Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day on the last day before Christmas, the last of the season of Advent, we are yet reminded again of the Lord’s promise that He will be with us and provide for us just as He has promised and reassured His servants in the past, like how He had reassured David, the king of Israel as we heard in our first reading, and how through Zechariah, filled with joy at the birth of his son St. John the Baptist in old age, proclaimed the Lord’s glory and providence.

In our first reading today, we heard the Lord speaking through His prophet Nathan to king David, when the king had already been secure in his reign and the Lord had delivered to him the rule over all the Israelites and over their neighbours, after many wars and conflicts that happened earlier. King David wanted to build a proper House and Temple for the Lord’s presence and worship, as at that time, the Lord was still dwelling in the Ark in the Holy Tent of Meeting. He did not feel quite right that he dwelled in a great palace while the Lord dwelled in a mere tent.

But the Lord had a different idea and He told David that it would be his son, the king Solomon who would build the House and Temple of His presence, and thus was how the famous Temple of Solomon was built all those years ago. The Lord promised and reassured David at that occasion that his reign and throne will be forever secure, and all of these have indeed been fulfilled completely through Jesus Christ, the Son of God, Heir of David and Saviour of the world, King of Israel and King of Kings born and celebrated on this Christmas day.

That is why, today, together with Zechariah’s joyful proclamation, as he was filled with the Holy Spirit, of the joy of seeing the Lord’s glory and salvation, we are called to reflect again on the joy of Christmas that we are going to celebrate beginning tonight and throughout the Christmas season. We have been preparing for this throughout this season of Advent, and we should ask ourselves whether we have prepared ourselves properly and well?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, this Christmas comes amidst a most unusual year and a most unfortunate moment for many of us. This year had been a very challenging one, as many people had suffered and even lost their loved ones to the pandemic, to the racial, social and national instabilities and troubles we have heard and witnessed throughout this year. Many are still suffering and indeed, not in a position to celebrate in any way this Christmas.

This is when our understanding and appreciation of what Christmas is truly about ought to be challenged and changed. Christmas should no longer be about ourselves, about our glamorous and lavish parties and revelries, of large gatherings and gift exchanges, and neither should Christmas be about those gifts and many other things usually associated with Christmas.

Instead of all these, let us all remind ourselves and one another that even in this darkness, all of us should and ought to celebrate Christmas indeed, with all of our hearts and with all of our might. Why is that so? That is because Christmas is the celebration of Hope, the coming of the Light of Christ that will dispel the darkness and the evils in the world, as what we know had happened through His coming into this world two millennia ago.

And then, even more significantly, the Lord promised us too that He will come again, and in Christmas we therefore do not just celebrate the past and historical coming of the Lord, but also the future coming of the Lord in the end of time, when the Lord will gather all of His beloved and faithful ones to Himself, and wipe away all of our tears and sorrows. There shall be no more suffering, pain and darkness, and only the light, hope, peace, joy and the love of God in the end.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we look forward to this blissful time, and we should embody this attitude in our actions and in how we celebrate Christmas. This year, a most difficult year, is coming to an end, and so, let us now renew the hope in one another, by showing the Light of Christmas, the Light of Our Lord and Saviour in the midst of all these darkness, by celebrating Christmas with Christ at its very centre.

May the Lord bless our Christmas celebrations, and may He bless us always, in our every faithful and good endeavours. Let our Christmas be truly joyful and be truly blessed, and may God bless this darkened and sickened world, and may His light dispel all the darkness of our lives. Amen.

Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 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.”

Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 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.

Thursday, 24 December 2020 : 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.”

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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, today we heard of the servant of God sent before the coming of the Messiah, that is St. John the Baptist, the one to announce the coming of the Messiah or Saviour of God, and the one who would prepare the way for Him, as prophesied by the prophets and as promised by God to His people.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Malachi, of the promise of God regarding the sending of the messenger who would come ahead of the Lord Himself to clear the way and prepare the path for His coming, who would be like the prophet Elijah, whose faith had been tested by fire and trials, and whose works would lead many people to the Lord.

The prophet Malachi was one of the last prophets of the Old Testament, and his book is placed at the very last place as the last chapter of the Old Testament, just before the coming of the New Testament, that came through Christ. Therefore, it is significant indeed that Malachi spoke of the coming of the one to prepare the path for the Lord, that clearly referred to St. John the Baptist.

In our Gospel today then we heard of the moment when St. John the Baptist was born, and all of his relatives gathered at his house and wanted to name him Zechariah after his father, as was common during that time. Zechariah had been mute and unable to talk ever since the Angel of God revealed to him that his wife, Elizabeth was about to bear the one whom the prophet Malachi prophesied about, the Herald of the Messiah.

Just as the prophet Isaiah also proclaimed in another prophecy, this servant of God, whose name had been known before he was even born, as revealed by the Angel, was to be the one to lead the people of God to their Lord and Saviour. He came into this world, born miraculously of an old couple who had been barren throughout, as the first miracle of God’s approaching salvation, and as proof that God truly loved His people.

The moment that Zechariah wrote down the name that the Angel had revealed to him, and wanted his son to be named John, hence, Zechariah could speak again and praised God for all His wonders. All of the people gathered were astonished and praised God as well for the wonders He had done. And through St. John the Baptist, God would lead many of His people down the path to salvation, as he laboured and called many to repent from their sins.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, how do all these relate to us then? All of us have heard of God’s salvation and received the Good News, and we have believed in the Lord and all that He had done through Christ, His Son, Our Lord and Saviour. But have we proclaimed Him in our lives, and truly show that we are Christians not just in name only, but also in deeds and in all of our actions? Have we shown that Christ is truly the centre of our celebrations in Christmas, and not only just that, but also the centre of our whole lives and existences?

