Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are almost at Christmas and our wait for the great celebrations as almost over, and today is the last day of the season of Advent, the time which the Church has especially provided for us all to prepare ourselves for the coming of Christmas. Now, let us then ask ourselves if we are all truly ready to welcome the Lord and rejoice in Him this Christmas?

Have our Advent activities been fruitful, brothers and sisters in Christ? Have we made good use of the time provided for us to have a profound change and preparation in our hearts and minds, in our way of life and in our predisposition to be able to celebrate Christmas worthily, with true joy and with the right focus and intentions? Are we still celebrating Christmas in the wrong way, by forgetting about the One Whom we ought to be celebrating about?

As we recall the Scripture readings we have just heard today, we should inspect ourselves and see how we have progressed through this Advent and in our own journey of faith. Our first reading which was taken from the Book of the prophet Samuel told us about the conversation between king David and his advisor, the prophet Nathan, about his desire to build a great house for the Lord, the idea which would eventually become the great Temple of Jerusalem.

However, God had a different plan, and told king David that it was not His will that the House would be built by him or during his reign as king, as instead, it would be his son, the future king Solomon, who would be the one to build the great house for God. Nonetheless, if we read through the other parts of the history, it was king David who laid much of the foundations of the effort, preparing much goods and materials necessary for the foundation of the Temple.

In this reading alone, there are a few things that we should take note of carefully. First of all, when God spoke to king David that it would be his son who would build the Temple of God, and how God would make the reign of David’s son secure, God was in fact speaking not just of the literal son of David, that is Solomon, but also foreshadowing of the One Who would be the fulfilment of all of God’s many promises, that is Christ, to be born as Heir and Son of David, Who would be the One to build the Eternal dwelling of God among His people.

And how did that happen, brothers and sisters in Christ? It was by His incarnation in the flesh, that the Divine Word and Son of God entered into this world and born as the Son of Man, through Mary, His mother. Through this singular act, of God becoming one of us, He has dwelled in our midst and built His House forever, the foundation of which is His own beloved Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

And just as the first Temple is the place where the people of Israel worshipped God and was the visible symbol of God’s presence among His people, thus the new and everlasting Temple in Christ which Our Lord Himself has built, is the focus and heart of the Church that He has established in this world, and is composed of all of us who believed in the Lord. All of these were made possible because God has loved us so much and endeavoured to do so much for us, that by His entry into this world, that we celebrate in Christmas, all of us have a new hope in Him.

In our Gospel today, we heard of the father of St. John the Baptist, Zechariah, who was so filled with the Holy Spirit that he sang with a great joy, blessing and thanking God for all that He has done for His people, not just that He has blessed him with a son, but even more so that because of that son he had, through the works that the son would accomplish in proclaiming the coming of the Messiah, the world would be called towards God’s salvation and love.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, is this the same kind of joy that we have and which we are preparing for this upcoming Christmas? Or is our joy instead one that is empty and self-centred, and not centred and focused on Christ? Because Christmas is just tomorrow, let us ask ourselves, and indeed, remind ourselves, what is the true meaning and joy of Christmas to all of us. We should be joyful as Zechariah had been, with the right intention in heart and mind.

And just as I mentioned earlier, how king David prepared lots of things and materials to build the House of God, let us all the also prepare ourselves to have a wonderful and most meaningful Christmas celebration, not in the festivities and merrymaking, but rather by putting Christ at the very centre and heart of our celebrations, remembering God’s great love for us that made Christmas possible in the first place.

Let us share the joy and love of God in Christmas to everyone, and let us all bear witness to Christ, by doing our best to live as how we should be living as Christians, filled with God’s love and generously sharing this love with one another. And may God be with us always and may He bless our Christmas celebrations beginning tomorrow. Amen.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 67-79

Zechariah, filled with Holy Spirit, sang this canticle, “Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He has come and redeemed His people. In the house of David His servant, He has raised up for us a victorious Saviour; as He promised through His prophets of old, salvation from our enemies and from the hand of our foes.”

“He has shown mercy to our fathers; and remembered His holy covenant, the oath He swore to Abraham, our father, to deliver us from the enemy, that we might serve Him fearlessly, as a holy and righteous people, all the days of our lives.”

“And you, my child, shall be called prophet of the Most High, for you shall go before the Lord to prepare the way for Him, and to enable His people to know of their salvation, when He comes to forgive their sins. This is the work of the mercy of our God, Who comes from on high as a rising sun, shining on those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, and guiding our feet into the way of peace.”

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 88 : 2-3. 4-5, 27 and 29

I will sing forever, o YHVH, of Your love, and proclaim Your faithfulness from age to age. I will declare how steadfast is Your love, how firm Your faithfulness.

You said, “I have made a Covenant with David, My chosen one; I have made a pledge to My servant. I establish his descendants forever; I build his throne for all generations.”

He will call on Me, “You are my Father, my God, my Rock, my Saviour.” I will keep My Covenant firm forever, and my love for Him will endure.

Tuesday, 24 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

2 Samuel 7 : 1-5, 8b-12, 14a, 16

When the king had settled in his palace and YHVH had rid him of all his surrounding enemies, he said to Nathan the prophet, “Look, I live in a house of cedar but the Ark of God is housed in a tent.” Nathan replied, “Do as it seems fit to you for YHVH is with you.”

But that very night, YHVH’s word came to Nathan, “Go and tell My servant David, this is what YHVH says : Are you able to build a house for Me to live in? I took you from the pasture, from tending the sheep, to make you commander of My people Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, cutting down all your enemies before you. Now I will make your name great, as the name of the great ones on earth.”

