Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened from the Scripture passages, relating to us about the healing that came from God. The prophet Isaiah in his book wrote about the coming of the Lord’s healing and forgiveness upon His people, shown with miraculous signs such as the opening of the eyes of the blind, loosening of the tongues of the dumb, healing of those who has paralysis and also possession by evil spirits.

All these healings have also been done by some of the prophets of old, but those are healing of the physical body. What the prophet Isaiah prophesied came about in its complete fulfilment in the Lord Jesus Christ, our God and Saviour, Who in the Gospel passage today healed the paralytic man, despite the opposition from the Pharisees and teachers of the Law.

Those people were furious at Jesus because He healed the man who had paralysis by saying that ‘Your sins are forgiven’. In fact, Jesus was healing the man in body and in spirit, as He has the just right to do so. They alleged that only God could forgive sins, and by uttering such words, Jesus had blasphemed against God, but that was because they refused to believe that Jesus is indeed God, the Son of God.

This reading has a particular significance for us as Christians, as all of us know that the celebration of Christmas, for which we are preparing this Advent season, is centred on the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ, and therefore, we believe that God Himself has entered into this world, descending from heaven, and through Mary, His mother, He took up the flesh and appearance of Man.

Hence, we believe in Jesus, Our Lord, Who is both fully divine and fully human, through the mystery of the Incarnation of the Word of God, and His nativity or birth through Mary into the world. We believe that Jesus Christ, the Messiah or Saviour of the world, has two natures, human and divine, but which at the same time, perfectly united in the one person, Jesus Christ Himself.

Thus, if we believe that Jesus is Lord and God, as our faith describes, then we should believe that He is capable to heal our sins, as sin is indeed a disease that afflicts us, corrupting our inmost selves, from the depths of our souls, to our hearts and minds, and of course, our bodies as well. Sin is the very reason for our separation from the fullness of God’s grace and love since our corrupted beings cannot bear to be in the presence of God.

But God is ever loving and merciful towards us. He has always loved us from the very beginning, even though we have often rejected His love and abandoned His laws and precepts. He is willing to forgive us our sins, and He indeed wants to heal us from our afflictions, as He has demonstrated through the many healing miracles He had performed during His earthly ministry, and which is continued by His disciples and the Church He established.

However, the question is, do we want to be healed? Do we want to be forgiven from our sins? God is always forgiving and He will constantly forgive without cease as long as we are willing to be forgiven. Yet, forgiveness cannot be complete without genuine repentance, as in order for us to be completely forgiven, we also need to be truly sorry for our sins and mistakes, and commit ourselves to a new life without sin.

Do we remember what the Lord Jesus did with the woman caught in the act of adultery by the Pharisees and the teachers of the Law? We know how the story goes, and the woman was spared stoning because no one was willing to admit that they themselves had no sin on their own, and thus worthy to cast the first stone. But we often forget that Jesus told the woman, that while He does not judge her at that moment, she should sin no more.

Therefore, today, as we continue to progress through the season of Advent, let us all reflect on our lives, and on the fact that each and every one of us are sinners, for whom the Lord has come, and indeed has suffered and died for, on the cross. Whenever we look at the Lord Jesus at the crucifix, let us remember this immense love and mercy He has shown us by laying down His own life that each and every one of us may be healed and absolved from our sins.

Today we celebrate the feast of Pope St. Damasus I, a holy Pope who lived in the first millennium after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Pope St. Damasus was renowned for his great piety and exemplary life. He helped to guide his flock to be faithful to the Lord amidst challenges and difficulties that were facing the Church and the faithful at the time. His holiness and many good works for the sake of the Church has saved many souls who repented from their sins and turned themselves back to the Lord.

Therefore, we should be inspired by his examples, as well as the many other inspiring lives by the other holy saints of God. Many of those saints were themselves great sinners, but they allowed the Lord to transform their lives, and their lives were forever changed, from a life of sin and darkness into a life filled with God’s grace. Let us therefore, pledge ourselves anew to the Lord, and devote ourselves, our time and effort to serve Him, to love Him and to help one another to reach out to Him.

May the Lord bless each and every one of us, and may He empower all of us to be able to live faithfully in accordance with His ways. May we draw ever closer to Him, that in the end, we may be worthy of Him and will stand to receive the eternal glory He has promised to all of His faithful ones. May God bless us all. Amen.

Monday, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

Luke 5 : 17-26

At that time, one day, 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, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

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.

YHVH 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, 11 December 2017 : 2nd Week of Advent, Memorial of Pope St. Damasus I, Pope (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet or White (Popes)

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 our 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.

