Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, the fourth one in the season of Lent, we celebrate the occasion of the Laetare Sunday, which was known from the first part of the Introit of today’s celebration of the Holy Mass, ‘Laetare, Ierusalem…’ or ‘Rejoice, Jerusalem…’ speaking about the coming of the salvation and consolation of the fallen city, which had once fallen from grace, but would once again rise in glory, by the grace of God.

Therefore, this Sunday, we are reflecting on this joy that is expected to come, the joy of our Easter celebration and hope. That is why if we notice, that in today’s liturgical celebrations, the rose vestments are used instead of the typical purple of the season of Lent. This is a reminder of this joy that is expected to come, and that is why it is kind of a brief interlude and reprieve in the midst of the penitential nature of this season.

While we go through this time of Lent, the time of self-introspection, evaluation, purification and self-mortification, today we remind ourselves that ultimately, all of these are for a singular purpose, and that is for us to embrace the hope in the joy that is to come, the true joy that comes with our reconciliation with God, Who loves each and every one of us, that He wants us all to be reconciled with Him, and to be forgiven from our sins.

And we heard all of these in our Scripture passages today. In the Gospel passage in particular, we heard of the story and parable of the prodigal son that the Lord Jesus told to His disciples and to the people. This parable of the prodigal son is telling us of the great love that God has for each and every one of us, even though we mankind have sinned against Him, repeatedly and unrepentantly again and again.

In that parable, the younger of the two sons of a rich person went to his father to ask for his inheritance, and thereafter went on to squander his inheritance and wealth in faraway land. He lived with splendour and was living immorally, until the time when he ran out of money. When he had nothing left with him, he was forced to fend for himself and everyone abandoned him. He was left all alone, suffering humiliation and hunger.

In fact, his hunger was such that he did not mind to have a part of the food that the pigs were having, as he was taking care of them. But even so, no one allowed him to eat of the pig’s food. This was a sign that that prodigal son’s life and worth was even less than that of a pig, a total humiliation for any human being, and indeed, the pit of agony and suffering into which that prodigal son had fallen into.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, the story of the prodigal son is the story of humanity, of each and every one of us sinners. By sin we have been cast out of God’s grace and presence, and because of the temptations of our desire and the temptations of worldly pleasures, we have been brought into this miserable and suffering-filled existence, just as the prodigal son had suffered as mentioned earlier.

Yet, everything was not lost for the prodigal son, as there was still one last path that the prodigal son remembered that he could take. He remembered how his father’s servants were even living more prosperously and in better condition than he was at that time. Thus, the prodigal son was betting on the last hope he had, by going back to the father hoping that he would at least make him one of his servants. He was so humiliated and embarrassed that he almost did not want to return to his father.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this is what each and every one of us also should expect, in the one and only hope that we have, the hope in our loving God and Father. He is indeed our one and only hope, for as we can see clearly from the parable, that the prodigal son had nothing left on him and had no hope in all those things that he thought once as treasures and worthy. His friends all left him, his money failed him, his properties and goods were gone. But his father alone is his last and only hope.

God is indeed our loving Father, and just as the father in the parable showed mercy and compassion for his prodigal and lost son, then God has shown us His mercy and compassion, to all of us who are coming back towards Him, with humility and the desire to be forgiven from the wicked things and sins we have committed just as the prodigal son turned back to his father in tears and regretting all that he had done.

We are called today, to reflect on our own sins and our own wicked acts, those selfish and prideful, ambitious and greedy attitudes, all of the self-serving, self-glorifying and wicked actions we have done all these while in life. All of us have sinned because of these, and while some among us may not realise it, whether we have committed sinful acts small or big, or whether it is seemingly minuscule or serious, sin is still sin, and sin separates us from the love and grace of God.

