Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we mark the Second Sunday of Advent, and therefore we continue to journey further and deeper through the mysteries of Advent, and our time of preparation and expectation for the joy of Christmas to come. On this Second Sunday of Advent, the theme that we focus on is ‘Peace’, out of the four themes that began with ‘Hope’ last week, and then to be followed with ‘Joy’ next Sunday and ‘Love’ on the last Sunday of Advent.

As we listened to the readings from the Scripture we are constantly being reminded of the Lord’s coming, of His coming as the Saviour to deliver all of His people from their troubles. That is why this season of Advent we are always reminded of the need to focus our attentions on the Lord and reorientate ourselves spiritually and mentally that the Lord will be the centre of our lives. Too many of us have been distracted from our mission and calling in life as Christians, tempted and steered away by our many concerns and desires in the world.

In our first reading from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, we heard again as we have been for the past few days since the first week of Advent, of the Lord’s faithful promises to His people which reminded all of them that God will triumph in the end, and He will lead all of His faithful people out of their suffering and wretched state. He promised them salvation and the coming of the Saviour that would herald the dawn of a new time and age, the glorious reign of God.

This prophecy was significant in meaning and importance because it was made at the time when the fortunes of the people of God was among its lowest, when they were beset by troubles and had been brought low by many sufferings and humiliations. The northern kingdom of Israel, constituting most of the ten tribes of Israel besides the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, has just been destroyed by the Assyrians, and then their populations brought into exile and the lands wasted and destroyed.

And the same Assyrians came to Judah and Jerusalem where Isaiah had prophesied and ministered in, in a mighty army led by their king Sennacherib with the intention of conquering and destroying the city and the kingdom as they had done with the northern kingdom. Indeed, if we read the Book of Kings and the Book of Chronicles, we can see just how the history of the people of God at that time was rife with conflicts, wars and much destruction all over.

Kingdoms fought against each other, kings struggled against other kings and their rivals, and it was often the people who suffered through all those strife, warfare and conflicts. When kings of Israel and Judah fought against each other for their territories and for prestige, it was the people who bore the brunt of the fighting and the loss, while the kings feasted in their luxurious life, often ignorant of the plight of those who were suffering and poor.

King Sennacherib of Assyria was no different, as he laid siege to Jerusalem and other cities in Judah, bringing plenty of destruction to the whole kingdom of Judah. He led the Assyrian armies in conquering many cities and countries, in causing lots of destruction and harm to people and properties, untold suffering to so many people. Why has king Sennacherib done so, brothers and sisters in Christ? That is because he sought power, glory and fame, wealth and worldly satisfaction that came from such actions.

And thus was how many wars and conflict had been fought, over the greed and desires of man for power, for wealth and worldly glory and fame. And as they did so, they had little regards for other people, but for themselves. Like king Sennacherib, he boasted that no king, ruler or kingdom as well as their gods were able to stand against his power and might, and he blasphemed against God by saying that he would bring the same ruin to the people of God and destroy the Temple of God.

The pride, arrogance, ego and greed of king Sennacherib led to his downfall, as God struck him and his army down. Through His Angels, God destroyed the armies of the Assyrians and drove them back to their homeland in utter and complete shame. Sennacherib himself was murdered by his own two sons who perhaps craved and desired power and other glories. It was indeed quite often that within the ruling families and those in power to struggle and end up in conflict among themselves.

And that was how things had gone in the past throughout the history of mankind, in all nations and peoples. Conflicts, wars and disagreements had often happened because of the conflicting interests, desires and ego of different parties involved. Through all of that, people suffer, especially those who are underprivileged, poor and weak, those who have been easily exploited and taken advantage of by the rich and the powerful.

But if we think that it is only the poor and the less privileged that suffer, then we are wrong. Do you realise that actually even the rich and powerful also suffer? Take for example the case of king Sennacherib mentioned earlier. He was murdered by his own sons likely because of conflict of power and their desires to carve up his kingdom for themselves.

As Sennacherib’s demise showed us, the rich and powerful are in fact even less secure and suffer more because they often fight among themselves and contend with each other for the power and glory, wealth and riches of the world. And the more that man has, the more we will be tempted to desire for even more of what we have already possessed and attained. That is why, those who have more often are also the least peaceful in mind.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, now having heard of all these, we are all reminded that in this world, we have often been deluded by our worldly desires and by the many temptations of false pleasures, glory and corruptions of the world. And because of these conflicting and unbridled desires and wants, we end up causing sufferings on each other, and making things difficult for one another.

How do we then find peace, brothers and sisters in Christ? This is where we ought to look towards Christ, the Prince of Peace. The One Whose coming we celebrate this Christmas and which we prepare for this season of Advent is the One Who will bring true peace and harmony into this world. And indeed, He came bearing His truth into the world, and He was preceded by none other than St. John the Baptist, who in our Gospel passage today spoke of the Lord’s coming.

And what St. John the Baptist said to the people as we heard it in our Gospel passage today is a call to repentance, a cry out for all the sinful people of God to seek God’s forgiveness, to change their hearts and their ways of life, and reorientate themselves and their lives back towards the Lord, with Him as the centre and focus of their whole attention. And this is what the Lord then revealed in full through His coming.

St. John the Baptist helped to straighten the path for the Lord, and the Lord then showed how through Him, by following Him, His teachings and His ways, He will free them from their slavery, their bondage to sin and to all the chains of worldliness and all the temptations that had hindered us all these while and caused so much suffering for so many among us, be it rich or poor, powerful, mighty or weak. As long as we continue to indulge in our selfish desires, we will continue to be swayed by the forces of sin and evil, and we can never find true peace.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, during this season of Advent let us all therefore seek the Lord with renewed faith and hope, the hope in the peace that the Lord alone can give us. The Lord has shown His love and mercy to us, and through His compassion, He has shown us the path to true peace, harmony and true joy that we can find in Him and through Him alone. Are we willing to follow this path, brothers and sisters in Christ? Are we willing to commit ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully?

