Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 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 as we listened to the words of the Lord in the Sacred Scriptures, we are all called to reflect on the lives of two great servants of God of the past, both of whom had dedicated themselves to the Lord all their lives, enduring great trials and challenges in serving the Lord and facing persecutions and oppressions all the while doing God’s works. We should reflect on their lives this Advent that we too may become more faithful by following their examples and faith.

First of all, the prophet Elijah, one of those two great servants of God was mentioned in our first reading today from the Book of the prophet Sirach. The prophet Elijah was a great prophet and servant of God sent to the northern kingdom of Israel, to their king and people, to remind them of God and their obligation to serve God and abandon their sinful worship of the pagan gods and idols. Elijah laboured for many years, preaching God’s message and performing miracles among the people and their king who were stubborn in opposing God.

As mentioned in the Book of Sirach, Elijah performed many wonderful deeds, such as bringing God’s retribution in the years of famine and drought that happened during the reign of king Ahab for his wickedness and the Israelites’ constant refusals to follow the Lord, and then the moment when he stood up alone against the four hundred and fifty priests of Baal, the Canaanite pagan idol at Mount Carmel. By the power of God, Elijah called down fire from Heaven that showed that God is indeed the true God and Creator of all, and defeating all those priests of Baal before the people of God.

Yet, at that time, just as Elijah performed many wonderful deeds, he also faced a lot of tough experiences as he was often rejected by the king and the people, and had many enemies among them, even though they had witnessed everything that God had performed and done through Elijah. He had to flee into exile and was on the run from the land of Israel because of this, on more than one occasion. He had to work and labour alone amidst the often hostile populace and encountered a lot of challenges along the way.

Elijah was then later on taken up to Heaven in a flaming chariot sent by God, as witnessed by his disciple and successor, the prophet Elisha. All these were mentioned by the prophet Sirach as well. Then, he was again mentioned by the Lord Jesus in our Gospel passage today, as one of His disciples asked Him regarding the coming of the prophet Elijah, and how he had actually come then. It was believed among the Jewish people, the descendants of the Israelites, that the prophet Elijah, who was taken up into Heaven and therefore did not die, would come again to proclaim the Messiah or the Saviour of God.

This was a reference to St. John the Baptist, the one who was the Herald of the Messiah, the one who prepared the path for the Lord Jesus as predicted by the prophets. The Lord mentioned how John was the fulfilment of those prophecies, and indeed, his works and ministry had prepared the path for the Lord and His coming into this world. St. John the Baptist had often been compared with the prophet Elijah because both of them had suffered persecutions for their works and both of them lived in a similar manner, travelling in the wilderness, proclaiming repentance and the coming of God’s salvation.

Some said that St. John the Baptist was indeed the same prophet Elijah sent into the world to finish the works that he had once initiated. And others said that St. John the Baptist had the spirit of the prophet Elijah, which was not the same as being the same person, but that both by that extension had the same ministry among the people of God, the same approach and efforts. And regardless which one is the real case, St. John the Baptist and the prophet Elijah both had laboured hard, sweat, blood and endured sufferings for the sake of the glory of God.

Today, we have yet another great servant of God who dedicated his life to Him, and who can also become our role model and inspiration in life. Pope St. Damasus I was the Pope, and therefore leader of the Universal Church during the important years and time of the Church when there were numerous converts and more and more coming to believe in God. At that same time, there were also a lot of divisions and disagreements in the Church, which Pope St. Damasus worked very hard to overcome as the leader of all God’s faithful people.

Pope St. Damasus himself became Pope during a turbulent time of a succession crisis following the death of the previous reigning Pope due to interference from the secular ruling class and nobles of Rome. There was a contested election and two rival Popes were elected, in a heated campaign before Pope St. Damasus eventually prevailed against his rival. This rival himself belonged to the heretical party, the Arians, who had wrecked a lot of damage and divisions in the Church for many decades up to that time.

Pope St. Damasus was instrumental in leading the charge against the heretics and all of their false teachings, devoting much of his time and efforts to overcome the falsehoods spread by those who claimed to teach the truth of God, but in reality were spreading false ideas. He also helped the creation of the Biblical canon especially in the Western, Latin half of the Church by his works with St. Jerome, whom he tasked with the compilation and the proper translation of the Greek Septuagint Bible into Latin, which would become the renowned Latin Vulgate Bible.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Pope St. Damasus, his life and works we can see how those who dedicated their lives to serve God often had to face a lot of challenges in their mission, and many had to even face prison, suffering and death, like what the prophet Elijah and St. John the Baptist endured, the latter which suffered martyrdom at the hands of King Herod, for his courage in defending the truth of God and the sanctity of His teachings and ways. Having heard of these great examples, are we now more encouraged to live our lives faithfully in accordance with God’s truth?

Let us all seek to glorify the Lord in each and every moments of our lives, that we may indeed be ever faithful in our every actions, words and deeds so that through us, through our contributions no matter how small they may be, we will always bring glory to the Name of the Lord. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Matthew 17 : 10-13

At that time, the disciples of Jesus asked Him, “Why do the teachers of the Law say that Elijah must come first?”

Jesus answered, “So it is : first comes Elijah; and he will restore all things. But I tell you, Elijah has already come; and they did not recognise him; and they treated him as they pleased. And they will also make the Son of Man suffer.”

Then the disciples understood that Jesus was referring to John the Baptist.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Psalm 79 : 2ac and 3bc, 15-16, 18-19

Listen, o Shepherd of Israel, You, Who sit enthroned between the Cherubim. Stir up Your might and come to save us.

Turn again, o YHVH of hosts, look down from heaven and see; care for this vine, and protect the stock Your hand has planted.

But lay Your hand on Your instrument, on the Son of Man, Whom You make strong for Yourself. Then, we will never turn away from You; give us life, and we will call on Your Name.

Saturday, 11 December 2021 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Sirach 48 : 1-4, 9-11

Then came the prophet Elijah, like a fire, his words a burning torch. He brought a famine on the people and in his zealous love had them reduced in number. Speaking in the Name of the Lord he closed down the heavens, and on three occasions called down fire.

How marvellous you were, Elijah, in your wondrous deeds! Who could ever boast of being your equal? You were taken up by a whirlwind of flames in a chariot drawn by fiery horses. It was written that you should be the one to calm God’s anger in the future, before it broke out in fury, to turn the hearts of fathers to their sons and to restore the tribes of Jacob.

Happy are those who will see you and those who die in love, for we too shall live.

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.”