It was the greed, pride and desire within the mind and heart of the prodigal son that led him to take such a drastic action of demanding his inheritance and going off to a faraway country where he fell into wickedness and into the trap of desire. When our hearts and minds are centred on worldly things such as wealth, power, glory, ambition, and all sorts of other temptations, and not on God, we will crave even more and more of those things, and as a result, likely to fall deeper into the depth of sin.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, many of us have been like the prodigal son in our life, and many of us have not lived our lives righteously in accordance to God’s will. Many of us are putting our hopes and ambitions on worldly pursuits, for us to be wealthier, to have more money and financial security, to have more friends and relationships, to enjoy more of the goods of this world, to be more famous and glorified by others, to gain more renown and prestige in our community, among many others.

We are hoping to find joy in all of these, without realising that our true joy lies in God alone. Similarly, like the prodigal son, who thought that his happiness lies in being free in doing whatever he wanted, by getting his portion and doing everything he liked, away from the father who loved him, we too have lived in ways that embrace our own hearts’ selfishness and our own human desires, for pleasure and for the indulging of the flesh.

Yet, as mentioned earlier, none of these ‘joys’ of the world will last. Those things are impermanent and temporary at best, illusory in nature and imperfect. We can never be truly happy with them, and as we have seen in the prodigal son’s story, they cannot be depended on, when times of trouble and trials come for us. In the end, there is nothing more dependable and there is no true hope but in God alone.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, do you know why all of us Christians practice certain things such as fasting and abstinence during this season of Lent, and are also encouraged to spend more time in prayer, and also to go for the Sacrament of Penance by confessing our sins before the priests? That id because, in this time of Lent, we are called to peel off from ourselves the many layers of pride, of ambition, of haughtiness and vanity, the layers of greed and desire from ourselves, and rediscover who we truly are.

It is by restraining our desires and tempering our human pride and greed that we will be able to realise just how despicable and wicked our state has become, just as the prodigal son discovered at the moment of his greatest humiliation and weakness, when he had to endure a fate even worse than animals, and valued even less than animals. It is the moment when we die to ourselves in the flesh and in our worldly existence that we can finally find the way forward to God.

Yet, it takes a lot of courage for us to be able to make that journey back to the Father, our loving and ever merciful God. Indeed, the prodigal son also must have had a lot of thinking and consideration before he finally mustered the courage and threw away his ego and pride, in reaching out to his father, and be willing to humble himself and beg for his father’s forgiveness. Similarly therefore, it will take us a lot of effort for us to overcome this fear, doubt and reluctance in us, for us to finally accept God’s offer of forgiveness and mercy.

God offers us His forgiveness freely and generously, but more often than not, we are not able to commit ourselves to the path of mercy and forgiveness. Either we are too easily tempted by the temptation of worldly things, or we are afraid that God will be angry at us, and thus we continue to live our lives the way it has been lived, and we fall even deeper into the pit and trap of sin. That is why, today, on Laetare Sunday, after we have journeyed through this season of Lent to realise just how despicable and sinful we are, now we turn our focus for a while to look forward to where our destination is.

We look forward knowing that God is awaiting us all, wanting to embrace us with love, with mercy and compassion, welcoming us back to His embrace. If we can close our eyes for a moment and imagine in our minds of the moment when the prodigal son came to the embrace of his father, can we imagine just how joyful he must have been, in gazing at his beloved father once again? And he was welcomed to his father’s house again, to be the son of the house once again, receiving what he had once lost.

And that is exactly what we are going to experience, all of us, God’s scattered and lost children, all of us who have been scattered and lost because of our sins and disobedience. We are looking forward to this true joy of being reunited fully with God, our loving Father, which is the joy of the Resurrection, the joy of Easter. And now that we know what lays ahead of us, are we now willing to make the new commitment to love the Lord, our God, with all of our hearts and minds from now on?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all make this our commitment to live more in accordance to the path that God has shown us. Let us embrace with joy and with courage the mercy and love that He has offered so generously before us. Let us all keep strong to this hope we have in Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, Who has come to us to show us the fullness of God’s everlasting love and mercy towards us. May God show us His compassion and may He forgive us all our sins when we ask Him for this grace. Amen.

Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Luke 15 : 1-3, 11-32

At that time, tax collectors and sinners were seeking the company of Jesus, all of them eager to hear what He had to say. But the Pharisees and the scribes frowned at this, muttering, ‘This Man welcomes sinners and eats with them.”