Today, let us all commit ourselves to the path of peace, by reorientating our lives towards the Lord, and not towards our foolish and selfish desires, our worldly pursuits of power, glory and wealth among many others. Brothers and sisters, let us all reject these temptations and strive to do our best to be faithful, to be righteous and just in our every actions and deeds, and to seek peace over violence, to be loving to one another rather than to put our own self-interests first. Let us all reflect the Lord’s examples, His hope, His peace and His love in our own lives, and in our actions.

Throughout this season of Advent, let us all renew our relationship with God by deepening our spiritual life, by spending more time with God in prayer, and by rethinking how we have lived our lives and even also how we prepare for Christmas. Is Christmas really about all the glamour, parties and the celebrations? Or is it rather to celebrate together as a community the joy of expecting the coming of the Lord and the coming of His reign of peace?

Let us all discern carefully how we are going to continue living our lives from now on, with faith. Let us all renew our devotion to God and make best use of this blessed time and season of Advent. May the Lord be our Guide and may He strengthen us always in our faith, as well as in our desire to love and serve Him, at all times. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.

Saturday, 5 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all constantly being reminded again and again of the Lord’s love and kindness, His care and compassion towards us. As we journey through this season of Advent, we are all being called to redirect our focus and attention all towards the Lord and to reorientate our lives such that we live it with greater awareness of God’s presence in our lives and of what we need to do as Christians in our daily living.

In our first reading today, a continuation of the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah as we have listened throughout most of this week, again we heard of the Lord’s many promises that He would bring His people out of their misery and suffering, their humiliation and terrible state. He would liberate them and bless them wonderfully once again, where they shall enjoy the bountiful fruits of God’s love in its fullness forevermore.

These promises and prophecies were significant as by the time of the prophet Isaiah and the prophecies he spoke of, the people of God, both in the northern kingdom of Israel and in the southern kingdom of Judah had endured centuries of troubles, conflict, humiliation and challenges. Not long before the prophet Isaiah’s time, the northern kingdom of Israel was thoroughly destroyed after having been attacked and degraded many times in the previous decades. The Assyrians who conquered the land destroyed the cities and brought most of the people off into exile in far-off lands.

Meanwhile, in the southern kingdom of Judah itself which had been gradually weakened over the previous centuries, the nation itself had been weakening further and been humiliated. At that same time, probably around the time when Isaiah spoke of his prophecy, the Assyrians had just laid waste to the lands of Judah and came to besiege Jerusalem, uttering insults on God and the king of Judah. Judah and Jerusalem came close to be conquered and destroyed just as the northern kingdom had suffered just decades before.

But that was where God revealed His great might and His enduring love for His people. Despite their sins and disobedience, their refusal to obey the Lord’s will and commandments, God still loved His people nonetheless. That was why He intervened and crushed the armies of the Assyrians and made them and their king to leave and return back to their homes in shame. And thus, the prophecies of Isaiah were indeed a further reinforcement and reminder to the people of God that the Lord was with them and was always by their side.

We heard also in our Gospel passage today of the Lord Jesus and His works among the people, how He took pity on His people, loving them and caring for their sick, healing many among them miraculously, and many of those who once had no hope and despaired, were restored through the hands of God. And He also sent out His disciples and followers to go before Him and to proclaim the Good News of God’s salvation, with the same power of healing and exorcism of demons and evil spirits among others.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we heard all of these from the Sacred Scriptures, we are reminded how this Advent we are expecting the Lord’s coming with joy, remembering firstly what He had done when He first came in the flesh, as we heard in our Gospel passage today. But even more so, we also wait in expectation of His second coming, when He shall fulfil all of His promises perfectly and completely, fulfilling completely the prophecies of Isaiah and the other prophets, the ushering of the time of eternal grace and joy for all the faithful ones of God.

In the meantime, we are all called to make ourselves holy and just, righteous and worthy of God through our actions, as well as through our strong relationship with God. That is why this season of Advent is a good time to remind us of our calling and obligations as Christians, that is to dedicate ourselves and our lives to God to the best of our abilities. Are we able and willing to do that, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Let us all look forward with anticipation and hope towards the Lord and all the true joy and the eternal life which He has promised us all His faithful ones. Let us all do our very best to remain faithful to Him, and prepare ourselves wholly to be able to celebrate the joy of Christmas with Christ, Our Lord, at the centre and as the sole focus of our joy and celebrations. May the Lord continue to guide us and help us, and may He strengthen us in our faith. Amen.

Friday, 4 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John Damascene, Priest and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Priests)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all reminded that God will be our Redeemer and He will liberate us from all of our trials and troubles. He is our Hope and the Light that will lead us the way out from the darkness. The Lord is what we should be focusing on, and we should dedicate ourselves to Him just as He has dedicated Himself to us and loved us so much, all these while.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah, of the prophecy about the Lord’s salvation, the coming of the time of His glorious days when He will bring forth all that He has promised to us, His beloved people. In that prophecy, the Lord promised that He will lead His people from their predicament, from their fallen state and from their wretched existence.

Hence, with all these prophecies, from Isaiah and the other prophets, the people of Israel, who had faced lots of trials and tribulations, challenges and troubles, they truly looked forward to the coming of the salvation of God, in the Messiah or Saviour that the Lord had promised to them. They have all suffered and endured much humiliation because of their own sins and disobedience, and therefore, they yearned and longed for that liberation.

This then relates to our Gospel passage today, in which we heard of the account of the Lord’s healing of the two blind men whom He encountered during His ministry. Those two blind men sought for the Lord and begged Him to heal them from their blindness. To be blind is truly a very terrible experience, and imagine that now we are able to look at all the wonders of the world, and not to be able to see all of that, is truly horrible.