Today, as we are just two days away from Christmas, we are all called to look upon our lives and actions, and we should reflect on whether our actions have shown our true Christian faith at all times. We should dedicate our actions to the Lord and strive our best to follow Him and His saints’ examples, especially for today, that of St. John of Kanty or St. John Cantius, whose feast day we celebrate.

St. John of Kanty was a Polish saint whose life and work as a priest, philosopher and theologian was truly inspirational as he dedicated much of his life to the Lord, and spent a lot of effort in his numerous academic works and in the advancement of the Christian theology and teachings. But not only that, St. John of Kanty also dedicated much of time caring for the poor and the needy, being especially charitable towards them.

St. John of Kanty was remembered for his outreach and generosity to the poor, and also to the needy students in the university in which he taught as a professor. He was remembered for his almsgiving and his genuine faith and humility. He made pious pilgrimages to Jerusalem and to Rome, and some of those pilgrimages were made on foot. His life and work remain an inspiration for many long after his passing.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we should be inspired by the examples set by St. John of Kanty, and as we approach Christmas, let us all seek to celebrate it wholeheartedly with a new attitude of faith, renewed in love for our God, and dedicate ourselves thoroughly to Him so that all who witness us and our actions, as well as our Christ-centric life and celebration of Christmas, may come to believe in Him as well, so that by our lives and actions, even more people can be saved and share in our joy.

Let us all discern on this carefully as we come to the joyful celebration of Christmas, that we may truly celebrate it with true joy and with genuine celebration, so that we may draw ever closer to the Lord and be worthy of Him and the everlasting glory that He has promised us all. May the Lord bless us always, now and forevermore. Amen.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Psalm 24 : 4-5ab, 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.

Wednesday, 23 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent, Memorial of St. John of Kanty, Priest (First Reading)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Malachi 3 : 1-4, 23-24

Now I am sending My messenger ahead of Me to clear the way; then suddenly the Lord for Whom you long will enter the sanctuary. The Envoy of the covenant which you so greatly desire already comes, says YHVH of hosts. Who can bear the day of His coming and remain standing when He appears? For He will be like fire in the foundry and like the lye used for bleaching.

He will be as a refiner or a fuller. He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver. So YHVH will have priests who will present the offering as it should be. Then YHVH will accept with pleasure the offering of Judah and Jerusalem, as in former days.

I am going to send you the prophet Elijah before the day of YHVH comes, for it will be a great and terrible day. He will reconcile parents with their children, and the children with their parents, so that I may not have to curse this land when I come.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 : 4th Week of Advent (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Purple/Violet

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day we are reminded of the Lord’s providence and help for us, His strength and love for each and every one of us. We are reminded that the Lord is a loving God and Father Who listens to us and all of our needs. He will not abandon us in our hour of need, and He is always by our side at all times, no matter what happens.

In our first reading today, we heard from the Book of the prophet Samuel, regarding how Samuel the great prophet came to be born. His mother Hannah had been without child for many years despite being in a loving marriage to her husband Elkanah. Her husband’s other wife, Penninah often mocked Hannah for her barrenness and often showed off just how many children she had with Hannah.

Hannah came to the Lord in sorrow and frustration because of this, and she prayed to the Lord to help and rescue her from her troubles. The Lord heard her prayers, and He blessed Hannah with a child, who was to be known as Samuel. Hannah had promised that if she had a son, she would dedicate and offer him to the Lord, and thus, in our first reading today, we heard Hannah joyfully coming to the Lord and offered Samuel to be God’s servant.

And thus that was how Samuel, the prophet of God was born and came to be in the service of God. His mother Hannah had more children with her husband, Elkanah, as a sign of God’s love and favour, while Samuel grew up strong in faith under the tutelage of Eli, the Judge and priest of Israel, and eventually became a great prophet and Judge himself, leading the people of Israel just before the days of the kings.

The Lord showed His love and kindness to Hannah, and she rejoiced after the period of her humiliation and suffering. Our Psalm today is the great song of joy that Hannah sang, full of God’s Spirit, declaring the greatness of God and how fortunate all of us have been to be beloved by God. The Lord has not forgotten His people, and the same was then echoed as we heard of the great song of rejoicing that Mary sang in our Gospel today, known as the Magnificat.

Mary was visiting her cousin Elizabeth at the time, who had been long barren and was unable to conceive a child just like Hannah, but by the Lord’s grace, she came to bear St. John the Baptist, and Mary found that what the Lord had revealed to her through the Archangel Gabriel was indeed true, that her cousin Elizabeth had miraculously conceived and had a child in her old age.

And Mary herself as we knew, came to have Child without any human relations, since by the power of the Holy Spirit, God Himself came to dwell in her and through her, He would be born into the world, as the Saviour long promised by Himself. All of these and the joy of the Holy Spirit in her made Mary to rejoice such, for all the wonders of God’s love and glory that He has shown to all of His people. It was truly a great and joyful moment, that each and every one of us ought to share as well.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, we have to understand just how wretched and miserable our existence once had been, as through sin we have been sundered from God’s love and grace. And it was thanks to God’s enduring love for each and every one of us that we have been saved from our predicament and troubles, and the sure path towards eternity of joy and happiness have been shown to us. And this Christmas we celebrate all of these, that God Himself has intervened on our behalf, and did everything in order to save us.

Therefore, let us all prepare ourselves that within the time left for us to get ready for Christmas, we will be able to redirect our focus and attention to the Lord, and thus celebrate the joyful festivities of Christmas in a Christ-centric manner, to rejoice in the love that God has shown us, that He willingly gave Himself to us, dwelling among us and suffering and dying for our sake on the Cross. We rejoice in this ultimate expression of God’s everlasting love, and let us share our joy with one another, always. Amen.

Tuesday, 22 December 2020 : 4th 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.