So Jesus told them this parable : “There was a man with two sons. The younger said to his father, ‘Give me my share of the estate.’ So the father divided his property between them. Some days later, the younger son gathered all his belongings and started off for a distant land, where he squandered his wealth in loose living.”

“Having spent everything, he was hard pressed when a severe famine broke out in that land. So he hired himself out to a well-to-do citizen of that place, and was sent to work on a pig farm. So famished was he, that he longed to fill his stomach even with the food given to the pigs, but no one offered him anything.”

“Finally coming to his senses, he said, ‘How many of my father’s hired workers have food to spare, and here I am starving to death! I will get up and go back to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against God, and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son. Treat me then as one of your hired servants.’ With that thought in mind, he set off for his father’s house.”

“He was still a long way off, when his father caught sight of him. His father was so deeply moved with compassion that he ran out to meet him, threw his arms around his neck and kissed him. The son said, ‘Father, I have sinned against Heaven and before you. I no longer deserve to be called your son.'”

“But the father turned to his servants : ‘Quick!’ he said. ‘Bring out the finest robe and put it on him! Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet! Take the fattened calf and kill it! We shall celebrate and have a feast, for this son of mine was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found!’ And the celebration began.”

“Meanwhile, the elder son had been working in the fields. As he returned and approached the house, he heard the sound of music and dancing. He called one of the servants and asked what it was all about. The servant answered, ‘Your brother has come home safe and sound, and your father is so happy about it that he has ordered this celebration, and killed the fattened calf.'”

“The elder son became angry, and refused to go in. His father came out and pleaded with him. The son, very indignant, said, ‘Look, I have slaved for you all these years. Never have I disobeyed your orders. Yet you have never given me even a young goat to celebrate with my friends. Then when this son of yours returns, after squandering your property with loose women, you kill the fattened calf for him.'”

“The father said, ‘My son, you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But this brother of yours was dead, and has come back to life; he was lost, and is found. And for that we had to rejoice and be glad.'”

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1-41

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth. His disciples asked Him, “Master, was he born blind because of a sin of his, or of his parents?”

Jesus answered, “Neither was it for his own sin nor for his parents’ sin. He was born blind so that God’s power might be shown in him. While it is day we must do the work of the One Who sent Me; for the night will come when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.”

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

Then they asked him, “How is it that your eyes were opened?” And he answered, “The Man called Jesus made a mud paste, put it on my eyes and said to me, ‘Go to Siloam and wash.’ So I went, and washed, and I could see.” They asked, “Where is He?” And the man answered, “I do not know.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

After all this, the Jews refused to believe that the man had been blind and had recovered his sight; so they called his parents and asked them, “Is this your son? You say that he was born blind, but how is it that he now sees?” The parents answered, “He really is our son and he was born blind; but how it is that he now sees, we do not know, neither do we know Who opened his eyes. Ask him, he is old enough. Let him speak for himself.”

The parents said this because they feared the Jews, who had already agreed that whoever confessed Jesus to be the Christ was to be expelled from the synagogue. Because of that his parents said, “He is old enough, ask him.” So a second time the Pharisees called the man who had been blind, and they said to him, “Tell us the truth; we know that this Man is a sinner.”

He replied, “I do not know whether He is a sinner or not; I only know that I was blind and now I see.” They said to him, “What did He do to you? How did He open your eyes?” He replied, “I have told you already and you would not listen. Why do you want to hear it again? Do you also want to become His disciples?”

Then they started to insult him. “Become His disciple yourself! We are disciples of Moses. We know that God spoke to Moses; but as for this Man, we do not know where He comes from.” The man replied, “It is amazing that you do not know where the Man comes from, and yet He opened my eyes! We know that God does not listen to sinners, but if anyone honours God and does His will, Hod listens to him. Never, since the world began, has it been heard that anyone opened the eyes of a person who was born blind. If this Man were not from God, He could do nothing.”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Jesus said, “I came into this world to carry out a judgment : Those who do not see shall see, and those who see shall become blind.” Some Pharisees stood by and asked Him, “So we are blind?” And Jesus answered, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty. But you say, ‘We see’; this is the proof of your sin.”