And the Lord asked them, whether they believed in Him and in what He could do for them. Through their faith, and their commitment to their belief in Him, the Lord healed them from their blindness, opened their eyes and restored their ability to see once again. Therefore, they have been freed from their physical darkness, allowing them to see the light and the world again. Imagine someone who have suffered for so long in the darkness, without hope and without light, now finally able to see again, there must be such a great joy in them.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we go through this season of Advent, we look forward to the great celebrations and joy that will come in Christmas, as an important reminder of why we ought to celebrate joyfully because in Christ, we have seen the Hope and the Salvation promised to all of us, all these that had been prophesied by the prophets and which the Lord Himself had revealed to us. He has shown His love in person, by reaching out tot us, touching us and healing us from all of our predicaments.

Just all those blind men suffering from their blindness, we all too are suffering from the affliction of our sins. Even though we may be perfectly healthy in our body and physique, but our souls are still afflicted and corrupted by sin, which is a disease that afflict us, strike at us, and unless we rid ourselves of these afflictions, they will drag us down the path to damnation. Fortunately for us, the Lord loves each and every one of us, and is willing to forgive us our sins and heal us from our afflictions.

The question is then, are we willing to embrace the Lord’s love, mercy and forgiveness? Or do we prefer instead to continue living in the darkness and sin? The Lord wants to forgive us our sins, but do we want to be forgiven? Let us see the examples of those two blind men. They were healed because they believed in the Lord and had faith in Him, and they wanted to be healed. Unless we are willing to open ourselves to God’s forgiveness, grace and mercy, there can be no forgiveness, as we must accept the forgiveness and act in repentance of our past sins to be fully forgiven.

This season of Advent through the Scripture readings we are all constantly being reminded to love God because of the love that He Himself had shown to us all these while. We are all called to redirect our focus and attention on Him, and prepare ourselves so that we may truly celebrate Christmas with full appreciation of its importance. Let us fill ourselves with the joy of expectation of the Lord’s coming, remembering first of all His coming in the past, the coming of His salvation, and also then His promise of return at the end of time, when He will lead us all His faithful into His eternal kingdom.

How do we make best use of this season of Advent? It is by deepening our spirituality and our relationship with God. We can look upon the examples of the saints, all those holy men and women who had gone before us, and by whose lives God had been glorified. Today in particular, we celebrate the feast of one of those holy saints of God, namely St. John of Damascus, also known as St. John Damascene. He was a truly devout and faithful servant of God, whose lives and actions were truly exemplary and should serve as inspirations for all of us to follow.

St. John of Damascus lived in Syria which was why he was often called after the city of Damascus where he lived for most of his life. At that time, as a Christian living in Syria under the rule of non-Christians, St. John of Damascus was born into a family of Christian courtiers of the rulers of the Umayyad Caliphate, which capital was in Damascus. He was a renowned polymath and philosopher with wide range of knowledge in various topics.

St. John of Damascus was remembered for his great intellect and service to the Caliph in Damascus, and he was also known for his great faith and wisdom, as a priest and monk in a monastery in that area. After leaving the public service, he dedicated himself to a life of prayer and devotion, and his many writings on the matters of the faith were very influential in his defence of the true faith especially at that time against the false heresy of iconoclasm, supported by the Roman Emperor himself and his nobles.

St. John of Damascus wrote fervently and courageously even against those who opposed the true faith, not fearing for himself. He did what he could to prevent more and more souls from falling into the wrong paths, and he dedicated the latter half of his life doing that and leading a prayerful and pious life as a priest and monk. His contributions to the Church were enormous, and he continued to inspire many people long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, are we able to follow in the footsteps of St. John of Damascus? Are we willing to dedicate ourselves to serve the Lord faithfully and wholeheartedly as he and the multitudes of other saints had done? Let us all ponder on these questions and ask ourselves, what are we going to do especially during this blessed season of Advent in order to prepare ourselves well for the coming of Christmas.

Are we going to continue living just as per usual? Celebrating Christmas just as usual, in the same manner as how others have celebrated it all around the world? Or are we going to have a profound change in how we live our lives, and re-centre our whole existence around God, the true Light and Hope of Christmas? Our true Joy and the source of our Salvation? Let us all seek the Lord this Advent with renewed vigour and strength, brothers and sisters. Amen.

Thursday, 3 December 2020 : Feast of St. Francis Xavier, Priest and Patron of Missions (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today the Church commemorates the feast of the great saint, St. Francis Xavier, known widely throughout the Church especially in the mission areas of the Eastern Hemisphere, where he laboured for many years as the missionary of God to proclaim the Gospel and the Good News of God to the many people who had not yet ever heard of the Lord.

St. Francis Xavier was one of the earliest and founding members of the Jesuit order, also known as the Society of Jesus, founded by St. Ignatius of Loyola. At that time, like minded men and those with fervour and zeal to reform the Church and spread the faith joined St. Ignatius of Loyola in what was soon to become a great struggle and plenty of work in advancing the cause of the Christian faith both within the Church and outside of the Church.

At that time, the Jesuits were at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation efforts throughout Christendom, particularly in Europe when they were working hard in stemming the tide of false teachings and heresies that sprung up with the reformation. Many members of the Jesuits were sent to various states and countries throughout the world in order to evangelise, preach and teach the faith to the people, and they often faced many challenges and trials.

While much of the attention was often given to the efforts of the Jesuits in Europe and in Counter-Reformation, but equally important is the Jesuits’ efforts in sending missionaries that became successful in their efforts to plant the seeds of the Christian faith in many distant places in the Far East as well as in the New World, the Americas, where St. Francis Xavier was the pioneer in this effort with his missions to India, Southeast Asia, Japan and also China. It was timely with the discovery of routes and improvement in naval technology that allowed the Christian missionaries to travel to all those places they had not been able to go to before.

