Tuesday, 8 December 2020 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this day the whole Church celebrates together the great occasion of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, celebrating one of the four great Marian Dogmas of the Church, namely the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, Mary. What does this Immaculate Conception actually mean, brothers and sisters in Christ? Quite a few of us still do not have the right understanding of what this celebration and event actually means.

We celebrate this Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of Mary on the eighth day of December, and it is related to another celebration, exactly nine months later, on the eighth day of September, that is the Feast of the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This is where people often confuse between the term ‘nativity’ and ‘conception’. While the former means birth, that is the moment when a baby is born into the world, out of his or her mother’s womb, the latter means the moment when life is conceived, from a father and a mother, in the womb of the mother, which is ideally nine months before the date of birth, as in humans pregnancy lasts for approximately nine months.

Therefore, today’s celebration of the Immaculate Conception of Mary focuses on that very important, unique and pivotal moment when Mary, the Mother of God and the Mother of Our Saviour Jesus Christ, was conceived in the womb of her mother, St. Anne, as the child of her parents, St. Joachim and St. Anne. And the word ‘Immaculate’ has the meaning of pure and blameless, referring to the state in which Mary was conceived, free from the taints and corruptions of original sin.

Why is this significant, brothers and sisters in Christ? First, let us all examine what is this original sin that has just been mentioned. For those who are not sure what original sin is all about, it is the original and first sin of our ancestors’ disobedience as elaborated in our first reading today from the Book of Genesis. Surely all of us know the story of how Satan, in the form of a snake, tempted Eve, the first woman and companion of the first man, Adam, to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.

The Lord had specifically ordered man not to eat of the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, but Satan tempted them with many false promises of power and knowledge, glory and greatness, saying that if man were to eat of the fruits they would be like God and they would not perish unlike what the Lord had said. And through these sweet lies and tempting words, Satan led mankind down the path of disobedience, and through disobedience, sin entered into the hearts, minds and souls of man.

Ever since then, our human nature had been tainted by the corruption of sin, this original sin of Adam and Eve, the disobedience of man against their Creator, Lord and Master. They opened the floodgates that allowed sin to enter into us and enslave us, ruling over us and having dominion over us. And it was also because of sin that we have been cast out of the Gardens of Eden and having to endure suffering in the world, and eventually death.

Thus, through temptation, the first man and woman fell into sin and brought the whole race of mankind into sin and death. This is what original sin is all about. But if we notice, just as the Lord proclaimed the punishment due to sin in our first reading today, He also proclaimed at the same time, what would happen in the far future, that God would save His people and crush Satan who caused man to fall.

He said that while Satan would ‘strike at the heel of man’, meaning that all these while he has been trying hard to destroy us, by means of persuasion, coercion, trickery and temptations, but through the Woman, God will defeat Satan, and the Woman shall crush the head of Satan, a figurative expression of what would come to fulfilment in Mary and her Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

And therefore, yes, Mary is the Woman mentioned by God, as the one through whom God would send His deliverance to His beloved people. Despite all of our sins, God’s love for us still endures, and that is why, He is willing to lift us up from our downfallen state, and He always seeks to be reconciled with us and to forgive us all our many sins. He did it all by sending none other than His own Begotten Son, the Word of God and the Son, into this world.

And the Word was made Flesh, according to the Gospel of St. John, and dwelled among man, and this is our core belief, that God Himself has assumed the body and essence of man, our human nature, that in the person of Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ, exist two distinct yet inseparable natures of divine and human. And as all humans are, He is to be born of a mother, and this mother is none other than Mary.

However, because this Man is not just like any other man but God Himself incarnate in the flesh, there can be no taints or corruption of sin around Him. This can also be alluded commonly in the Ark of the Covenant of the time of the Old Testament and ancient Israel, where the Ark of the Covenant bears the Law of God, the tablets of the Ten Commandments, the heavenly manna and the rod of Aaron, as the symbol of God’s presence among His people.

If we refer to the Books of Exodus and other books of the Old Testament, the Ark of the Covenant was made of the most precious materials available to man, and it was hallowed and blessed by God, placed in the holiest part of the Tent of Meeting before the Temple of Jerusalem was built, and then in the Holy of Holies of the Temple. When the Ark was transported during the time of king David, one of the priests who accidentally touched the Ark was struck down, highlighting just how holy and special that Ark was.