Alternative reading (shorter version of Reading from Year A)

John 9 : 1, 6-9, 13-17, 34-38

At that time, as Jesus walked along, He saw a man who had been blind from birth.

As Jesus said this, He made paste with spittle and clay, and rubbed it on the eyes of the blind man. Then He said, “Go and wash in the Pool of Siloam.” (This word means sent.) So the blind man went and washed and came back able to see. His neighbours, and all the people who used to see him begging, wondered. They said, “Is this not the beggar who used to sit here?” Some said, “He is the one.” Others said, “No, but he looks like him.” But the man himself said, “I am he.”

The people brought the man who had been born blind to the Pharisees. Now it was a sabbath day when Jesus made mud paste and opened his eyes. The Pharisees asked him again, “How did you recover your sight?” And he said, “He put paste on my eyes, and I washed, and now I see.”

Some of the Pharisees said, “This Man is not from God, for He works on the Sabbath”; but others wondered, “How can a sinner perform such miraculous signs?” They were divided, and they questioned the blind man again, “What do you think of this Man who opened your eyes?” And he answered, “He is a Prophet!”

They answered him, “You were born a sinner and now you teach us!” And they expelled him. Jesus heard that they had expelled him. He found him and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” He answered, “Who is He, that I may believe in Him?” Jesus said, “You have seen Him and He is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe”; and worshipped Him.

Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Second Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

2 Corinthians 5 : 17-21

For that same reason, the one who is in Christ is a new creature. For him, the old things have passed away; a new world has come. All this is the work of God, Who, in Christ, reconciled us to Himself, and Who entrusted to us the ministry of reconciliation.

Because, in Christ, God reconciled the world with Himself, no longer taking into account their trespasses, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we present ourselves as ambassadors, in the Name of Christ, as if God, Himself, makes an appeal to you, through us. Let God reconcile you; this, we ask you, in the Name of Christ. He had no sin, but God made Him bear our sin, that, in Him, we might share in the holiness of God.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Ephesians 5 : 8-14

You were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Behave as children of light; the fruits of light are kindness, justice and truth in every form. You yourselves search out what pleases the Lord, and take no part in works of darkness that are of no benefit; expose them instead.

Indeed it is a shame even to speak of what those people do in secret, but as soon as it is exposed to the light, everything becomes clear; and what is unmasked, becomes clear through light.

Therefore it is said, “Awake, you who sleep; arise from the dead that the light of Christ may shine on you.”

Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Psalm 33 : 2-3, 4-5, 6-7

I will bless the Lord all my days; His praise will be ever on my lips. My soul makes its boast in the Lord; let the lowly hear and rejoice.

Oh, let us magnify the Lord, together let us glorify His Name! I sought the Lord, and He answered me; from all my fears He delivered me.

They who look to Him are radiant with joy, their faces never clouded with shame. When the poor cry out, the Lord hears and saves them from distress.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

Psalm 22 : 1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside the still waters. He restores my soul.

He guides me through the right paths for His Name’s sake. Although I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil, for You are beside me : Your rod and Your staff comfort me.

You spread a table before me in the presence of my foes. You anoint my head with oil; my cup is overflowing.

Goodness and kindness will follow me all the days of my life. I shall dwell in the house of the Lord as long as I live.

Sunday, 31 March 2019 : Fourth Sunday of Lent, Laetare Sunday (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Rose (Laetare Sunday) or Purple/Violet

Joshua 5 : 9a, 10-12

Then YHVH said to Joshua : “Today I have removed from you the shame of Egypt.”

The Israelites encamped in Gilgal where they celebrated the Passover on the evening of the fourteenth day of the month in the plains of Jericho. On the following day, they ate of the produce of the land : unleavened bread and roasted grain on that very day. And from that day on when they ate of the produce of the land, the manna ceased.

There was no more manna for the Israelites, and that year they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan.

Alternative reading (Reading from Year A)

1 Samuel 16 : 1b, 6-7, 10-13a

YHVH asked Samuel, “Fill your horn with oil and be on your way to Jesse the Bethlehemite for I have chosen My king from among his sons.”