St. Francis Xavier went on a long journey to India where he established the foundation of the Jesuit mission in several places, and became the lead for many more Jesuit missionaries as well as other missionaries from other religious orders in the centuries to come. He also then went to Malacca in Southeast Asia, in the present day Malaysia and travelled throughout the Indonesian archipelago, spreading the first seeds of faith and building up the first local Christian communities.

This was where the famous story of St. Francis Xavier and the crab named after him came to be, as it was told that during a great storm that hit his boat as he was travelling through the archipelago, the boat was about to sink when St. Francis Xavier prayed hard and threw his crucifix into the water with faith that God would calm the waters. Indeed, the storm stopped and the waves calmed, just as the Lord Jesus Himself had once calmed a storm before His disciples. A crab appeared, holding up the crucifix that St. Francis Xavier threw, and as he collected his crucifix and thanked the crab, he blessed it, and from there henceforth, the crab has the marking of a cross on its back.

This story, among many others showed just how tough the works of a missionary is, especially in those distant, unexplored territories that St. Francis Xavier had gone to, to the furthest reaches of Japan and East Asia, where he also established the foundation of a very successful Japanese mission where hundreds of thousands would be converted in the succeeding decades. At that time, missionaries had to endure a lot of hardships, and St. Francis Xavier was no exception.

Nonetheless, St. Francis Xavier remained firm in his conviction and in his efforts to serve the Lord, doing his very best to spread the word of God and showing by example what it means to be faithful to Him and what it truly means to be a Christian missionary. As he waited for the opportunity to enter China in Macau and Shangchuan island off the coast of China, he passed away, until the very end never ceasing to desire to work for God and His greater glory, seeking to convert many souls for the Lord in the great land of China.

St. Francis Xavier had been named as the Patron of Missions and as the role model for all the Christian missionaries, all those who dedicate themselves for the Lord and His mission to evangelise the Good News to all the peoples, of all the nations. St. Francis Xavier should also be our role model in faith because ultimately, the Lord’s commission has been given to all of us and not just to any one of us.

He told all of His disciples, ‘Go forth to the nations, and baptise all in the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.’ And with that same commandment, all of us have also been called to reach out to our neighbours and to all others, and to show them what our Christian faith is all about, not necessarily by words, but even more importantly through our actions and deeds.

After all, if we say that we believe in the Lord and preach of Him, and yet, in how we behave and act, we are doing contrary to what we believe, just like what many among the Pharisees had done, how can we expect others to believe in us? We are no better than hypocrites and unbelievers in reality. Unless we become genuine and true Christians in all things, we will have no place in God’s kingdom.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all embrace our calling as Christian missionaries, in each and every moments of our lives. Let us all be role models of faith and be good examples of what it means to be Christians to all. Let us show by example and not just by words alone, as St. Francis Xavier had done, and let us all have the same fire and zeal in us as St. Francis Xavier had once shown.

May the Lord help us all that we may make best use of this Season of Advent to prepare ourselves spiritually for Christmas, as well as to strengthen our conviction to be good and exemplary Christians, from now onwards if we have not yet done so. Let us all commit ourselves ever more faithfully from now on, always and evermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 2 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of God in the Scriptures, all of us are reminded of the wonderful love of God for each and every one of us, of all that He has planned for us and also promised to us, since the very beginning, that all of us are to enjoy forever the true happiness and great prosperity and joy with Him in His heavenly glory. This is what the Lord has always intended for us, and He will lead us to that.

In our first reading today we heard the prophecy of the prophet Isaiah regarding the coming of God’s salvation and grace, the promise He made of the liberation and rejoicing of all the faithful, freed from their bondage and their shamefulness, and returning to God’s loving embrace, they shall not be sorrowful or suffer any longer. And this prophecy if we note, is remarkably similar to what we have also heard in the Book of Revelations of St. John the Apostle.

In the Book of Revelations, the Lord showed His Apostle St. John the vision of what will happen in the future, at the time that the Lord Himself had appointed, for the end of the world as we know it, the judgment of all the living and the dead, and the final defeat of Satan and his forces of evil and wickedness. The Lord revealed that in the end, all the faithful shall suffer no more, shed tears no more, and not be sorrowful any more, for their Lord and Master is with them, and they are to enjoy forever the fruits of their labours and faith.

This is the completion of what the Lord had revealed first through Isaiah and the other prophets, which had been affirmed by His Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ. Although at the time of His first coming, He did not bring all of us mankind into eternal happiness and joy, but all these are part of God’s plan, and He revealed that, He shall return in the end, to complete perfectly all that He has revealed and promised to us.

That is why, in this season of Advent, we prepare ourselves in heart, mind and body, especially in our spiritual readiness to celebrate the occasion of Christmas. And as we prepare ourselves, we have to take special attention and care not to fall into the trap of celebrating just the materialistic and secular Christmas as how the world celebrates it, with lots of merrymaking and joy, lots of gifts and lavish celebrations and feasts, and yet, without Christ at the centre of it all.

We all ought to know that we rejoice in this season and expectation of Christmas not just because we celebrate the Lord’s coming as it had happened a long time ago. Indeed, we rejoice because we have seen the salvation of Our God, coming in the flesh, in the Son of Man, the manifestation of God’s perfect love and compassion for us, as we have also heard in our Gospel passage today, in how He showed pity and love for the people who followed Him for many days and were hungry, miraculously feeding them all with just a few loaves of bread and several fishes.