And imagine then that there is this New Ark, crafted by the hands of God Himself, a Woman, prepared specially for this very purpose of containing the New Covenant between God and mankind. Christ, through His Passion, suffering and death has established that New Covenant between God and man, and because of that, His mother, Mary in whose womb the Lord dwelled for nine months before His birth at Christmas, is truly the New Ark of the Covenant, far greater than the old Ark of the Covenant.

That is why, coupled with the fact that God cannot coexist with sin and no sin can be in the presence of God, the Lord specifically set Mary aside from among all other sons and daughters of mankind, and by a singular grace, according to the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception, Mary was preserved from original sin, and was conceived without any taints of sin at all, free from that original sin and therefore is ‘Immaculate’ from the moment of her conception, right through her birth, and according to our faith, she remained free from sin and in perfect state of grace throughout her life.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, in Mary we have seen the coming of the Saviour, through her Son, Our Lord Jesus Christ, born from her womb, she who is the New Ark of the Covenant, pure and blameless. And she is the terror of Satan and the demons, as through her, the Lord’s promise of Satan’s defeat has come true, crushing the head and pride of this wicked devil. But not only that, brothers and sisters in Christ, but Mary through her faith and complete obedience to God has shown us what we ourselves need to do as Christians in our lives.

Why is that so? That is because we must not forget that we ourselves are the Temples of the Holy Spirit, the Houses of God’s Holy Presence. We have received the Lord into ourselves, especially through the Eucharist, the Lord in His own Most Precious Body and Blood, His very essence into ourselves. Mary has kept herself faithful and she has devoted herself completely to the Lord, throughout her life, as challenging and difficult it had been for her. If she could do it, then we can do our best to follow in her examples too.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, as we celebrate in today’s great celebration of the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception, let us all therefore rejoice because God’s salvation has come to us through Mary, our beloved Mother, by her Son Jesus Christ. And through her example as the New Ark of the Covenant, let us all as God’s holy people, also be faithful in our own respective lives, that we show exemplary Christian attitudes and actions at all times, in our world today.

O Most Holy and Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God, New Ark of the Covenant and the Immaculate Conception, pray for us all your sons and daughters who are sinners, and guide us all to your Son, Our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ. Help us to follow the Lord and remain faithful to Him as you have done. May God bless us always, and may He strengthen us in our faith, now and forevermore. Amen.

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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : White

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, today we celebrate a great feast day of the Church, celebrating the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of God. This occasion commemorates the moment when Mary was conceived without any trace of original sin of man, and hence the Immaculate Conception, which is a dogma of the Church proclaimed by His Holiness Blessed Pope Pius IX a century and half ago.

The Church through its sacred tradition and teachings show that God has given a special privilege to Mary, in that she had been set aside from the rest of mankind, descendants of Adam and Eve. Unlike all men and women since the time of Adam and Eve, Mary was conceived free from the taint of original sin, the mark of disobedience which all mankind have received, from the time when our first forefathers disobeyed God and sinned.

In our first reading today, that was why we heard about the time when Adam and Eve sinned, because they disobeyed God and chose rather to follow the lies and sweet words of Satan, who persuaded them to eat from the fruits of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, so that they might become like God. Instead, they received rebuke and condemnation from God, and the truth about the lies of Satan was exposed. Ever since then, mankind had been tainted by the sin of their disobedience, and had to wander and suffer on earth.

That is also why, because of our sins, all of us mankind also faces death at the end of our earthly lives. All of us are to experience death as the just consequence for our sins, because sin has corrupted us, our bodies, our hearts, our minds and our souls, our whole and entire being, and as such, we are not worthy to be with God, as He Who is perfectly good, cannot tolerate sin to be in His presence. But this does not mean that God does not love us, or that He has abandoned or rejected us. Instead, God still loves us as He has always had.

