Himself.

Thus, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and God, as our faith describes, then we should believe that He is capable to heal our sins, as sin is indeed a disease that afflicts us, corrupting our inmost selves, from the depths of our souls, to our hearts and minds, and of course, our bodies as well. Sin is the very reason for our separation from the fullness of God’s grace and love since our corrupted beings cannot bear to be in the presence of God.

But God is ever loving and merciful towards us. He has always loved us from the very beginning, even though we have often rejected His love and abandoned His laws and precepts. He is willing to forgive us our sins, and He indeed wants to heal us from our afflictions, as He has demonstrated through the many healing miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry, and which is continued by His disciples and the Church He established.

However, the question is, do we want to be healed? Do we want to be forgiven from our sins? God is always forgiving and He will constantly forgive without cease as long as we are willing to be forgiven. Yet, forgiveness cannot be complete without genuine repentance, as in order for us to be completely forgiven, we also need to be truly sorry for our sins and mistakes, and commit ourselves to a new life without sin.

Do we remember what the Lord Jesus did with the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? We know how the story goes, and the woman was spared stoning because no one was willing to admit that they themselves had no sin on their own, and thus worthy to cast the first stone. But we often forget that Jesus told the woman, that while He does not judge her at that moment, she should sin no more.

Therefore, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, let us all reflect on our lives, and on the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, for whom the Lord has come, and indeed has suffered and died for, on the cross. Whenever we look at the Lord Jesus at the crucifix, let us remember this immense love and mercy He has shown us by laying down His own life that each and every one of us may be healed and absolved from our sins.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope who lived in the first millennium after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope St. Damasus was renowned for his great piety and exemplary life. He helped to guide his flock to be faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties that were facing the Church and the faithful at the time. His holiness and many good works for the sake of the Church has saved many souls who repented from their sins and turned themselves back to the Lord.

Therefore, we should be inspired by his examples, as well as the many other inspiring lives by the other holy saints of God. Many of those saints were themselves great sinners, but they allowed the Lord to transform their lives, and their lives were forever changed, from a life of sin and darkness into a life filled with God’s grace. Let us therefore, pledge ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve Him, to love Him and to help one another to reach out to Him.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us to be able to live faithfully in accordance with His ways. May we draw ever closer to Him, that in the end, we may be worthy of Him and will stand to receive the eternal glory He has promised to all of His faithful ones. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, Jesus was teaching, and many Pharisees and teachers of the Law had come from every part of Galilee and Judea, and even from Jerusalem. They were sitting there, while the power of the Lord was at work to heal the sick. Then some men brought a paralysed man who lay on his mat.

They tried to enter the house to place him before Jesus, but they could not find a way through the crowd. So they went up on the roof, and, removing the tiles, they lowered him on his mat into the middle of the crowd, in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the man, “My friend, your sins are forgiven.”

At once the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees began to wonder, “This Man insults God! Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” But Jesus knew their thoughts and asked them, “Why are you reacting like this? Which is easier to say : ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Get up and walk’? Now you shall know, that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And Jesus said to the paralysed man, “Get up, take your mat and go home.” At once, the man stood before them. He took up the mat he had been lying on, and went home praising God. Amazement seized the people and they praised God. They were filled with a holy fear, and said, “What wonderful things we have seen today!”