Through that show of love, the Lord wants us all to know just how beloved and precious we are to Him, and we are indeed so fortunate because of this. And that is why, in Advent, we also look forward and rejoice because of our expectation of the Lord’s return, His second coming, when He will come again as a triumphant and conquering King, and He will gather us all together, His people, and if we remain faithful, righteous and just, in the end, we shall be deemed worthy of the Lord’s eternal glory and true joy with Him.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, too many of us are too distracted with our busy lives and other preoccupations that we end up getting ourselves ever more distanced and further away from God. And we have given little time and attention for the Lord, despite all that He had done for us, all the love He has shown us. Instead, we kept ourselves busy trying to attain for ourselves worldly glory, satisfaction, wealth and all other false sources of happiness that kept us away from being able to find our true happiness in God.

In this season of Advent, let us take some time to reflect on our lives, our actions and how we have lived our lives thus far. Have we been faithful to God, or have we instead taken His love and compassion, His kindness and grace for granted, brothers and sisters in Christ? Let us all discern in what way we can be better disciples and followers of God from now on, and let us all make best use of this time of Advent in order to renew ourselves and our faith.

May the Lord help us and guide us throughout this season of Advent, that we may grow ever deeper in faith and will be able to prepare and celebrate the true joy of Christmas together as one Christian community, all of God’s beloved people. Let us all share our joy with each other, and inspire one another to live ever more faithfully in Christ. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Tuesday, 1 December 2020 : 1st Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we enter into the season of Advent and begin this month of December, we are all called to take a step back from our usual busy schedules, and think of how we can make best use of this season of Advent. The time of Advent is a time for reconciliation with God, a time for redirection and reorientation of our lives. As we enter into this time of Advent, we are all called to find more time for God, and to prepare ourselves for His coming.

Yes, brothers and sisters, as we all should know that the essence of Advent itself comes from name, ‘Adventus’ which means the coming and appearing, with the connotation of expecting the coming of something, and in this case, what most of us probably knew is that Advent is the season of expectation for the coming of Christmas. However, Advent itself also has another connotation as a reminder for each one of us, that this expectation of the Lord’s coming is not just one of our commemoration of His past birth in Bethlehem in Judea, but even more importantly, that we also await His future second coming.

The Lord has revealed all of these to us through His disciples, He, the ‘Root of Jesse’ as prophesied by the prophet Isaiah, as the descendant and heir of King David, the son of Jesse, to be the One to rule over the Israelites and the people of God forever. And God revealed that His plans and His promises were to be fulfilled through Christ, Who was born in Bethlehem in Judea, in the city of David two thousand years ago, the Son of Mary, and the Son of God Most High.

But what we have heard in that passage from our first reading today is in fact a prophecy of not what had happened two thousand years ago, but it is a prophecy that is yet to be completely fulfilled, and which will be fulfilled at the Lord’s second coming, which is going to happen at a time that is preordained and determined by the Lord. As we have read from the Book of Revelations of St. John, part of what is about to happen have been revealed to us in that vision of the end of time.

Some among the Jews refused to believe in Jesus as the Messiah, because to many of them, the Messiah as prophesied and foretold by the prophets like Isaiah was like a powerful, conquering King that will liberate the people of God and restore peace and harmony to the whole land, and indeed, to the whole world. This did not happen when the Lord Jesus was betrayed, arrested and condemned to death at the hands of the Romans, handed over to be crucified.

However, the reality and truth is that, the Lord shall complete everything and all that had been prophesied when He comes again, to gather all of His faithful ones and judge all the living and the dead, all of creation at the Last Judgment. He shall come as a conquering and triumphant King, defeating Satan and all the enemies of God and His faithful ones in one final victory. And this is what each and every one of us are looking forward to in our lives.

By His coming in the historical past, the Lord had brought the His salvation into this world, and revealed His truth and love, restoring hope to us all who have lived in darkness all these while, thus, showing us all the path out of the darkness and into the light. And by His promise of His return, and the New Covenant which He had made with us by His ultimate and most loving sacrifice on the Cross, He showed us all the sure path to eternal life and true joy with Him.

This is what we are all truly celebrating, brothers and sisters in Christ, the hope that we have in Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Saviour of the whole world and all mankind. Christmas is not about our own selfish happiness and desires, or about our ego and pride, just as we often see how people bicker over Christmas celebrations and trying to outdo each other in making a grander celebrations. Who is it that we celebrate? It is Christ, and the Light of Hope that He has brought into our midst.

In this season of Advent, we are called to purify ourselves and to reorientate our lives, our thoughts and actions, so that we may properly celebrate Christmas, with faith and devotion, and appreciating fully just how important Christmas is to us, because through Christmas, God Himself has dwelled among us, Emmanuel, as He has revealed to us through His prophets. And let us all make ourselves truly worthy of Him, for the sake of His love for each and every one of us. Let us be true and genuine Christians in our every actions and deeds, at all times.

May the Lord help us to journey faithfully through this blessed season of Advent, and may He strengthen our faith and conviction to live our lives with ever greater commitment to serve Him and to glorify Him by our lives. May our Advent season be fruitful and may we all be sources of hope and inspriation to one another, through our faithful observation of this blessed time and season. Amen.

Monday, 30 November 2020 : Feast of St. Andrew, Apostle (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Red

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us celebrate the Feast of St. Andrew the Apostle, one of the Twelve Apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ and also the brother of St. Peter the Apostle, the Vicar of Christ. St. Andrew is also often known as St. Andrew the First-Called, due to his background as the likely disciple of St. John the Baptist before becoming a follower of Christ, and according to tradition, one of the two disciples to whom St. John the Baptist proclaimed, ‘Look, there is the Lamb of God!’ referring to the Lord at His baptism.

St. Andrew therefore was indeed the first-called of the Lord’s disciples, and he was the one who introduced the Lord to his brother, St. Peter, as well as the brothers St. James and St. John, the sons of Zebedee. Those three would be among the closest of the Lord’s disciples, and would often accompany the Lord on important events of His ministry like the Transfiguration and the moment of His Agony in the Gardens of Gethsemane.

