Friday, 11 December 2020 : 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, today we listened to the words of the Scripture in which we heard of the Lord reminding His people to follow His ways, to obey His laws and commandments, and not to be swayed by falsehoods and temptations to sin. The Lord wants us to walk in His path, be righteous in all things and to put our trust in His wisdom, and not in our own biased judgments and wisdom.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah of the Lord chiding and reminding His people to put their trust in Him and follow Him, rather than persisting in their stubborn attitude and refusal to follow His laws as they had done. This was a reference to how throughout the history of the people of Israel, through the time of the kingdoms of Israel and Judah right up to the time of Isaiah, had been disobedient many times.

They refused to believe in God and in His prophets, ignoring the reminders given to them on multiple occasions, and the Lord still continued to send reminders after reminders to them, regardless of how they had treated the prophets and messengers sent to them. The same stubbornness can be seen in our Gospel passage today, when we heard of the Lord Jesus and His frustrations at the people who refused to believe in Him or in His herald, St. John the Baptist.

And all of that was because they refused to let go of their ego and trust in their own power, their own intellect and capabilities. They refused to acknowledge that they could be wrong and mistaken, and that was why they judged the Lord and St. John the Baptist by their own flawed ideals and thoughts, wisdom and intellect. They hardened their hearts and minds against the truth that the Lord and His prophet had brought and revealed before them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, such is indeed the cause for mankind’s fall into sin and why so many of us have not been walking faithfully in the path that God has shown us. We have been swayed by the many temptations of the world that led us down the wrong path, in disobeying God and focusing on our selfish desires and wants. And this is why in this season of Advent, we are all called to reflect on our state and way of life.

We are all called to rethink how we have lived our lives thus far if we have been too focused and engrossed on worldly matters and temptations. Have all these brought true happiness for us? We must remember that all the pleasures of the world are merely temporary and do not provide us lasting happiness. Only in the Lord alone that we can find true joy, by entrusting ourselves in His hands.

Today, all of us can also look upon the good examples set by Pope St. Damasus I, in how he dedicated his life to the Lord as a righteous and committed Christian. Pope St. Damasus I lived at the time when the Christian faith were no longer persecuted by the Roman Empire and became increasingly adopted by many. However, during that same time, divisions and internal struggles faced the Church and threatened to bring about the downfall of many souls.

Pope St. Damasus I was an Archdeacon of Rome under the reign of Pope Liberius, and he had been quite involved in the governance of the Church since then. And when he was elected as Pope, there was also division and disagreements as an opposing party rejected his election and authority as Pope. He had to contend with those who rejected his authority as Pope and leader of the Church.

Pope St. Damasus I dedicated his life and reign as Pope with great energy, actively resisting the many heresies which at that time threatened to divide the Christian faithful, and he was influential and crucial in his efforts in compiling the Scriptural canon through St. Jerome, who compiled the Latin translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible. Through his many efforts, Pope St. Damasus I helped to steer the Church through difficult times and moments of challenges, and kept the faith in countless souls.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we willing to follow in the footsteps of someone so faithful like Pope St. Damasus I, dedicating our lives to the Lord rather than for our own selfish purposes, aims and desires? As we remember his faithful dedication to the Lord, we are all called to turn with all of our hearts and minds to God, especially at this time of Advent, reconsidering our path in life.

Let us all seek the Lord with a renewed zeal and faith, brothers and sisters in Christ, and harden our hearts no more. Let us all be open to welcome the Lord into our hearts, and allow Him to enter into our lives and transform us for the better. May the Lord strengthen us all, and may He empower us all to live ever more faithfully in His presence, now and always, forevermore. Amen.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 11 : 16-19

At that time, Jesus said to the people, “Now, to what can I compare the people of this day? They are like children sitting in the marketplace, about whom their companions complain : ‘We played the lute for you, but you would not dance. We sang a funeral song, but you would not cry!’”

“For John came fasting, and people said, ‘He is possessed by a demon!’ Then, the Son of Man came. He ate and drank; and people said, ‘Look at this Man : a glutton and drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Yet, wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 1 : 1-2, 3, 4 and 6

Blessed is the man who does not go where the wicked gather, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit where the scoffers sit! Instead, he finds delight in the Law of YHVH and meditates day and night on His commandments.

He is like a tree beside a brook producing its fruit in due season, its leaves never withering. Everything he does is a success.

But it is different with the wicked. They are like chaff driven away by the wind. For YHVH knows the way of the righteous but cuts off the way of the wicked.

Friday, 11 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Isaiah 48 : 17-19

Thus says YHVH, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel : I, YHVH, your God, teach you what is best for you; I lead you in the way that you must go. Had you paid attention to My commandments, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea.

Your descendants would have been like the sand, and those born of your stock like its grains, their names never cut off nor blotted out from My presence.

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.”