As Jesse and his sons came, Samuel looked at Eliab the older and thought, “This must be YHVH’s anointed.” But YHVH told Samuel, “Do not judge by his looks or his stature for I have rejected him. YHVH does not judge as man judges; humans see with the eyes; YHVH sees the heart.”

Jesse presented seven of his sons to Samuel who said, “YHVH has chosen none of them. But are all your sons here?” Jesse replied, “There is still the youngest, tending the flock just now.” Samuel said to him, “Send for him and bring him to me; we shall not sit down to eat until he arrives.”

So Jesse sent for his youngest son and brought him to Samuel. He was a handsome lad with ruddy complexion and beautiful eyes. And YHVH spoke, “Go, anoint him for he is the one.” Samuel then took the horn of oil and anointed him in his brothers’ presence.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the Scripture passages which told us of the joy which came for two women mentioned in the Bible, one from the Old Testament, while the other one was from the time of the New Testament. The first one was Hannah, the mother of the prophet Samuel, while the second one was none other than Mary, the Mother of Our Lord and God, Jesus Christ.

Hannah was once a barren woman who was unable to conceive a child with her husband, while the other wife of her husband was able to conceive many children. Hannah was desperate because, we have to understand that in the customs and traditions of the ancient people of Israel, children are blessings from God, and the absence of children and a woman’s barrenness were considered signs that someone did not have God’s blessings or were cursed.

Hannah prayed before God and asked for His favour, and God listened to her prayers, and before long, she conceived a son, Samuel, and promised to consecrate him to God’s service, as we heard in today’s first reading, at the time when Hannah consecrated her son to God, to the service of God at His Temple. And later on, God would bless Hannah with even more children, as the sign of the end of her period of mourning and sorrow, and sign of God’s love and blessing for His faithful ones.

Meanwhile, in the Gospel passage today, we heard of the great joy that Mary expressed through her song of praise, the Magnificat, being inspired by the Holy Spirit in her. Her joy was because of what she has herself witnessed, in the same miraculous deed that God has done among His people, when her cousin Elizabeth, in her old age, having been barren for so many years, suddenly conceived by the will and power of God, as He revealed to them by His Angel.

And even more so, the baby conceived within Elizabeth and Mary each, would become the fulfilment of God’s long promised salvation for all of His people. St. John the Baptist, Elizabeth’s son, was the one who prepared the way for the coming of the Messiah, or God’s Saviour, by calling on the people to repent from their sins and be baptised as a sign of their readiness to welcome God Who was coming into their midst.

And of course, Mary bore within her, by the will of the Father and by the power of the Holy Spirit, the Divine Word of God, the Son of God Who took upon Himself the form and fullness of humanity, the One promised for all the ages past, and the hope for humanity’s salvation and liberation from sin. Mary therefore, essentially expressed the great joy that came upwelling from humanity’s desire to be reconciled with God and to see the hope of God.

We have heard today, all the great deeds that God has done for His people throughout the ages past, and there were many other wonderful deeds He has done, for our sake. Yet, we should realise that in many occasions, God has often been overlooked, and especially what should have been the great celebration of joy in the thanksgiving for God’s love, in Christmas, have frequently been overtaken by commercial and selfish desires, as well as by human greed.

As we quickly approach the time of Christmas and the ending of our Advent season, we really should ask ourselves, again and again in order to remind us, what is the true meaning of Christmas for each and every one of us? Is it for us to enjoy the festivities, eat rich and plentiful of food and beverages, or to wear glamorous costumes and dresses? Or is it for us to know better and appreciate better just how great God’s love is for us?

That is why it is important that we get our focus on the Christmas joy and celebrations right, or else, we may end up missing the point about Christmas altogether. Christmas is about the joyful celebration of God’s generous and never-ending love, that He gave everything for us, by granting us the perfect and new hope in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, through Whom our salvation was assured, by His suffering and death on the cross.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us today spend time to reflect on our lives and on what we have done so far in order to prepare ourselves for Christmas. If we have not done our preparation right until now, there is still time for us to go through a profound change in attitude and way of how we live our lives and how we will celebrate the true joy of Christmas from now on.