St. Andrew himself was also mentioned at the feeding of the five thousand, when he was the one who brought the boy with loaves of bread and fish to Him, that He might give them to the people all waiting in hunger. At that time, St. Andrew did not yet understand what the Lord would do, but the Lord overcame his doubts that those meagre amount of food could feed the whole multitudes of people through the great miracle of the feeding of the five thousand men and thousands more of women and children.

In time, St. Andrew would continue to faithfully serve the Lord through His ministry, and was there throughout His Passion, suffering, death and Resurrection from the dead. From the beginning when he was first called by the Lord to be His follower, St. Andrew had dedicated himself just as his brother and the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord had done, ministering to the people and proclaiming the Lord’s coming. And even after the Lord had ascended into Heaven, he continued to preach the faith in a renewed ministry and calling.

St. Andrew brought the faith to many lands, including those areas now known as Ukraine and Russia, the Balkans and Greece among other places. He laboured hard like the other Apostles and disciples of the Lord, spreading the Good News to many people, to those who had not yet witnessed and heard about the Lord and His salvation. Many were converted by his works and efforts, and many more were inspired by his ministry.

St. Andrew established the Church in many places and built the foundation for the Christian communities in those places, and most importantly, in the place where a great city now stands, the city of Constantinople, St. Andrew was the first Bishop of the Christian community there. At that time, the place was just a small historic city of Byzantium, at the juncture and crossroads between Asia and Europe. It was there that St. Andrew would henceforth be well remembered as the founder of the See of Constantinople, once Byzantium was rebuilt as Constantinople, the new capital of the Roman Empire.

And just like most of the other Apostles and many other disciples of the Lord, St. Andrew faced persecution and sufferings, and during his ministry in the land of Greece, he was arrested, put to great suffering, and was eventually martyred by crucifixion, being crucified on an X-shaped cross, which would therefore be known as the Cross of St. Andrew, in memory of his faith and dedication to the Lord to the very end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in St. Andrew we have seen a great disciple and follower of the Lord. St. Andrew the Apostle is our inspiration and role model in how he followed the Lord and responded to His call. Are we able to follow his good examples, and respond to the Lord’s call to all of us as well? The Lord has called us all to follow Him and serve Him, and to devote and our attention to bring greater glory to His Name.

Yet, many of us have not realise and appreciate this calling, and many of us remain lukewarm in our faith and passive in how we lived our lives. To be a Christian means we must be ready to face challenges, trials and persecutions as the Apostles and the disciples of the Lord had faced, and as the many martyrs of the Church could attest before us all. There are still so much indeed that we can do as Christians, and as members of God’s Church and as His disciples.

Let us all respond well to the Lord’s calling in our respective lives and in whatever contributions we can make in our communities, families, among our circle of friends and more. We do not need to do great and marvellous things, and it is through our little dedications and commitments everyday, through our simple actions, through our words and ways of interacting with each other, that communicates our genuine faith and love for God, which will be the best preaching of the Good News, and we will become like St. Andrew, inspirational example of faith for all of our fellow brethren to follow.

Let us all pray for the good of the Church, and ask St. Andrew to intercede for all of us. In particular, we pray for the full unity of the Church, as the Church of Constantinople and the Eastern Orthodox Communion centred on the See of his successor in Constantinople, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, that they together will continue their journey towards full reunion and reconciliation with the Universal Church, with St. Peter and his successors, the Vicar of Christ, all fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Amen.

Sunday, 29 November 2020 : First Sunday of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today this Sunday we mark the beginning of a new liturgical year as well as the season of Advent, the time of preparation and spiritual purification for us to prepare ourselves properly for the celebration of Christmas, the birth of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Now is a time of reconciliation between us and God, and for us to reexamine our way of life thus far.

As we mark the beginning a new year cycle and this blessed season of preparation, we enter into a time of reconfiguration of our lives and when we also take stock of what we have done and what we are going to do from now on, as we are about to celebrate once again, the joyous celebrations of our Saviour’s birth into this world. Is it going to be just yet another Christmas and another celebration for us? Another season and time of merry-making and fun, but not accompanied by true and profound change of heart, brothers and sisters in Christ?

Many of us have been seeing Christmas and its celebration all around us especially from the lenses of secular and worldly celebrations, as I am very sure that the Christmas festivities have already been in full force by now. As early as October and early November shops, shopping malls and many other places have been decked with plenty of Christmas decorations, themes and various other activities that are meant to prepare everyone for the festivities of the Christmas season.

However, many have easily forgotten of the true meaning of Christmas, where Christmas becomes just another holiday and time of merry-making that is bereft of its true intention and purpose. To many of us, Christmas is about exchanges of gifts, great food and tantalising meals, celebrations and parties. And while of course it is perfectly well and fine to celebrate, but we have often forgotten why it is that we are celebrating in Christmas.

We all knew well that Christmas is celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, and Our God. But, how many of us actually internalise that fact and understand how it is so important and significant for us? Too many of us have treated Christmas, year after year, again and again, just as a season and time to be merry and happy, in tandem with what the world has done, in their secular celebrations.

Do we really appreciate just how important Christmas is to all of us? Christmas, along with Easter that is to come in a few months’ time, together celebrate the very important event in our history, that is the salvation of mankind and the fulfilment of God’s long-held promises for each and every one of us, through Christ, His beloved Son, sent into the world as the ultimate gift for all of us. Without Christmas, there will be no Easter and its significance, and at the same time, without Easter, Christmas itself would have been of little importance.

Why is that so? That is because through Christmas, the Son of God and Saviour of all entered into this world, incarnate into flesh, born as the Son of Man through His mother Mary. At Christmas, we celebrate this newborn Baby, born the Saviour of the world and King of kings, the Divine Word Incarnate, Who was to be the One to make a New Covenant between God and His people, through none other than His ultimate sacrifice on the Cross. Without Easter and the Passion that happened before it, then Christmas will be just another birthday of another man. It is Easter that gave Christmas its full meaning and significance.