“I will provide a place for My people Israel and plant them that they may live there in peace. They shall no longer be harassed, nor shall wicked men oppress them as before. From the time when I appointed judges over My people Israel it is only to you that I have given rest from all your enemies. YHVH also tells you that He will build you a house.”

“When the time comes for you to rest with your ancestors, I will raise up your son after you, the one born of you; and I will make his reign secure. I will be a Father to him and he shall be My son. Your house and your reign shall last forever before Me, and your throne shall be forever firm.”

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the words of the Scripture speaking to us about the messenger of God whom He has revealed through His prophets to be the one who would prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah, as we heard from the prophet Malachi in our first reading today, as the prophet spoke of the coming of the messenger who is also the prophet Elijah, to prepare the path for the coming of the Messiah.

It is timely for us today to listen to these readings from the Scripture to remind us of what this person and servant of the Lord had done for our sake, when he did what the Lord had commanded him to do, in all the works he had done, in calling the people to repentance and to turn away from their sins, and instead embracing the truth of God and prepare themselves to welcome the Lord’s Saviour Who was about to come.

And this servant of God was none other than St. John the Baptist, the one sent to prepare the way for Christ, born of his parents, Zechariah and Elizabeth. It was this same Zechariah whom we heard from in our Gospel passage today, singing praises to God, thanking Him for all that He has done for His people, at the time when his son, St. John the Baptist was born. St. John the Baptist was born at the time when Zechariah and Elizabeth were both already very old and past the childbearing age.

At first, when an Angel of God came to Zechariah proclaiming how he and his wife would have a special child even in their old age, as the one whom God has promised to His people for a long time, Zechariah did not believe at first and doubted the Angel, saying that he and his wife could not have a child at such an age. As a result, he was struck dumb and could not speak until everything that the Lord has spoken came true, as Elizabeth became really pregnant and gave birth to St. John the Baptist.

What we have heard today in our Gospel passage was the moment of great joy and wonders that happened to Zechariah, as right after St. John the Baptist was born, Zechariah was freed from his dumbness. Zechariah gave out praise to God, and everything came to be as the Lord willed it. And that child would go on to become a faithful and dedicated servant of God, dedicating his whole life to the service of God, calling many people to repentance and to turn towards God, baptising them in the Jordan as a symbol of their renewal.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, then what is the significance of what we have heard in our Scripture passages today? It is that each and every one of us should appreciate first of all just how much God had done for us, in giving us so great a gift of salvation, that through His Son, He has willingly come to dwell in our midst, embracing our humanity to be a Man, through Whom all of us have received the reassurance of new hope and new life in Him, guaranteed by nothing less than His own Blood and life.

God sent us all of His prophets and messengers, right up to St. John the Baptist, all with the intention to remind us and to help us to find our way to Him, that we may be touched in our hearts and minds, that we may be able to see the love that He has showered us with, and which He has generously given to us in Christ, His Son, which we celebrate with much joy in Christmas, celebrating the moment when His love has manifested in our midst in the flesh.

And because of this, then we are also then called to follow in the footsteps of St. John the Baptist and innumerable other followers and disciples of the Lord who have dedicated their lives and all for the sake of the Lord, especially today that of St. John of Kanty, as his feast day is celebrated on this day. St. John of Kanty was also known by his Latinised name of St. John Cantius, a great and renowned philosopher and teacher of the faith from what is now Poland.

St. John Cantius was remembered for his great contributions in the area of Catholic education and philosophy, being not just a priest but also a great Professor of theology at the famous University of Krakow. He was a brilliant and intelligent man, just as he was also pious and faithful in all of his deeds. St. John Cantius however had to go through trials and difficulties, facing false accusations and lies from his fellow academics and forced out of his teaching role in the university, and sent instead to a parish.

St. John Cantius was fearful and worried of the challenges he had to face in the parish that was beset with difficult tasks, and yet, he gave it his all and dedicated himself completely to fulfil the missions entrusted to him and did his best for the sake of his many parishioners, who eventually grew to love him and were touched by his holiness and tireless efforts to reach out and minister to them. Eventually he could return to his teaching role at the university and continued to dedicate himself to his last days.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, St. John Cantius was a great and intelligent man, and yet at the same time, he was filled with love for God, as well as great humility and also generosity and love for his fellow men. His great qualities and personal holiness should indeed become our inspiration and strength, our beacon of light and hope, that we should follow in our own journey of faith in our lives. Are we able to walk the path that St. John Cantius had walked on, brothers and sisters in Christ?

As Christmas is truly already upon us, just two days from now, let us all ask ourselves if we have made use of this season of Advent meaningfully to prepare us to celebrate worthily and meaningfully the upcoming joy of Christmas? If we have not done so, then perhaps we may want to recall again what the faithful servants of the Lord, St. John the Baptist and St. John Cantius had done, and remember that as God’s faithful people, all of us are called to be witnesses for Him in our world, and what better way to do so than to be exemplary in our Christmas celebrations, truly focused and centred on God?

Let us all seek the Lord with all of our hearts and with all of our strength from now, beginning from our upcoming celebrations of Christmas, that we should out God once again at the centre of our lives, our existences, our families and communities. May God be with us all, and may He bless us all in our journey of faith and Christmas preparations. Amen.

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 57-66

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

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

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

Monday, 23 December 2019 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

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

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

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

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