Otherwise, God could have just destroyed us with the mere thoughts of His mind. He did not do so. He allowed us to endure the suffering for our sins and disobedience, but at the same time, He has also prepared the ultimate salvation for all of us, His beloved people, right from the time that we first fell into sin. In our first reading from the Book of Genesis today, God Himself prophesied that while there would be conflict between the descendants of man with the forces of Satan, but God will triumph in the end.

God promised that His salvation will come, and indeed as He mentioned, the Woman will crush the serpent under her feet, a prophecy about the time of salvation to come for mankind. And through the prophet Isaiah, again God made His intention clear, promising the salvation of the world, the Saviour, born of a Virgin, which surely we all know, have been fulfilled in Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Saviour, born of His mother, the Blessed ever Virgin Mary.

In the Gospel today, the Archangel Gabriel came to Mary in Nazareth, bearing the Good News of God’s salvation, which He would fulfil through her. He revealed to her through the Archangel, of the plan of salvation He Himself has long put in place, that the Son of God, the Divine Word of God Himself would come into the world, taking up upon Himself the human flesh, and born of a Woman, Mary herself, which became a reality through her humble obedience to the will of God.

And now, let us link all these back to the reason for our celebration today, that is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Why is it that Mary is so special? That is because God has prepared her to be part of His plan for the salvation of His people, as she was to be the one who would bear the Messiah, Lord and Saviour of the world inside her, as the Archangel Gabriel mentioned, ‘the Holy Spirit will overshadow you, and the Son born of you will be called the Son of God.’

For this special role, God is certainly able to give an exception to Mary among all mankind, that for her alone, she was conceived, and born of her parents without the taints of the original sin of man. And this special grace is related to the role she played in our salvation, as the one who bore God within herself. In order to understand this better, we must know that Mary is the New Ark, bearing the New Covenant of God.

The old Ark of the Covenant was built by Moses from precious metals and materials, and adorned to be worthy of bearing the Law of God and His Covenant, and the Ark came to represent God’s presence among His people, so much so that it is hallowed and no one may touch it without dropping dead, as what happened in one occasion when a priest touched the Ark by accident, and he was struck down.

That is why the Ark had to be carried on two poles born by four people. And if this old Ark is made by the hands of man, carved and designed by man, and bearing within it, two slabs of stone upon which the Ten Commandments were written, and was considered so holy and precious, then all the more that the New Ark bearing the New Covenant must be hallowed, pure and holy.

Thus, God has prepared Mary, who is to be the mother of God, and made her holy and pure, clean from any taint of the original sins of man. And this New Ark is all the more precious, far surpassing the old Ark, because Mary, as all men and women are, she was crafted and designed by the Lord Our God. And she bore within her womb for nine months, none other than the Lord Himself, Master of all the universe, Who has willingly come down upon us in human flesh, Jesus Christ, Son of God.

That is why today the whole universal Church rejoice together celebrating this wonderful mystery of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, for through Mary, the final defeat of the devil and his forces have been made a reality, as the promises God has made about our salvation has been fulfilled in their entirety. And even more so, in Mary, the devil has encountered a great enemy, who is always thwarting his plans all the time.

That is because Mary is also the greatest of all the saints of God, and she is the one ever closest to her Son in heaven. She is, as the Queen Mother of heaven, a close advisor to her Son, and she is always active trying to help the people of God to return to Him. She appeared several times to us, in various places and ways, appealing to us mankind to repent from our sins.

Through her example of obedience and commitment to fulfil God’s will, walking faithfully in His ways throughout her whole life, Mary has become a great example for each and every one of us, on how we should behave and act in this life, in obedience to God. Ultimately, through our renewed obedience, and by believing in the Saviour, Our Lord Jesus Christ, we shall be saved and redeemed from our past sins.

Let us today therefore, by following the examples of Mary, mother of God, conceived without sin, dedicate ourselves anew to the Lord. Let us abandon our sinful ways and put our trust in God from now on, striving to live worthily in accordance with God’s words. May the Lord be with us all, and may our mother Mary intercede for us sinners, that we may find our way towards God and His salvation. May God bless us all. Amen.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.

Friday, 8 December 2017 : Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (Psalm)

Liturgical Colour : White

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

Friday, 8 December 2017 : 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.