That is because here we have the Son of God born and uniting Himself into the humanity He willingly took, that would eventually unite our sufferings and sins, and bearing all that burden together on His Cross that Christ became the source of all our salvation, our hope and the Light that dispels the darkness of this world surrounding us. Yes, and that is why, on this First Sunday of Advent, we focus on the theme of Hope, out of the four themes of Advent, ‘Hope’, ‘Peace’, ‘Joy’ and ‘Love’.

Our Christmas joy must always be accompanied by Hope, for Hope is what has been re-enkindled in our hearts following the birth of Christ, and in Him we see once again the Light of God’s hope, amidst our wretched conditions, the despair and darkness that are surrounding us. Once, by our sins we should have been destroyed and condemned to eternal suffering, but God showed that His love and compassion triumph even over all of these, and He has made His love manifested to us, through none other than His Son.

Do you all remember the most famous phrase from the Gospel of St. John, ‘That God so loved the world that He gave us all His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life?’. In these words spoken by the Lord Jesus Himself to Nicodemus the Pharisee, we heard of the proclamation of God’s love and His desire to see us freed and liberated from whatever chains and bondage that had been holding us back, that is the chains of sin and the bondage of death.

It is because of the Lord that we can hope once again, that beyond the sufferings due to sin and death, there is Light that dispels the falsehoods of evil and the despair and fear of darkness. There is Hope because God’s love has been made manifest in the flesh before us, that what was once intangible has become tangible, that God has truly loved us from the very beginning, and has always still loved us, always. And we also look forward to His Second Coming, when He shall return as promised to gather us all His faithful ones.

And now that we know all of these, how should we then proceed with our Christmas celebrations and festivities? It is not wrong to celebrate and be merry, as we should indeed and rightfully be joyful because of Christmas. However, we really need to ask ourselves, what our Christmas celebrations are all about. Is it about ourselves and our desires for good things, for expensive gifts and wonderful, tantalising meals and food, or is it about our joy because of the Hope that Our Lord Jesus Christ has brought us through His birth?

You see, brothers and sisters in Christ, that without the right mindset and focus, we can easily end up losing the entire meaning and purpose of our Christmas celebrations and joy. We can celebrate very well, but without appreciating the true and full meaning and importance of Christmas, then our celebrations are meaningless and empty. Christmas becomes mundane and ordinary just like how year after year people celebrate Christmas in a secular and worldly way, buying gifts and trying to outdo each other in decorating their houses and places.

As Christians, our Christmas celebration is especially important and meaningful because we celebrate this very crucial and pivotal moment in our salvation as mentioned and discussed just earlier. And consequently, our mindset and focus must properly reflect of this, or else we will end up falling into the same trap of commercialised and worldly Christmas celebrations, just as we have certainly been bombarded with all around us these past few weeks.

That is why, during this season of Advent that we begin today, we have to prepare ourselves, not just in material terms and physically like in preparing for all the parties and celebrations, but even more importantly, we have to spiritually prepare ourselves, for the Advent, or the coming of Our Lord. For it is this expectation of the coming of the Lord that gave this season its Name, from the term ‘Adventus’ which means ‘coming and appearing’. We have to focus on that Hope that Christ has brought us with His birth, and share that same Hope to one another, the Hope in the salvation of Our God.

How do we do this, brothers and sisters in Christ? It is by reaching out to one another and sharing the Hope that Christ has brought to us, be it to our fellow Christians or to any other out there, our friends and relatives, our acquaintances and even strangers and others we encounter in our daily lives. And this year in particular had been especially difficult and tough for so many people out there, enduring and suffering the extended effects of the pandemic, the economic troubles and other conflicts between nations that we are surely very familiar of all throughout this year.

Can we, as Christians, be bearers of Hope for the world, for our less fortunate brothers and sisters? If we ourselves have suffered and laboured in suffering this year, do not forget that there are definitely those others who have suffered even more and in even worse state than we are now. Let us restore the hope in others, by reaching out to them and helping one another in even small, little ways that we can do, to show the Hope of Christ through our actions.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, those are just some ways that we can begin our Advent preparations well, and there are many other ways that we can make our blessed season of Advent meaningful, as we prepare ourselves to celebrate Christmas together. And this year, being known for its limitations and restrictions due to the pandemic, is perhaps a good time for us to reflect on our usual Christmas practices and celebrations, to ask ourselves once again, the fundamental questions of, ‘Why do we celebrate this Christmas?’ and ‘What is the meaning of Christmas to me and my family?’

Let us all enter into this season of Advent with solemnity and internal reflection, and let us refocus our attention in life, that we turn our gaze and focus once again on the Lord and the hope that He has brought to us, that in Him alone lies our salvation, and through Him, we can overcome the darkness that are affecting us, and through Him, our sufferings and pains, our troubles and difficulties will eventually be gone, and in Him, we shall enjoy one day, the eternal glory and true happiness with Him, forevermore. May God bless us all and our Advent activities. Amen.

Saturday, 28 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green or White (Saturday Mass of Our Lady)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today all of us on this very last day of this current liturgical year cycle are reminded to look back at our lives thus far, and reflect on whether they have been righteous and in accordance with God’s will, or whether we have erred and fell astray in our path, that we ended walking down the path of sin. Then, we are also reminded to look forward ahead, to the life that is to come, and which God has promised us, His eternal glory in Heaven to be lived together with us.

Therefore at this very important juncture, at the crossroads between the liturgical year cycles, we are kept being reminded, year after year, time after time, that we have to be faithful all throughout our lives, to be vigilant against falsehoods and the powerful temptations of the devil and all those seeking our destruction by turning our ego, desire and pride against us. We have to resist these temptations, which have been laid bare by the Lord in our Gospel passage today, and which is fleshed out further by His Apostles and the Church.