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we listened to the word of God through the Scripture, in which we heard first of all, in the Gospel today when the Lord Jesus used the parable of the dishonest servant to teach His people about the need for them to be truly dedicated to God, and not be divided in their commitment and attention.

In that parable, we heard about a dishonest steward who was found out in his deeds by his master, who then went on to fire him from his employment, and gave him some time to settle his accounts before he is dismissed from service. The steward was accused of fraudulent service, meaning that he had been accused of cheating his master of his money and properties, which was a serious charge.

Therefore, the dishonest steward made his move, trying to provide for himself after he has lost his job as steward. He reached out to his master’s debtors, and as we heard in the passage, he edited those debts, giving the people who were indebted to his master lighter debts and obligation in the end. Why did the dishonest steward do these things? It is so that they in turn would be indebted to him and therefore would be willing to help shelter the dishonest steward when he was out of job.

In this, as we see how the dishonest steward used dishonesty and blatant lie to save himself, we see how those who walk in the ways of the world would double down on that path, when they were presented with the choice of following what the world prescribes and what the Lord had taught His people. That is why the Lord mentioned after this passage, that we cannot serve both God and money. We will end up loving one and despising the other.

Why is that so? That is because we mankind by our nature are easily tempted. Money by itself is not bad or evil in nature, yet, it is in how we use the money and desire to gain it that we end up falling into evil. We always desire to want more and more possessions, and more and more wealth for ourselves, as these are what is valuable in this world, which therefore bring us pleasure and good things, temptations that keep us away from God.

As Christians, all of us should not put the world and all of its allures ahead of our obligations to serve God. We should strive to obey God in all things, and learn to give our whole heart and minds to Him. In this, we should follow the examples of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Bishop of Rome who lived and reigned as the Pope and Leader of the Universal Church during the fourth century after the birth of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

Pope St. Leo the Great lived during tough times for the Church, battered from the inside by the divisions caused by many heresies and false teachings that had brought many people into open disagreement and rebellion against the Church. And from the outside, there were great troubles, due to the chaos of the years during the downfall of the Roman Empire and its authority in the western provinces of the Empire, now parts of Western and Southern Europe.

Pope St. Leo the Great contributed a lot to help bridge the divisions and reunite the splinter factions of the Church. And through the works and writings he had done, Pope St. Leo the Great gained many souls for the Lord, when all these people came to the Lord, turning away from all the falsehoods and heresies they have been lured into. He also was influential in keeping the unity of the Church.

He led the faithful through those difficult times, and it was widely known in one occasion, how he courageously faced the king of the Huns, the infamous Attila the Hun who had wreaked havoc throughout many parts of Europe at that time. Pope St. Leo the Great went out of the city of Rome by himself to plead with the king of the Huns to spare the city of Rome and its inhabitants from destruction. The king of the Huns retreated from the city thereafter.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, what Pope St. Leo the Great had done in his life should become inspirations for all of us, that we should live well in accordance with our faith, and commit ourselves wholeheartedly to Him. There will indeed be obstacles and challenges, but we must realise that all of these are part and parcel of us being Christians, living in accordance with God’s ways, and may not be according to what the world expects from us.

Let us all renew our faith and recommit ourselves to God, by practicing our faith from now on through genuine actions and deeds in this life. Let us not be distracted by the temptations of power, worldly glory, fame, wealth, possessions, pleasure and many other things that can become great obstacles in our path towards God. Let us ask Pope St. Leo the Great for his intercession, that each and every one of us as Christians may live genuinely in faith, now and always. Amen.

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Gospel Reading)

Liturgical Colour : White

Luke 16 : 1-8

At that time, Jesus told His disciples, “There was a rich man, whose steward was reported to him because of fraudulent service. He summoned the steward and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? I want you to render an account of your service, for it is about to be terminated.'”

“The steward thought to himself, ‘What am I to do now? My master will surely dismiss me. I am not strong enough to do hard work, and I am ashamed to beg. I know what I will do : I must make sure that when I am dismissed, there will be people will welcome me into their homes.'”

“So he called his master’s debtors, one by one. He asked the first debtor, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ The reply was, ‘A hundred jars of oil.’ The steward said, ‘Here is your bill. Sit down quickly and write fifty.’ To the second debtor he put the same question, ‘How much do you owe?’ The answer was, ‘A hundred measures of wheat.’ Then the steward said, ‘Take your bill and write eighty.'”

“The master commended the dishonest steward for his astuteness : for the people of this world are more astute, in dealing with their own kind, than are the people of light.”

Friday, 10 November 2017 : 31st Week of Ordinary Time, Memorial of Pope St. Leo the Great, Pope and Doctor of the Church (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

Psalm 97 : 1, 2-3ab, 3c-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.