Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 1 : 26-38

In the sixth month, the Angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth. He was sent to a young virgin, who was betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the family of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

The Angel came to her and said, “Rejoice, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” Mary was troubled at these words, wondering what this greeting could mean. But the Angel said, “Do not fear, Mary, for God has looked kindly on you. You shall conceive and bear a Son, and you shall call Him Jesus. He will be great, and shall rightly be called Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give Him the kingdom of David, His ancestor; He will rule over the people of Jacob forever, and His reign shall have no end.”

Then Mary said to the Angel, “How can this be, since I am a virgin?” And the Angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the Holy Child to be born of you shall be called Son of God. Even your relative Elizabeth is expecting a son in her old age, although she was unable to have a child; and she is now in her sixth month. With God nothing is impossible.”

Then Mary said, “I am the handmaid of the Lord, let it be done to me as you have said.” And the Angel left her.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Ephesians 1 : 3-6, 11-12

Blessed be God, the Father of Christ Jesus our Lord, Who, in Christ, has blessed us from heaven, with every spiritual blessing. God chose us, in Christ, before the creation of the world, to be holy, and without sin in His presence.

From eternity He destined us, in love, to be His adopted sons and daughters, through Christ Jesus, thus fulfilling His free and generous will. This goal suited Him : that His loving-kindness, which He granted us in His beloved might finally receive all glory and praise.

By a decree of Him, Who disposes all things, according to His own plan and decision, we, the Jews, have been chosen and called, and we were awaiting the Messiah, for the praise of His glory.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3cd-4

Sing to YHVH a new song, for He has done wonders; His right hand, His holy arm, has won victory for Him.

YHVH has shown His salvation, revealing His justice to the nations. He has not forgotten His love, nor His faithfulness to Israel.

The farthest ends of the earth all have seen God’s saving power. All you, lands, make a joyful noise to YHVH, break into song and sing praise.

Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Genesis 3 : 9-15, 20

YHVH God called the man saying to him, “Where are you?” He said, “I heard Your voice in the garden and I was afraid because I was naked, so I hid.” God said, “Who told you that you were naked? Have you eaten of the tree I ordered you not to eat?”

The man answered, “The woman You put with me gave me fruit from the tree and I ate it.” God said to the woman, “What have you done?” The woman said, “The serpent deceived me and I ate.”

YHVH God said to the serpent, “Since you have done that, be cursed among all the cattle and wild beasts! You will crawl on your belly and eat dust all the days of your life. I will make you enemies, you and the woman, your offspring and her offspring. He will crush your head and you will strike his heel.”

The man called his wife by the name of Eve, because she was the mother of all the living.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today as we listened to the words of the Scripture, we are all called to look upon the healing that God has presented to us, the healing that He has offered us and promised us, if we are faithful to Him and if we look upon Him with faith and hope, entrusting ourselves to His care, love and providence. If we are willing to open ourselves to God’s love and grace, we shall receive His most wonderful love and mercy.

In our first reading today, we have heard from the Book of the prophet Isaiah on the reassurance that God gave His people through Isaiah, of a new hope and strength that He gave them, that through His saving grace, the eyes of the blind would be opened, the paralytic and the weak would all run free, and those who were possessed by evil spirits and demons would be purified and liberated from their enslavement by those vile beings.

We heard of all these coming to fruition and fulfilment in Christ, as we heard in our Gospel passage today of the healing of the paralytic man by the Lord Jesus, as with many other examples of miracles and healing powers that the Lord had shown to multitudes of people, just exactly as how the prophet Isaiah had said it. But the teachers of the Law and the Pharisees were skeptical and doubted the Lord, refusing to believe in Him as they kept holding onto their pride and hardened their hearts against God’s truth and love manifested through Christ.

The Lord has shown them many wonders and a lot of genuine expressions of God’s love, and yet, some accused Him of blasphemy and colluding with the evil spirits, refusing to acknowledge that He has the authority over those spirits and as the promised Saviour of the world, the Son of God Most High, He has the power to forgive sins and to liberate mankind from their bondage to sins and death. He showed those dissidents, the true power of God and His love by healing the paralytic and restored him to good health.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we listened to these readings and reflect on the wonderful love of God, we are all reminded of our own shortcomings and weaknesses, our own predicaments, troubles and indeed, sickness. Why is that so, brothers and sisters in Christ? We may be perfectly healthy in body and mind, and yet, because of sin, we are spiritually sick and corrupted.

For sin corrupts our very innermost beings, and sin is truly very wicked and terrible, for while other diseases and conditions have some form of cure or ways to alleviate them, only God alone can forgive us our sins. It is by God’s grace and mercy alone that we are forgiven our sins and all the evils we have committed in our respective lives. We have to trust in His mercy and grace, and embrace His loving grace if we are to be forgiven and healed from this terrible affliction.

As we heard in our Gospel passage today, the Lord Himself specifically and explicitly mentioned that He, as God, has the power to forgive sins and to heal us all from all of our shortcomings. He can make us all whole again, but are we all willing to embrace His love and mercy, His compassion and forgiveness? Let us all consider all these, brothers and sisters in Christ, and if we are still stubborn in our refusal to embrace God’s love and mercy, let us harden our hearts no longer and open our hearts and minds to welcome the Lord.