The Lord does not want us to fall into these temptations, for they serve as distractions and obstacles that will make it difficult for us to commit to His path, and as history and times past had shown us, through temptations the devil and his allies had ensnared so many souls and while many were saved, there were also those many souls that become lost forever to God, through sin and through their conscious rejection of His mercy and compassion.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the Lord has given us the wisdom and the free will, together with the guidance of His Church and all the holy ones, saints and blesseds who are our role models. We are presented with the difficult task of choosing which path we are to take going forward in life. It may seem to be easier than it looks, as after all it is just a choice is it not? But in truth, throughout life, there will be many occurrences and moments, as I am certain that it had happened frequently before, that we have to make difficult choices with regards to this matter.

Many of us have had to choose between conforming with the ways of the world, and even between our friends and following them, or following God and remaining faithful to Him. And especially in our world today, surrounded constantly by all these worldly temptations of power, wealth, glory, and all other things that lead us away from God, it is increaasingly difficult for us to remain faithful. Those who have kept the faith often had to make sacrifices and suffer for their choices.

In all these, the devil often presents us with the easy way out, the seemingly more enjoyable and easier path, one that is easier to tread and endure. However, we must not easily be deceived by his lies, and we have to look clearly and discern carefully on many matters, that we can keep ourselves free from these continued assaults of the devil and all those seeking our ruin and destruction. Let us all put our faith in God and entrust ourselves to Him, as we move forward in life and begin the new cycle of liturgical year.

As Christians we are always called to live virtuously and righteously in accordance to what the Lord had taught us to do, and that is especially in loving God wholeheartedly and in showing that same love to our fellow brothers and sisters, in particular those who are most in need of our love, care and attention. Are we capable and willing to accept this calling and responsibility, brothers and sisters in Christ? The choice is ours to make, and we have to keep in mind that, if we are faithful, in the end, what awaits us is eternal glory and peace.

As we enter into this new liturgical year cycle, let us all continue to inspire one another to be faithful, to be good and righteous at all times, in our every words, actions and deeds, and in our every interactions with each other. May the Lord continue to guide us and strengthen us in our journey of faith, and may He help us to endure the trials and challenges, the temptations and many other efforts that the devil and his fallen allies have always been trying so hard to use to attack us with. May God be with us always, and be our source of strength, hope and inspiration in life. Amen.

Friday, 27 November 2020 : Last Week of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we continue to hear the reminders from the Sacred Scriptures of the need for us to be ever vigilant and strong, to be prepared and ready to welcome the Lord again when He comes just as He has promised us. We must never be complacent and lukewarm in the living of our faith because that will lead us down the path of ruin, and Satan will have his way in persuading us, coercing us and forcing us to live wickedly in the state of sin by his many efforts and attacks on us.

We have to live faithfully and embrace fully the teachings and ways that He has taught us, and which He Himself had shown us by His actions, His loving care and compassionate mercy. And in today’s first reading taken from the Book of Revelations of St. John, we heard of the final defeat of Satan, the great enemy and deceiver of all the faithful. For all of his might and power, he was nothing before God, and his rebellion against Him will be destroyed and defeated completely, and he and his rebel angels and all those who follow him will be thrown into eternal darkness.

Tying this to the Gospel reading today, which concurs with the message of the past few days as we come to the end of this current liturgical year cycle, the Lord said that the signs of times denotes change and omens of things to come, and this is the same with the moment of the Lord’s return into this world, just as He has promised. While we do not know the exact time and moment of the Lord’s coming, but we can be assured that He will come as He has said, and we have to be ready for Him.

If we read through the accounts of the Book of Revelations, St. John saw great persecutions against Christians, by all those who refuse to believe in God and chose to follow the devil and his false prophets. St. John the Apostle saw how many people are swayed by the antichrist and the false prophets and therefore fall into their ruin in the end when the Lord comes to judge all the creation, as also mentioned in our first reading today.

The Lord has revealed everything to us, what will come to happen in the future, His love for each and every one of us, His kindness and compassion, His desire to see us reconciled and forgiven from our sins, and yet, are we all willing to embrace and accept His love and mercy? Or do we rather continue to live in sin and to indulge in whatever temptations and false leads that the devil and his allies are trying to ruin us with? We must not let these wicked forces destroy us, brothers and sisters in Christ.

That is why, as we listen to these readings and reflect again on their meaning and importance to us, we are all called to think about our Christian calling and responsibilities. We are all called to follow the Lord and His examples, as well as the examples of His Apostles and saints, all those who have shown us the way how to live well as Christians, dedicated and committed to serve the Lord and to be righteous and good in all of our words, actions, deeds and interactions in life.

Now that this current liturgical year is coming to an end, we are all called to reflect on these matters carefully, and we are reminded constantly that the Lord’s coming is something that we will not expect at the very least, in terms of its exact timing, and surely we do not want to be caught unprepared, and deemed to be unworthy and unfaithful just because we have been delaying and postponing our faithful living just so that we can indulge in the pleasures and the many temptations of this world.

Let us all change ourselves, brothers and sisters in Christ, that if we have not been faithful to God, we may seek Him more earnestly and with greater desire from now on. And if we have done wrong and been sinful, then we should seek Him for forgiveness, as after all, He is always ever ready to welcome us back as long as we sincerely desire to return to Him and seek to be forgiven through genuine repentance. Let us all grow ever more faithful and loving towards God, from now on, and do our best that our lives will become inspiration of faith to one another.

May the Lord, our God and King, guide us and strengthen us in our journey of faith through life, that we may persevere through whatever trials, challenges and temptations that are facing us. Let us all not be dragged into sin and into the darkness by the devil and all of his fellow tempters, but let us all be stronger in faith, and be ever more faithful Christians from now on. May God bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.