Let us turn towards God with a new heart, filled with love for Him, and dedicate ourselves, day after day, in celebration of His eternal love for each and every one of us. May the Lord, our loving God and Father, continue to love us, and bless us, every days and every moments of our life. Amen.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Luke 1 : 46-56

And Mary said, “My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord, my spirit exults in God, my Saviour! He has looked down upon His servant, in her lowliness, and people, forever, will call me blessed.”

“The Mighty One has done great things for me. Holy is His Name! From age to age, His mercy extends to those who live in His presence. He has acted with power and done wonders, and scattered the proud with their plans. He has put down the mighty from their thrones, and lifted up those who are downtrodden.”

“He has filled the hungry with good things, but has sent the rich away empty. He held out His hand to Israel, His servant, for He remembered His mercy, even as He promised to our fathers, to Abraham and his descendants forever.”

Mary remained with Elizabeth about three months, and then returned home.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

1 Samuel 2 : 1, 4-5, 6-7, 8abcd

My heart exults in YHVH, I feel strong in my God. I rejoice and laugh at my enemies for You came with power to save me.

The bow of the mighty is broken, but the weak are girded with strength. The well-fed must labour for bread, but the hungry need work no more. The childless wife has borne seven children, but the proud mother is left alone.

YHVH is Lord of life and death. He brings down to the grave and raises up. YHVH makes poor and makes rich, He brings low and He exalts.

He lifts up the lowly from the dust, and raises the poor from the ash heap; they will be called to the company of princes, and inherit a seat of honour.

Saturday, 22 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

1 Samuel 1 : 24-28

When the child was weaned, Hannah took him with her along with a three year old bull, a measure of flour and a flask of wine, and she brought him to YHVH’s house of Shiloh. The child was still young.

After they had slain the bull, they brought the child to Eli. Hannah exclaimed : “Oh, my lord, look! I am the woman who was standing here in your presence, praying to YHVH. I asked for this child and YHVH granted me the favour I begged of Him. I think YHVH is now asking for this child. As long as he lives, he belongs to YHVH.”

And they worshipped YHVH there.

Friday, 21 December 2018 : 3rd Week of Advent, Memorial of St. Peter Canisius, Priest and Doctor of the Church (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 telling us about the coming of the Messiah, the joy and happiness that are associated with the coming of the One Who has been awaited for so long by the people of God, Whose coming has been prophesied and foretold for many years by many prophets and messengers of God. And today, we heard of that moment when salvation was finally about to come into the world, and the joy that came with it.

The coming of the Messiah was foretold, that He would be born among the people of God, as the Heir of David, to receive the glorious kingdom of His forefather David. His coming would usher a new time and era, where God would renew the Covenant that He had made with His people Israel. His coming would also herald a new time of peace, and the reunion and gathering of all the scattered people of God back to Him.

Thus, everyone was expecting the coming of the Messiah, hoping that He will come to free His people from the tyranny of the Romans and all those who oppressed them. In the idea of some, the Messiah would come as a mighty, conquering King, Who will defeat the Romans and reestablish the glorious and mighty kingdom of Israel as how it was during the days of the great kings David and Solomon.

Who would have expected the Lord, King and Saviour to have come in the form of a Baby, born not as a mighty Prince or wealthy and powerful Ruler, but instead, through a poor, humble and yet devout young virgin, Mary of Nazareth in Galilee? But to those to whom God has given the wisdom of the Holy Spirit, they recognised the presence of the Saviour, as Elizabeth, Mary’s cousin and the mother of St. John the Baptist recognised the Lord’s presence in Mary’s womb.

St. John the Baptist, the one foretold to be the one to prepare the way for the Messiah, also recognised his Lord and Saviour. In the other part of the Gospel, we also heard how Simeon the old priest recognised the Lord when the Lord Jesus was brought for His presentation at the Temple, as well as the prophetess Anna. There are many other occasions where the people recognised their Messiah in their midst, but unfortunately, there are even many more who did not recognise Him.