In this season of Advent, we are all called to seek the Lord’s mercy and forgiveness, and to prepare ourselves well, especially spiritually that we may celebrate Christmas with true joy and with true appreciation of its importance to us. We have been given this great opportunity for us to rediscover our faith in God, and therefore, we should take this opportunity well, embracing God’s love at all times, and rethinking how we can continue living our lives with faith.

Today, we can also be inspired by St. Ambrose of Milan, a great saint and one of the original Doctors of the Church whose feast day we celebrate. St. Ambrose of Milan was truly a very influential leader of the Church as the Archbishop of Milan, head of one of the largest Christian communities of his time, just as it is still one of the largest today. In addition, his leadership and influence in the contemporary Church at the time, his contributions were truly immense.

St. Ambrose was well-known for being chosen as bishop by acclamation from the community, both the laity and the clergy alike at the time when the community was bitterly divided between the followers of the Arian heresy and those who remained faithful to the true Christian teachings. As both parties bickered especially in the decision of who was to succeed as Bishop of Milan, considering that the previous bishop had been an Arian heretic, the choice fell to St. Ambrose, well-respected by the people as the righteous and just administrator and governor of the region.

St. Ambrose worked hard to root out the corruption of heresy, particularly the Arian heresy aforementioned. In this, he faced a lot of opposition especially from the Arian clergy and also from powerful nobles who were favourable to the Arian cause and were Arian believers themselves. This included the Emperor and his family, where the Empress herself was an ardent believer of the heresy.

St. Ambrose did not let these to hinder his works or discourage him from doing what he had to do in leading his flock to the true faith. St. Ambrose spoke publicly and fearlessly against those who refused to believe in the truth, and even the Empress herself. He had to suffer a lot in the process, threatened and received a lot of trials, but, he remained firm and strong in his conviction and faith.

In later years, when the faithful Emperor Theodosius the Great ruled over the entire Empire, and worked against the Arian heresy, St. Ambrose was also remembered for his courage in standing up to the Emperor, when he was complicit in a massacre that happened in the city of Thessalonica. St. Ambrose excommunicated the Emperor, and only when the Emperor humbly made a public confession and repentance, that St. Ambrose welcomed him back to the Church with joy.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have heard all that St. Ambrose had done, his faith and contributions to the Church. Are we willing and able to follow his examples, in living our faith with genuine devotion, in being righteous and in the courage to remain strong in faith even against oppositions from the world? We have also heard of the power of God’s love and forgiveness, as what happened with the Emperor Theodosius when he committed a grave sin, and through repentance, he was welcomed back to the Church and God’s grace.

Are we willing to repent from our sinful ways, too, brothers and sisters in Christ? We have been given this great opportunity this Advent to seek the Lord and His forgiveness, and to purify ourselves from these corruptions of sin. Let us all make good use of the time and opportunity, and do our very best to serve the Lord faithfully from now on. May the Lord bless us all and guide us in our journey of faith, that each and every one of us may serve the Lord with ever greater dedication from now on. Amen.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 5 : 17-26

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

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

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

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

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 84 : 9ab-10, 11-12, 13-14

Would that I hear God’s proclamation, that He promise peace to His people, His saints. Yet His salvation is near to those who fear Him, and His Glory will dwell in our land.

Love and faithfulness have met; righteousness and peace have embraced. Faithfulness will reach up from the earth while justice bends down from heaven.

The Lord will give what is good, and our land will yield its fruit. Justice will go before Him, and peace will follow along His path.

Monday, 7 December 2020 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Ambrose, Bishop and Doctor of the Church (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Isaiah 35 : 1-10

Let the wilderness and the arid land rejoice, the desert be glad and blossom. Covered with flowers, it sings and shouts with joy, adorned with the splendour of Lebanon, the magnificence of Carmel and Sharon. They, my people, see the glory of YHVH, the majesty of our God.

Give vigour to weary hands and strength to enfeebled knees. Say to those who are afraid : “Have courage, do not fear. See, your God comes, demanding justice. He is the God Who rewards, the God Who comes to save you.”

Then will the eyes of the blind be opened and the ears of the deaf unsealed. Then will the lame leap as a hart and the tongue of the dumb sing and shout. For water will break out in the wilderness and streams gush forth from the desert. The thirsty ground will become a pool, the arid land springs of water. In the haunts where once reptiles lay, grass will grow with reeds and rushes.

There will be a highway which will be called The Way of Holiness; no one unclean will pass over it nor any wicked fool stray there. No lion will be found there nor any beast of prey. Only the redeemed will walk there. For the ransomed of YHVH will return : with everlasting joy upon their heads, they will come to Zion singing, gladness and joy marching with them, while sorrow and sighing flee away.

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.

Sunday, 6 December 2020 : Second Sunday of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Mark 1 : 1-8

This is the beginning of the Good News of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is written in the book of Isaiah, the prophet, “I am sending My messenger ahead of You, to prepare Your way. Let the people hear the voice calling in the desert : Prepare the way of the Lord, level His paths.”

So John began to baptise in the desert; He preached a baptism of repentance, for the forgiveness of sins. All Judea and all the people from the city of Jerusalem went out to John to confess their sins, and to be baptised by him in the river Jordan. John was clothed in camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and honey.

He preached to the people, saying, “After me comes One Who is more powerful than I am; I have baptised you with water, but He will baptise you in the Holy Spirit.”