There were those who rejected the truth and the message which the Lord has revealed to them, in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour. Many among the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the members of king Herod’s court, the teachers of the Law and the scribes refused to believe in the Lord, and even considered what He spoke and taught before the people as a heresy and blasphemy before God.

And instead of allowing themselves to listen to the truth which the Lord had brought them, they hardened their hearts and closed their senses and minds from knowing God’s presence and works in their midst. They allowed their pride and haughtiness to get in the way of their own salvation. They thought that they were doing what was right before God, but in reality, as the Lord pointed out, they were only serving their own desires and in trying to satisfy their greed and pride.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, today, by remembering and reflecting on what we have just heard from the Scripture passages and from what we have just discussed, we are called to reflect on our own lives, and on how we have prepared ourselves for Christmas, that is just a few days away. Have we recognised the presence of God in our midst, He Who loves us so much, that He has given us the perfect and best gift of all, that is Himself?

He gave us His beloved Son, to be one of us, to be in our midst, sharing our humanity, that together, all of us, Who are His brothers and sisters, will be reconciled with our loving Father, through His selfless and perfect sacrifice on the cross, where He gathered willingly all of our sins and faults, and bearing them all on His cross, He suffered and died for our sake, that by His death, we may have a new life in Him.

Have we recognised Him and welcomed Him into our own lives? Or have we been too busy because of the many temptations of our life, that we are unable to recognise Him and His loving works in our midst? Have our Christmas celebrations been so secular and materialistic, as how much of the world celebrates it, year after year, again and again? And have we forgotten the centrality of Christ and His role in our salvation, that is the centre theme and true reason for Christmas?

Today, we celebrate the feast of St. Peter Canisius, one of the great and renowned saints of the Church, a holy and devout servant of God, who dedicated himself to the work of evangelisation and teaching of the people of God. He was one of the founding members of the Society of Jesus, also better known as the Jesuits, a religious order established by St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time of a great upheaval and challenge for the Church.

During that time, the Protestant ‘reformation’ was in full swing, in response to the excesses and corruption within the Church. With many people quickly falling into the myriads of misguided and false teachings that unfortunately came about during that time of trials and confusion, the Jesuits, including St. Peter Canisius was at the forefront of the Counter-Reformation effort, which was meant to return the purity of the Christian faith, as well as the evangelisation of the masses of people, especially those who have been separated from the Church.

The Ecumenical Council of Trent took place during that time, where discipline and order were reestablished within the Church, with many corrupt practices and clergy being condemned and removed from the Church. And the Jesuits were sent to many places, some to mission areas in Asia, Africa and in the Americas, and some, including St. Peter Canisius were sent to the parts of Europe where there were rampant misunderstandings of the faith.

St. Peter Canisius, through his many works and writings, his courageous and never-ending effort to clarify the truth about the Christian faith in the Church, managed to convince many thousands and more to return to the true faith. Yet, he did this not through coercion or harsh words, but instead, through love and understanding, through patience and compassionate care for his fellow brethren.

His works on the Catechism, as well as his extensive Mariology, were so well received and so important in the maintenance and spread of the faith even amidst difficult times of heresy and misinformations, that they have inspired many throughout the subsequent years, and were used until this very day in catechism and evangelisation. St. Peter Canisius gave everything for God and devoted his whole life to serve Him.

Now, brothers and sisters in Christ, what we have discussed today, and also from the life and works of St. Peter Canisius, we ought to ask ourselves, what we can do in order to emulate his good examples in our own lives. Are we able to love God and dedicate ourselves to Him just as he has done? Are we able to spend our time, effort and attention to be with God and to do His will as St. Peter Canisius and surely many other holy men and women had done?

This Christmas, let us all have a profound conversion of heart, mind and soul, and let us all celebrate Christmas with new and greater understanding of the true joy and meaning of Christmas, not in excessive pleasure and revelries, but in the greater love we have for God, and also for our brethren, by the giving of ourselves, our time, compassion and attention, our love for especially those who are needy and who cannot rejoice the way that we are capable of.

Let us all be more generous in our giving, and be compassionate this coming Christmas, so that whatever joy we have, we may always share it with each other. May God bless us all, now and forevermore. Amen.